How to Get EU Citizenship: The Ultimate Guide

How to Get EU Citizenship: The Ultimate Guide

Updated: 21 February 2024

You have many benefits when you have an EU citizenship. You have the right to work, and you can study in any EU country. That also comes with visa-free travel to more than 170 countries.

To obtain EU citizenship, you can choose among four main ways: citizenship by descent, marriage, naturalization, or investment. What you will decide on will change according to the country you will have your citizenship from. Though the requirements for each option depend on the EU country, generally, you will be expected to provide eligibility, legal residence, language proficiency, and integration.

While some EU countries offer faster and easier citizenship programs, some can be more complex. In this article, We will show you how to get your EU citizenship and which countries offer the most suitable options for you.

How to Get EU Citizenship through Investment: Top Countries

Portuguese Golden Visa

In October 2023, we learned significant changes in the program. Portugal’s Golden Visa no longer accepts real estate purchases or related funds as qualifying investments. But there options you can apply for a Golden Visa in Portugal, some of which are:

  • Job creation
  • Investment in research
  • Support for artistic production or cultural heritage
  • Forming a company with job creation

Greek Golden Visa

The Greek Golden Visa’s minimum investment threshold increased from €250,000 to €500,000. This change in the investment cost became effective on July 31, 2023, for real estate investments. The selected areas include Athens, Thessaloniki, Mykonos, and Santorini.

When discussing the benefits of this investment program, we can first mention the right to live in Greece. The reason is that this right does not include stay duration limits or minimum stay requirements. Other benefits are access to public healthcare and education, visa-free travel within the Schengen area, family reunification opportunities, a low investment threshold in the real estate market, and the Double Taxation Treaty.

When you get a Greek Golden Visa, you or your family will be free to travel across 26 European countries in the Schengen area. Plus, you will not need any additional visas for these countries.

Citizenship by Investment in Malta

The Citizenship by Investment Malta program aims to attract foreign investment and expertise. You can have citizenship through naturalization for exceptional services. You and your family can obtain citizenship in Malta if you contribute to Malta’s economic development.

It requires one to make a minimum investment amount and show proof of residency in Malta for 12 or 36 months.

EU Citizenship from Spain

Spain is an EU member since 1085 and a part of the Schengen area since 1995. The country is a popular destination since it has high living standards and a growing economy. The Spain Golden Visa program offers various investment options if you are interested in moving to Spain.

Here are investment opportunities:

  • Property Investment: Invest a minimum of €500,000 in real estate.
  • Government Bonds: Invest €2 million in Spanish Government Bonds.
  • Shares in Spanish Companies: Invest €1 million in shares of Spanish companies.

Furthermore, as an applicant, you must be at least 18 old, have a clear criminal record, and possess private or public health insurance. 

When you get Golden Visa from Spain, you can  reside, study, and work in the country. It may also lead to permanent residency, and citizenship.

After holding temporary residence for five years, it becomes possible to apply for permanent residency in Spain. Following 10 years of permanent residency, you may apply for citizenship through the process of naturalization if you meet certain criteria.

EU Citizenship from Italy

You can get an advantage from Italy’s Golden Visa program, which was introduced in 2017.  In addition, if you stay in Italy for 10 consecutive years, you can apply for naturalization to get your Italian citizenship.

Here are the benefits:

  • It grants a residence permit valid for two years, extendable for an additional three years.
  • Italy’s Golden Visa holders can apply for Italian citizenship after 10 years.
  • Participants benefit from favorable tax conditions.
  • You will be free to travel within the Schengen Zone.
  • You will have the ability to include family members in the application.
  • If you are a visa holder, you and your family can work in Italy.
  • You can benefit from Italian National public healthcare.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a European Citizenship?

Here, discover the cost of investment options for citizenship or residency in various countries:

Portugal:

€500,000 investment in a qualifying fund.

Greece (Golden Visa Program):

€500,000 investment in real estate.

Antigua and Barbuda:

Investment options range from $100,000 to $1,500,000.

Malta:

€600,000 investment after 36 months of residency.

€750,000 investment after 12 months of residency.

Spain (Golden Visa Program):

€500,000 in real estate.

€2 million in Spanish Government Bonds.

€1 million in shares of Spanish companies.

Italy:

€2 million in Italian government bonds.

€500,000 in an Italian limited company.

€250,000 in an Italian innovative startup.

€1 million donation to a philanthropic initiative.

These costs can change according to the investment program or fund for each country. And you can get residency or citizenship.

How to Get German Citizenship for EU Citizens

EU citizens can apply for German citizenship. However, you need to meet certain naturalization requirements. These include living in Germany for at least 8 years, being financially stable and having sufficient knowledge of the German language.

When you can get German citizenship, here are some of the benefits you will get access to:

  • The right to vote
  • Freedom of movement
  • Professional opportunities
  • Residency security and diplomatic protection

How to Get EU Citizenship as an American?

As an American citizen, you can apply for EU citizenship. You can have different kinds of motivations when you do that. Either you may want to have access to travel between other EU countries or work and study in Europe. 

Here are some of the options:

By Descent: If you have a family member (like a parent or grandparent) who is an EU citizen,

By Naturalization: If you are residing and working in an EU country for a certain period, demonstrating financial stability, language proficiency and adaptation to the society,

By Investment: Some EU countries offer citizenship in exchange for significant financial investments, as some mentioned above.

EU Countries That Allow Citizenship by Descent

Austria

France

Malta

Belgium

Germany

Netherlands

Bulgaria

Greece

Poland

Croatia

Hungary

Portugal

Cyprus

Ireland

Romania

Czechia

Italy

Slovakia

Denmark

Latvia

Slovenia

Estonia

Lithuania

Spain

Finland

Luxembourg

Sweden

Becoming Naturalized in Europe: What are the Requirements?

Naturalization requires specific legal, residency, and cultural integration criteria. You will need to demonstrate proficiency in the national language to meet residency requirements. Not just that, for instance, you will also need to showcase your financial stability.

Here are some of the options to get naturalized in Europe, either with work or marriage.

How to Get EU Citizenship through Work

You can move to almost any country in the EU with a work visa and live there. After working for a number of years (5-10), it is possible to apply for naturalization.

How to Get EU Citizenship by Marriage

Marriage is one option to get EU citizenship. If you are an EU citizen, your spouse can apply for citizenship in the country where you hold citizenship. The requirements will vary according to the country.

Nevertheless, it generally includes a residency period after marriage. The common requirement is three years of residence after getting married in France, Greece, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden.

The procedures and period of acquiring citizenship or residence rights in EU countries through marriage depend on the country’s citizenship and immigration laws. And those differ among the blocs.

Here are some of the easiest countries to get citizenship in Europe:

  •   Portugal
  •   Malta
  •   Spain
  •   Netherlands
  •   Ireland
  •   and Luxembourg

Conclusion

Securing EU citizenship might seem challenging, but it is achievable with the right approach. Depending on your situation, you can choose from descent, naturalization, investment, or marriage options.

Each has its own set of rules. Tracing your family tree could lead to citizenship by descent, while living in an EU country might pave the way for naturalization. If you are looking at a faster option and have the resources, citizenship by investment can be your way. And if you are married to an EU citizen, countries like Spain offer easier citizenship. 

So, research about every country and prepare for an exciting journey to become an EU citizen. Remember that obtaining EU citizenship is more than just a personal accomplishment. So accept that you will become a member of the European Union, complete with values and responsibilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you qualify for EU citizenship?

Eligibility varies by country. But generally, it requires legal residency for a certain number of years, a stable income, no criminal record, and passing a language and integration test.

What is the fastest way to get an EU passport?

Malta’s Citizenship by Investment Program is relatively fast. It offers citizenship within 12-36 months in exchange for significant financial investment.

Which country is the easiest to get permanent residency in Europe?

Portugal is known for its straightforward and relatively quick residency process, especially for investors, retirees, and highly skilled professionals.

How can you get French citizenship?

To obtain French citizenship, you need to live in France for at least five years, demonstrate integration into French society, and have a stable income. You also need to pass language and citizenship tests.

Which EU country is the easiest to get citizenship by marriage?

Spain is considered one of the easiest. It requires just one year of legal residency if married to a Spanish citizen.

What is the most difficult EU citizenship?

Germany is often cited as one of the most challenging. It requires 8 years of residency, a B1 level in German language proficiency, and a strong understanding of German society and laws.

What is the cheapest citizenship to buy in Europe?

Montenegro offers a relatively affordable Citizenship by Investment program. It starts at around €350,000 and includes a donation to a national fund and real estate investment.

Can I travel in EU through Antigua and Barbuda citizenship?

Yes. The Citizenship by Investment program in Antigua and Barbuda started in 2013. You can obtain Antigua and Barbuda citizenship through significant economic contributions to the country. This Caribbean island’s investment program is affordable and draws numerous foreign investors.

The four primary investment options are as follows:

  • The National Development Fund
  • Real Estate Investment
  • Business Investment
  • The University of the West Indies Fund

How to Get EU citizenship through ancestry

Research if your ancestors were citizens of an EU country. Each EU country has specific laws for citizenship by descent. Gather necessary documents like birth, marriage, and citizenship records of your ancestors. Apply through the relevant embassy or consulate.

How to get an EU passport as a Canadian

You can apply for EU citizenship through ancestry, naturalization, or marriage. Investigate if you have European ancestors for citizenship by descent. Or, you can live in an EU country for the required period and meet all naturalization requirements. Also, you can marry an EU citizen and follow the specific country’s procedures for citizenship.

Countries in Europe that are easiest to get citizenship

Portugal, Spain, and Greece offer more accessible citizenship options, especially through investment or Europe Golden Visa programs. Malta and Cyprus also have investment citizenship alternatives. In addition, Ireland and Poland are notable for citizenship through ancestry.

What are primary ways to get a European passport?

By Descent: If your husband has a family member who can pass EU citizenship to him.

By Naturalization: This involves living and working in an EU country for a sufficient period to qualify for citizenship.

By Investment: Investing a significant amount in an EU country can lead to citizenship.

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