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02 February, 2022

10 countries with the hardest paths to citizenship by naturalization in 2022

On average, a foreigner needs to live in the country for 5 to 10 years before applying for citizenship by naturalization. But in some countries, the period of residence has been extended to 30 years.

Applicants are also required to have knowledge of the language and laws, proof of integration in society, and sometimes renunciation of the citizenship of other countries.

We will tell you in which popular countries it is very difficult to get a passport and what workarounds investors have for life and business.

Countries where it is difficult to obtain citizenship: how investors can come and live in them without obtaining a passport
Photo: Adobe Stock

In the United Arab Emirates, non-Arab foreigners need to live 30 years in the country before they can apply for a passport. Citizens of Qatar, Oman and Bahrain are subject to more lenient requirements: to obtain a passport, they only need to live in the country for only three years. Applicants for citizenship of the UAE also confirm knowledge of the Arabic language, higher education, reputation and source of income in the country.

30 years
residence time in UAE for obtaining citizenship

San Marino is the only European country in which an applicant for citizenship by naturalization needs to live for 30 years. In other EU countries, the period of mandatory residence to obtain a passport averages from 5 to 10 years.

Switzerland. Applicants for a Swiss passport must have lived in the country for a total of 12 years, three of which in the last five years prior to application. A foreigner also needs to prove that he is integrated into Swiss life, familiar with its customs and laws. An applicant for Swiss citizenship must communicate in writing and orally in at least one of the national languages: German, French or Italian.

12 years
residence time in Switzerland for obtaining citizenship

Monaco. To become a citizen of the Principality of Monaco, a foreigner must have lived in the country for at least 10 years. Only a long-term lease agreement or ownership of housing in the country is accepted as proof. The cost of real estate in Monaco is the highest in Europe. The average cost of renting a three-bedroom apartment is €20,000 per month, and purchase prices start from €81,500 per m².

per m² of housing one has to pay in Monaco to confirm residence in the country

Austria. Austrian citizenship can be obtained after 10 years of continuous residence in the country. An applicant for an Austrian passport signs a binding integration agreement under which he undertakes to learn German and pass an exam. If a foreigner confirms knowledge of the German language at level B2, he will be able to obtain a passport ahead of schedule — after 6 years of residence in the country.

Countries where it is difficult to obtain citizenship: Monaco passport

A foreigner can become a citizen of Monaco if he renounces his first citizenship and confirms that he is exempt from military service in other countries

Countries where it is difficult to obtain citizenship: San Marino passport

The population of San Marino is 33 thousand people. To become one of them, you will need to give up your first citizenship and live in a country overlooking Italy for 30 years

Germany. Foreigners who have lived in the country for at least 8 years, have a stable income in Germany, own real estate or have entered into a long-term lease agreement can obtain a German passport by naturalization.

Applicants will need to pass two citizenship exams:

  1. On knowledge of the German language. The minimum level is B1. If the applicant has mastered the language at a higher level, the period for obtaining citizenship is reduced to six years.
  2. On knowledge of the legal and social structure of Germany.

Finland. To obtain a Finnish passport by naturalization, a foreigner needs to live in the country for 5 to 7 years, pay taxes on time, not commit offenses and receive a stable income in the country. In addition, you must be proficient in spoken Finnish or sign language.

The language requirement complicates the process of obtaining citizenship: the Finnish language is recognized as one of the most difficult to master in the world.

Japan. An applicant for Japanese citizenship by naturalization must reside in the country for five years and obtain permission from the Minister of Justice and renounce foreign citizenship. The application review process is rigorous and takes one year or more. A foreigner also needs to prove financial solvency: to show that he has enough funds to live in Japan. To do this, provide an extract from the personal account, a contract of sale or ownership of real estate, an employment contract. If a foreigner has no personal income, the financial condition of his family is taken into account when submitting an application.

From 1 year
takes processing of an application for citizenship

USA. You can apply for US citizenship five years after receiving a green card. To obtain a passport, the applicant confirms that he:

  • lived in the United States for at least 183 days a year;
  • did not break the law;
  • passed the English language proficiency test at a basic level;
  • passed an exam on knowledge of the history and government of the United States.

Applicants get the opportunity to live and work in the country, as well as vote or get a job in the civil service.

Singapore. The Singaporean passport is annually recognized as one of the “strongest” in the world: its holders can travel without visas to 190 countries. Singapore citizenship by naturalization can be obtained by foreigners who have had permanent resident status in the country for at least two years.

Singapore permanent resident status can be obtained by:

  • Investors who have invested in the country's economy from 2.5 million Singapore dollars. They will also need to prove sufficient experience in entrepreneurial activities and provide financial statements of their own company for the last three years. The turnover of companies must be at least 50 million Singapore dollars annually.
  • A spouse, a child under the age of 21 or an elderly parent of a citizen or permanent resident of Singapore.
  • Foreigners with an Employment Pass or S Pass with a monthly income of SGD 2,500 or more.
  • Pupils and students.

Singapore forbids dual citizenship, the first one will have to be given up.

Countries where it is difficult to obtain citizenship: Japanese passport

An applicant for Japanese citizenship can prove his financial solvency with the income of family members

Countries where it is difficult to obtain citizenship: Singapore passport

Foreigners who acquire citizenship of Singapore become liable for military service, even if they served in another country. Only men are called up for military service

In which country to get a second passport to travel freely to popular destinations?

Grenada and Montenegro offer foreigners to obtain citizenship by investment in the country's economy, and Malta — for exceptional services by direct investment. The passports of these countries make it possible to travel and live in countries where it is difficult to obtain citizenship by naturalization.

Citizenships that will make the investor cosmopolitan

CountryVisa-free destinationsAdditional featuresInvestor’s expensesTerm for obtaining citizenship
Malta185 countries including Schengen area, Japan, Singapore, the USA and CanadaCitizens of Malta can choose to live in any EU country. They have no residence restrictions in Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein€690,000 1 or 3 years
Grenada144 countries, including the Schengen area, Singapore and the UK. Citizens of Grenada have a visa-free entry to China for up to 30 daysInvestors with Grenadian citizenship can obtain US visas:a tourist B-1/B-2 visa, which allows to stay in the country for up to six months;an E-2 investor visa, which allows to live and work in the country. This visa is not available to Russians$150,000 4 to 6 months
Montenegro123 countries including the UAE and Singapore. With a Montenegrin passport, you can spend up to 90 days in a Schengen areaCitizens of Montenegro can obtain an E-2 business visa to the USA€472,000 6 months

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent who helps to obtain citizenship of Malta, Montenegro and the Caribbean countries. If you want to obtain a second citizenship, please contact investment program experts for advice.

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10 countries with the hardest paths to citizenship by naturalization in 2022