Easiest Countries To Get Citizenship In Europe & Obtain an EU Passport

11 Jan 2022
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Despite the fact that European passports provide a wide range of benefits, the criteria and expenses for obtaining one differ greatly from nation to country. We have compiled a list of the easiest countries to get citizenship in Europe.

Thousands of Britons have taken on the nationality of the country where they live as a way of keeping their EU citizenship in the aftermath of Brexit – and they’re not alone.

Obtaining a European citizenship has long been a dream for Americans, with EU and EEA passports granting the opportunity to work and live freely throughout the bloc. The great European passports are worth close to twice the value of the US passport. It is possible to obtain citizenship by family or marriage, but if you don’t have any helpful relatives or an EU spouse, you will have to seek citizenship through residency. Many in the US can also claim citizenship by ancestry. In some cases, you can gain citizenship without any residence, but in other cases you can be fast-tracked to naturalization in a short time. This is the case for Ireland, Italy and Spain.

Every European country approach naturalization differently, from residency requirements to dual nationality restrictions. Here’s a list of some of the most sought-after European nationalities, along with information on how to obtain one and how much the basic price is (this cost does not include the certified translation of documents which can easily run into several hundred euro depending on how many documents you need translated).

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1. Portugal

Basic language skills and at least five years of residence in Portugal are required to become Portuguese. You’ll also need to bring your passport, birth certificate, a list of prior nations you’ve lived in, and a criminal record certificate with no significant offences. What make Portugal the easiest country in Europe to gain citizenship is that there are no physical presence requirements. Meaning you only need to hold your resident permit in order to qualify for naturalization. You don’t need to spend most of the year in the country like most other countries. But if your resident permit requires you to spend most of the year in the country to maintain its validity than you are forced to. This is why so many choose the Portugal Golden Visa, with an investment of at least 280,000 Euro in the country, you gain a 5-year resident permit with very little minimum stay requirements. Application Fee: €200 Length of time living in country: 5 years Language level needed: A2 Portuguese Dual nationality allowed: Yes.

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2. Ireland

Ireland has had a unique status as the only nationality with the automatic ability to live and work freely in both the UK and the EU since the end of the Brexit transition period in January 2021. Anyone born in Northern Ireland to British or Irish parents is entitled to both a UK and an Irish passport, allowing them to apply for EU citizenship automatically. In the same way that Italy has an ancestral road to citizenship, persons having Irish parents or grandparents are entitled to an Irish passport in most cases. For everyone else, the process of becoming Irish is rather simple, requiring only five years of residence. However, the cost of acquiring a certificate of naturalization is prohibitively expensive, so you may want to postpone the process until you have some extra income. In many cases, even for ancestry, you will need to gain residency first. The Ireland Immigrant Investor Programme offers the flexibility that other Irish residency programs do not offer. Application Fee: €175 on application, €950 if approved Length of time living in country: 5 years Language level needed: None Dual nationality allowed: Yes.

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3. Sweden

Sweden has some of the most permissive citizenship regulations in Europe, with no language requirements for new Swedes and only a five-year residency time required to become a Swedish citizen. This can be reduced even further to only three years for anyone who has been married or cohabiting with a Swedish spouse for at least two years, albeit you will be requested to demonstrate that you have adapted successfully to Swedish life (through learning the language, for example, but you could also prove this by showing you can support yourself or through the length of your marriage). Other Nordic citizens can also benefit from a streamlined procedure.

You should also be aware that while brief visits overseas are permissible, spending more than six weeks abroad in any given year may delay the time until you can apply for citizenship. Furthermore, only time spent in Sweden while holding a valid residence permit (for non-EU residents) counts toward your residence; if you arrived without one and later obtained one, this initial amount of time will be ignored.

While Swedish language skills are not currently required for citizenship, this may change in the future: the Swedish Ministry of Justice and Migration proposed in January 2021 to introduce an A2 language exam for would-be Swedes, with exceptions for vulnerable people who have made a reasonable effort to learn the language. These plans will go through a lengthy political process before becoming legislation, so for the time being, all you need to verify is your identity, length of residency in Sweden, and the absence of any severe criminal offences or debts.

It’s also worth noting that, while the time it takes to become eligible for citizenship is quite quick, the time it takes to get citizenship is not. The Migration Agency estimates that it will take an average of 39 months for applicants to become Swedish after completing their application. The process has been reported to take anywhere from a few weeks to almost three years by readers of The Local.

Application Fee: ~€150 (1,500 SEK)

Length of time living in country: 5 years

Language level needed: None

Dual nationality allowed: Yes.

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4. United Kingdom

To be eligible for British citizenship, you must have resided in the UK for at least five years, passed the ‘life in the UK’ test, and be able to demonstrate an intermediate command of the English language. The application fees are by far the highest in Europe, at over £1,300, so you’ll need to be financially secure to apply. The UK Tier 1 Investor Visa is the most popular route for wealthy foreigners to gain residency in the UK. Application Fee: £1330 Length of time living in country: 5 years Language level needed: B1 English Dual nationality allowed: Yes

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5. Belgium

Belgium, along with Sweden and France, has some of Europe’s lowest citizenship obstacles. To be eligible for Belgian citizenship, you must have lived in Belgium for at least five years, demonstrate knowledge of one of the country’s national languages (Dutch, German, or French), and demonstrate “economic participation,” which entails paying taxes and other social security contributions for at least a few years.

Application Fee: €50

Length of time living in country: 5 years

Language level needed: A2 French, Dutch or German

Dual nationality allowed: Yes

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6. France

The residency qualification term in France is one of the shortest in the world. Most foreign nationals must have spent five years in France, however if you have finished postgraduate studies at a French university, this can be lowered to two years. As you might think, successful integration is the most important condition for citizenship: you’ll need to demonstrate that you can communicate in French at an intermediate level and that you understand and appreciate French culture, history, and politics. You’ll need two copies of the application form – demande d’acquisition de la nationalité francaise – as well as a valid passport, certified translations of your birth certificate and your parents’ birth certificates, tax returns and January and December payslips from the previous three years, a rental agreement or proof of home ownership in France, a clean criminal record, and a B1 (or hi-tech) visa. Following the submission of your documents, you will be invited to a (in French) interview in which you will be expected to demonstrate your understanding of and dedication to the French way of life. While you won’t have to name every king of the Ancien Régime, your knowledge of civic life and politics may be put to the test, so it’s a good idea to read the citizenship handbook (also known as the Livre de Citoyen) ahead of time. However, the time it takes for your application to be processed is quite long — on average, it takes 18 months to two years from the time you submit it to the time you get citizenship. If you need to gain residency first, the France Passport Talent stream is often the most popular route. Application Fee: €55 Length of time living in country: 5 years Language level needed: B1 French Dual nationality allowed: Yes

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7. The Netherlands

The Netherlands, like Germany and Spain, has laws prohibiting dual nationality, which means that if you wish to become a Dutch citizen, you’ll have to give up your current citizenship. If you elect to become a Dutch citizen, you must have resided in the nation for five years in a row, passed the civic integration exam, and be willing to profess your support for the Dutch state at the final citizenship ceremony.

Application Fee: €925

Length of time living in country: 5 years

Language level needed: A2 Dutch

Dual nationality allowed: No

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8. Germany

Naturalization, like other areas of life in Germany, includes a significant amount of paperwork. If you want to apply after six years, you must demonstrate that you’ve lived in the nation continuously for that period, that you have upper intermediate (B2 level) German, and that you’ve finished an integration course at your local Volkshochschule. You can skip the integration course if you apply after eight years, as most people do, but you must demonstrate social integration by proving conversational (B1) German language skills and passing a citizenship test with questions about German politics and culture.

A completed application form, valid passport, certified translations of your birth certificate, previous year’s tax returns, proof of valid health insurance, and your most current rental agreement or proof of house ownership are all expected. Since the end of the Brexit transition period, British citizens asking for German citizenship have been regarded the same as other third-country nationals, which means that they must usually relinquish their British citizenship in order to become German.

Application Fee: €255

Length of time living in country: 6-8 years

Language level needed: B1 German

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9. Norway

Norway, like Denmark, altered its multiple nationality restrictions in 2015, and enacted a law in 2020 allowing Norwegians (and foreigners seeking to become Norwegians) to keep a second citizenship in addition to their Norwegian one. Migrants must have spent at least seven years in Norway on a valid residence permit to be eligible for this sought-after passport — though, unlike other nations, Norway’s immigration authorities do allow for short absences.

You’ll need to deliver a series of documents in person after filling out an online application, including your birth certificates, marriage certificates (if applicable), a complete list of entries and departures from Norway, at least seven years of tax returns, and a police report certifying “good conduct.” You must earn either A2 or B1 Norwegian depending on your prior nationality, as well as pass a one-hour citizenship test in either of the two written versions of Norwegian (Bokml or Nynorsk).

Application Fee: ~€250 (N0K 2,500)

Length of time living in country: 7 of the past 10 years

Language level needed: A2/B1 Norwegian

Dual nationality allowed: Yes

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10. Denmark

To become a Danish citizen, you must not only have lived in the nation for over a decade, but also have an excellent command of written and spoken Danish. While many European countries accept A2 or B1 language skills, the Danish government requires most migrants asking for citizenship to earn the Prve I Dansk 3 language certificate, which is equivalent to B2 Danish. Passing the Prve I Dansk 2, which equivalent to B1 Danish, will suffice if you can demonstrate that you’ve been financially independent for the preceding 8.5 years and haven’t relied on state handouts. After you’ve completed your nine years and know your rugbrød from your flæskesteg, you’ll be asked to sign a declaration declaring your patriotism and commitment to Denmark and Danish society, as well as your promise to follow its laws. You must also submit papers proving your identification, current nationality, residency, and economic activity in Denmark, as well as pass a citizenship test that includes questions about Danish culture, politics, and life. After you’ve completed all of this and the Danish parliament has granted your citizenship application, you’ll be expected to attend a ceremony in which you must shake hands with a local authority. You can wave goodbye to your new nationality if you refuse to shake hands. The Danish government has also proposed adding new questions about Danish principles to the citizenship test and an interview as part of the process in recent months, although this has not yet been enacted into law. If you need to gain residency first, the Denmark Startup Visa is a popular route for tech entrepreneurs. Application Fee: €510 (3,800 DKK) Length of time living in country: 9 years Language level needed: B2 Danish Dual nationality allowed: Yes

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11. Austria

Austria has one of the lengthiest naturalization processes of any European country, requiring ten years of continuous residency, making it a less appealing option for anyone searching for a quick path to EU citizenship. It’s somewhat unexpected that Austrian citizenship is one of the least sought in Europe, given the fact that, like Germany and Spain, Austria has tight regulations against dual nationality. However, since Brexit, the number of British citizens asking for an Austrian passport has steadily increased.

If you want to become a naturalized Austrian and believe you meet the requirements, you’ll need to fill out an application form and submit a number of documents, including your passport, birth certificate (in German), proof of your Austrian address and continuous residency in the country, B1 German, and a completed citizenship test. You’ll also need to show that you have a positive attitude about Austria and that you can financially support yourself without relying on the government.

Application Fee: €130 to apply, €1,100-1,500 if granted

Length of time living in country: 10 years

Language level needed: B1 German

Dual nationality allowed: No

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12. Italy

Non-EU nationals must remain in Italy for ten years to get citizenship, similar to Austria and Spain, while there is an alternative route for those who can show Italian ancestry through a parent, grandparent, or even great-grandparent. This path can be a little complicated due to certain unusual legal stipulations on maternal vs paternal heritage, so it’s advisable to read up on the precise requirements before applying. The ten-year waiting time is lowered for employees of the Italian state, who can apply after only five years of service if they are not eligible for this Jure Sanguinis, or “citizenship by descent.” Meanwhile, the residency requirement for citizens of another EU country has been decreased to four years. If you were born in Italy, regardless of where your parents are from, you can apply after three years of adult living there. If you need to gain residency, the Italy Golden Visa is the recommended way. Aside from residency, prospective Italians must demonstrate intermediate Italian language skills, adequate financial resources to support oneself, and a clean criminal record to be eligible for an Italian passport. New Italians must swear an oath of allegiance to the state after completing the process. Application Fee: €250 Length of time living in country: 10 years Language level needed: B1 Italian Dual nationality allowed: Yes.

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13. Spain

A ten-year lawful resident time in Spain and at least a basic level of Spanish is required for most people who seek to become Spanish through naturalization. Citizens of IberoAmerican countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, and individuals of Sephardic descent, who can be fast-tracked after two years, and refugees, who can apply after five years, are the only exceptions to the strict residency requirement. These groups are also permitted to attain dual nationality, but new citizens of Spain are generally compelled to relinquish their previous one. If you are wealthy, its often recommended to apply for the Spain Golden Visa to gain residency first.

Naturalization applicants must submit their birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), and a certificate of good conduct from the police in their country of origin to their local Civil Registry, all of which must be legally translated into Spanish. They’ll also have to present a Cervantes Institute certificate indicating that they have at least an A2 level of Spanish, as well as pass a multiple-choice citizenship test covering various areas of Spanish life and culture. (If you want to try it yourself, you can get our version here.) After the application has been approved, the final step is to pledge allegiance to the King and promise to follow Spain’s laws and constitution. Unfortunately, many Spanish citizenship petitions take two to four years to process, according to sources.

Application Fee: €60-100

Length of time living in country: 10 years

Language level needed: A2 Spanish

Dual nationality allowed: No

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14. Switzerland

The administrative system and bureaucratic peculiarities in Switzerland can make applying for citizenship a little difficult (to put it mildly). While the country’s minimum residency requirement is ten years, your local area may place varying limitations on how long you must have lived there, with certain Cantons needing as much as eight years. You’ll need good language abilities in at least one of Switzerland’s national languages to stand a chance. This normally entails at least A2 written and B1 spoken German, French, or Italian, however Cantons may set higher standards if they so desire. You must also demonstrate a particular level of integration (which varies by region), be financially secure (i.e., not on government assistance) for at least three years before to applying, and have a clean criminal record with no jailable offences.

To make matters even more complicated, a committee of local residents may have a voice in whether you’re eligible for citizenship, so if you want to become Swiss, it’s good being close with your neighbors. Applicants are occasionally asked for particular instances of how they participate in the life of their towns or villages, as well as what local organizations they are a member of.

Participating in local choirs or volunteer fire departments is highly regarded, since it indicates a desire to be a part of and contribute to their communities. This could explain why some persons who appear to be eligible for Swiss citizenship because they have lived in the nation for a long time, understand the language, and are employed are denied by local authorities.

A British café owner in the canton of Schwyz was denied citizenship after failing to answer a question regarding the origins of raclette, a Swiss cheese dish.

Another well-known case is a Dutch woman residing in Aargau who was denied a Swiss passport on her first attempt because she complained about the noise of cow bells in her village. An Italian guy was denied Swiss citizenship in 2020 after he failed an exam regarding animals at the local zoo. A federal court, however, overruled the ruling.

Application Fee: €90 (100 CHF) on a federal level, plus Canton fees

Length of time living in country: 10 years

Language level needed: A2/B1 German, Italian or French

Dual nationality allowed: Yes

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