FINA Changes Sporting Nationality Rules; Now Requires a 3 Year Waiting Period

World Aquatics (formerly FINA) has announced a change of rules relating to changes in sporting nationality. Specifically, athletes must now be a resident of a country for three years before changing sporting nationalities, increased from the previous requirement of one year.

As part of the biggest overhaul of World Aquatics rules in a generation, the governing body has made it more difficult to change sporting citizenship.

Upon obtaining initial sporting citizenship, an athlete must have either citizenship by birth, or have been a resident of the country for at least three years prior to his/her first international competition.

In cases when an athlete want to represent a country where they were not a citizen by birth or have not resided for three years, they cannot represent any World Aquatics member in international competitions and must be able to demonstrated by the end of the waiting period that they have a “genuine, close and established link to the country or Sport Country he/she will represent.”

The change of sport nationality rules have also become tougher. Athletes are required to wait for 3 years between last representation for a former World Aquatics Member and representing a new Member.

There is an exception if an athlete has only represented their previous nation at an age group level (ie U16, U18, U20, Youth, or Junior). Then the prior 1 year waiting period is applied.

In one way, though, the waiting period became a little more lenient. When changing sporting citizenships, an athlete must demonstrated uninterrupted residence in a country for 3 years prior to representing them, or prove a genuine, close and established link to the country or Sport Country he/she will represent.” The athlete has to wait 3 years between representation in either case, but does not necessarily have to live in their new country if they can prove a close link.

Editor’s Note: “Sport Country” refers to the fact that not all FINA members are sovereign nations. Puerto Rico is an example of that.

Historically, the standard for residency in a country has been spending at least half their time there.

While the standard for a genuine link to a country are not defined explicitly in the statutes, there are a few examples that come to mind where it might apply. One is in the case of two-time Olympic medalist Arkady Vyatchanin, who was denied a change from Russia to Serbian sporting citizenship because he did not spend enough time in the country during his year-in-residence. He would eventually obtain US citizenship, though he never represented the US in international competition.

Another is in the case of European Junior Champion Tatiana Belonogoff, who lived in the UK her whole life and represented them internationally, but changed to Russian citizenship, citing the ‘huge influence’ of her Russian mother.

Tnis will bring up fascinating sociological and political debates over what defines a ‘close link’ to a country, though the extended waiting period means that athletes will likely be dissuaded from making the change as often.

There are certain exceptions for athletes aged 16 & under as it regards to the choice of sporting citizenship and what triggers an initial citizenship choice.

Other high profile changes of sporting citizenship include Santo Condorelli, who represented the US, Canada, and Italy internationally, just-missing an Olympic medal in 2016 with Canada and winning Olympic silver in Tokyo in 2021 with Italy; two-time World Short Course Champion Mike Alexandrov who swam for both Bulgaria and the US internationally; Darian Townsend, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2004 with South Africa and a pair of World SC titles in 2014 with the US; Mitch D’Arrigo, who changed from Italy to the US; and Shane Ryan who represented the US at the junior level before switching to Ireland at the senior level.

With countries, like Russia and Belarus, being banned from international competition for geopolitical reasons, this change should stem off the risk of a run of sporting citizenship changes before the Paris 2024 Olympics.

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1 year ago

Anastasiia Kirpitchnikova officially became a French citizen yesterday, on April 21st. She has been living and training for 4 years in France in Montpellier (South of France) . Her coach is Philippe Lucas, the former coach of Laure Manaudou ( gold medallist in Athens 2004 in the 400 free). Apparently, Julien Issoulié, one of the officials of the French federation is confident to see her able to compete in Fukuoka. Even if rules have changed. She’s competing this weekend at the French open Water Championships in the island of Martinique (French Caribbean) . This race gives a ticket for Fukuoka.

1 year ago

yup very unclear, even in defining a citizen. In the case of a swimmer in the US with both Irish and US passports
would he have to wait 1 year or 3 to swim for Ireland?

Last edited 1 year ago by Myles
Reply to  Myles
1 year ago

Thank you Braden!

1 year ago

I want to thank the former-FINA from telling us what the new rules ‘might’ be without exactly telling us what the specific rules are.
Clear, like mud.

1 year ago

Joel, after some part of the head passes the 5m mark at the finish,the swimmer now CAN BE totally sumerged…a change to the rule courtesy of an USA swimmer that was clearly totally sumerged at the finish at past Worlds in the 50m back, was DQ and after a protest by the USA team and video review, it was reversed…go figure.

Reply to  JayR
1 year ago

Thank you so much. Have been trying to find out for sure.

1 year ago

from here on out aka the Condorelli rule

1 year ago

I’m a little confused by the explanation of the new rules. Are you saying that if a person has citizenship by birth and has a clear connection to the country they don’t need to wait 3 years? Or does that just mean they don’t need to reside there for 3 years but still need to wait 3 years between representing different nations?

I thought one year was enough. This rule essentially will stop any athlete who isn’t a child from changing nationality because they’re forfeiting three years of a career that is pretty brief anyway for 95% of swimmers.

Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

I’m wondering same thing. It’s not clear

Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

What does reside mean when not changing sporting nationality. If a person does not have citizenship of country A by birth but becomes a citizen through Naturalization how is the residence rule determined if that person was born in country A, the family lives in country A, but the athlete attends school or university in country B. Does attending school or university in country B result in the athlete being classified as non-resident in country A. The athlete returns to country A and lives in the family home, when not at school or university.

1 year ago

How common is this?
Does impact some of the American swimmers who competed for another country but want to compete for America again. Or guys that gained citizenship.

Steve Nolan
1 year ago


About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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