Former Roland mayor Roger Fritz and his son Jerald have taken a big step to honor their ancestral heritage. They are in the process of reclaiming citizenship from Luxembourg.
The father and son are part of a growing wave of people seeking dual citizenship in the European country, bringing their heritage to life in a new way.
“Jerald and I are in the process of reclaiming Luxembourg citizenship,” Roger Fritz said. “The government of Luxembourg took the citizenship of people who left the country back in the 1800s.
“The government of today said direct descendants of those people can reclaim their citizenship. To do so, one has to prove a direct line, through birth, death and marriage certificates. So I was able to do that, and by extension, so was my son,” Roger Fritz said.
The relative the Fritzes used was Roger’s great-great-great-grandfather Peter Kirpes, born in Luxembourg in 1829; he died in St. Donatus, Iowa, in 1907.
Fritz had to acquire also Kirpes’ birth record from Luxembourg and also had to provide death records.
He also had to gather the birth, marriage and death information from Kirpes’ son, to his daughter, to her daughter, to Roger’s mom, to Roger and Jerald.
“Luxembourg is really small, about the same size as Polk and Story County, and about the same number of people. It is surrounded by Belgium, France, and Germany,” Fritz said.
“My wife Vicki is also a Luxembourger, but she didn’t want to go through the process. We both have grandparents from Remsen, Iowa, which is a Luxembourger town, much like Story City/Roland is a Norwegian town,” Fritz said.
Roger and Jerald got the paperwork and went to Luxembourg to turn in their application in person, which was a requirement. Unlike a naturalized citizen, here or there, they didn’t have to take a citizenship test, show proficiency in a language or take an oath, because this is a reclamation of citizenship, “because our ancestors had it taken away,” Roger said.
He said there was no great advantage for him, other than honoring his heritage and ancestors. Also he can get a Luxembourg passport which could be a bit easier for traveling. Jerald has a little more advantage. If he were to have kids, they would automatically be Luxembourg citizens, could go to college there and EU rates. Jerald could also work in Europe more easily if he were to choose to do so.
“So I’m not renouncing my U.S. Citizenship, just that I will be a dual citizen,” Roger said. “So we just turned in the paperwork, probably won’t be official until April or so.”
When Roger and Jerald applied for his citizenship, they had to show how their lineage related to Luxembourg through direct descendants.
After they gather their documents, people seeking citizenship submit them to Luxembourg for review. Once their direct ancestry is approved, they need to complete the application process, gathering a plethora of documents — everything from their certificate of qualification, a questionnaire, privacy document, American and Luxembourg criminal background checks to their birth certificate and passport — and submit them to Luxembourg.
While that sounds like a relatively easy thing to do, there’s a catch — the documents must be in French, Fritz said. If they aren’t, you need to have them translated by a certified, notarized French translator.
Once the documents are gathered, they must be presented in person to the Luxembourg Ministry of Justice in Luxembourg for review. If approved, citizenship documents are delivered seven to 11 months later.
There are advantages to being a Luxembourg citizen, and hence a citizen of the EU. Chief among these is the fact that you can obtain an EU passport, which allows people to live, work and travel unrestricted throughout Europe.
U.S. citizens can only stay in a country for 90 days at a time and can’t work without a green card.
Luxembourg also has national health care, which people could use, and the country also pays for tuition to the University of Luxembourg — but educational benefits only start with the children of second generation citizens.
Citizenship doesn’t just apply to the person who applied, Fritz said. Any minor children automatically become citizens, as do future generations.
Once you’re in, it can be passed on perpetually.
Applications must be made by 2018. Luxembourg is in the process of extending that to 2020.