Citizenship by Descent - Who can apply?

If you can demonstrate that your parents, grandparents, or grandmothers were citizens of a European country, you may be eligible for citizenship by descent in an EU country.

Every country has its own requirements; some only award citizenship to grandchildren, while others even permit great-grandchildren and their descendants to become citizens in future generations.

The desire to become a citizen of an EU country is among the highest in the world. There are descendants of Europeans in practically every country, especially in the Americas. Some descendents don’t even know that their forebears were citizens of a European nation because their ancestors either emigrated, were driven out of the country, or both.

A passport issued by an EU nation grants the holder the freedom to travel freely inside the Schengen region as well as the ability to live, work, and study in nearly any other EU nation. Visas are not required for entry into a large number of other European countries.

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Citizenship in the EU via Ancestry

In order to become a citizen of the European Union, you must meet a number of requirements. 

However, several EU nations have particular regulations concerning citizenship by ancestry due to the widespread exodus of European nationals throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

While ancestry laws vary from nation to nation, the main goal of the regulations is to enable qualified individuals to apply for citizenship in an EU nation if they can show they have an ancestor who was born there.

Which European countries offer citizenship by descent?

The following is a list of European countries that recognize citizenship based on ancestry that grant citizenship for up to 3, 2, or 1 generation:

Citizenship by descent in the EU up to three generations

Citizenship by descent refers to the opportunity to acquire EU nationality beginning with your great-grandparents up to the third generation. If you meet the requirements, citizenship by descent is permitted in the EU nations mentioned above up to the third generation or earlier:

Bulgaria

You can now apply for citizenship by ancestry up to the third generation in Bulgaria according to recent amendments to the country’s citizenship laws. If your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents were Bulgarian citizens, you can apply to become a citizen of the country.

Additionally, the application procedure for citizenship by descent from Bulgaria is now easier to access. Along with submitting your application, you must present documentation demonstrating that your ancestors were Bulgarian nationals. A response could come up to 24 months later.

Croatia

If you have a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who has or possesses Croatian citizenship, you can gain it by descent. However, you are ineligible for citizenship by descent if your ancestor left Croatia before 8 October 1991 and migrated to another nation in the former Yugoslavia.

You have until the age of 21 to register in the civil registration if you were born to Croatian parents abroad (in the event your parents did not record your birth, and you want to apply for citizenship in Croatia.)

Greece

Another EU nation that permits citizenship by descent through the third generation is Greece. You may be eligible for Greek citizenship through ancestry if:

  • Your parents were married and you were born before July 16, 1982.
  • Your mother wasn’t a Greek citizen, but your father was.
  • You were born after July 16, 1982, and your mother was not a citizen of Greece despite the fact that your father was (regardless of whether they were married or not)
  • Your mother was a Greek citizen and your father was a foreigner; you were born before or after August 5, 1984. (regardless of whether they were married or not).
  • You now have or have had a grandmother who was of Greek descent.
  • You either had or had a Greek great-grandparent who was a citizen of Greece.

Hungary

Compared to other EU nations, Hungary has a slightly different citizenship by descent law. The biggest benefit of Hungarian citizenship rules is that everyone who can speak Hungarian and has a Hungarian ancestor in their family is eligible to become a citizen.

Therefore, as long as you can show you have a Hungarian ancestor in your direct line, there is theoretically no restriction on how far back in your family tree you can go (starting from your parents and back).

Ireland

Ireland is one of the EU nations that permits citizenship by descent up to the third generation. You can apply for Irish citizenship if you fit one of the following requirements:

  • You had at least one Irish parent when you were born, if not both.
  • You were born in Ireland to parents who were not Irish but had resided there for at least four years.
    You were born to Irish parents outside of Ireland.
  • Despite the fact that you were born outside of Ireland, at least one of your grandparents was an Irish citizen.
  • Your great-grandparents were born in Ireland, but your parents, grandparents, and you were all born outside of Ireland.

It’s necessary that your parents were included on the Foreign Births Register.
You must first register your birth with the Foreign Births Register in order to submit a legitimate application for citizenship by descent in Ireland. After that, you can continue with the remainder of the application procedure.

Italy

Citizenship by descent in Italy is permitted up to the third generation or more, similar to Hungary. However, you can only go back in time with your family until 1861, the year when Italy became formally united. Furthermore, it took Italy until 1948 to recognize maternal citizenship.

If your parents became citizens of another nation, there are additional rules that apply. If, for instance, your parents traveled from Italy to the US and you were born there, but they later became US citizens after you were born between July 1, 1912, and August 15, 1992, you would still be eligible for Italian citizenship.

Latvia

The following conditions must be met in order to qualify for citizenship by descent under Latvian law:

    • Before June 17, 1940, one of your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents was a citizen of Latvia.
    • You have a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who was a citizen of Latvia but was compelled to leave the country after June 17, 1940, and before March 4, 1990, because of the occupation by the USSR and Nazi Germany.
    • In Latvia, you can obtain citizenship by descent up to the third generation, or even earlier if you can prove that your ancestors were Latvian citizens.

Lithuania

In Lithuania, you can also obtain citizenship by descent through the third generation. You must have at least one parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who satisfies the requirements in order to be eligible.

  • They were a Lithuanian citizen prior to June 15th, 1940.
  • Prior to March 11, 1990, they were compelled to leave the nation as a result of persecution.
  • They departed the nation before to 1990, yet they stayed in the Soviet Union and did not relocate elsewhere.

Luxembourg

You can obtain Luxembourg citizenship by descent in one of three ways:

  1. Your citizenship may be “reclaimed.” If you have a direct maternal or paternal ancestor who was a citizen of Luxembourg on January 1, 1990, you are eligible to “reclaim” your citizenship.
  2. You have an ancestor who was a citizen of Luxembourg. If a direct male ancestor (beginning with your father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and so on) was born in Luxembourg before 1940, you are eligible to petition for citizenship. If your mother can trace her lineage directly through a male ancestor to a person who resided in Luxembourg, and you were born on January 1st, 1969, you are also qualified for this choice.
  3. You have the choice to apply for citizenship. If your parent or grandmother is a citizen of Luxembourg but was unable to pass on their nationality to you, you may be eligible for citizenship by choice. For instance, you were not permitted to hold dual citizenship under the nationality laws of another nation.
    Luxembourg does, therefore, technically permit citizenship by descent up to the third generation or earlier in some instances.

Important: The 2018 deadline passed for submitting a certificate demonstrating your ancestor resided in Luxembourg in order to complete the first stage of the “reclaim” procedure. You have until December 2022 to sign your declaration of citizenship if you finished the first step. If the first option’s deadline passed you by, you should look into the other citizenship options.

Poland

You must have a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, or an earlier ascendant who was born in Poland and resided there after 1920 in order to be eligible for Polish citizenship via ancestry.

If your ancestor emigrated before 1920, you are still eligible for citizenship as long as you can demonstrate that their address is listed in the Polish, Prussian, Russian, or Austro-Hungarian records and that they were citizens at the time of your birth.

You must keep in mind that if your ancestor acquired a new citizenship prior to 1951, they forfeited their Polish nationality and could not pass it on to you.

Slovakia

Slovakia used to permit citizenship by descent up to the second generation. However, a new modification to the nationality law was passed in 2021, enabling the third generation of descendants of former Slovak and Czechoslovak nationals to petition for citizenship. This means that if your parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent was a citizen of Slovakia, you are eligible to apply for citizenship by descent in Slovakia.

Lithuania is the only EU nation on this list that only allows dual citizenship for people who have ancestors who were Lithuanian before 1940. On the other hand, Germany and Austria permit people who are descended from Nazi victims who had their citizenship revoked during World War II to hold dual nationality.

One of the few EU nations, Slovakia restricts dual citizenship when it is gained by descent. Due to Hungary’s lenient citizenship regulations, which allow any Slovak person with an ancestor in their family line to petition for citizenship in Hungary, Slovakia and Hungary have a contentious relationship as a result of this.

Citizenship by descent in the EU up to two generations

The EU nations where you can seek for citizenship by descent for up to two generations are listed below:

Czech Republic

Czechia permits citizenship by descent up to the second generation, so if your parents or grandparents were once Czech citizens, you might be eligible for citizenship there.

Keep in mind that your parents must present proof of paternity at the Registry Office if they were not married and only your father was a citizen of the Czech Republic. A DNA test, a court order, or a joint declaration from both parents could all serve as proof of this.

Malta

You may also seek for citizenship if your grandmother or parent is a Maltese citizen. Malta has also made its citizenship regulations more lenient in this area since 2007. For instance, all you have to do to become a citizen is register if you were born outside of Malta but can show that both your parents and your grandparents were born there (in the same direct line).

You cannot obtain Maltese citizenship by descent, however, if your parent passed away after August 1, 2010, without seeking for citizenship. However, if your parent passed away before August 1, 2007, or three years later without submitting a citizenship application on their own, they would still be regarded as a citizen and you might submit a citizenship application on their behalf.

Portugal

If you fit any of the following criteria, you can become a Portuguese citizen by descent:

  • Your mother and father are both Portuguese, and you were born there.
  • If your parents were abroad on official state business, you were born to Portuguese parents abroad.
  • You claim to desire to be a Portuguese citizen despite the fact that you were born abroad to Portuguese parents and your birth was registered at the Portuguese civil registration.
  • If at least one of your parents was born in Portugal and still resides there, regardless of their current citizenship status, then you were born in Portugal to foreign parents.
  • If your parents say they want to be Portuguese citizens, you were born in Portugal to foreign parents. However, regardless of whether they were residing officially or illegally in Portugal at the time of the declaration, one of your parents had been there for at least a year.
  • Despite the fact that you were born overseas, at least one of your grandparents was a citizen of Portugal.

The generations preceding you must typically have been listed at the Civil Registry in order for you to be eligible for citizenship by origin in Portugal; if a generation is skipped, you are ineligible. If you were born overseas, there is no deadline for when your parents must file your birth certificate, and once you become 18, you are free to proclaim your citizenship.

Romania

If you had a parent or grandfather who was a Romanian citizen, you might petition for Romanian citizenship via descent. However, if you have a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who was born before 1940 in any place in the Kingdom of Romani between 1918 and 1940, including the province of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, you may petition for citizenship up to the third generation.

Slovenia

You must have at least one parent or grandparent who was or is a Slovenian citizen to qualify for citizenship by descent from Slovenia. If one of your parents has Slovenian nationality, you can apply to register as a citizen in Slovenia before you are 36 if you were born outside of Slovenia.

Spain

There are generational restrictions based on the year of birth under Spain’s nationality law, which has changed over time. But in the end, if the following conditions are met, you may petition for Spanish citizenship by descent via the second generation:

  • You either have Spanish-speaking parents on one or both sides.
  • You have at least one grandmother who was a citizen of Spain, and their citizenship was taken away against their will.
  • Despite being a resident of Latin America, you have a Spanish-born grandparent.

Citizenship by descent in the EU up to one generation

You can only become a citizen of certain EU nations through your parents:

Austria

Only the first generation receives citizenship through descent in Austria. Therefore, children automatically inherit citizenship from their parents if:

  • A mother from Austria gave birth to them.
  • An Austrian father and a non-Austrian mother had them through marriage.
  • A father from Austria had a child out of wedlock (the father must acknowledge the child within eight weeks of the birth).

According to Austrian law, children have a right to dual citizenship and are not required to choose between the two nationalities when one parent holds a foreign citizenship based on jus sanguinis, such as Austria.

Belgium

In Belgium, you can only get citizenship via descent through your parents. However, depending on your date of birth, two regulations apply because Belgium changed its citizenship laws in 1984.

If any of the following apply and you were born before to January 1, 1967, you may petition for citizenship:

  • Your father was a citizen of Belgium and your parents were married when you were born, or
  • Although your parents were not wed, your father recognized you as his child because he was a citizen of Belgium.

If any of the following apply to you and you were born after January 1, 1985, you can apply for Belgian citizenship:

  • Your parents are both from Belgium, where you were born.
  • You were born abroad to a Belgian parent who was born between 1960 and 1962 in Burundi, Rwanda, or the Belgian Congo.
  • Your Belgian parents sought attribution of declaration within five years of your birth despite the fact that you were born overseas.
  • You had no other nationality until the age of 18, despite the fact that you were born abroad to a Belgian parent who did not request attribution within five years of your birth (you were stateless).

Denmark

Only your parents can apply for citizenship in Denmark. Therefore, regardless of where they were born, children born on July 1, 2014, are regarded as Danish citizens if one of their parents is a citizen of the country. There are, however, different rules for people who were born before this time depending on which parent was a citizen of Denmark and whether they were born in Denmark or not.

Cyprus

Only the first generation can seek for Cyprus citizenship through descent. You must be older than 18 and fulfill the following conditions in order to qualify for citizenship in Cyprus by birth:

  • You were born in Cyprus to Cypriot parents after August 16, 1960.
  • You were born abroad after August 16, 1960, and your birth was registered within two years if either your mother or father was a citizen of Cyprus.
  • Your mother was a citizen of Cyprus, and you were born after June 11, 1999.

You must keep in mind that some restrictions apply if your parents are granted British citizenship.

Estonia

Only the first generation is eligible for citizenship by descent in Estonia. Therefore, regardless of where you were born, if one of your parents was an Estonian citizen at the time of your birth, you are immediately an Estonian citizen. You must reapply for citizenship if your parents cancelled it before you became 18 though. The Police and Border Guard Board oversees citizenship inquiries and applications.

Finland

Citizenship by ancestry from Finland is exclusively carried down through your parents, not from any previous generation. By way of your parents, you can become a citizen of Finland if:

  • Your mother was a resident of Finland.
  • Your father was a citizen of Finland, and your parents were wed.
  • You were born in Finland to unmarried parents, yet there is documentation establishing your father’s citizenship.

In the following situations, you can still obtain citizenship even though your father passed away before you were born:

  • Your parents were married, and your father was a citizen of Finland at the time of your birth.
  • There is evidence of your father’s paternity, and you were born in Finland.

In rare cases, you can be qualified for a residence visa in Finland for up to the second generation. You can immigrate to Finland and be regarded as a returnee if one of your parents or grandparents is or was a citizen of Finland. You can then apply for a returnee’s residency visa.

France

Only if at least one parent had French citizenship at the time of the child’s birth is citizenship by descent permitted in France. However, if neither you nor your parents had any connections to France over the previous 50 years that you lived abroad, you cannot demonstrate citizenship by descent under French law. You (or your parents), for instance, failed to renew your passports, register to vote, register at a French consulate overseas, etc.

Germany

Germany is the only country where you can only apply for citizenship by descent through the first generation. However, for Nazi victims and their descendants, nationality through family members in Germany can be extended up to the third generation. A wider range of applicants who can demonstrate that their parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent lost their citizenship under the Nazi dictatorship are now eligible for citizenship in Germany under the country’s new citizenship regulations.

The Netherlands

Jus soli is infrequently given in the Netherlands, which has a rigorous nationality law based only on jus sanguinis. Therefore, even if you were born in the Netherlands, if your parents are foreign nationals, you are not a Dutch citizen.

In terms of citizenship by descent, you can only become a citizen if one of your parents is Dutch.

Prior to January 1, 1985, citizenship by descent could only be passed down through the father; however, as of that day, citizenship can also be transmitted down through the mother.

The Netherlands does, however, offer citizenship by option procedure, which is a quicker and simpler approach to become a citizen, but there are a number of requirements you must complete (takes 5 years on average).

Sweden

Compared to other EU nations, Sweden is one of those that has stricter laws on citizenship by ancestry. Only the first generation of your family can petition for Swedish citizenship by ancestry, and only if one of the following conditions applies to you:

  • Your mother is a citizen of Sweden.
  • Your father is a Swedish citizen, and you were born there.
  • Your father is a citizen of Sweden, and your parents were married when you were born.
  • Your father was a Swedish citizen when you were born, and you were born in Sweden (if your father passed away after your birth).
  • Your parents were married when you were born, and your father was a citizen of Sweden (if your father passed away after you were born).

Citizenship by Descent for EFTA Countries

The EFTA system, which is distinct from the EU and consists of the following countries:

Iceland

If your parents gave you Icelandic citizenship, then:

  • Either your mother or father is a citizen of Iceland.
  • Although your mother or father currently resides legally in Iceland, they once held another citizenship.

You are not eligible for citizenship if you were born between 1964 and 1982 to an Icelandic mother and a non-Icelandic father. The nationality law of Iceland was recently revised, nevertheless, and as a result, you can now apply for citizenship by declaration if:

  • You were born between July 1, 1964, and June 30, 1982.
  • Your parents were married.
  • Your father was not an Icelander, but your mother was.

Liechtenstein

In all of Europe, Liechtenstein has by far the tightest citizenship regulations. You must have lived in Liechtenstein for at least 30 years in order to become a citizen by naturalization. Therefore, regardless of the place of birth, citizenship by descent is only granted to children born to Liechtenstein citizens.

Norway

Another nation that strictly enforces jus sanguinis citizenship regulations is Norway, therefore chances are good that you won’t be granted Norwegian citizenship if you were born there to foreign parents.
However, the way that citizenship regulations apply to you depends on the year that you were born:

  • If you have a Norwegian mother or father, regardless of where you were born, and you were born on September 1, 2006, or later, you are a citizen of Norway.
  • You are a citizen of Norway if, if you were born before September 1, 2006, and if:
    Your mum was from Norway.
  • Your father was Norwegian, and your parents were already married when you were born.
  • Your mother was married to your father, who was a Norwegian citizen, but he died before you were born.

* You cannot become a Norwegian citizen in this situation if your parents were not married, but if you are under 18, you can do so by submitting a notification of Norwegian citizenship.

Switzerland

Only the following situations qualify for citizenship by descent in Switzerland:

  • Your married Swiss-national parents gave birth to you.
  • Your single Swiss mother gave birth to you.
  • Although your non-Swiss mother and Swiss father are not wed when you are born, paternity has been confirmed.

* Important: If you were born outside of Switzerland to at least one Swiss citizen, you must declare your citizenship to a Swiss authority by the time you are 25 in order to maintain your right to nationality in Switzerland.

Your children will be qualified for Swiss citizenship if you become a citizen in this scenario.

EU Citizenship Benefits

You can obtain the following benefits if you are an ancestor of an EU citizen:

Schengen Mobility

Mobility without restriction between members and other European nations.

Live & Work in the EU

The ability to live and work anywhere in an EU member state

Vote
in the EU

Voting privileges in the European Parliament

Local
Elections

The ability to cast a ballot in local elections in other EU countries

Consular Protection

Each member state's entitlement to consular protection while visiting another country

Right to EU Education

The right to an education in any EU member state

Healthcare
in the EU

The right to free public health services in every EU member state

Visa Free
Travel

Most nations outside of the EU do not require visas for travel

For me to be eligible for citizenship by ancestry, do my parents have to be EU citizens?

Before you can be granted nationality via ancestry in some EU nations, your parents must be citizens of those countries. For instance, in Greece, you cannot apply for citizenship until the generation before you, your parents, have done so. Portugal and Malta fit this description as well, depending on the year when your parents passed away. When you seek for nationality by descent, Croatia (and other EU nations) do not mind if your parents are not Croatian nationals. Therefore, be sure to confirm with an embassy or consulate which rule is applicable to your particular nation.

Non-EU countries with Citizenship by Descent

Almost all countries offer citizenship by descent though one or both parents. This is why the emphasis on obtaining citizenship through ancestry usually is placed on countries that offer citizenship for more than 1 generation in the past. Therefore, on our platform we only include citizenship by descent options for countries that offer this possibility for more than 1 generation in the past (even if for some countries this is tied to very specific circumstances, like we saw above).

Keep in mind that some countries do not allow dual citizenship, so you would have to renounce your current citizenship.

Ukraine

For Ukrainian citizenship by descent you have to have at least one grandparent or one parent with Ukrainian citizenship.

Keep in mind that Ukraine does not allow dual citizenship, so you would have to renounce your current citizenship.

Armenia

Children of parents with Armenian citizenship are also granted citizenship. Those born overseas to a parent or grandparent from Armenian are eligible for Armenian citizenship.

Furthermore, speaking Armenian is not a requirement for obtaining citizenship by descent. The Armenian constitution doesn’t need you to pass an exam, and you aren’t even required to live there.

Cape Verde

Children of parents with Cape Verdean citizenship are also granted citizenship. Those born overseas to a parent or grandparent from Cape Verde are eligible for Cape Verdean citizenship.

Is Citizenship by Descent worth it?

The answer to this question depends on your availability of time and your level of resistance to complex bureaucracy. Here, time and money are the two things to consider. The value you place on each variable will determine how much CBD is worth to you because they are both relative to one another.

Should you dedicate some time to CBD research?

It might be a yes. An Italian passport may be totally worthwhile for you if it allows you to finally live in the European Union or helps you accomplish some personal goals like reuniting with family. The processing and approval of a citizenship by descent application, however, can take years, so be prepared to wait patiently. Alternatives include pursuing citizenship through investment in European nations, which would result in a passport in less than six months, but those programs tend to be very expensive (and currently there are only 2 options in the EU). This leads us to our next point.

Citizenship by descent is the cheapest option for obtaining citizenship

Citizenship by investment will be the best option for someone short on time but with some money in the bank. You would obtain citizenship quickly if you did this, but it would be very expensive. It all comes down to striking a careful balance between time and money. To be satisfied with the results, you must get the situation precisely right for you personally. Simply getting a second passport shouldn’t cost more than you can afford. What’s the point, for instance, if you are left with no money to invest in or if your quality of life is worsened? You should have MORE possibilities, not fewer, with a second passport. Time is similar. Waiting around for a passport to arrive in the mail while you have immediate goals that can only be accomplished with a second passport will be ineffective. Could you accomplish some or all of those aims with a legal residence acquired through investment? Here, being imaginative is crucial.

Affordable Citizenship

It's the least expensive method of getting a second passport.

Future Generations

The ability to pass on your citizenship will also help future generations

Tax
Efficiency

A second passport will expand your options for tax planning

Renounce
Citizenship

Give up your ancestral passport and your high-tax citizenship