Gaining a second passport is a crucial step in internationalizing your life. You can be a dual citizen of the United States and another country, depending on the place.

For the average American, the advantages of a second passport are many: immediate residency and the right to work in another country; safer, easier, and less costly travel; the ability to renounce U.S. taxes; easier access to foreign banking; increased foreign investment and business opportunities; and the ability to pass down citizenship to heirs, to name a few.

In short, a second passport can be the single most powerful tool for creating options, not only for you but also for your children. Your current country of citizenship may be great today, but what value will that passport have in 10 or 20 years, or a generation after that? Impossible to say.

But as easy as it is to understand and embrace wanting a second passport, getting one is far more difficult. Unless you’re born a multi-citizen, obtaining a second passport takes time and money, or both.

Countries around the world have programs that essentially allow you to buy citizenship for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but these programs require you to be a multimillionaire to make the total cost of investment and government fees worthwhile.

A less costly route is getting naturalized through residency. Many countries make it possible to acquire citizenship and a passport after being a resident for a specific number of years.

The cost of obtaining a passport this way is usually but a few thousand dollars. The much bigger investment requirement in this case is your time.

The catch is the required period of residency, which varies country to country. Most countries require you to be a permanent resident for five years before you’re eligible to apply for citizenship and be physically present in the country for most of that time.

I’ve identified six of the world’s easiest countries to acquire a second citizenship through naturalization. These have not been selected for passport power but because they are realistic options for the average American seeking a second passport.

#1. Portugal

Recognizes dual citizenship

Years of residency required before naturalization: 5

Tests and interviews required: Portuguese-language test

Passport power: visa-free access to 114 countries

Portugal is one of the easiest places in Europe to establish residency. You can qualify with a Portuguese Golden Visa (a residence-by-investment program that requires investments above specific thresholds) or by proving financial solvency.

The financial solvency option allows you to qualify for residency simply by showing proof of reliable ongoing income (whether from financial investments, a pension, or rental income) of at least 1,200 euros per month, as well as meeting a handful of other requirements.

This is known as the D7 Visa or Passive Income Visa. It’s intended for people who wish to live in Portugal, rather than pure investors. It requires you to spend at least 183 days in the country each year, making you a Portuguese tax resident.

The visa is valid for two years, after which, it can be renewed for three years. After five years of legal residency, you can apply to be naturalized as a Portuguese citizen.

If you have your eyes on a European passport, Portugal is your best bet. A Portuguese passport is one of the most widely accepted in the world, and it’s also an EU passport, meaning that, once you’ve qualified, you could live and work in any EU nation.

#2. Uruguay

Recognizes dual citizenship

Years of residency required before naturalization: 5

Tests and interviews required: Spanish-language test

Passport power: visa-free access to 92 countries

Uruguay welcomes foreign nationals with several options for immediate permanent residency status, allowing you to skip a temporary visa holding period.

The most popular and common of the permanent residency options are the Rentista, Pensionado, or Jubilado Visas. If you can prove a stable, guaranteed income to support yourself from pension, dividends, or rental income, residency will likely be granted.

While the necessary income amount is unspecified, the amount should be consistent with your lifestyle. Generally, $1,500 (U.S.) per month is seen as sufficient.

After you’ve been a resident for five years, and having spent at least six months in Uruguay per year, you can start the naturalization process.

#3. Paraguay

Recognizes dual citizenship but only with Spain or Italy; in practice, Paraguay does not demand renunciation of previous citizenship

Years of residency required before naturalization: 3

Tests and interviews required: Spanish-language test plus Paraguayan history and culture test

Passport power: visa-free access to 85 countries

Residency in Paraguay is about as straightforward as it gets. You don’t need to make an investment or prove a specific amount of income; you can simply show up with the required documents and apply.

You’ll need to provide a police report from your home country showing no criminal history, a certificate of good health, proof of residence and income, plus other standard requirements.

You can apply for naturalization after only three years of permanent residency. During those three years, you should not be absent from Paraguay for more than six months per year.

Part of the naturalization process is showing a connection to the country. Buying property in Paraguay helps, as does having friends, speaking Spanish, and regularly spending time in the country. The more support you can provide to show your connection to Paraguay, the better.

#4. The Dominican Republic

Recognizes dual citizenship

Years of residency required before naturalization: as little as 6 months

Tests and interviews required: Spanish-language interview, including ability to demonstrate knowledge of the country’s traditions, culture, geography, and history

Passport power: visa-free access to 28 countries

The Dominican Republic has what is probably the easiest residency permit to maintain, with no time-in-country requirements. It offers ordinary and “fast-track” residency options.

The benefit of opting for fast-track residency is that you are granted permanent residency immediately upon your first application. This eliminates the annual renewal requirement of ordinary residency as well.

To qualify for fast-track residency, you have three options:

Show proof of US$1,500 or more per month in Social Security or other pension income as a retiree,

Show proof of US$2,000 or more per month in income from any source (rental income, dividends, and/or interest income works), retiree or not, or

Invest US$200,000 in one of several investment options (real estate qualifies as does a certificate of deposit).

Alternatively, you could set up a company to start a business or you could set up a company to manage a real estate investment (that is, a rental property).

Generally speaking, you are eligible for naturalization in the Dominican Republic after three years of residency. However, as a fast-track resident, you can start the naturalization process after only six months, making the Dominican Republic one ofthefastest second passport options in the world.

#5. Ecuador

Recognizes dual citizenship

Years of residency required before naturalization: 5

Tests and interviews required: Interview, Spanish-language test, and Ecuadorian history, geography, culture, and current events test

Passport power: visa-free access to 45 countries

Ecuador has one of the best residency programs available, offering 15 types of temporary resident visas. The process is easy to navigate, and the government is welcoming to foreigners.

To qualify for the Rentista temporary resident visa, one of the most popular options, you’ll need proof of income of three times the Ecuadorian minimum wage. For 2022, this is about US$1,275 per month.

A downside to residency and citizenship in Ecuador is that you’re required to spend a certain amount of time in the country to maintain your status.

As a temporary resident, you may be absent from Ecuador for no more than 90 cumulative days per year. However, if you’re going to convert to permanent residency, you may not have been absent from Ecuador for more than 90 days during your entire temporary visa period (21 to 24 months).

After at least 21 months as a temporary resident, you can upgrade to permanent residency.

As a permanent resident, absence from Ecuador is limited to 180 days per year, for each of the first two years of permanent residency. After the first two years, you may be absent for up to two years without losing your permanent residency.

After three years of permanent residency, you can apply for naturalization.

#6. Poland

Recognizes dual citizenship

Years of residency required before naturalization: 8

Tests and interviews required: Polish-language test

Passport power: visa-free access to 114 countries

To obtain a temporary residency permit (to eventually obtain permanent residency) in Poland, the first step is to apply for a long-stay visa in your home country.

The business investor visa is the temporary residency permit that most Americans will opt for. To qualify, you’ll need to invest a minimum of $100,000 (U.S.) and create a business that generates at least 15,000 euros of income a year.

Investing in real estate is considered a business option for this visa. Other options include a limited liability company, a limited partnership, a limited joint-stock partnership, opening a branch or representative office, or being the sole proprietor of your own business.

You’ll need to show proof of your investments such as titles, documents of incorporation, etc., the company’s balance sheet and profit and loss account, as well as other requirements.

Temporary residency is valid for up to three years and can be renewed. After five years of temporary residency plus three years of permanent residency, you can apply for naturalization. You can also apply for naturalization after 10 years of temporary residency.

The only con when considering Poland for naturalization is the time you have to invest for temporary and permanent residency status to eventually be able to apply for citizenship. Don’t forget that this gets you an EU passport, however, which is one of the most coveted travel documents in the world.