New legislation recently approved by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on 6 October, 2015, has made it possible for foreigners to join the Ukrainian Armed Forces and receive citizenship. This approval is a follow-up to an earlier-approved law meant to streamline foreign applications to join the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This proposal will have to be voted on again before being signed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to become official, but based on popular support of the legislation, it is all but law at this time.

This law is meant to reward foreign nationals who have or will serve a minimum of three years in Ukraine’s Armed Forces. This is in contrast to the current law, which requires five years of service before being eligible for citizenship. The law also lists a provision which allows foreigners to become commissioned officers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces after they obtain Ukrainian citizenship.

Another new stipulation will be added to this law in support of those foreign service members who have already been awarded with a Ukrainian national medal. Recipients of the Ukrainian National Medal are not required to speak fluent Ukrainian to become a citizen.  This portion of the bill is meant to support the many Georgians who have fought bravely throughout the conflict.

If you are a straight-up foreigner looking to join, keep in mind that this is not based on the French Foreign Legion model. You will need to be more than a meathead who can do pull-ups and buy a plane ticket. You are required to do the following:

  • Speak fluent Ukrainian.
  • Be physically fit and trainable.
  • Provide documentation proving financial support of oneself.
  • Have a residence permit for Ukraine.
  • Possess proof of having no criminal record.
  • Possess verifiable records of military and academic history.
  • All documentation will need to be translated into Ukrainian from your native language, which shouldn’t be a problem since you will have to speak Ukrainian to apply.
One of many shrines to the fallen found near Maidan Square. Image courtesy of the author.

Obviously there have been, and are, foreign volunteer soldiers serving in the Ukrainian armed forces. These are the exception, not the rule. Basically, you missed the window. The foreigners who joined the Battalions of Territorial Defense, which recently became de facto units of the Ukrainian National Guard, did so in the wake of hostilities with pro-Russian separatist forces and endured the fighting which has claimed nearly 9,000 lives.