Most often citizenship of the European Union is obtained through naturalization. You need to obtain a resident status and live in the country for several years.
In some EU countries, there are investment residence permit programs that simplify the path to citizenship. In Malta, cosmopolitans can obtain citizenship for exceptional merit after one or three years as a resident.
EU citizenship helps to ensure a safe future for you and your family, make a profitable investment, give your children a good education and the opportunity to build a career abroad. In addition, citizens of the EU countries receive quality social security and health care services.
Many EU countries allow people to obtain a second citizenship without renouncing the first one. This is important for those who want to maintain their previous status and rights in their home country.
9 benefits of EU citizenship
- Free residence in any country of the European Union (EU).
- The opportunity to get a job in any EU country with an EU passport.
- Travel without visas in the EU and Schengen countries.
- Visa-free travel to an average of 170+ countries.
- Purchase of real estate in any of the 27 EU countries.
- Access to social security such as pensions, benefits.
- Opportunity to educate children in prestigious universities.
- Quality healthcare.
- Stable high standard of living, safety.
How to get EU citizenship
There are three ways to become a citizen of the European Union:
- through repatriation;
- by naturalization;
- by investment.
Each option has its own limitations. They are not available to everyone and the programs do not work in every country.
Repatriation programs operate in Hungary, Germany, Finland and some other countries. Their participants receive a residence permit or an EU passport. The main condition is the presence of close relatives who were citizens of the country.
Some programs limit participants’ date of birth or the period that relatives have lived in the state. For example, in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, citizenship can be obtained only if relatives lived there during the period of independence of the countries. If relatives lived in these countries during the Soviet era, it will not work to obtain a passport upon repatriation.
Citizenship by naturalization assumes that a person first receives a residence permit, then a permanent residency, and only then a passport. The procedure takes from 6 to 12 years.
It is difficult to obtain citizenship by naturalization. First, they draw up a residence permit card and they will not give it easily as you need a good reason to move. Acceptable reasons include: an invitation from an employer, university studies or marriage to a citizen of the country. After a few years of permanent residence, you can get a permanent residence permit, then citizenship.
Citizenship by investment is offered only by two EU countries: Malta and Bulgaria. Euro passports are issued on the basis of naturalization after a few years in resident status.
Portugal, Greece, Spain and Malta offer residency by investment programs. In Austria and Switzerland, you can get a residence permit card for financially independent people. These statuses will allow you to solve some of the tasks now to eventually get citizenship.
Investment citizenship in the EU
Wealthy people can obtain status in several countries of the European Union. In most cases, we are talking about a residence permit and less often about citizenship. It will not be possible to buy a passport as states have strict requirements for applicants and the process of obtaining a status takes months.
Depending on the program, the applicant meets a number of investment conditions. Among them may be:
- non-refundable contribution to a state fund;
- purchase or long-term lease of real estate;
- buying government stocks or bonds.
Is it possible to immediately obtain EU citizenship by investment?
It is impossible to obtain citizenship immediately. We will explain what are the stages previous to citizenship.
A residence permit is the first step towards obtaining citizenship. Many countries only offer residence permits for investment. These include Portugal, Greece, Spain.
After the residence permit, the investor can obtain citizenship by naturalization. To do this, you need to live in the country for five to ten years.
Investors can also obtain citizenship in Bulgaria. At the beginning of 2021, the program was updated: applicants contribute approximately one million euros, receive permanent residence and then citizenship after five years of resident status.
EU citizenship by investment: the amount of money to obtain it
A passport of any EU country is relatively expensive and it takes several years to obtain a status. In some countries, you have to live there permanently to become a citizen. Therefore, there is no easiest country to get citizenship in Europe.
Cost and timing of obtaining EU citizenship
|Status||Investment amount||Timing of obtaining a passport||Conditions to live in a country||Malta citizenship||€690,000+||14–36 months, including 1 or 3 years of residency||None|
|Bulgarian citizenship||BGN 2,000,000+ about €1,000,000||6 months for registration of permanent residence, then 5 years in the status of a resident||None|
|Permanent residence in Malta||€112,000+||5–6 months for registration of permanent residence and 5 years in the status of a permanent resident|| None if permanent residence is enough; |
1 year of uninterrupted residence before obtaining citizenship, before that – residence for 4 out of 5 years
|Residence permit in Portugal||€250,000+||4–6 months to obtain a residence permit, then 5 years in resident status before applying for citizenship||7 days a year|
|Residence permit in Greece||€250,000+||3–6 months to obtain a residence permit, then 7 years in resident status|| None, if a residence permit is enough; |
at least 183 days a year to obtain citizenship
|Residence permit in Spain||€500,000+||2–3 months to obtain a residence permit, then 5 years in resident status and 5 years with permanent residence|| 7 days a year to maintain a residence permit; |
at least 183 days a year to obtain permanent residence and citizenship
If you need to obtain conveniently cheaper citizenship by investment, rather than buying EU citizenship, we suggest considering alternatives outside the European Union. For example, the programs of the Caribbean states: Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Dominica. Caribbean citizenship allows you to visit the Schengen area and the UK without a visa. This is an alternative to european citizenship by investment.
Investment in the Caribbean programs
visa-free period in Schengen for citizens of the Caribbean countries
Montenegro citizenship can also be considered as an alternative. This country is the first applicant to join the European Union in 2025. Today, investors with the country’s passport can already travel through the Schengen area without visas.
Investments under the Montenegro citizenship program start from €350,000. It takes about six months to get the status.
Citizenship in Europe by investment: pitfalls
Cost of participation for family members. Together with the investor, his relatives can obtain European citizenship including the spouse, children and parents. Each country has its own requirements such as the age limit for children and parents with complete financial dependence on the investor.
In some countries, you have to pay extra regarding status for family members. For example, additional investment for obtaining citizenship of Malta is €50,000 for each relative.
Additional expenses. In addition to the investment, the applicant pays duties, fees, taxes and legal services. The amount depends on the country, selected status, options and family composition.
Living in the country. Malta and Bulgaria do not require to live permanently in the countries in order to obtain citizenship. To maintain a residence permit in Portugal to then obtain citizenship, you need to spend seven days a year in the country. But there are also stricter conditions.
You need to live permanently in Greece and Spain to obtain a passport but you cannot leave the country for more than six months. The same rule applies to those who have received permanent residence in Malta and want to become a citizen. To maintain the status of a resident, you do not need to permanently live in any of these countries.
In some European countries, e.g. Greece, there is a condition: in order to obtain citizenship, a resident cannot leave the country for more than ten months within the last five years.
Ban on second citizenship. Some countries do not allow second citizenship. For example, in order to obtain a Spanish passport, you have to renounce the citizenship of another country.
In Malta, Portugal and Greece you can get a second citizenship as you do not have to give up the first one.
Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent of residence permit and permanent residence programs in the European Union. We also help to obtain citizenship of Malta for exceptional merit.
Immigrant Invest lawyers accompany an individual at every stage on the way to residency and citizenship in the EU and help after obtaining the status. The first step is choosing the right program. To choose a status for your tasks and budget, sign up for a consultation.
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Frequently Asked Questions
EU citizenship is a high standard of living, political and economic stability. With an EU passport, you can freely move and live in any of the countries of the Union, as well as travel without visas to many countries of the world.
Also, EU citizenship makes it possible to:
- Get a job in any EU country.
- Teach children in the best schools and universities in the world.
- Get treated in clinics with modern equipment and quality service.
- Transfer savings to European banks.
Repatriation is the return of an ethnic population to their historical homeland which is valid in several European countries. For example, German citizenship can be obtained by foreigners who lost their citizenship due to repression or political immigration during the reign of Hitler, as well as ethnic Germans and Jews.
Naturalization is obtaining citizenship after long-term residence: The most common reasons for naturalization are due to marriage, employment and business registration.
By investment. According to the legislation of the European Union, you cannot buy citizenship. However, in some countries it is easier for investors to obtain citizenship. In Portugal, you can apply for citizenship five years after obtaining a residence permit for investment. There are no requirements for permanent residence in Portugal.
Under Maltese law, residents apply for citizenship 1 or 3 years after their residence permit is issued.
Citizenship is obtained by naturalization for exceptional service by direct investment. The minimum investment amount is €690,000. You can also obtain citizenship in the EU countries for special services in the field of sports, culture, education or medicine.
To obtain citizenship in an EU country, you need to spend an average of around ten years. It is necessary to comply with the terms of stay in the country and the requirements that are spelled out in the law. To obtain citizenship faster, you can take part in investment government residence permit programs.
The residence permit program in Portugal gives a quick perspective of citizenship: you can apply for a passport after five years of maintaining the residence permit status. The investor needs to prove knowledge of the Portuguese language at the A2 level, but is not required to reside in the country either before or after obtaining citizenship. The investment amount starts from €350,000.
A residence permit in Greece can be obtained in three months under the Greece Golden Visa Europe Program. The minimum investment amount is €250,000. After seven years of maintaining the residence permit status, the investor can obtain citizenship. To do this, you will need to have lived in the country for five years before submitting an application and passing a language proficiency test. Family members cannot be included in the citizenship application; they receive citizenship in the usual way.
Great Britain offers a residence permit for investment. This is one of the most expensive ways to get a residence permit: you have to invest £2 million in bonds or local companies. Registration of residence permit status takes 2 months. An immigrant must live in the UK for a minimum of 183 days a year. You can apply for citizenship 5-6 years after obtaining a residence permit.
The Government of Malta grants citizenship by naturalization for exceptional merit in direct investment. The amount of investment depends on when you plan to apply for citizenship - one or three years after the registration of the residence permit status. The investor makes a contribution to the National Development Fund of Malta and a charitable donation to a non-governmental organization. It is also necessary to buy or rent property on the island.
If you apply for citizenship after one year, the minimum contribution is €750,000. If you wait three years, the contribution will be reduced to €600,000.
Citizens of Vanuatu and Caribbean countries have the opportunity to travel without visas to the countries of the European Union. Citizenship investment programs operate in these states.
Under the Vanuatu program, it is necessary to make a non-refundable contribution of $130,000 to the country's economy. The foreigner must confirm the legality of the investment and good health, as well as the absence of a criminal record. The passport is issued in 1-2 months.
Caribbean citizenship by investment is issued by five countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia. The minimum investment amount is $100,000. The passport is issued within 36 months. For example, Antigua and Barbuda has a visa-free regime with more than 151 countries in the world, including the United Kingdom and the Schengen countries.