Second citizenship

Citizenship by naturalization

If a foreigner officially lives in the country for a long time, they can become its citizen. For example, you can come to Australia on a student visa and apply for citizenship after four years.

What conditions must be met in order to become a naturalized citizen, and how to go through the path of integration into a new society in the easiest way — learn from the examples of different countries.

Citizenship by naturalization

Grounds for getting citizenship by naturalization

Long-term residence in the country. The main condition for naturalization is a domicile which is a long-term residence in the territory of the state. 

The term of domicile depends on the country. In Brazil, one year is enough for Portuguese speakers, and 30 years for non-Portuguese speakers. In San Marino the term is 22 years. 

The period of compulsory residence in the EU countries is on average 5 to 10 years.

Knowledge of the official language is necessary for quick adaptation in a new environment, so that a foreigner becomes a full-fledged participant in political and economic relations in the state.

Knowledge of history and traditions is tested with an exam. The list of questions and the format of the test vary by country. Almost everywhere you can take courses to prepare for the exam.

In the UK, this test is called Life in the UK. It includes 24 questions. To pass, you need to correctly answer 18 questions in 45 minutes. To prepare for the test, you can use the official Life in the UK guide.

What is citizenship by naturalization
“Who built the Tower of London?”, “When is Christmas Eve?” — these are examples of questions from the test for obtaining British citizenship

Sufficient income. For naturalization in Germany, you must be officially employed, and in Latvia, income from the rental of real estate is taken into account.

This requirement does not apply in all countries. For example, in Russia it was canceled: it was difficult to formulate criteria for sources of income and the required minimum amount.

Taking an oath. To take the oath, it is not necessary to come to the country. For example, when obtaining Vanuatu citizenship by investment, this can be done at any country convenient to the investor by inviting a Consular and a representative of the Vanuatu Migration Service. And it is important to come to the Netherlands and the USA in order to take an oath of allegiance on the territory of the state.

Good character and no criminal record. A decision to deny citizenship can be influenced by a conviction for any crime and even a bad reputation, e.g. frequent dismissals.

For example, in Georgia, when applying for citizenship, you can attach a positive reference from the place of work and letters from neighbors.

How to obtain a residence permit before naturalization

A foreigner must have an official basis for long-term residence in the country. You can’t come on a tourist visa and stay for 10 years.

Often, before applying for citizenship, you will need to obtain a temporary residence permit, or residence permit, and then a permanent residence permit. 

Ways to obtain a residence permit:

Purchase of real estate. You can buy a home in the country and get a residence permit under the investment program. For example, the minimum investment in Greece is €250,000. 

Admission to the university. Residence permits for foreign students are issued for the duration of their studies. After graduation, you will need to find a job in the country in order to obtain a residence permit on a new basis. This method is popular in European countries: Germany, Czech Republic, Spain.

Employment contract. To obtain a residence permit based on work, it is necessary to formally conclude a fixed-term employment contract with the employer. The residence permit will be valid until the end of the contract. 

University graduates in Germany receive a residence permit for up to one and a half years to find a job. If a job is found, you can apply for a permanent work visa and apply for permanent residence in two years. 

Marriage. When registering a marriage with a citizen of the country, you can get a residence permit or citizenship immediately. In Argentina, applications for citizenship can be submitted the very next day, while in Switzerland you will have to wait three years.

‍ ‍ ‍ Family reunion. A residence permit can be obtained if the spouse, child, or one of the parents is already a resident of the country. In Finland, under such a program, the participation of a spouse from a same-sex marriage, as well as a partner is allowed if the marriage is not registered with the registry office. 

Long-term medical treatment. The validity of the residence permit in this case is from one to two years. 

For special talents. If there are achievements in science, art, sports, education and business. For example, in the United States there is a program for issuing a green card to outstanding specialists.

Investments in the economy. In many countries, this is the fastest way to get a residence permit. You can get residency in Portugal, Spain and Greece within six months. In some cases, the investment is returnable.

To obtain a residence permit in Malta, you will need to invest in real estate from €150,000. Housing can be rented for a long time.

The investor immediately receives a permanent residence permit, by passing the residence permit. With a stamp, permanent residence can be obtained after 6 or 8 months, and apply for citizenship after 5 years. 

A similar program operates in Cyprus: an investor spends from €300,000 in real estate or shares of Cypriot companies or buys shares of Cypriot investment funds. Unlike Malta, Cyprus is not yet part of the Schengen area. The process of obtaining permanent residence takes from 2 months.

Features of naturalization in different countries

It is possible to obtain citizenship by naturalization in most of the EU. The European Convention of Nationality November dated 6th, 1997 mentions the right to voluntarily acquire the citizenship of another country.

According to article 6 of the Convention, each state independently determines the conditions for naturalization, but a mandatory residence period of no more than 10 years is recommended. In some countries, the process takes longer: for example, it takes 20 years to become an Andorran citizen. 

Malta. Obtaining Maltese citizenship by naturalization takes from 7 to 18 years. First you need to get a Schengen visa, then a residence permit. The next stage is the submission of documents for permanent residence. After 5 years of living as a resident, you can pass the exam and apply for citizenship.

Switzerland. Naturalization in Switzerland can be of two types. The standard one is followed by the majority of applicants. The period of residence in the country in this case is 10 years. 

Accelerated naturalization is possible for foreign spouses and children of Swiss citizens. A foreigner needs to be married for at least 3 years and live in Switzerland for 5 years.

Portugal. You can apply for Portuguese naturalization citizenship after 5 years of living in the country. In Portugal, it is important to spend at least 183 days a year.

The US Citizenship Act of September 11th, 1957 uses the term “naturalization” in its broadest sense. Naturalization also includes the admission to the citizenship of a spouse who has married a foreigner, or the admission to a new citizenship of a child adopted by a foreigner. 

Citizenship by naturalization in Spain

Citizenship by naturalization in Spain requires legal residence in the country for 10 years

Malta citizenship by naturalization

The Republic of Malta is an island state. The capital of the republic is Valletta, the political and economic center of the country

The average period of naturalization in different countries

5+ years10+ years15+ years20+ years
USA Czech Republic UAE Liechtenstein
Brazil Norway Saudi Arabia Bhutan
Belgium Italy Andorra Qatar
Russia Spain San Marino Kuwait
Sweden Switzerland China Equatorial Guinea
Portugal Bulgaria Austria Bahrain
Canada Lithuania Palau Syria

Which countries provide the fastest way to citizenship by investment

Obtaining a residence permit by investment in the EU takes from 6 months. At the same time, to obtain a residence permit, you do not need to live in the country.

Caribbean countries offer the fastest citizenship programs for investors: you can get a passport within a couple of months. 

You don’t have to go to the country, all documents will be sent by mail, and the oath will be organized in a country convenient for the investor.

The fastest way is to get a Vanuatu passport: on average, the procedure takes a month. You can participate in the program remotely. The passport will come by mail, the minimum investment is $130,000. 

Together with the investor, the second spouse, children under 25 and parents over 50 can apply.

Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment
Together with the Vanuatu passport, the investor gets the opportunity to travel without a visa to the Schengen countries, the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore

Citizenship of the Caribbean countries is popular among entrepreneurs. Residents of Dominica do not pay taxes on dividends. With a Grenada passport, you can open a branch of the company in the United States. 

Maltese citizenship is granted for exceptional services by direct investment from €690,000.

In Portugal, Spain and Greece, there are programs for obtaining a residence permit by investment. After obtaining a residence permit, you can apply for permanent residence or citizenship.

How to adapt to life in a new country

Naturalization is a kind of a “compatibility test”, a test of the seriousness of intentions to become a citizen of the state. In a few years, a foreigner manages to learnhe language, understand the traditions and way of life, and decide whether he can stay in the country.

6 ways to quickly integrate into society

Learn a foreign languageParticipate in public lifeGet to know colleagues
It is impossible to understand the culture of another country, its customs and traditions without learning the language. Locals usually support a foreigner who tries to speak their languageOn social media, you can find out about events nearby and choose events to your liking. e.g. children's parties, pet exhibitions, jazz concertsDespite the fact that many people work remotely, co-working spaces are gaining popularity: places where people of IT professions gather. There you can make acquaintances on business interests
Enroll a universityOpen a bank accountBuy housing
Diploma from a foreign university opens up additional career opportunitiesOpening a current account with a local bank allows you to make purchases online on the most interesting Internet sites. This greatly facilitates the solution of everyday issuesOwnership of real estate is both a reliable investment and a powerful argument for making a positive decision on the application for naturalization

The most popular ways to get citizenship

Naturalization is the second most popular way of obtaining citizenship after filiation.

Filiation (from lat. filialis — “sonly”) is obtaining citizenship by birth. 

Filiation on the basis of “right of blood” means that the child acquires the citizenship of the parents, regardless of the place of birth.

Acquisition of citizenship by birth on the basis of the “law of the soil” means that the child becomes a citizen of the state in whose territory he was born, regardless of the citizenship of the parents. 

The legislation of most countries provides for a mixed system, in which the prevailing law of the blood is combined with the law of the soil. In its pure form, the right of blood is valid in the Scandinavian countries — Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Denmark. Soil law applies to children whose parents are unknown.

Naturalization in the USA
Filiation by law of the soil is valid in the USA, Argentina, Mexico and Cuba

Optation (from lat. optatio — “choice”) is the way to obtain citizenship when state borders change. Citizens have the right to choose whether to keep their old citizenship or switch to a new one.

The right of optation arises in the following cases:

  • a formation of a new state as a result of its separation from the existing one;
  • a collapse of one state into several new ones;
  • a transfer of part of the territory of one state in accordance with an international treaty under the sovereignty of another state.
Option or choice of citizenship
In 2014, after the annexation of Crimearnto Russia, the population of Crimearnand Sevastopol received the right of option: to retain Ukrainian citizenship or acquire Russian citizenship

Frequently asked questions

What is citizenship by naturalization?

This is the process of voluntary acquisition of citizenship by a foreign national on the basis of an application. To become a naturalized citizen, you must legally live in the country for a long time, as well as pass an exam on naturalization test questions on the foreign language, the basics of history and the political system. Some states require proof of a legal source of income, as well as own or rented housing.

Do I need to give up my first citizenship when I get a second passport?

Depends on the legislation of specific countries. Most states allow their citizens to have multiple passports. But there are exceptions. For example, to obtain Spanish citizenship, the first passport will have to be abandoned.

How to obtain foreign citizenship without long-term residence abroad?

Invest in the country’s economy in exchange for a residence permit or citizenship. Obtaining a residence permit in the EU takes from 6 months. There is no requirement to reside in the state. Caribbean countries offer the fastest citizenship programs — from 1 month. You don’t even have to travel abroad to get a passport. All documents will be sent by mail, and the oath will be organized on the territory of the state convenient for the investor.

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Citizenship by naturalization