Having dual citizenship, complete with a second passport, comes with multiple benefits. In addition to the more traditional ways by which countries grant citizenship — such as by birth, naturalization, or marriage — several countries also offer citizenship by investment or by descent. The easiest countries to get citizenship include Malta, Portugal, Turkey, Vanuatu, Ireland, Spain, Israel, and nations in the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.
If you were born in the United States, you were automatically granted citizenship by birthright, but that isn’t the only way to gain citizenship. It is possible to obtain citizenship in other countries; in fact, there are many advantages to having dual citizenship (and a second passport), including some financial benefits.
For those who are interested in acquiring a second passport, a few countries offer easy routes to citizenship based on ancestry. Of course, if digging through your family tree doesn’t bear any fruit, the good news is that several countries offer citizenship to foreign nationals through investment programs as well.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the advantages of dual nationality, the most common paths to citizenship, and some of the easiest countries to get citizenship by investment or by descent, including the cost and requirements of each country’s citizenship program.
Benefits of dual nationality
Dual nationality grants many enticing benefits, including the ability to travel visa-free to more countries around the world, access to new business and investment opportunities in overseas markets, and increased safety and security (especially if a person’s country of origin becomes politically or economically unstable). Having multiple passports can even come with tax benefits!
Naturally, U.S. citizens are still obligated to pay taxes on their worldwide income, even if their primary residence is abroad. However, U.S. citizens who move abroad can claim the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) benefit, which exempts the first $120,000 of income earned abroad per person. A second citizenship is not required to qualify for the FEIE benefit, but having that second passport will make it easier to spend unlimited time outside of the United States in order to establish residence abroad. Of course, to stop paying U.S. taxes altogether, you would need to renounce your U.S. citizenship completely.
Common paths to citizenship
Each country’s citizenship program has its own rules and requirements. It’s also worth noting that not all countries allow a second citizenship. According to VisaGuide.World, only 66 countries allow dual citizenship with the United States. In order to become a citizen of a country that does not allow dual nationality — e.g., Japan, Monaco, Panama, Papua New Guinea, or Tanzania — you would need to relinquish your U.S. citizenship.
If you’re thinking about becoming a citizen of another country, these are some of the most common ways you can acquire citizenship:
Citizenship by birth
You might assume that most people automatically obtain citizenship from the country they were born in — a rule known as jus soli, which is Latin for “right of soil.” Surprisingly, only 33 countries offer unrestricted citizenship based on birthright (almost all of them in North and South America), while 32 other countries — including Australia, Egypt, New Zealand, and South Africa — have some restrictions and regulations related to citizenship by birth.
Citizenship by descent
Also known as jus sanguinis (Latin for “right of blood”), descent is one of the most common paths to citizenship. Countries that offer citizenship by descent allow you to inherit citizenship through ancestry, such as from a parent or grandparent.
As of 2023, countries that offer citizenship by descent outright include France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Romania, Thailand, and Turkey. Note that rules regarding which family members can claim citizenship by descent will vary by country, particularly when it comes to citizenship on the mother’s side.
Naturalization is a process through which one obtains citizenship by entering a country through legal means, establishing permanent residence via a residency visa, and living in the country for a designated period of time. After relocating to a new country and gaining permanent residency, some immigrants choose to go a step further and acquire citizenship (i.e., become naturalized) in their new home country, often because citizenship offers benefits that a residency permit does not.
It’s worth noting that naturalization often requires taking a civic integration exam to demonstrate a basic understanding of the country’s laws, language, culture, and history. You also need to have a clean criminal record. If the country does not allow dual nationality, naturalization would also require renouncing your old citizenship.
What does “citizenship” mean?
Britannica defines citizenship as “the most privileged form of nationality.” Specifically, citizenship is a “relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Citizenship implies the status of freedom with accompanying responsibilities. Citizens have certain rights, duties, and responsibilities that are denied or only partially extended to aliens and other noncitizens residing in a country.”
Citizenship by marriage
Citizenship by marriage, known as jus matrimonii (Latin for “right of marriage”), allows a married person to become a naturalized citizen of their spouse’s nation. Each country has different rules regarding how long a couple must have been married or have a residence permit before being eligible to apply for citizenship.
Citizenship by investment
Although a less traditional way to acquire a second passport, investment can offer an easy route to citizenship for those who cannot obtain it any other way. Simply put, countries that offer citizenship by investment allow foreign nationals to gain citizenship by making a significant monetary contribution or qualifying investment toward the country’s development.
There are several citizenship-by-investment programs around the world, and the minimum investment required will vary by country. Keep in mind that most nations will require investors to have a clean criminal record and no outstanding tax payments, and some investment programs may also have a residency requirement.
Easiest countries to get citizenship by investment
Countries will sometimes offer citizenship in exchange for a significant investment as a way to stimulate the nation’s growth. The following are some of the easiest countries to get citizenship via the investment route:
|Malta||750,000 euros in government programs or 700,000 euros in real estate||Obtain citizenship and an EU passport within a year and gain access to all Schengen countries.|
|Portugal||280,000 euros in real estate or business investment, residency requirement of five years||A more affordable EU passport than other European countries. Portugal also offers citizenship by descent.|
|Turkey||$400,000 in real estate or $500,000 in a capital investment||Citizenship can be obtained in as little as six months, with possible future access to the Schengen Area.|
|St. Kitts and Nevis||$200,000 to $400,000 in real estate or a non-refundable donation of at least $150,000 to St. Kitts and Nevis Sustainable Growth Fund||One of the most affordable investments to gain citizenship.|
|Antigua and Barbuda||$400,000 in government-approved real estate or a one-time donation of at least $100,000 to the country’s national development fund||An Antigua and Barbuda passport offers visa-free travel to 151 nations around the world.|
|Curaçao||Minimum investment of $280,000||A Curaçaoan passport offers a route to Dutch citizenship.|
|Vanuatu||Prove that you have more than $500,000, donate $130,000 to the government, and pay a $5,000 application fee||Fastest process for obtaining a second passport (as little as one or two months).|
Malta is one of several countries with a Golden Visa (or citizenship by investment) program, and it’s also one of the easiest countries to move to from the USA. You can apply for Maltese citizenship after living in the country for five years, but an even faster way to acquire Malta citizenship is via the country’s Individual Investor Program, which grants citizenship and a Maltese passport within a year to anyone who invests at least 750,000 euros in government programs, bonds, or donations.
Conversely, a pre-approved real estate investment of at least 700,000 euros would get you Maltese citizenship within three years. This is one of the more expensive investment routes, which means it may only be possible for individuals with a high net worth. However, it may be worth the investment, as a Maltese passport comes with many benefits, including visa-free access to all the Schengen countries.
Portugal is another European country that offers a Golden Visa investment program. Portugal’s Golden Visa is more affordable than investment programs offered by other European countries, as it only requires a real estate or business investment of 280,000 euros.
The residency requirement for Portuguese citizenship is five years, and you must have a clean criminal record and no outstanding tax payments in Portugal. Citizenship also requires a basic knowledge of the Portuguese language, but in exchange, you’ll get the many travel benefits of having a European passport. In addition to offering a path to citizenship by investment, Portugal is also one of multiple European countries that offer citizenship by descent.
Citizenship by investment in Turkey is cheaper than in Malta but more expensive than in Portugal. To obtain Turkish citizenship, you will need to make a real estate investment of at least $400,000 or a capital investment of $500,000 in a Turkish bank, in government bonds, or in fund shares. You will also need a clean criminal record.
Turkish citizenship can be earned through investment in as little as six months, making this one of the fastest routes to obtain citizenship. Turkey also allows dual nationality and is currently in the process of joining the Schengen Area.
Several Caribbean countries also have programs that offer citizenship by investment, including St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Curaçao.
St. Kitts and Nevis
The St. Kitts and Nevis investment program requires a minimum investment of $200,000 (which must be kept for seven years) or $400,000 (which must be kept for five years) in pre-approved real estate. Another easy way to obtain citizenship is to make a non-refundable donation of at least $150,000 to the St. Kitts and Nevis Sustainable Growth Fund.
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is another of the most affordable countries to get citizenship by investment. You only need to make a one-time donation of at least $100,000 to the country’s national development fund or make a qualifying investment of $400,000 in government-approved real estate. You may not think a Caribbean passport would come with significant benefits, but an Antigua and Barbuda passport allows visa-free travel to 151 nations around the world!
Curaçao offers citizenship via an Investor Permit program for a minimum investment of $280,000. A huge benefit of Curaçaoan citizenship over other Caribbean countries is that because Curaçao is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a Curaçaoan passport offers a route to Dutch citizenship — and, by extension, EU citizenship. As a Dutch citizen, you would be allowed visa-free travel in the Schengen Area.
Vanuatu, a small island country in the South Pacific, offers one of the fastest and cheapest investment routes to citizenship. All you need to do to obtain Vanuatu citizenship is prove that you have more than $500,000, then donate $130,000 to the government and pay a $5,000 application fee. After that, it should take one or two months to obtain a Vanuatuan passport.
Does the United States offer citizenship by investment?
“The US doesn’t have a direct path to citizenship through investment,” says João Ferreira, a PR member for Global Investment Solutions. “What is available is the EB5 Investor Visa, which requires a capital investment of at least $500,000 in a government-approved enterprise and a two-year conditional stay before applying for permanent residency.”
Easiest countries to get citizenship by descent/ancestry
Blood relatives with foreign passports can offer another easy path to citizenship. Here are some of the easiest countries to get citizenship by descent:
Ireland offers an easy way to obtain European Union citizenship for those “lucky” enough to have Irish ancestry. Ireland’s citizenship program generously offers citizenship for ancestry up to three generations, which means you could be eligible for Irish citizenship by descent if you have an Irish parent, grandparent, or (in some cases) great-grandparent of either gender. The birth certificate or Irish passport of your qualifying family members is typically the most proof of citizenship you will need.
The United Kingdom offers a similar path to citizenship by descent as Ireland. If you have a British parent, you may be eligible for British citizenship, though it depends on your parents’ circumstances and where you were born. If you have a grandparent (or a great-grandparent, in some cases) who was born in the U.K., you may have an automatic claim to British citizenship. To prove your family member’s nationality, you will need to show their U.K. passport or their birth certificate.
Spain offers another easy route to EU citizenship. Traditionally, obtaining Spanish citizenship requires a permanent residence of 10 years. However, you can obtain Spanish citizenship by descent if your mother or father is a Spanish national, if both your parents were born in Spain, or if you have Spanish grandparents. Although Spain generally does not allow a second citizenship, Americans who obtain a Spanish passport don’t have to give up their U.S. citizenship.
Israel is another country that offers easy citizenship by descent. Depending on your circumstances or family history, you may be eligible for Israeli citizenship through the Law of Return. Broader than standard citizenship by descent, the Law of Return applies to descendants of Jewish or Israeli citizens, persons married to someone eligible under the Law of Return, and practicing Jews, including converts from another religion. Under the Law of Return, you will need to live in Israel for three months to qualify for Israeli citizenship, then wait a year to receive your Israeli passport.
Other European countries that offer citizenship by descent
While their citizenship programs may not be as easy to navigate as those of the nations listed above, the following countries also offer European citizenship by descent:
- Up to three generations: Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, and Slovakia
- Up to two generations: Czech Republic, Malta, Portugal, Romania, and Slovenia
- Parents only: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden
Which country offers the fastest route to citizenship?
Vanuatu offers the fastest way to obtain citizenship. The whole process can take as little as one month.
Which country is best for getting citizenship?
That largely depends on your priorities. For example, if you are interested in visa-free access to as many countries as possible, an EU country’s passport would be well worth the investment, as it would allow you to travel freely to any of the 27 Schengen countries. On the other hand, if you seek citizenship in another country for a more relaxed lifestyle, a Caribbean passport might be better suited to your goals.
Which are the easiest European countries to get citizenship?
The easiest countries in Europe to get citizenship by investment are Malta and Portugal. The easiest European countries to get citizenship by descent are Ireland, Spain, and nations in the United Kingdom.
Which country is cheapest for citizenship?
The cheapest route to citizenship is offered by Antigua and Barbuda. A one-time donation of $100,000 to the country’s national development fund is enough to earn you citizenship.
Which countries sell citizenship?
Several countries around the world offer citizenship-by-investment programs, often known as a Golden Visa. These countries include Malta, Portugal, Turkey, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anigua and Barbuda, Curaçao, and Vanuatu.
What is the hardest citizenship to get via investment?
One of the most expensive routes to citizenship by investment is offered by Malta. To get a Maltese passport, you would either need to invest 750,000 euros in government programs or 700,000 euros in real estate.
- There are multiple advantages to having a second citizenship, including expanded visa-free travel, increased safety and security, access to international business and investment opportunities, and even tax benefits.
- While there are more traditional ways to become a citizen of a country (such as birth, naturalization, and marriage), the easiest paths to citizenship are by descent and by investment (also known as a Golden Visa).
- The easiest countries to get citizenship by investment are Malta, Portugal, Turkey, Vanuatu, and certain nations in the Caribbean.
- The easiest countries to get citizenship by descent are Ireland, Spain, Israel, and nations in the United Kingdom.
View Article Sources
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- Counties with Birthright Citizenship 2023 – World Population Review
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