Thousands of non-EU nationals are becoming EU citizens all over the world. How do they manage to do this? In this comprehensive guide, we look at how to become an EU citizen if you weren’t born in an EU country or have a family member that is part of the EU already.
A European citizen is a qualifying citizen of a European Union member state that enjoys the right to free movement, settlement, and employment across all 28 countries of the union.
To procure EU citizenship, you must apply for citizenship in an EU country. While the process for becoming a European citizen varies between states, in general, the minimum requirement is for you to live in the country for a certain amount of time, provide proof of legal residence in the country and lodge your European union citizenship application.
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There are many benefits of being an EU citizen. European citizenship grants you unlimited working rights in an EU state, as well as increased international mobility and freedom of opportunities.
Here are the top ten benefits of becoming an EU citizen:
- Full working and residential rights in 28 EU countries
- Fantastic tertiary education and scholarship choices
- Grow your business with full EU protection
- Right to consular protection by EU member states
- National health care benefits
- Privacy laws to protect you
- A European passport gives you a plan B during times of crisis
- Own property without a permit
- Visa-free travel to 153 countries
- EU passport can be passed down to future generations
Anyone is eligible for a European passport, provided that they pursue one of the following three options:
1. Get European citizenship through your descent or ancestry
2. Get EU citizenship through naturalization
3. Apply for a European passport through a Citizenship by Investment Program
European citizenship through your descent/ancestry
The easiest way to get European citizenship is if you have parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents (in some cases) from Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, and many other countries. This type of citizenship is common and it costs just a few hundred dollars to obtain a European passport.
Become an EU citizen through naturalization
Most countries in Europe give EU citizenship to people who are legal residents in the country. The requirement is for the person to maintain their residency in the country for a set number of years first.
For example, the Residency in Portugal and Residency in Spain programs offer EU citizenship through naturalization, provided that you are first a permanent resident.
How to become an EU citizenship through Citizenship by Investment
Citizenship by Investment Programs or EU residency programs are the fastest way to get European citizenship. In exchange for a qualifying investment in the nation, you and your family can get EU passports in as little as six months, depending on what country program you pick. For example, the Citizenship in Cyprus program offers passports to investors in just six months, provided that you make a minimum financial contribution of €2,150,000.
Best EU citizenship to have
One of the best EU citizenships to hold is from Austria. It is one of the most attractive countries in the world in terms of the sheer amount of opportunities it offers. From economic stability, low crime rates, clean air, to excellent infrastructure and job opportunities, an Austrian passport gets you far.
Another best EU citizenship to have is Portugal. Its 300 hours of sunshine per year, long stretch of Atlantic coastline, fabulous food, affordable living costs, and excellent property market prices mean having a Citizenship in Cyprus is an asset. The minimum amount required to get Portuguese citizenship is a Citizenship in Cyprus in a renovations project, or by buying a property worth €500K and a Portuguese passport can be yours in just five years.
How to become an EU citizen via Citizenship by Investment
Do you wish to live in Europe and obtain a European passport? Then you’ll have a difficult time finding a more rewarding and better offer than investment citizenship in some European countries. In this article, among other European countries, we highlight Malta, Portugal, and Spain because they offer a relatively easy process to get EU citizenship by investment.
If you’re taking the route to citizenship by investment, you might have your passport in no time. Obtaining EU citizenship through these programs is a relatively straightforward and fast process. Citizenship by Investment allows qualifying investors and their family members to Citizenship in Cyprus and EU passports by placing an investment in one of those countries’ economies. While the type of investment and amount varies, investors usually buy properties and get citizenship in under a year.
One of the best advantages of becoming an EU citizen via Citizenship by Investment is that you can have a passport in your hands in a year, plus your immediate family members are also eligible for passports (for an additional fee). Keep in mind that anyone with the nationality of an EU country is automatically a citizen of the EU. Be sure that European citizenship is an addition to your national citizenship.
Become an EU citizen in Malta
Malta’s Citizenship by Investment Program — also referred to as the Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services — provides a quick and efficient journey to a European passport. Maltese citizenship can be obtained within 12 to 36 months provided that an applicant places an investment with a minimum value of €690,000.
With a Malta passport, you can travel visa-free to more than 166 countries around the world, as well as access the right to live in Malta or anywhere else in the EU freely.
One of the best things about owning a Maltese passport is that you can pass it down to future generations.
To be eligible for this program, you must fulfill the following requirements:
- Be over 18 years old
- Have a good character
- Make a combined investment of at least €690,000 in funds, donation and real estate
- Have a genuine connection to the country (Proof of periods of physical residence)
As one of the most popular Citizenship by Investment Programs in Europe, the European citizenship application is approved after a few months of processing time. First, a residency card is issued, which immediately grants free mobility in the Schengen area for 36 months. Then it takes a year or three from the date of the initial residency to get a Maltese passport.
Get European citizenship in Cyprus
The Cyprus Citizenship by Investment Program offers passports to qualifying investors. Applicants must invest at least €2.2 million into the country and in turn receive Cypriot citizenship which grants you the right to live, study and work in Cyprus or anywhere else in the EU.
The best part about living in Cyprus is that living costs are cheap, the country is safe and secure, and you have a beautiful Mediterranean coastline at your doorstep with world-class beaches.
To be eligible for this program, you must fulfill the following requirements:
- Donate at minimum €2.2 million with various investment options to pick from (From this amount, you must buy property at least worth €500K)
- Must declare residency for at least six months in the country (don’t have to reside in Cyprus, just declare yourself as a resident)
- Pass a detailed due diligence check
A Cypriot passport is extremely valuable to possess as it allows visa-free travel to over 160 countries. Through the citizenship program, you and your immediate family members can obtain citizenship in under a year and live in a beautiful Mediterranean island that’s a short flight away from the rest of Europe.
Take a look at our Cyprus Citizenship Ultimate Guide by local experts
Buy property and get an EU passport
A good option for families looking to get European dual citizenship is to buy a property and get an EU passport. Both Malta and Cyprus offer this option under their Citizenship by Investment Program.
Property investments in general are a smart way to protect and diversify your assets abroad, with excellent potential for return. Malta’s real estate market has experienced significant growth these last few years, offering investors an excellent opportunity to make some money from their investments. Meanwhile, property prices in Cyprus have gone down, with a three-bedroom visa costing around €500K. The best part about owning your own property is that you can set up a second home in an exotic European nation, and gain EU citizenship for yourself and your family.
Become an EU citizen with a Portugal Golden Visa
Portugal’s Golden Visa Program is one of the most successful EU residency programs. Portugal provides one of the simplest ways in the European Union to obtain citizenship by investment. Its residency program enables investors to obtain a Portuguese citizenship five years after applying to the scheme, provided they maintain their investment and pass a simple language test and prove their integration with the local community. The program’s advantage is that you are not forced to relocate to Portugal, however, you are required to visit the country for seven days each year.
For an investment in the country like a €500K property purchase, you and your family members can gain legal residency in the country within months. While the program doesn’t immediately grant you citizenship, it is possible to obtain the Portuguese passport after holding your investment for five years.
Find out more about the requirements for a Portuguese passport in our ultimate guide to Portugal’s Golden Visa.
Buy property to get a Spain EU passport
Spain also has a Golden Visa program that can lead to citizenship if you stay in the nation for at least ten years. Like with the Portugal Golden Visa, it is possible to get a Spanish passport through the Spain Golden Visa Program if you buy a property in the country worth €500K, and meet the program’s additional requirements. Investors can get permanent residency in five years, on the condition they’ve lived in Spain for more than four years and two months during the five year period. Citizenship can be obtained after ten years of living in the country.
Other ways of becoming an EU citizen: through marriage
You can also become an EU citizen through marriage. If you are in a partnership and can prove your partnership to the respective state you wish to gain EU citizenship from, including a marriage certificate, then it’s perfectly possible to become an EU citizen. Do note that the requirements for becoming an EU citizen through marriage depend heavily on the state.
In Italy for example, for those married to an Italian citizen, the waiting period for citizenship is two years. During this time, the applicant must live in Italy with an Italian spouse. The waiting time for citizenship is longer if you live abroad with your Italian spouse.
Can US Citizens Get EU Citizenship
While many nations require people to abandon their former citizenship when seeking a new one in a different country, Americans are lucky in this regard. The law of the United States does not oblige you to select one citizenship over another. Americans can naturalize in any nation at any moment and not lose their US citizenship.
Many Americans want a second passport in Europe and wonder, “Which EU nations are easiest to obtain citizenship in?” The good news is that the laws on both sides are quite loose. Obtaining an EU passport is typically quite a simple process.
If you are a US citizen, you can apply for EU citizenship with little to no hassle. US citizens are drawn to EU nations for a variety of reasons, including:
- Taxation systems that work
- Possibilities for investment
- A great point for traveling around
- Tolerance for cryptocurrencies
Which EU Country Has The Easiest Citizenship Application Process?
As long as you meet the conditions stipulated by each program, obtaining citizenship in most European nations is relatively simple. While some governments provide citizenship more easily than others, American citizens are not excluded from having an easy road to acquiring a European passport in the following countries: Portugal, Spain, Malta and Greece.