There’s something about Europe that makes it very appealing to people around the world. I don’t know if it’s the tourist destinations, the people, the food, or what have you, but many people are wondering about how to get European citizenship.
Whatever your motivation behind wanting European citizenship, the truth is that there are plenty of options for achieving this goal.
Even more than getting citizenship in Europe, many people are interested in how to get an EU passport. If you want to become a citizen of an EU country, you’ve come to the right spot.
In this article, we’ll be covering
- What is the EU?
- Benefits of an EU Passport
- How to Get a European Passport
- Citizenship by Descent
- Citizenship Through Naturalization
- Citizenship by Investment
- Golden Visas
WHAT IS THE EU?
EU stands for the European Union. It’s basically a political and economic union between 27 countries in Europe.
Countries within the EU often trade with each other and it’s easy to travel between them thanks to the visa-free travel within the Schengen area.
BENEFITS OF AN EU PASSPORT
One benefit of having a passport from a country within the European Union is that it makes it easier to travel and access other countries within the EU. Getting an EU passport basically gives you the ability to live, work, and travel throughout most of Europe.
HOW TO GET A EUROPEAN PASSPORT
There are many ways that you can obtain a passport through second citizenship in a European country. In this article, I’m going to discuss three strategies, as well as specific examples of how these strategies would work in various European countries.
CITIZENSHIP BY DESCENT
PRO: Cheap and easy
CON: Not everyone is eligible and it can take a long time
What is citizenship by descent?
One way to get citizenship in a country is through a family connection. This doesn’t always mean a marriage connection. In fact, it can be an ancestral connection.
Citizenship by descent follows this idea of jus sanguinis, which is Latin for “right of blood.” This basically means that because you have a blood connection to someone who was a citizen of a country, you may qualify for citizenship in that country as well.
Citizenship by descent costs less than getting citizenship by investment and usually takes less time than getting citizenship through naturalization. Citizenship by descent is truly the cheapest and easiest citizenship process if you qualify.
Which countries in the EU offer citizenship by descent?
If one of your parents is Croatian, you qualify for Croatian citizenship. Croatia’s citizenship by descent program goes back even farther than that. You can qualify to apply for citizenship by descent in Croatia if you have a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who is or was a Croatian citizen.
Another really cool thing about Croatia’s citizenship by descent program is that it also applies to your spouse. If you apply for citizenship by descent through your Croatian grandmother, your spouse can apply too, or the other way around.
France’s citizenship laws have changed in recent years which has made it more difficult to get French citizenship in some ways. France’s citizenship by descent program only goes back one generation, meaning they allow you to apply if you have a parent who is a French citizen. All you need to apply is the proper documentation to prove your parent is a French citizen.
You qualify to apply for German citizenship by descent if you have a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who was or is a German citizen. However, this isn’t super easy citizenship to obtain. You need to have an established paper trail with proof of your direct relation and your ancestor’s citizenship. You also have to make sure you meet the requirements for eligibility.
Greek citizenship by naturalization is pretty much impossible to obtain because Greece doesn’t like to naturalize anyone who is not ethnically greek. That’s why their citizenship by descent program is definitely the way to go if you qualify. You can apply for Greek citizenship by descent if you have a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who is or was a Greek citizen.
You can apply for Irish citizenship if you have a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who was or is an Irish citizen.
You can apply for Italian citizenship by descent if you have a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who is or was an Italian citizen.
To get Polish citizenship by descent, you must have a direct ancestor who was born in Poland and did not leave Poland before it became an independent country in 1918. Poland also requires that you maintain an unbroken line of citizenship.
An unbroken chain of citizenship could look like this: your great grandfather was born in Poland after 1899 and left Poland after 1918, your grandfather received Polish citizenship through his parents, and your father obtained citizenship through your grandfather, and then, finally, you obtain your citizenship through him.
It’s a little bit complicated, but basically, if somewhere along the line, someone gave up their Polish citizenship for another citizenship, or never became a citizen through the citizenship by descent program, you won’t qualify to apply because there’s a break in the chain.
What makes Spain’s citizenship by descent program unique is the Law of Historical Memory. This law was made to compensate for the damage done during the Spanish Civil War. If your ancestor lost Spanish citizenship due to this war, this law allows you to still apply for Spanish citizenship by descent.
You are eligible to apply for citizenship by descent in Spain if you have a parent who is a Spanish citizen, a grandparent who lost their Spanish citizenship during exile as a consequence of the Spanish Civil War, or if you are a Latin American citizen with a grandparent who was born in Spain.
Be aware that the process for applying and eligibility requirements for each country are different and a bit more complicated than we’ve stated here.
CITIZENSHIP THROUGH NATURALIZATION
CON: Very lengthy process
What is citizenship through naturalization?
Citizenship through naturalization basically means you legally move to a country and spend some time there as a legal resident and eventually, after you’ve lived there enough, you can apply to become a citizen. You are naturalized into the country.
This is what you hear about when talking about immigrants moving to another country to become a citizen.
Out of the three strategies, citizenship through naturalization takes the longest. A short naturalization program is usually a minimum of around one or two years. The longest timeline to naturalization is a whopping 30 years. So, if you’re eager to get a second passport ASAP, this might not be the strategy for you.
The great thing about citizenship by naturalization is that you don’t have to be a descendent or a citizen of the country and you don’t have to be immensely rich. Really, all you have to do is move.
How do you get citizenship through naturalization?
The first step to naturalization is obtaining residency. The residency requirements are going to vary by country. You can qualify for residency through a family connection, work, school, or even by investment, which is often called a Golden Visa in Europe. (We’ll speak more on Golden Visas later.)
The three following countries are the easiest places to obtain a residency. Remember, residency isn’t citizenship and won’t give you a second passport. A residency allows you to legally live in a country so that you can stay there long enough to become a naturalized citizen.
The best way to obtain residency in Portugal is through the D7 Passive Income Visa which is also called Portugal’s Retirement and Online Worker Visa. This program is the most affordable residency program in Europe.
To qualify for this program you need to have a stable passive income, significant liquid savings, or stable salaried income. The minimum requirement for a single applicant is the same minimum wage in Portugal, which is €635 per month. This requirement goes up by 50% to €938 if you are applying for residency with a spouse.
Each dependent child adds 30%, that’s €191 per child for each month. Adding all this up, a family of four – meaning a married couple and their two children – would need to have a stable income of €1,335 per month to qualify for Portuguese residency.
The D7 Passive Income Visa will give you residency in Portugal for two years. After the two years are up, you can renew it for an additional three years.
After five years of residence in Portugal, you qualify to apply for Portuguese citizenship.
To get a residence in Belgium, you need to establish an economic tie. Belgium offers multiple options.
One option is to first, set up a company in Belgium then apply for a Professional Card. A Professional Card residency is a great option for entrepreneurs. This option was created to encourage people to move jobs into Belgium to assist the economy.
To apply for a Professional Card, you need to create and submit a business plan. You must prove that you are able to support yourself financially in addition to creating a job that will employ at least one Belgian citizen.
If you aren’t looking to create a new company in Belgium, you can also apply for a Professional Card after buying an existing Belgian business. Or if you own a company, you can send yourself to Belgium as an employee of a foreign market as long as there is someone else in the company who is serving as the director so that you can report to them.
A second option for obtaining Belgian residency is through a Single Work Permit. You can get a Single Work Permit by being hired by a Belgian company. The Single Work Permit is an electronic card that allows you to work and reside in Belgium.
If you are not an EU national, in order to get your residency you will need your employer in Belgium to apply for a residence permit for you.
After you’ve established residency in Belgium through a Professional Card or Single Work Permit, you must reside in Belgium for five years, keep an active business, participate in the community, learn some Flemish, German or French, and then you can apply for Belgian citizenship.
If you are a citizen of a country that was once a Spanish colony, you can obtain Spanish citizenship after only two years of residency in Spain. You will also be able to keep your citizenship in your home country. This is one of the fastest naturalization processes in the EU.
If you are not from a country that was once a Spanish colony, it will take about 10 years of residency in Spain before you can apply for naturalization. You will also be required to give up your previous citizenship in order to get Spanish citizenship.
CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT
The fastest way to obtain EU citizenship is through citizenship by investment. However, this is also the most expensive option on the list.
What is citizenship by investment?
Citizenship by investment is a way to fast-track your citizenship by donating money to a country or investing in a country in some way. There is much different citizenship by investment programs, including many in the Caribbean.
How to get citizenship by investment in the EU?
There is only one country in the European Union that currently offers citizenship by investment: Malta. Cyprus used to have citizenship by investment program, but that is no longer an option due to allegations of misconduct.
The Maltese Individual Investor Program requires that the primary applicant contribute €600,000 or €750,000 to the Maltese government. This number is determined by whether you are looking to get your Maltese citizenship in the standard 36 months or fast-track it to 12 months. If you are applying with a spouse or dependents, you add €50,000 to the amount for each extra applicant.
These numbers are considered donations. You won’t get any of it back.
Additionally, you have to purchase a house in Malta valued at a minimum of €700,000 or rent a property for five years paying €18,000 each year.
The final step is to make a €10,000 donation to a Maltese NGO.
You will also have to pay €15,000 for yourself and €10,000 for each dependent in Due Diligence fees.
What is a Golden Visa? Golden Visas are basically residence by investment programs. There are relatively quick ways to get residence in a country without spending a lot of time there.
Residence by investment and Golden Visa programs exist in several EU countries including Portugal, Spain, Greece, Latvia, Ireland, Bulgaria, the UK, and Cyprus. The minimum real estate investment starts at €250,000 plus fees in Greece and Latvia and goes as high as £10,000,000 in the UK.
Portugal is one of the more popular programs with an investment requirement of €500,000. They do, however, offer a cheaper investment option of €350,000 for anyone who purchases a property that is over 30 years old and renovates it. And if the property is in a low density and low GDP area, the investment minimum lowers to €280,000.
If you invest in property in Portugal, you have the option to rent out that property to earn some of your investment back, or even possibly turn a profit.
Once you’ve invested, you can qualify for the Golden Visa, which gives you residency in the country. You can use this residency to live in the country for X amount of years and then apply for citizenship.
Just remember, a Golden Visa itself is not citizenship but you can use it to get an EU passport by following the requirements to qualify for naturalization.
Which strategy you go with to get an EU passport is going to depend entirely on you and your situation. Through these three different strategies for obtaining EU citizenship, there’s bound to be a plan that can work for you.
So, if Europe has always been your lifelong dream, or you’re truly just looking to create a Plan B for when things get rough in your home country, start preparing for the process now.