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10 Countries in Europe Where You Can Gain Citizenship

If you have ever dreamed of moving to the European Union but are not sure how to make it work, you may be surprised to find that you're eligible for citizenship.

Citizenship in any E.U. country provides tremendous benefits, including the right to travel freely between member countries and the right to live, work, and study in any member state. The most common ways of obtaining dual citizenship are tied to ancestry or residence. However, there are also other paths to dual citizenship in many countries, ranging from investing in real estate or working for a foreign government in your home country. Other countries offer specialized visas that can lead to citizenship under some circumstances.

Obtaining dual citizenship is a complex, detailed process. Eligibility may hinge on a specific date of naturalization or whether the ancestor you use to claim citizenship was male or female. This is not an exhaustive guide but a jumping-off point. Many countries offer several paths to citizenship, so if you don’t qualify under one criterion, consider looking for an alternative.

If dual citizenship isn’t possible, don’t despair! Many European countries allow non-citizens to obtain long-term residency visas. While these visas don’t provide all the same benefits as citizenship, they can be a way to help get a new life set up in the country of your dreams!

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Thanks to its sunny weather, beautiful scenery, and large ex-pat community Portugal is a great place to live and work. Under Portugal’s Golden Visa program, there’s a minimum investment of €500,000 for a real estate investment (there are some initiatives where it will cost less), which will allow the investor to obtain citizenship for their entire family in as little as five years. Investors don’t need to move to Portugal to be eligible for citizenship, so they can start recouping some of their costs by renting out their property immediately.

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Poland is a vibrant country with a low cost of living compared to other European Union countries. Most people with at least one ancestor who was born in Poland and resided there after 1920 are eligible for citizenship. Don’t have a Polish grandparent? Don’t worry. Poland also confers citizenship through a Presidential Grant to those who can prove a connection to Poland and the Polish Diaspora. Polish citizenship applications are generally processed in under a year, which is very fast compared to other E.U. countries.

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It’s easy to fall in love with Italy’s food, fashion, and friendliness. You may be eligible to become a citizen if you have Italian heritage. Italy has no upward limit to how many generations back you can go to claim citizenship, making this one of the easier places to claim a passport by descent. There are, however, several conditions. Your Italian ancestor must have been in Italy sometime after Italy became a country in 1861, and there must be an unbroken chain of Italian citizenship. If any ancestor lost their Italian citizenship in your direct line, such as by naturalizing in another country before their children were born, you may have lost your citizenship claim.  Another way to obtain Italian citizenship is by working for the Italian government for five years. To earn citizenship this way, you don’t need to live in Italy. Since Italy has a presence nearly everywhere in the world, it’s possible to obtain citizenship this way without ever setting foot in the country.

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It’s hard not to fall in love with the ancient history of Athens and the beautiful islands dotting the Aegean Sea. If you can trace Greek ancestry back as far as your great-grandparents, you might be able to obtain Greek citizenship by descent. Everyone in the line of descent may need to undergo citizenship. That means if your grandfather is Greek, your mother or father might need to obtain citizenship before you do. The good news is that this process can be completed at a Greek consulate for under €200. No Greek heritage? You may still be able to move to Greece by obtaining a Digital Nomad visa or by making an investment of at least €250,000 (although the government recently announced this number may increase to €500,000). If you maintain residency in Greece for seven years, you can then become eligible for citizenship.

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A life full of Spanish siestas, fantastic nightlife, and diverse terrain from mountains to beaches makes Spain an attractive place to settle. Children and grandchildren of Spanish citizens are eligible for citizenship under most circumstances. If you can’t claim a Spanish grandparent but can move without a job, consider Spain’s non-lucrative visa program. To be eligible, applicants must show they have sufficient funds to support themselves while in living in Spain and commit to not working if they are on Spanish soil. Spain will introduce a Digital Nomad visa in late 2022, opening the door to even more opportunities. Long-term residents may be able to obtain citizenship after two, five, or ten years of residency, depending on the circumstances.

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From the French countryside to the lights of Paris, many dream of living in one of the world’s most romantic countries. You are probably eligible for citizenship if you have a French parent or grandparent. However, if your grandparent is French, your parent may need to obtain French citizenship before you become eligible. If your roots can’t be traced to France, you can try to obtain citizenship another way. France grants citizenship to those who reside in the country for five continuous years, which is a relatively short amount of time compared to other European countries. This requirement is significantly shortened under certain circumstances, such as serving in the French military, making an exceptional contribution to France in various areas, including science or sports, or studying at a French university.

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Whether you love pounding a pint of Guinness or driving through Ireland’s stunning landscapes, you may have considered moving to the Emerald Isle. If your parents or grandparents hail from Ireland, you are probably eligible for citizenship. If not, you can obtain Irish citizenship by living in Ireland for five out of nine years. Ireland’s residency requirement is one of the most flexible in the E.U. since it does not require consecutive residence to be eligible for citizenship. However, there is one important caveat: Candidates must reside in Ireland for one year preceding their citizenship application.

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Germany boasts vibrant cities, a culture that promotes a good work/life balance, and great infrastructure that makes getting around easy. Before considering dual citizenship in Germany, it is important to note that, unlike many other E.U. countries, Germany does not allow dual citizenship under most circumstances. This means that obtaining German citizenship may mean giving up your current citizenship. Most people with a German parent are eligible for citizenship. Living in Germany for eight years can also lead to citizenship, and you can knock a year off this requirement by taking a German language integration course. If you are descended from a German who lost their citizenship because they were persecuted by the Nazis for being Jewish, a political opponent, or any other reason, you may be able to obtain German citizenship and retain your current citizenship.

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Sweden is known for its excellent work/life balance and scenic beauty. Obtaining citizenship by descent in Sweden is difficult. Sweden does not always grant citizenship to children of Swedish citizens born outside of the country. Whether or not you have Swedish roots, if becoming a Swedish citizen is your dream, don’t give up! Those who reside in Sweden for five years can generally obtain citizenship. Under some circumstances, residents can apply for citizenship in just two years. Among other requirements, hopeful citizens must have led an “orderly life” and establish that they are debt free and have not been convicted of any crimes. Other paths to citizenship include working on a Swedish vessel and cohabitation with a Swedish citizen, even if living outside of Sweden.

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Picturesque Austria boasts a rich culture and high quality of life, with its capital city of Vienna ranked as one of the most livable in the world. Children of Austrian citizens are eligible for citizenship even if born outside of Austria. Generally, Austria does not allow for dual citizenship, so obtaining Austrian citizenship may mean giving up your current citizenship. If that’s okay with you, paths to citizenship include living in Austria for ten years and making a substantial, direct investment in the Austrian economy. Austria also restored citizenship to direct descendants of Austrians persecuted by the Third Reich. Those who obtain citizenship this way can maintain dual citizenship.