Have you ever wished you could have a passport from another country? Dual citizenship – having valid passports from two different nations — can offer a lot of advantages. The most important one is that it gives you the right to live and work in more than one country! It can also allow you visa-free access to more nations as a visitor.
This summer, hundreds of thousands of United Kingdom citizens are trying to acquire dual citizenship in the wake of the Brexit vote for the UK to leave the European Union. Many people want to get a passport from a European Union nation, which would allow them to work, live, or attend university in any other EU country. The Republic of Ireland in particular has seen a surge in passport requests from British citizens who now want to claim Irish citizenship. They anticipate receiving up to a million new passport applications! People born in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, have a particularly easy time of acquiring citizenship in the Republic of Ireland. Just by being born in Northern Ireland, they are eligible for both British and Irish passports. All they have to do to get Irish citizenship to apply for a passport using the same procedure as someone born on the republican side of the island!
You probably weren’t born in Northern Ireland, though, so let’s look at some other ways that it’s possible to acquire a second passport from another country.
Gaining Citizenship Through Long Term Residence in a Foreign Country
One of the most reliable ways to become a citizen of another country is by living in that country for several years. You will need to have a residence visa, like a work visa, to begin with, so you can legally live in the country while you are waiting to gain citizenship.
Many countries will only extend citizenship to people who have been legal residents for 10 or more years, but there are others that will grant passports much more quickly. Both Argentina and the Dominican Republic allow residents to apply for citizenship after only two years of living in their country. Paraguay will grant citizenship after three years of residence, and its neighbor Uruguay will also allow you to apply for a passport if you have lived with your family in Uruguay for three years. However, if you are single and living on your own, you will need to wait for 5 years before you can apply for a Uruguayan passport.
Marriage to a Citizen of Another Country
It’s a romantic dream… you’re visiting a beautiful foreign land, and you fall in love with a local. You have a whirlwind courtship, get married, and raise your children in your spouse’s exotic home town. If it happens to you, there are some countries that will quickly grant you citizenship if you marry one of their citizens.
Iran and Barbados are the only countries that automatically grant citizenship based on marriage, but for both, it’s only for foreign women who marry a man who is a citizen of the nation. A foreign man who marries an Iranian or Barbadian woman would not automatically become a citizen. For women who marry Iranian men, getting an Iranian passport is not just automatic but mandatory. Even if they live full time in the US or another country, they have to use an Iranian passport any time they visit Iran.
Just about everywhere else in the world, if you marry a citizen, you will qualify for citizenship much faster than you would if you just resided in the country on a work or residence visa. Most countries do require you to live in the nation with your spouse before you apply for a passport, but the period of time you must stay in the country varies from nation to nation. Brazil offers citizenship to spouses quite quickly; you only have to live in Brazil with your Brazilian spouse for one year before you can acquire full citizenship. Spain will also allow you to apply for a passport after just one year of living in Spain with your Spanish spouse, but you must be paying taxes during that year in order to qualify! This season’s hottest passport – Ireland – can also be acquired after just one year of living in Ireland with an Irish husband or wife. Since Ireland now legally recognizes gay marriage, same-sex spouses have the same rights to claim an Irish passport as those in heterosexual marriages.
Citizenship by Descent
America is the great melting pot, a nation built on immigration. If your family immigrated to the United States within the last generation or two, you may be eligible to apply for a second passport based on your ancestry. Many countries will offer citizenship to US-born people whose parents were born in their country, and a few will even grant citizenship if your grandparents were citizens of that nation.
Poland is an example of a country that offers citizenship to the grandchildren of Polish citizens. If you can prove that one of your grandparents held Polish citizenship, you can apply for a Polish passport. The only caveat is that full Polish citizenship was only possible after 1918; prior to the first World War, Poland was not a sovereign nation. Poland now is a member state of the European Union, making a Polish passport a valuable document! Italy and Ireland are other European Union nations that extend the possibility of citizenship to grandchildren of their citizens.
Israel has a different version of citizenship by birthright. Under Israeli law, anyone who is Jewish, either by birth or by conversion, is eligible to obtain an Israeli passport.
If you’re interested in the possibility of gaining citizenship in your parent or grandparent’s home country, your first stop should be the website of their embassy to learn more about their citizenship by descent program.
Economic Citizenship – Getting a Passport by Investment
For the wealthy, getting a passport from another country can be as easy as making an investment! Many nations will offer citizenship to people who invest a certain amount of money in real estate or businesses, or who make a sizable donation to a national development fund. The Caribbean island nation of Dominica is a famous example of a country that offers a quick road to citizenship to investors. In August 2016, the required investment will rise from $100,000 to $175,000 (US dollars), but it will get you a Dominican passport in as little as six months. Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada are other Caribbean nations that offer passports to investors who bring several hundred thousand dollars or more to the nation.
It’s also possible to get economic citizenship in the European Union, via the nation of Malta, but expect it to cost a lot more and take a bit longer! Investors are eligible to obtain Maltese citizenship in about 18 months, but they must start by making a €1,000,000 contribution to the country’s National Development and Social Fund. In addition to that, they must make at least €150,000 in government-approved investments in Malta. There are also real estate requirements that must be met. Investors must either purchase property worth €350,000 or more, or rent property that costs at least €16,000 a year.
If you do get a second passport, make sure you check out our article on dual citizenship to learn more about the special travel requirements for travelers with two passports!