We recently discussed why you may want to claim dual citizenship if it’s available to you. It’s all well and good to know why it’s worthwhile, but how do you go about getting dual citizenship?
There are multiple ways that you can become a multinational, though some paths may not be available to you. Depending on the method you wish to seek dual nationality through, you’ll only have certain countries that may make citizenship available to you. Each process also has its own requirements, laws, and legalities through which you need to navigate.
It can get dizzying looking at everything that needs to be done, unless your path to citizenship is straightforward (which it can be). If you’d like help, you may find it worthwhile to work with a specialized dual nationality company. We won’t link to any groups specifically here, but a quick Google search of “dual citizenship services” or “[desired country] dual citizenship” should give you multiple results. Now that you know where to get extra help if you need it, let’s get started. Generally speaking, there are five main ways you can claim dual nationality…
One of the most common ways many people can get citizenship is through the process of naturalization. Most countries have some form of naturalization citizenship. Naturalization is the process of becoming a citizen by meeting a country’s certain criteria. Often, this requires living in the country with special documentation known as residence permits or visas. It may also require applying and interviewing for citizenship, passing a test, having a clean criminal history, and speaking the national language of the country.
The type of residency you hold matters a lot when it comes to naturalization. Generally, only years spent as a permanent resident count toward naturalization. You’ll often be a temporary resident first before being allowed to apply for a permanent residency permit in a country. Temporary residence permits can include student, temporary work, or even a long-term vacation visas.
Each country requires a different amount of time spent in the country, in addition to other specific requirements, to qualify for naturalization. Some countries, like the Dominican Republic, require only two years of permanent residency before you can apply for citizenship, while others require much longer stays, like 25 years in Qatar. Many countries require something between five and ten years. Some countries don’t require consecutive years spent, instead opting for a certain number of years over a specific period. For example, Ireland requires someone to have spent four years out of the eight prior to applying for citizenship.
Less common, and even less commonly pursued, is citizenship through investment. This avenue for nationality has fewer hoops to jump through, often not even requiring residency or a language test, which is what makes it attractive to those who seek it out. Where it becomes prohibitive, however, is how expensive this avenue can get. While each country requires different investment amounts, they usually range from the hundreds of thousands to the millions in dollars. There is also a smaller selection of countries that have these programs. Of these, the programs from Austria, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Malta, and St. Kitts and Nevis are the most well-known. Cyprus had a program until November 2020, when it was suspended after systemic abuses were revealed. Programs will often also require that you are in good moral standing without a criminal record and donated money obtained through only legal means.
It’s also possible to start your path toward citizenship by receiving a permanent residency through investment. This is essentially a shortcut toward naturalization that allows you to skip past the temporary visa. Your advantage here is that it may be less expensive (though not in some of the more developed countries) and more countries have this type of program.
The third way many people may qualify for dual citizenship is through their ancestry, called jus sanguinis or right of blood. In the strictest sense, this can refer to your parents. In countries with jus sanguinis citizenship, if one or both of your parents were citizens of a country, you are likely eligible for citizenship with that country. In fact, you are technically already a citizen, you just need to claim it. While it’s common to refer to just parents, some countries go back multiple generations. The three prominent examples of countries who do this are Ireland, Italy, and Hungary. In Ireland, you need to prove you have at least one grandparent that was an Irish citizen. For both Italian and Hungarian citizenship, you just need to prove you are descended from a citizen and that nobody renounced their citizenship.
Alternatively, you can qualify for citizenship through jus soli, or right of soil. If you were born in a country that has jus soli, you are technically a citizen of that country, even if neither of your parents are citizens. Currently, there are over 30 countries with jus soli citizenship. A situation where you’re born in another country to non-citizen parents is a little less likely since there are fewer scenarios where you may qualify.
Finally, if you are married to a citizen of another nation, you may be eligible to acquire the citizenship of their nation, and they to yours. For example, in the United States, an applicant with a U.S. partner must be married or in a civil union with the citizen for at least three years, be present in the United States for at least 18 months of those three years, and pass a series of tests and checks, among other requirements.
Other countries will have different requirements, but they all follow a similar path. Italian citizenship may be granted to a non-Italian spouse after two years of marriage or civil union if they are residing in Italy or three years if they’re living outside of Italy. This time is cut in half if the pair has a child under the age of 18. In Ireland, the couple must be in a recognized union for at least three years and have lived on the island for three of the last five years, among other requirements. If you’re married to a citizen of a foreign nation, or are getting married to one, and wish to become a dual citizen, we suggest looking into the specific laws of that country or talking to a lawyer that specializes in dual nationalization.
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If you’re interested in dual citizenship, there are lots of ways you may be able to claim it. While you do have options, there can be complications that crop up, especially when it comes to applying for the citizenship. In recent years, the idea of dual nationalities has grown in popularity, so there are many places you can turn for further help, especially if you want guidance throughout the process. It may also help to learn the local language and become deeply familiar with the culture. If everything clicks into place, you’ll be ready to utilize all the benefits that dual citizenship can offer!