Jun 27, 2024

7 Routes to Second Citizenship and Countries that Welcome Foreigners

Acquiring citizenship of a foreign country can bring several important benefits. You can gain new opportunities for traveling, doing business, investing, opening bank accounts, protecting your assets, ‘masking’ the country of your origin if your home country’s passport is ‘toxic’ in a certain geographical area, and hedging risks. What is especially important is the fact that your second passport can serve as a lifesaver in case something terrible happens in the country where you currently live.

There are several routes to foreign citizenship and many countries don’t mind newcomers. Moreover, most countries welcome foreigners if they can bring money or expertise with them. Let’s consider the ways of acquiring second citizenship thus extending your horizons.  

Countries where it is easier to obtain a passport

Some countries make the process of acquiring their citizenship relatively simple while some others make it complicated. You have to assess various methods of acquiring second citizenship and a second passport and find out about the requirements. The ease of process will depend on the geographical region and the particular country that you are interested in.

7 simple routes to second citizenship

RouteGroundsPersonal presence requirementsLanguage and history tests
DescentDirect kinship with a citizen of the countryxDepends on the country
NaturalizationLegal residence in the country over an extended periodvv
MarriageThe spouse is a citizen of the countryDepends on the countryDepends on the country
‘Golden visa’Investments + simplified naturalizationvv
InvestmentA returnable investment or a non-returnable donationDepends on the countryDepends on the country
Special servicesA special talent in science, sports, arts, etc.xx
BirthBirth takes place in a foreign countryDepends on the countryDepends on the country

Foreign citizenship by descent

Let’s start with citizenship by descent and see what countries offer this opportunity. In this case, jus sanguinis (right of blood) is allied. If you can prove that you are a direct descendant of a citizen of a foreign country, you can qualify for its citizenship. With some countries, one of your parents has to be a citizen while some other countries will grant you citizenship if a grandparent of yours was their citizen or even a great grandparent.

The main task to complete is to prove your descent. The documents should clearly show that one of your ancestors was a citizen of the country and this information has to be verifiable. Normally, candidates for citizenship have to demonstrate having no criminal past (this requirement is applied in all other cases though).

Only a few countries will grant you citizenship by descent without too much trouble. In Europe, these countries are Hungary, Poland, and Italy. The process may take several years but it is faster than the naturalization process anyway. While you are waiting for your passport, you should master the language of the foreign country at least at the basic level. You’ll have to pass a language test to become a citizen of your ancestors’ country.

Foreign citizenship by naturalization

If you live in a foreign country for a long time on legal grounds, you can eventually become a naturalized citizen. Normally, you have to meet the following conditions:

  • Live in country for a few years (the exact number of years depends on the particular country) while spending the best part of the year there and being a tax resident of the country;
  • Have a permanent residential address in the country;
  • Pass tests in the language of the country, its history, and culture;
  • Learn the national anthem.

Where can you naturalize in the fastest way? Living for two years in Peru, Argentina, or the Dominican Republic is enough for becoming a naturalized citizen in one of these countries. There are other interesting options, however. Spain, for instance, will also grant citizenship by naturalization after two years but only to the citizens of some countries (former colonies). You have to live for three years in Honduras to become a naturalized citizen and four years in Brazil and Nicaragua.

Many countries are more liberal to the residence term when it comes to granting citizenship to certain groups of people such as refugees, adopted children, and spouses.

Simple foreign citizenship via a ‘golden visa’ program

Acquiring a ‘golden visa’ to Portugal is probably the simplest way of becoming a citizen of the European Union. It is enough to invest €250,000 in a cultural project in Portugal (and €200,000 if the project is implemented in an underdeveloped area with low population density) to qualify for a golden visa that serves as a residence permit. You have to spend a week per year in Portugal to keep the ‘golden visa’. After five years, you can apply for citizenship.

There are some additional requirements that you also have to meet to obtain citizenship of Portugal:

  • Pass a language test (even though only basic knowledge of Portuguese is required);
  • Abstain from withdrawing from the investment for 5 years;
  • Owe nothing to the Portuguese fiscal authorities.

Foreign citizenship by marriage

Marriage serves as a legal ground for acquiring citizenship in many countries. The foreign spouse is considered a naturalized citizen but the requirements to his/ her are more relaxed. In particular, the residence term is shortened and the language test can be waived.

Let’s consider a few countries that grant citizenship by marriage in a fast manner:

  • Spain. You can become a naturalized Spaniard after living in the country for 10 years. If you marry a citizen of Spain, the residence term will shrink to 1 year only.
  • Uruguay. The standard naturalization period is 5 years in the country. If a married couple lives together for 3 years in Uruguay, they can become citizens of the country. What is interesting is that none of them has to be a native-born citizen of Uruguay.
  • Cabo Verde. If you marry a citizen of Cabo Verde, you can apply for citizenship of the country immediately after acquiring a marriage license.

Foreign citizenship by investment

Citizenship by investment is a fast way of acquiring a second passport in exchange for a considerable contribution to the economy of a foreign country. Many countries require that applicants for citizenship open bank accounts with local financial institutions. The amounts of the required investments depend on several criteria:

  • The investment type (a donation or a returnable investment);
  • The host country’s appetite;
  • The number of applicants included in a family application.

Below we list a few countries where you can easily acquire citizenship by investment. Please note that the administrative fees and the immigration agents’ fees are not included in the investment amounts quoted below.

  • Malta is the only EU country that has a citizenship-by-investment program. Acquiring a Maltese passport takes between 12 and 36 months depending on the investment amount. The due diligence procedures are tougher in Malta than anywhere else in the world. The lower threshold is €715,000.
  • St Kitts and Nevis. The country’s citizenship-by-investment program is the oldest one in the world: it was launched back in 1984. You have to donate US$ 250,000 to the state fund to become a citizen of St Kitts and Nevis. If you are prepared to pay for accelerated application processing, you can acquire a passport of the country within 4 months. The application for citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis can be filed remotely.
  • Turkey. The Turkish citizenship-by-investment program was launched in 2017 and it has been popular ever since. Citizenship of the country can be acquired within 3 to 6 months. You have to invest at least US$ 400,000 into real property in Turkey to qualify for a passport of the country.
  • Vanuatu. The island country in the South Pacific offers fast and simple second citizenship acquisition. You can donate US$ 145,000 to qualify for a passport of Vanuatu. The Government of the country is working on making other investment options available too. In the future, you will probably be able to invest in real estate, securities, or private foundations to become eligible for citizenship of Vanuatu. The application processing speed is also impressive: the average application processing time is 60 days (from the date when the application documents have been submitted). Vanuatu also accepts payments in different currencies – American, Australian, and New Zealand dollars as well as the Japanese yen. Besides, payments in cryptocurrencies are accepted (the immigration agent will convert the crypto into fiat currency).

Foreign citizenship for special services

Dozens of countries will grant citizenship to outstanding foreigners who are likely to make significant contributions to their economies or cultures. This is usually called ‘citizenship for special services’.

Outstanding achievements in science, sports, technology, arts, and other areas can bring you citizenship of a foreign country. The process normally takes only a few months. Please note, however, that your achievements have to be outstanding indeed. If they are, even the USA or Switzerland will be happy to offer their citizenship to you. As a rule, there is no need to renounce your current citizenship.

Foreign citizenship by birth

Some countries will grant citizenship to anyone born on their territories including children born to foreign parents. This is known as jus soli – right of soil. Argentina can serve as an example. There are exceptions, however. Children born to foreign diplomats and other officials are not covered by the right of soil.  

Conclusion and FAQ

Regardless of the route to foreign citizenship that you choose, you’d better hurry up. ‘The window of opportunity’ can close at any moment. This is attributable to the current geopolitical situation and some other factors.

In particular, the EU authorities are unhappy with the countries granting citizenship to foreign investors. The pressure from Brussels as well as Washington has already made Bulgaria, Cyprus, Moldova, and Montenegro terminate their citizenship-by-investment programs.

Laws related to citizenship acquisition change over time and we recommend that you seek professionals’ advice if you are considering applying for citizenship of a foreign country. Each particular case has to be analyzed individually.

Now let us answer a few frequently asked questions about acquiring foreign citizenship.

How soon can I become a naturalized citizen of a foreign country?

It is enough to permanently reside in Peru for 2 years to qualify for citizenship of the country. A married couple living in Uruguay can become citizens of the country after living there for 3 years. The required residence periods are longer in most other countries.

What is the lowest price of foreign citizenship by investment?

Five countries in the Caribbean as well as Vanuatu charge the lowest prices for their citizenship. Currently, you can become a Caribbean citizen for as little as US$ 100,000 but the price is going to rise very soon.

Do all countries grant citizenship to foreigners?

Some countries make it very difficult for foreigners to become their citizens. For example, only a personal friend of the Prince of Monaco could become a citizen of the Principality. The situation is similar in the UAE even though you can qualify for legal residence by investment in the country. The Vatican grants citizenship only to those who work for the Holy See.