How to Get EU Citizenship: Your Essential Guide in 2024

Navigating the complexities of obtaining EU citizenship? This guide cuts through the confusion to provide you with actionable steps on how to get EU citizenship.
April 23, 2024
How to Get EU Citizenship: Your Essential Guide in 2024
Ana Fankhauser
April 23, 2024

Navigating the complexities of obtaining EU citizenship? This guide cuts through the confusion to provide you with actionable steps on how to get EU citizenship through descent, marriage, naturalization, or investment. We’ll steer you through the requirements and processes of each pathway, giving you the knowledge you need to embark on your application. Forge ahead with clear direction and understand precisely what it takes to become an EU citizen.

Key Takeaways

  • Several paths to EU citizenship exist, including descent, marriage, long-term residency (naturalization), and investment, each with unique requirements and varying complexities.
  • EU countries offer investment citizenship programs with significant capital investment requirements, providing expedited access to EU citizenship and accompanying benefits such as business opportunities and market access.
  • Legal residency is a critical component in obtaining EU citizenship, where temporary residence can lead to permanent residency and eventually citizenship, with the EU Blue Card serving as a pathway for highly skilled non-EU nationals.

Exploring Pathways to EU Citizenship

Illustration of a European Union passport and a map of EU countries

The road to EU citizenship can take many forms, each with its own unique set of requirements and considerations. Some may find their path through their bloodline, while others may opt for a financial route. The primary methods for obtaining EU citizenship are:

  • Descent
  • Marriage
  • Naturalization
  • Investment

Citizenship can be obtained through various routes, including:

  • Citizenship by descent, which is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to obtain citizenship if one meets lineage requirements of member states,.
  • Naturalization, which provides a route to citizenship after a legally required period of residency in an EU country,.
  • Investment, which offers a fiscal pathway to citizenship through citizenship by investment programs or receiving citizenship honorarily for notable contributions.

The Heritage Route: Citizenship by Descent

The beauty of the heritage route to EU citizenship lies in its simplicity. This route allows individuals to obtain EU citizenship through their lineage, specifically if their parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents were EU citizens. This is particularly applicable for Americans with European ancestry.

However, it’s not as straightforward as one might think. Each EU country has unique rules, application processes, and documentation requirements for acquiring citizenship through ancestry. Organizing and presenting evidence to prove ancestral connections can be a complex part of the process. Yet, countries like Portugal and Italy offer citizenship by descent without requiring renunciation of the original nationality, making it an attractive pathway to dual citizenship.

Marriage and Family Ties

Another pathway to EU citizenship is through marriage and family ties. This route typically requires a period of residency after the marriage, with the duration depending on the country’s specific laws. For instance, in Italy, the residency requirement for those married to an Italian citizen is two years, during which the applicant must live in Italy with their Italian spouse.

This pathway to citizenship, though possibly longer than others, offers an avenue for those who have built their lives and families within the EU. However, it does come with its own set of requirements and stipulations that vary across member states.

Long-Term Residency: Naturalization Prospects

Long-term residency offers another avenue to EU citizenship. This pathway, known as naturalization, requires individuals to legally reside in an EU country for a specified number of years before applying for citizenship. The period of residency varies by country, ranging from three to ten years.

For instance, in Portugal, the naturalization period for obtaining EU citizenship is 5 years. In contrast, Poland and Austria have longer periods, with 8 years and 10 to 30 years, respectively. Spain requires a ten-year residency and a basic level of Spanish. However, exceptions allow faster citizenship for citizens of IberoAmerican countries, among others.

Common naturalization criteria across the EU include having a residence permit, establishing ties to the country, and passing a language proficiency exam.

Investment Citizenship Alternatives in the EU

Illustration of a golden visa with a European Union symbol

For those with capital to invest, the EU offers several investment citizenship alternatives. These programs require injecting capital into a member country’s economy, which could be through purchasing real estate, business investment, or setting up a company. Portugal’s Golden Visa, Malta’s citizenship by investment, and the Italian and Spanish investment citizenship programs are notable examples.

These programs have proven attractive to investors and entrepreneurs for the following reasons:

  • Access to a favorable business climate
  • Stable geopolitical area
  • Substantial market
  • Numerous trade accords

These factors enhance their business and investment prospects. However, the financial commitments for these programs are significant, reflecting the expediency and certainty these routes provide for citizenship.

Portugal's Investor-Friendly Golden Visa

Portugal’s Golden Visa program, also known as the Portugal Golden Visa, is a popular option for investors seeking EU citizenship. The program grants residency and, ultimately, citizenship, provided the investment is maintained. A minimum investment of either EUR 350,000 or EUR 500,000 in real estate is required to obtain the Golden Visa.

After maintaining the investment and residency status for five years, investors become eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship. This program is not only attractive for its relative ease but also for the access it provides to Portugal’s vibrant culture and robust economy.

Malta's Attractive Citizenship by Investment Offer

Malta offers another attractive citizenship-by-investment program. The requirements include:

  • Making a minimum investment ranging from €600,000 to €750,000, depending on the chosen residency period
  • Purchasing or leasing property
  • Contributing €10,000 to an approved Maltese organization.

The citizenship process takes up to a year, involves thorough due diligence and background checks, and includes obtaining a residence permit. Upon successful completion of the program, applicants are granted full EU citizenship rights, such as the freedom to live, work, and study anywhere in the European Union.

Italy and Spain: Mediterranean Investment Routes

Italy and Spain offer Mediterranean routes to EU citizenship through their respective investment programs. Italy requires a minimum investment of €2 million in government bonds or €500,000 in an Italian limited company. On the other hand, Spain requires a minimum investment of €500,000 in real estate or €2 million in Spanish treasury bonds.

Both countries offer unique benefits to investors. Italy offers a favorable tax regime for new residents, while Spain provides visa-free access to the Schengen Area. These benefits, along the allure of living in Mediterranean Europe, make these investment routes highly attractive to foreign investors.

Legal Residence and Its Role in EU Citizenship

Legal Residence and Its Role in EU Citizenship

Obtaining legal residency in an EU country is an essential first step towards EU citizenship. Whether through naturalization or an investment program, securing legal residency is the key to unlocking your journey to becoming an EU citizen. Long-term residence rights for non-EU nationals are accessible through guidance provided on the EU immigration portal.

Non-EU nationals, including Australian passport holders, must obtain a long-term residence permit for stays exceeding 90 days in the EU, despite not needing a visa for short-term entry. This underscores the importance of legal residency in the path to obtaining EU citizenship and the benefits of having a European passport, also known as an EU passport.

Permanent Residency vs. Temporary Stay

Obtaining permanent residency in the EU offers a significant stepping stone towards citizenship. Permanent residency grants individuals long-term authorization to live in an EU country. After 3 to 8 years of temporary residency, individuals may become eligible for permanent residency, subject to further prerequisites like language proficiency and societal integration tests.

Temporary residence permits, often the first step before obtaining permanent residency, usually have a period of 1 to 5 years with the possibility of renewals. Some EU countries also offer long-term residence permits that do not equate to permanent residency. Understanding these differences is vital, as obtaining citizenship typically necessitates permanent residency.

The EU Blue Card: A Stepping Stone

The EU Blue Card offers a unique pathway towards EU citizenship for highly skilled non-EU nationals. This residence permit is designed for non-EU nationals who are highly skilled and have secured employment within the EU.

Holders of the EU Blue Card can apply for permanent residency after living and working in an EU country for a certain period. As permanent residency is a crucial step towards eligibility for EU citizenship, the EU Blue Card can potentially serve as a stepping stone to becoming an EU citizen.

Understanding EU Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities

EU Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities

EU citizenship is not just about the freedom to live, work, and study across the EU. It comes with a set of rights and responsibilities. EU citizenship, also known as European citizenship, is granted to individuals who possess the nationality of an EU member state. With this status, EU citizens, also known as European citizen, are entitled to work, study, and have consumer protection rights in any of the 27 EU member states.

Besides these rights, EU citizens also have responsibilities. They are required to respect the laws and regulations of the EU and its member states. It’s a balance of privileges and obligations, embodying the spirit of the European Union.

Dual Citizenship Considerations in the EU

Dual citizenship can offer the best of both worlds, but it’s not universally accepted across the EU. While the EU has seen a shift towards the acceptance of dual citizenship, some countries are still reluctant to allow it. Countries such as:

  • Austria
  • Germany
  • Estonia
  • Bulgaria
  • Spain
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Netherlands

have stringent policies and exhibit reluctance to allow dual citizenship.

The policies towards dual citizenship vary significantly amongst EU member states. Some countries, like Belgium and Luxembourg, support the concept of multiple citizenships. While Finland permits its citizens to hold dual citizenship, it has provisions for potential loss of Finnish citizenship if a strong connection to Finland is not demonstrated. This diversity in policies underscores the importance of understanding the specific citizenship laws of the EU country you are considering.

Strategies for Americans Seeking EU Citizenship

For Americans seeking to expand their horizons, several strategies can help them get EU citizenship. These include:

  • Descent
  • Marriage
  • Naturalization
  • Investment

Portugal, Spain, Malta, and Greece are among the EU countries with more accessible citizenship options for US citizens.

The choice of strategy depends largely on the individual’s circumstances and the specific requirements of the EU country in question. Regardless of the strategy chosen, thorough research on the various requirements of each EU country is vital for a successful application.

EU Member States with More Accessible Citizenship Options

While each EU member state has its own set of citizenship requirements, some countries are known for their more accessible options. Portugal, for instance, is often favored for its simpler application process. Cyprus is another country known for its accessible citizenship options.

Other countries with accessible citizenship options include:

  • Ireland
  • Sweden
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Luxembourg

Each European country has unique requirements and benefits. These European countries represent a selection of EU member states that offer more accessible pathways to EU citizenship, providing hope for those whose dream it is to become an EU citizen.

Navigating the Documentation and Application Process

Applying for EU citizenship involves a maze of documentation and legal requirements. Each applicant must assemble a variety of documents for their application, including:

  • Evidence of sustained residency
  • Financial resources
  • Clean criminal records
  • Language proficiency

The application process can vary significantly due to diverse immigration laws in each EU member state. It requires careful planning, thorough research, and meticulous attention to detail. Understanding the specific requirements of each EU country can be the determining factor in a successful application.

Financial Implications of Obtaining EU Citizenship

While the benefits of EU citizenship are manifold, it’s also crucial to consider the financial implications. For US citizens, one significant factor is the US’s citizenship-based taxation system, which requires US citizens to report income and potentially pay taxes to the IRS regardless of their country of residence.

However, moving to the EU can lead to a significant reduction in tax liability. Depending on the EU country of residence, this could potentially bring tax bills down to single-digit percentages. The financial implications of obtaining EU citizenship are thus an important consideration in planning your path to becoming an EU citizen.

The Impact of Brexit on EU Citizenship Pursuits

The political landscape also plays a role in EU citizenship pursuits. Brexit, for instance, has had significant implications for British citizens and their EU citizenship rights. With the conclusion of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020, British citizens lost their EU citizenship and the corresponding rights to free movement.

Since the start of 2021, the ability of British citizens to reside, work, or study in the EU has been subject to the varying immigration laws and visa policies of each EU Member State. However, British individuals who established residence in an EU country prior to January 1, 2021, retain certain rights as per the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The impact of Brexit underscores the fluid nature of EU citizenship rights and the need to stay informed on current events and changes in immigration laws.


Embarking on the journey towards EU citizenship is undoubtedly complex, yet it opens up a world of opportunities. From heritage routes and family ties to investment opportunities and residency prospects, there are multiple pathways to achieving this goal. Each EU member state has its own unique set of requirements, making it essential to understand the specific immigration laws and processes of the country you wish to call home.

Whether you’re an American seeking new horizons or a non-EU national pursuing better opportunities, EU citizenship offers a world of possibilities. The journey may be complex, but with careful planning, diligent research, and a thorough understanding of the requirements and processes, your dream of becoming an EU citizen can become a reality.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the primary methods for obtaining EU citizenship?

The primary methods for obtaining EU citizenship are through descent, marriage, naturalization, and investment. These pathways offer various options for individuals seeking citizenship in the EU.

What is the EU Blue Card?

The EU Blue Card is a residence permit for highly skilled non-EU nationals with job offers in the EU.

Which EU countries have more accessible options for obtaining citizenship?

Portugal, Spain, Malta, Greece, and Cyprus are known for their more accessible citizenship options, making them popular choices for those wishing to obtain citizenship in the EU.

What are the potential financial implications of obtaining EU citizenship?

Obtaining EU citizenship can potentially reduce tax liability for US citizens due to the US's citizenship-based taxation system. This can result in a positive financial impact for individuals looking to move to the EU.

How has Brexit impacted EU citizenship pursuits?

Brexit has significantly affected British citizens' pursuit of EU citizenship, as they are now subject to the varying immigration laws and visa policies of each EU Member State. This has impacted their ability to reside, work, or study in the EU.

Share this post
Share tips, news, insights with the Movingto community on Slack. It's completely free.
Join our Slack Group
Check it out