In most countries, a person automatically becomes a citizen upon their birth, with no additional fees or steps required. This is known as birthright citizenship. However, there are multiple scenarios in which a person may wish to either change their citizenship to another country or, in countries that allow dual citizenship, to become a citizen of a second country as well? This is most common in the case of immigrants. While many aspiring emigrants are satisfied with simply relocating, many others wish to go a step further and establish citizenship in their new home country.
Every country has its own immigration and citizenship rules. As a result, while the world includes many countries that are easy to immigrate to, it is also home to many countries that are hard to immigrate to, with stricter requirements and more complex procedures. The process of obtaining citizenship follows the same pattern. Easier countries tend have simplified processes and minimal costs and/or requirements for obtaining citizenship. Most also offer multiple methods by which one can become a citizen.
Top 22 Easiest Countries to Obtain Citizenship (combined sources - alphabetical order)*
|Antigua and Barbuda||Greece||Paraguay|
|Belgium||Israel||Saint Kitts and Nevis|
* Full data available in table below text
Methods of establishing citizenship in a country:
- Birthright — The only method of obtaining citizenship based upon one's geographical location at the time of birth. Countries with birthright citizenship grant citizenship to any person born within that country's borders. Oftentimes, citizenship is granted even if the parents are citizens of a different country. Birthright citizenship has led to "birth tourism", in which expectant mothers deliberately travel to a particular country to give birth, so their child will be a citizen of the country they are visiting. Unfortunately, this option is obviously unavailable to those relocating from another country.
- Descent/Relations — This straightforward guideline awards citizenship to anyone whose parents (or sometimes grandparents) are citizens. In some countries, only the father's citizenship is considered. Some countries also consider one's larger ancestry. For instance, the United Arab Emirates offers an easier path to citizenship to people of Arabian descent.
- Marriage — Unwed immigrants can often access a quicker path to citizenship by marrying a citizen of their new home country. Spain, for example, offers citizenship to immigrants after a single year of marriage to a national.
- Naturalization/Residency — Arguably the most popular method of obtaining citizenship among immigrants and expats. While this method of obtaining citizenship will not disqualify anyone based upon their marital status, ancestry, or country of birth, it does require a significant time investment. Naturalized citizenship is typically made available once a person has lived and been gainfully employed in a country for a certain period of time (typically five to thirty years). Once that threshold is reached, candidates must usually demonstrate their devotion to their new country via some combination of language and/or history aptitude tests, interviews, and naturalization fees.
- Business Investment — In many countries, one of the quickest and simplest ways to become a citizen is to invest in (or establish) businesses in that country. This is another method that is quite popular among immigrants and expats, although the investment requirements often reach $200,000-$600,000 USD, which can be financially prohibitive.
- Military Service — A less common and popular method, some countries extend citizenship to those foreign-born candidates willing and able to serve in the military for a certain amount of time.
- Exceptional Ability — Candidates with certain in-demand professional skills (researchers, athletes, workers with uncommon expertise, etc.) are often granted accelerated citizenship opportunities in their new countries.
Examples of countries with easy citizenship requirements
The largest country in North America and second largest in the world, Canada is also one of the most welcoming, with straightforward residency requirements that segue into easy-to-obtain citizenship. Candidates must have legally resided in Canada for three of the past five years, must have paid any necessary taxes, must pass the usual tests in history and language (English or French), and must pay a minimal processing fee of $630 CAN (for adults).
Requirements for citizenship in the Dominican Republic are straightforward, though there is a notable financial aspect. In order to establish permanent residency, one must demonstrate a monthly income of at least $2,000 USD per month ($1,500 for retirees). After living two years as a permanent resident in the DR—shortened to six months if married to a Dominican woman and waived entirely if married to a Dominican man—an individual can apply for full citizenship. The citizenship process includes an interview spoken in Spanish and a medical exam, and the entire process takes approximately three years. One of the significant drawbacks, however, is a naturalization fee of approximately $200,000.
The country with the second-highest immigration rate in the world, Germany has a well-established process of becoming a naturalized citizen. Citizenship is available to those who have lived in Germany for six to eight years (depending upon circumstances), can pass the German language and citizenship exams, can support themselves, have no criminal record, and are willing to renounce their existing citizenship.
To apply for citizenship in Ireland—arguably the world's friendliest country ending in "land"—one must live in the nation for one year. Over the next eight years, one must live in Ireland for at least four cumulative years. The residency requirement can even be waived for those who can prove Irish ancestry. Additional requirements are similarly easy to attain.
One can become a citizen of Peru in just two years. The process starts with a residency visa, which enables an international to live in Peru. Applications for these visas are usually approved within three months. After approval, the candidate has six months to finalize their visa. After living in Peru for two years, the candidate can apply for citizenship. Unless married to a Peruvian national, candidates must pass tests on several subjects, including history, culture, and the Spanish language. The citizenship fee is roughly $25,000 USD, but Peru's government eases the financial burden by enabling candidates to pay in installments.
One can become a permanent resident of Singapore by working in the country, opening a business, or marrying a citizen. After two years, the option to apply for citizenship becomes available. One factor to note is that male citizens of a certain age are required to perform National Service in the army of Singapore. Once National Service is completed, the male resident can apply for citizenship.