Syrian nationals of Armenian descent seeking to become Armenia’s citizens can expect to receive their new passports within up to seven months, immigration authorities in Yerevan said on Friday.
Armenian law sets a maximum period of one year for the authorities to process and complete a single application process.
Armen Hakobian, the deputy chief of the Department on Passports and Visas at the national police, said citizenship applications from Syrian Armenians are currently processed within up to six or seven months. “All ethnic Armenians get citizenship under a simplified procedure,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Armenian government further simplified the process for Syrian Armenian applicants late last month. It said they can now receive their Armenian passports at the Armenian diplomatic missions in Damascus and Aleppo.
According to Hakobian’s department, 3,248 Syrian Armenians applied for Armenian citizenship in the first half of this year and another 415 in July. The department reported more than 3,000 such applications last year.
Hakobian could not say how many of those requests have actually been granted through decrees signed by President Serzh Sarkisian. He said only that virtually none of them has been or will be rejected.
Most of the Syrian Armenian applicants are believed to remain in Syria and have no plans yet to relocate to Armenia on a permanent basis. According to the Armenian Ministry of Diaspora, only about 2,000 of them currently reside in the South Caucasus state.
Kevork Payasian, a 69-year-old Aleppo native, and his extended family filed for citizenship the day after arriving in Yerevan four months ago. They expect to become fully naturalized soon.
“For us, there is no going back to Syria,” Payasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We want to become locals and work here. But we are struggling to get by.”
Like many other Syrian Armenian migrants, Payasian has still not found a job. He and his wife Helen live in a rented apartment with one of their married sons working at a Yerevan restaurant.