Easiest country to get citizenship in Europe

Article Breakdown

The requirements and costs for getting a European passport vary widely from one country to the next, despite the fact that they offer a wide range of benefits. Besides the easiest countries to get citizenship, and the countries that offer citizenship by descent, we listed the easiest countries for European citizenship below. Some are EU countries and others are European countries, but not part of the EU block.

Some European countries also offer investment programs to obtain a second passport, and we will also include a section for European citizenship by investment programs at the end. These are technically not part of the easiest European countries to obtain EU citizenship, unless you have the funds to participate in the corresponding investment program.

Following Brexit, thousands of Britons have adopted the nationality of the European country in which they now reside in order to maintain their EU citizenship. They are not alone in doing this. The ability to work and live freely throughout the EU and EEA is why having a European citizenship has long been a dream for many global citizens.

It is possible to become an EU citizen through marriage or family, but if you don’t have any supportive family members or a partner from the EU, you will need to apply for citizenship through residency. Many Americans also qualify for citizenship based on ancestry.

In some circumstances, you can become a citizen without ever having lived anywhere, while in others, you can quickly move through the naturalization process after which you are granted citizenship. Spain, Italy, and Ireland all fall within this category.

Country Application Fee Residency Requirement Language Requirement Dual Citizenship Allowed?
Rounded Portugal Flag Icon Portugal €200 5 years A2 in Portuguese Yes
Rounded Ireland Flag Icon Ireland €175 for the application, €950 if it is accepted 5 years (physical) No Yes
Rounded Sweden Flag Icon Sweden $150 application fee (1,500 SEK) 5 years (physical) No Yes
Rounded United Kingdom Flag Icon United Kingdom £1330 5 years (physical) B1 English Yes
Rounded Belgium Flag Icon Belgium €50 5 years (physical) French, Dutch, or German at the A2 level Yes
Rounded France Flag Icon France €55 5 years (physical) French B1 Yes
Rounded Netherlands Flag Icon The Netherlands €925 5 years (physical) A2 Dutch + Culture Depends (usually No)
Rounded Germany Flag Icon Germany €255 6-8 years (physical) German B1 No
Rounded Norway Flag Icon Norway $250 (N0K 2,500) 7 out of last 10 years (physical) Norwegian A2/B1 Yes
Rounded Denmark Flag Icon Denmark €510 (3,800 DKK) 9 years (physical) Danish B2 Yes
Rounded Austria Flag Icon Austria €130 for submission, up to €1,100–1,500 if accepted 10 years (physical) German B1 No
Rounded Italy Flag Icon Italy $250 10 years (physical) B1 in Italian Yes
Rounded Spain Flag Icon Spain €60 to €100 10 years (physical) A2 Spanish Depends (usually no)
Rounded Switzerland Flag Icon Switzerland €90 (100 CHF) + Canton fees 10 years (physical) German, Italian, or French A2/B1 Yes

Every European nation has a unique approach to naturalization, from residency requirements to limitations on multiple nationality. The most popular European nations are listed below, along with information on how to apply for one and how much the basic cost is (this cost does not include the certified translation of documents which can easily run into several hundred euro depending on how many documents you need translated).

Portugal Country Landscape Photo

1 – Portugal

Portugal is one of the EU countries that makes it easy to become an EU citizen. To become Portuguese and an EU citizen, you must have a basic understanding of the language and have lived in Portugal for at least five years. Bring your passport, birth certificate, a list of the previous countries you resided in, and a criminal record certificate showing no major offenses.

Portugal is the easiest country in Europe to become an EU citizen in because there are no requirements for physical presence. Meaning that to be eligible for naturalization and Portuguese citizenship, all you need to do is have your residency permit. Unlike most other countries, you don’t have to reside there for the most of the year. However, you are compelled to if your residence permit stipulates that you must remain in the country for the majority of the year in order for it to be valid.

This is why so many people choose the Portugal Golden Visa, which grants you a 5-year resident permit with relatively low minimum stay restrictions in exchange for an investment of at least 280,000 Euro. Other residency visa options for Portugal have more physical stay requirements.

Ireland Country Landscape Photo

2 – Ireland

The Irish passport is a top-tier EU passport. Since the end of the Brexit transition period in January 2021, Ireland has enjoyed a special position as the only EU country having the automatic right to live and work freely in both the UK and the EU.

Anyone with British or Irish parents who is born in Northern Ireland is qualified for both a UK and an Irish passport, making automatic application for EU citizenship possible. This is not possible in other EU countries. People with Irish parents or grandparents are typically eligible for an Irish passport, similar to how Italy offers an ancestral route to citizenship.

For everyone else, the process is rather straightforward and simply requires five years of residency. But because getting a certificate of naturalization is so pricey, you might want to put off the procedure until you have some spare cash. Even for ancestry, you will frequently need to first obtain residency in Ireland. Other Irish residency options do not provide the flexibility that the Ireland Immigrant Investor Programme does.

Sweden Country Landscape Photo

3 – Sweden

With no language requirements for new Swedes and only a five-year residency requirement, Sweden has among of the most lenient citizenship laws of all European countries. If you have been married to or living with a Swedish spouse for at least two years, this can be shortened to just three years, albeit you will need to show that you have successfully acclimated to Swedish culture (through learning the language, for example, but you could also prove this by showing you can support yourself or through the length of your marriage). A shortened process will also be advantageous to other Nordic citizens.

Additionally, you should be aware that while quick trips abroad are acceptable, doing so for longer than six weeks in a calendar year may result in a longer wait before you can submit an application for this European citizenship. Additionally, for non-EU citizens, only time spent in Sweden while in possession of a valid residence permit counts toward your residence; if you arrived without one and later acquired one, the original period of time will be disregarded.

In January 2021, the Swedish Ministry of Justice and Migration proposed to introduce an A2 language exam for prospective Swedes, with exceptions for vulnerable people who have made a reasonable effort to learn the language. While Swedish language proficiency is not currently required for citizenship, this may change in the future. Before becoming law, these proposals will go through a protracted political process, so for the time being, all you need to prove is your identity, how long you’ve lived in Sweden, and the lack of any serious criminal convictions or debts.

It’s also important to keep in mind that while the time it takes to qualify for citizenship is short, the time it takes to actually obtain citizenship is longer. According to the Migration Agency’s estimation, it will take applicants an average of 39 months to become Swedish after submitting their application. The procedure could take a few weeks to over three years.

United Kingdom Country Landscape Photo

4 – The United Kingdom

You must have lived in the UK for at least five years, pass the “life in the UK” test, and be able to show that you have intermediate language proficiency in order to qualify for British citizenship. This is not an EU citizenship, but the UK passport is one of the most valued European passports, with visa free access to 188 countries.

With almost £1,300 in application fees, this is by far the most expensive in all of Europe, therefore you must be in good financial standing to apply.

The most common method for rich foreigners to get residency in the UK was the UK Tier 1 Investor Visa, which is no longer available.

Belgium Country Landscape Photo

5 – Belgium

Belgium has some of the fewest citizenship restrictions in Europe, along with Sweden and France. You must have resided in Belgium for at least five years, be able to speak Dutch, German, or French, and show “economic participation,” which means paying taxes and other social security contributions for at least a few years, in order to be eligible for Belgian citizenship.

France Country Landscape Photo

6 – France

France is one of the EU countries with one of the simplest residence requirements in the world. This is great for people who seek citizenship in France to apply for an EU passport. Most foreigners must have lived in France for five years, but if you’ve completed postgraduate coursework at a French university, the requirement can be dropped to two years.

As you might expect, attaining this EU passport successfully requires proving that you can speak in French at an intermediate level and that you are aware of and respect French politics, culture, and history.

A valid passport, certified translations of your birth certificate and both of your parents’ birth certificates, tax returns and January and December paystubs from the previous three years, a rental agreement or other evidence of home ownership in France, a clean criminal record, and a B1 (or hi-tech) visa are also required.

After submitting your paperwork, you will receive an invitation to a (French) interview where you will be required to demonstrate your knowledge of and commitment to the French way of life. Additionally, you might be asked to demonstrate your understanding of civic life and politics.

But it takes a while for your application to be processed; typically, it takes between 18 and 2 years from the time you file it until you receive citizenship.

The France Passport Talent stream is frequently the most popular option if you first need to obtain residency status.

Netherlands Country Landscape Photo

7 – The Netherlands

Due to rules prohibiting dual citizenship in The Netherlands, Germany, and Spain, you must renounce your present citizenship in order to become a Dutch citizen and obtain this EU citizenship. There are a few exceptions to this rule:

  1. If you were born in another country, you can maintain that citizenship
  2. If you lived in another country for 5 years or more before your 18th birthday, you can maintain that citizenship
  3. If you are married you can keep or obtain your spouse’s citizenship, next to the Dutch citizenship.

If you choose to apply for Dutch citizenship, you must have lived there continuously for five years, pass the civic integration test, and be prepared to declare your allegiance to the country during the final citizenship ceremony.

Germany Country Landscape Photo

8 – Germany

Like other facets of life in Germany, naturalization involves a sizable quantity of paper labor. After six years, if you want to apply, you must show that you have resided in the country continuously during that time, that your German is upper intermediate (B2 level), and that you have successfully completed an integrating course at your neighborhood Volkshochschule.

If you apply after eight years, as most people do, you can skip the integration course for this EU passport. However, you must demonstrate social integration by demonstrating conversational (B1) German language proficiency and passing a citizenship test that includes questions about German politics and culture.

A completed application form, a current passport, certified birth certificate translations, tax records from the prior year, evidence of current health insurance, and your most recent lease agreement or proof of home ownership are all required. Since the end of the Brexit transition period, British individuals seeking German citizenship are treated in the same manner as other nationals of third countries, which typically requires them to renounce their British citizenship in order to obtain German citizenship.

Norway Country Landscape Photo

9 – Norway

The rule allowing Norwegians (and foreigners seeking to become Norwegians) to maintain a second citizenship in addition to their Norwegian citizenship was passed in 2020 in Norway, which, like Denmark, changed its limits on having multiple nationalities in 2015.

To qualify for this coveted passport which is not a European Union passport, immigrants must have lived in Norway for at least seven years with a current residency permit; but, unlike other countries, Norway’s immigration authorities do permit brief absences.

You must earn either A2 or B1 Norwegian depending on your prior nationality, pass a one-hour citizenship test in either of the two written versions of Norwegian, and deliver a number of documents in person after submitting an online application, including your birth certificates, marriage certificates (if applicable), a complete list of entries and departures from Norway, at least seven years of tax returns, and a police report certifying “good conduct” (Bokml or Nynorsk).

Denmark Country Landscape Photo

10 – Denmark

You need to have lived in Denmark for more than ten years as well as have a strong command of both written and spoken Danish in order to become a citizen. When applying for European citizenship in Denmark, the majority of immigrants must get the Prve I Dansk 3 language certificate, which is comparable to B2 Danish, while many European countries allow A2 or B1 language proficiency.

If you can show that you have been financially independent for the previous 8.5 years and haven’t relied on government assistance, passing the Prve I Dansk 2, which is comparable to B1 Danish, would suffice.

You will be required to sign a declaration pledging your patriotism and dedication to Denmark and Danish society, as well as your promise to uphold its laws, once you have completed your nine years and are familiar with your flaeskesteg from your rugbrd. You must also pass a Danish citizenship test that asks you questions about Danish politics, culture, and daily life in addition to submitting documents demonstrating your identity, current nationality, domicile, and economic activity in Denmark.

Following completion of all of this and approval of your EU citizenship application by the Danish parliament, you will be required to participate in a ceremony where you will be required to shake hands with a local authority. If you don’t want to shake hands, you can say goodbye to your new nation. Although it hasn’t yet been made into legislation, the Danish government has also recently suggested adding new questions regarding Danish principles to the citizenship test and an interview as part of the procedure.

The Denmark Startup Visa is a well-liked option for tech startups to obtain residency first.

Austria Country Landscape Photo

11 – Austria

Austria is a less desirable option for anyone looking for a fast route to EU citizenship because it has one of the longest naturalization procedures in all of Europe, needing ten years of continuous residency.

Given that Austria has strict laws banning dual nationality, just like Germany and Spain, it comes as a surprise that it is one of the least desired in Europe. However, with Brexit, more and more British nationals are requesting Austrian passports.

If you want to become a naturalized Austrian and think you qualify, you must fill out an application and submit a number of documents, including your passport, birth certificate (in German), proof of your Austrian address and continuous residency in the nation, B1 German, and a passed citizenship test. Additionally, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have a favorable outlook on Austria and that you are financially independent of the government.

Italy Country Landscape Photo

12 – Italy

Similar to Austria and Spain, non-EU nationals must live in Italy for ten years before becoming citizens, while there is a different path available to individuals who can prove their Italian ancestry through a parent, grandparent, or even great-grandparent. Due to some odd legal requirements regarding maternal vs. paternal heritage, this route might be a little confusing, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with them before applying.

Residents of another EU country only have to reside in the country for four years (but most EU citizens do not need a second passport from another EU country), while the ten-year waiting period is lowered for employees of the Italian state, who can apply after only five years of service if they are not eligible for this Jure Sanguinis, or “citizenship by descent.”

No matter where your parents are from, if you were born in Italy, you can apply after three years of adult residence. It is advised to apply for an Italy Golden Visa if you need to obtain residency.

In addition to residency, potential Italian citizens must have a clean criminal record, intermediate Italian language proficiency, and sufficient financial resources to maintain themselves. Following the procedure, new Italians are required to take an oath of allegiance to the nation.

Spain Country Landscape Photo

13 – Spain

Most persons who want to become Spanish through naturalization need to have lived in Spain legally for ten years and speak at least a basic level of the language. The only exceptions to the strict residency requirement are citizens of IberoAmerican countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, and those of Sephardic origin who can be fast-tracked after two years and refugees who can apply after five years. These groups are also allowed to get dual citizenship, however those who become Spanish citizens must typically renounce their prior nationality. It’s frequently advised for wealthy people to initially apply for a residency permit in Spain under investment programs such as the Golden Visa program.

You will need a police certificate of good behavior in the applicant’s place of origin, a birth certificate, a marriage certificate (if applicable), and other documents related to naturalization (properly translated into Spanish). They must also pass a multiple-choice citizenship exam covering many facets of Spanish life and culture in addition to showing a Cervantes Institute certificate verifying that they speak Spanish at least at the A2 level. After the application has been accepted, the last stage is to swear loyalty to the King and commit to uphold Spanish law and the constitution.

Unfortunately, many requests for Spanish citizenship take two to four years to process.

Switzerland Country Landscape Photo

15 – Switzerland

Switzerland is not an EU country, but has a very powerful passport. The administrative structure and bureaucratic quirks of Switzerland can make the citizenship application process a little challenging (to put it mildly). Despite the fact that the country’s minimum permanent residency to be eligible to acquire citizenship is ten years, your local location may have different requirements, with certain Cantons requiring as much as eight years.

You must be fluent in at least one of Switzerland’s official languages. A2 written and B1 spoken German, French, or Italian are often required, though cantons may establish higher criteria if they so choose. Additionally, you must demonstrate a specific level of integration (which varies by location), be financially independent for at least three years prior to applying, and not have any felony convictions.

It is highly valued to join a local choir or volunteer fire department since it shows your willingness to be involved in and give back to your community. This could explain why some people who seem qualified for Swiss citizenship due to long-term residence, language proficiency, and employment are turned down by local authorities.

A well-known instance involves a Dutch woman who lived in Aargau and was first turned down for a Swiss passport because she had complained about the noise of cow bells in her community. After failing a test on local zoo animals in 2020, an Italian man was denied Swiss citizenship. However, the decision was overturned by a federal court.

Easiest countries to get EU citizenship by investment

Besides the citizenship by naturalization route, there are a few European countries that offer investment schemes like a citizenship by investment programs through a real estate investment or donation. Only one EU country which currently offers a citizenship by investment scheme, is Malta.

EU countries that previously offered citizenship by investment were Bulgaria and Austria.

Malta Country Landscape Photo

Malta citizenship by investment program

Investors who make direct investments qualify for naturalization as Maltese citizens on the basis of outstanding merit. In one or three years, one can receive Malta citizenship, which is an EU citizenship.

The length of time it takes to get a passport and the number of participants determine the investment amount.

Malta is not one of the most affordable investment options. Candidates who have been in the country for three years must contribute €600,000 to the National Fund for Development and Social Security. After a year, a Maltese passport application can be made, however the required investment is €750,000.

As an alternative, renting is a possibility. You’ll need to provide the island’s charity fund a minimum of €10,000.

Montenegro Country Landscape Photo

Montenegro citizenship by investment program

Another European citizenship with a citizenship by investment program can be found in Montenegro. Montenegro is not a full member of the European Union yet.

However, the investment-based citizenship program in Montenegro was open until December 31, 2021. A quota has been created within its parameters; only 2000 candidates were permitted to obtain citizenship by investment.

Document acquisition takes at least three months. With a Montenegrin passport, you can visit 122 nations without a visa, including those in the Schengen region, Israel, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Citizenship is a heritable trait.

You did not need to reside in the country. It was sufficient to travel to the country in order to obtain this European citizenship; the application and supporting documents can be filed remotely.

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