Citizenship by descent allows you to connect with your ancestors and their homeland. However, obtaining it is a complex process that requires patience and dedication to navigate the legal landscape and trace your lineage across generations.

This article explores the complexities of obtaining citizenship by descent, shedding light on the intricate process of tracing ancestral roots and navigating the legal pathways governing the recognition of countries that offer citizenship by descent.

Read the guide to discover how to get citizenship through ancestry, the prerequisites, such as the required supporting documents and using proof of DNA, in addition to alternative pathways to be granted a country’s citizenship.

 What is citizenship by descent?

obtain citizenship world war ii citizenship by descent costa rica south korea immigration lawyer next generation apply for citizenship australian citizen one country obtaining citizenship acquire citizenship acquire citizenship marriage certificates french citizenship individuals seeking citizenship citizenship status seek consular assistance hungarian citizen claiming citizenship ancestors citizenship child born apply for citizenshipCitizenship by descent, also known as citizenship by ancestry or the Latin term “jus sanguinis,” is a legal practice of granting the right to acquire citizenship of a particular country based on blood relations. This option is becoming increasingly popular, as it can be a route to obtaining citizenship in a foreign country.

Direct Lineage: Qualifying for citizenship by descent typically hinges on a direct lineage connection to a national of the specific country.  

Proof of Ancestry: Providing evidence of the ancestral link, such as birth or death certificates, marriage records, or other official records, is often required. 

Citizenship by descent is a pathway through which an individual can become eligible for citizenship if their parents, grandparents, or sometimes even great-grandparents originate from a particular country. It is the opposite of birthright citizenship, where nationality law determines citizenship by the place of birth (jus soli). 

Citizenship by descent at birth

Under the concept of citizenship by descent, certain nations will determine citizenship at birth based on the parents’ citizenship status listed on the child’s birth certificate. This attribution of citizenship can occur when either both parents or at least one parent holds citizenship in that country.

Additionally, the eligibility criteria for citizenship can extend beyond having parents who are citizens, including situations where the parents were legal residents of the country at the time of the child’s birth. Conversely, granting citizenship by descent at birth may be limited to parents who obtained citizenship by birthright rather than through naturalization.

Citizenship by descent after birth

A child who holds foreign citizenship can get citizenship of a country if they can demonstrate a direct ancestral connection to a citizen or a national of that country. This connection is typically established through parents who may have naturalized in the country of the child’s birth. Additionally, dual citizenship by descent can be established through relatives further down the line, such as grandparents or great-grandparents, depending on the specific laws and regulations of the country in question.

Citizenship by descent criteria varies between countries. Some have strict requirements, while others offer citizenship for more distant ancestral ties. Documentation, such as birth/marriage certificates or DNA evidence, may be needed to prove the connection.

Ethnic citizenship

foreign births registerIn the context of citizenship by descent, ethnic citizenship or citizenship by ethnicity pertains to the idea that an individual’s inclusion and sense of belonging within a nation or state primarily rely on their ethnic or cultural background.

Proving ancestral lineage establishes the bond between the individual and the ethnic group and can influence rights, privileges, and access to resources. 

Individuals with Sephardic ancestry were eligible to claim citizenship by descent in Spain. Aboriginal people, such as First Nation Canadians and First Nation Australians, are granted legal protections for land ownership and cultural traditions under provisions outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

Benefits of Acquiring Citizenship by Descent and Second Passport  

Gaining second citizenship through family history has numerous advantages beyond the emotional and cultural bond to one’s ancestral background. Acquiring dual citizenship through a passport by descent offers transformative opportunities, including a second passport providing additional visa-free access, social advantages, and the right to actively engage in all aspects of the economic and political spheres of the country. 

Here is a breakdown of some of the benefits of claiming citizenship by descent:  

Enhanced mobility

Obtaining a second passport offers the benefit of visa-free travel to countries that may not be easily accessible with your current passport, enabling seamless entry into destinations that would otherwise require a visa. Additionally, a second passport can provide enhanced travel flexibility and act as a valuable backup in case of loss or expiration of your primary passport. 

Certain citizenships, such as EU citizenship, provide benefits that expand travel liberties further. As part of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), EU citizens have the right to settle in any EU country, with the sole obligation being to formalize their relocation. 

Expanded educational opportunities

dual citizenship national communityWith an additional citizenship, individuals access a wider range of educational institutions, including prestigious universities and schools, as dual citizens.

They have the right to pursue academic programs, scholarships, and grants that may be exclusively available to citizens of certain countries.

Having a second citizenship also eliminates or reduces international student fees, making education more affordable.

Additionally, individuals with dual citizenship have the freedom to choose from diverse educational systems, curricula, and cultural experiences. 

Cultural heritage

By restoring citizenship based on ancestral ties, individuals can fortify their cultural identity, enabling them to rediscover their heritage, customs, and language, nurturing a deep-rooted sense of connection and esteem. 

Citizenship for future generations 

Future family generations can benefit from their ancestors’ citizenship, enabling them to preserve and continue their cultural heritage, language, and customs throughout successive generations. This also allows family members to enjoy the benefits of citizenship. 

Expanded investment opportunities

The expanded investment opportunities afforded to those who can acquire dual citizenship by descent are invaluable economic tools. With a second passport, individuals access a broader range of investment markets and financial opportunities across different countries and tax jurisdictions. They can diversify their investment portfolios and capitalize on favorable economic conditions in multiple jurisdictions. 

A second passport facilitates ease of doing business in different regions, allowing individuals to establish and expand their entrepreneurial ventures internationally. Furthermore, having second citizenship next to current citizenship gives individuals access to unique investment opportunities or rights only afforded to citizens. 

In countries like the United Arab Emirates, Montenegro, Thailand, and Singapore, there are limitations on the categories of real estate or locations where foreigners, including foreign nationals with permanent residency, can buy property. 

Political empowerment

Individuals with dual citizenship can vote in elections, run for public office, and have a voice in shaping policies and decisions that affect their lives and the communities they belong to. A second passport comes with the right to actively participate in the political affairs of two countries. 

This enhanced political participation allows individuals to have a broader influence, advocate for their interests, and contribute to the democratic processes of multiple nations. 

Extended civil liberties

Second citizenship obtained through citizenship by descent offers a wider range of legal protections, including the right to live, work, and own property in multiple jurisdictions. Also, dual citizenship can provide individuals with increased social and economic rights, such as access to healthcare, social programs, and education. 

Furthermore, a second passport widens the safety net abroad, as dual passport holders can seek consular assistance and protection from the diplomatic presence of both nations in foreign countries. 

Eligibility Criteria for Ancestral Citizenship  

As referenced earlier, several definitions exist for how an individual can acquire dual citizenship by descent, as the interpretations for ancestral citizenship among jus sanguinis countries differ. Definitions may exclude children born abroad, parents who did not live in the country for a certain number of years before birth, or blood relatives who are not of a specific gender. 

  • Direct descent: In order to be eligible for citizenship by descent, individuals usually need to establish a direct ancestral connection to a citizen or national of the country in question. 
  • Confirmation of ancestral heritage: Legal documentation must be provided to ascertain the ancestral link. Typical legal documents include the ancestor’s birth certificate, marriage records, or other official documents that verify the ancestor’s citizenship and connection to the applicant. All the required documents in foreign languages must also be legalized prior to submission. 

Limitations 

Generational

While some countries grant citizenship by descent without generational limitations, most enforce restrictions on the maximum number of generations eligible to transfer citizenship. 

Residency requirements

Alongside having a citizen ancestor, certain countries may stipulate that the ancestor must have fulfilled residency obligations for a designated number of years prior to the child’s birth. 

Type of citizenship

The type of citizenship an ancestor holds/held may determine eligibility for citizenship by descent. Individuals who received citizenship by birthright generally possess the right to transmit citizenship to subsequent generations; in certain countries, this principle may not apply to ancestors who acquired citizenship through naturalization.

up to two generationsMaternal/paternal

Although citizenship by descent is typically granted through either a citizen mother or father in most countries, some jurisdictions exclusively acknowledge this right through the father, emphasizing the principle of paternal lineage.

In such countries, if a child is born to a citizen father, they automatically receive citizenship, regardless of the mother’s nationality.

However, if the child is born to a citizen mother and a non-citizen father, they may not be eligible for citizenship by descent.

Renounced citizenship

A common requirement among countries that recognize citizenship by descent is that the ancestor did not voluntarily renounce or forfeit their citizenship by acquiring another citizenship at any time during their life. 

Legal amendments

Citizenship laws undergo intricate and complex changes influenced by factors such as war, exile, and other historical events that may have impacted citizens. As a result, individuals or their ancestors born before or after a specific date may have varying levels of eligibility for citizenship, with some meeting criteria easily while others requiring additional qualifications. 

Seeking guidance from immigration specialists or legal experts can provide invaluable assistance. Their expertise enables you to understand the intricate requirements of ancestral citizenship across different countries, ensuring a smooth and successful descent application process.  

Global Citizen Solutions is a migration consultancy firm equipped with experienced experts who specialize in guiding individuals through the complex landscape of citizenship by descent. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

Key Prerequisites for Birthright Citizenship Based on Descent 

The requirements for ancestry citizenship can differ significantly depending on the country. Each government has its own distinct set of prerequisites, documentation, and associated costs involved in the application process. Here are some of the key requirements you can expect when obtaining citizenship by descent and an ancestral passport:

  • Proof of ancestry: Documentary evidence of a direct connection to the citizen 
  • Ancestral documentation: Documentary evidence confirming the ancestor’s nationality 
  • Passport: Official passport from your home country 
  • Application form: Citizenship application form for citizenship provided by the country 
  • Passport-size photos: Recent passport-sized photos to accompany the application 
  • Admin fees: Payment of admin fees for the application, processing, translation of documents, legalization, any other costs associated with the citizenship process, and acquiring an ancestral passport

Take at look at our Greek Citizenship by Descent Ultimate Guide

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How to get Citizenship Through Ancestry

Step one: Find out if you fulfill the eligibility criteria

You must first ask:

  • How many generations back can I go? Do I need to apply through my grandparents, or can it be more distant ancestors in the direct line?
  • Are there any limitations concerning the paternal or maternal side?
  • Does it matter if my ancestors were not citizens by birthright?
  • Which specific documents will I need to submit?

It is not possible to prove your eligibility for citizenship based on a DNA test and presenting the results to immigration officials. The application process will require a much deeper dive into your family’s history by searching through genealogical archives and identifying the location of official documents suitable for citizenship purposes.

If you find yourself at a roadblock, consulting with a genealogist or migration expert who can provide valuable expertise and access to resources in locations that may not have been on your radar can be helpful. Regardless, it is essential to ensure a reasonable probability of obtaining the necessary documents before initiating any official requests with the respective country’s embassy.

Step two: Prepare your citizenship application

Establishing eligibility is a significant challenge when pursuing citizenship through ancestry and an ancestral passport. Once you have successfully overcome this hurdle, you can proceed to prepare your citizenship application.

You will need to determine the documents to accompany your citizenship application form. This information can be obtained from the embassy or the official government website. Typical documents include:

  • Your birth certificate
  • Your passport
  • Official records of your ancestors (birth certificates, marriage/divorce certificates, death certificates)
  • Legal name change documents (if applicable)

All documents in a foreign language must be translated into the country’s official language and carry an apostille seal.

Step three: Attend interviews or examinations

Depending on the country’s specific requirements or the condition of your documentary evidence, you might be asked to participate in interviews or examinations to further evaluate your eligibility for citizenship through descent. In preparation, ensure you study the country’s relevant historical, linguistic, or civic references.

Step four: Await the decision

Once you have submitted your application and fulfilled any required interviews or examinations, you will need to wait for the final decision on your citizenship request. The timeline for acquiring citizenship by descent varies widely as it is contingent on each country’s processing procedures and bureaucratic systems.

EU Countries that Grant Citizenship by Descent

Country

Eligibility criteria

CBD generational limit

Dual citizenship allowed

Austria 

-An Austrian mother at the time of birth

-An Austrian father who was married to the mother

Second

No (except for individuals who acquire Austrian citizenship by descent) 

Belgium

-At least one parent who was a Belgian citizen at the time of birth and the individual is under 18

-At least one parent who was a Belgian citizen at the time of birth (there are several residency requirements for those over 18 depending on the age of residency)

Second

Yes

Bulgaria 

-At least one parent was a Bulgarian citizen

-At least one paternal ancestor was a Bulgarian citizen

Unlimited 

Yes (except for naturalized Bulgarian citizens)

Croatia 

-Both parents had Croatian citizenship at the time of birth

-At least one parent was a Croatian citizen and the child was born in Croatia

-At least one parent was a Croatian citizen and the other parent was unknown or stateless

Second

Yes

Cyprus 

Born after 16 August 1960 and at least one parent was a Cypriot citizen or was entitled to obtain Cypriot citizenship by descent at the time of birth

Second

Yes

Czech Republic 

-At least one parent or grandparent was a Czechoslovak citizen at the time of birth

-At least one parent was a legal resident and the child was born in the Czech Republic

Third

Yes

Denmark 

At least one parent was a Danish citizen at the time of birth (Denmark has had several changes in legislation for citizenship by descent, affecting those born before 1 February 1999, after 1 February 1999, and after 30 June 2014)

Second

Yes

Estonia 

At least one parent was an Estonian citizen at the time of birth

Second

No

Finland 

At least one parent or grandparent is or was a Finnish citizen by birthright

Third

Yes

France 

-At least one parent born in France and the child was born in France

-At least one parent was born in France and the child requests citizenship at 18

Second

Yes

Germany 

At least one parent was a Greek citizen at the time of birth

Second

No (except for a citizen of another EU country or German citizens with a German citizen parent) 

Greece 

At least one parent was a Greek citizen at the time of birth

Second

Yes

Hungary 

At least one parent was a Hungarian citizen at the time of birth

Second

Yes

Ireland 

At least one parent or grandparent was an Irish citizen at the time of birth

Third

Yes

Italy 

At least one ancestor was an Italian citizen (ancestors who acquired Italian citizenship by naturalization before 14 June 1912 cannot transfer citizenship)

Unlimited

Yes

Latvia 

At least one parent or grandparent who was a Latvian citizen and was born in Latvia

Third

No (except for citizens of other EU countries, NATO member states, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil) 

Lithuania 

At least one parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent was a Lithuanian citizen

Fourth

No (except for Lithuanian citizens who gain second citizenship by marriage) 

Luxembourg 

At least one parent was a Luxembourgish citizen at the time of birth

Second

Yes

Malta

-At least one parent was a Maltese citizen at the time of birth

-At least one ancestor born in Malta of a parent also born in Malta

Unlimited

Yes

Netherlands 

-A Dutch citizen mother at the time of birth (mother or father if born before 1 January 1985)

-A Dutch citizen father who was married to or in a civil partnership with the mother, or acknowledged the child before birth

Second

No (except for some instances of citizenship by birthright) 

Norway 

-At least one parent was a Norwegian citizen at the time of birth (if born after 1 September 2006)

-A Norwegian mother (if born after 1 September 2006)

-A Norwegian father who was married to the mother (if born after 1 September 2006)

Second

Yes

Poland 

At least one parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent born in Poland and who resided there after January 1920

Fourth

Yes

Portugal

At least one parent or grandparent was a Portuguese citizen at the time of birth

Third

Yes

Romania

At least one parent was a Romanian citizen at the time of birth

Second

Yes

Slovenia

At least one parent is or was a Slovenian citizen

Second

Yes (except for naturalized Slovenian citizens) 

Spain

-At least one parent was a Spanish citizen at the time of birth

-Both parents were born in Spain

-Both grandparents were born in Spain

-A citizen of a Latin American country who has at least one grandparent born in Spain

Third

No (except for citizens of former Spanish colonies, Equatorial Guinea, France, the Philippines, and Portugal) 

Sweden

-Born after 1 April 2015 and at least one parent is or was a Swedish citizen

-Born before 1 April 2015 to a Swedish citizen mother

-Born before 1 April 2015 to a Swedish citizen father who was married to or in a civil partnership with the mother

Second

Yes

Applying for a Second Passport Based on Ancestry 

These are the typical steps to follow to acquire a second passport by descent: 

  1. Conduct thorough research on the eligibility criteria and requirements for citizenship by descent in the desired country. 
  2. Compile the necessary documents to verify your lineage and ancestry. 
  3. Consult with legal experts for guidance and assistance in navigating the process and ensuring adherence to the country’s requirements. 
  4. Prepare and submit your citizenship application along with legalized documentary evidence. 
  5. Fulfill the requirement of attending any necessary interviews or examinations to further evaluate your eligibility. 
  6. Complete the necessary legal formalities, including signing the oath of citizenship and fulfilling any required payments or applicable fees. 
  7. After receiving approval, obtain the required documentation, including a citizenship certificate. 
  8. Apply for a second passport 

Alternatives to Citizenship by Descent 

Citizenship by investment

offer citizenship for future generations new zealand costa rica south korea birth certificates next generation cultural identity marriage records safety net many countries tax planning application forms required documents educational opportunities sufficient evidence obtaining citizenship acquiring citizenship descent citizenshipCitizenship by investment is the most straightforward alternative for obtaining citizenship as a foreign national. The process involves making a substantial financial contribution to the country’s economy by investing in specific sectors, such as real estate, government bonds, business ventures, or capital deposits.

Additionally, some citizenship by investment countries grant citizenship in exchange for a charitable contribution to a national development fund or donation to an approved NGO, which generally reduces the required investment for the program. 

In return for this investment, the applicant is a granted citizenship certificate and all associated rights and benefits afforded to any natural-born or naturalized citizen. This approach allows individuals who may not have ancestral or familial ties to a country to receive citizenship based on their financial contributions.

While the specific requirements vary depending on the country, citizenship by investment offers a viable option for foreign nationals seeking to expand their global mobility, access new business opportunities, or enhance their personal and financial security. 

Citizenship by investment programs presents significant advantages over citizenship by naturalization to those without ancestral ties to the country, such as: 

  • No residency requirements as typically associated with naturalization 
  • Expedited processing times for citizenship 
  • No language or general knowledge requirements 
  • Additional tax concessions in some cases 

To learn more about citizenship by investment, check out our article: Citizenship by Investment Countries List & Guide. 

Citizenship by naturalization

Unlike citizenship through ancestry, citizenship by naturalization necessitates actively meeting the established requirements to become eligible for citizenship. Typically, individuals seeking citizenship by naturalization must fulfill criteria such as residing in the country for a specified period, demonstrating proficiency in the country’s language or passing a language test, having a clean criminal record, and showing good moral character. 

Citizenship by naturalization allows individuals who do not have ancestral or familial ties to a nation to become its citizens through their commitment to the country, integration into its society, and adherence to its nationality law and values. The specific requirements and procedures vary from country to country, with some nations imposing additional conditions such as passing a citizenship test, educational qualifications, and professional accomplishments.

How Can Global Citizen Solutions Help You?

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique migration consultancy firm with years of experience delivering bespoke residence and citizenship by investment solutions for international families. With offices worldwide and an experienced, hands-on team, we have helped hundreds of clients worldwide acquire citizenship, residence visas, or homes while diversifying their portfolios with robust investments. 

We guide you from start to finish, taking you beyond your citizenship or residency by investment application. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Citizenship by Descent

Can I claim citizenship through ancestry?

If you’re wondering whether you’re eligible for citizenship based on your ancestry, it depends on the country’s citizenship laws and your ancestral lineage. Some countries, like Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, and Portugal, allow people to become dual citizens through their ancestral connections. However, eligibility requirements and criteria vary between countries.

Can you get citizenship by DNA test?

While a DNA test can provide valuable information about your genetic heritage and ancestry, it is not considered sufficient evidence for citizenship purposes. To acquire an Irish passport, Italian citizenship, Greek nationality, or citizenship in other countries that recognize citizenship by descent usually requires a more comprehensive approach. 

This involves presenting documentation such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, and other official records to establish your ancestral connection and eligibility for citizenship. 

How do I prove my ancestry for citizenship?

Proving your ancestry and family tree for descent citizenship requires gathering and submitting relevant documentation from genealogical research establishing a clear lineage connection to the country in question.

While the exact documentary requirements may vary depending on the country’s laws, documents such as birth certificates, passports, and death records are generally considered acceptable forms of proof for ancestral citizenship applications. 

Can I get citizenship through my great-grandparents?

Ancestry citizenship rules vary by country. Some allow transmission through great-grandparents, while others have stricter rules based on closer lineage.

Those with Lithuanian ancestry can acquire Lithuanian citizenship if at least one great-grandparent had Lithuanian citizenship; A foreign citizen with a Polish citizen great-grandparent is eligible for Polish citizenship. There are no generational limits for Italian citizenship by descent. 

What is the easiest citizenship by ancestry?

Italian citizenship by descent is often considered one of the easiest options for obtaining citizenship through ancestry as there are generally no generational limitations. EU countries like Ireland also have easy Irish citizenship by ancestry formalities. Irish citizens can transfer Irish citizenship until the third generation. 

How many generations back can you claim citizenship?

How far back you can go in your family’s history to claim ancestral citizenship by descent depends on the citizenship of your ancestors. 

  • French citizenship, Israeli citizenship, and Greek citizenship by descent are limited to one generation.  
  • Latvian citizenship, Portuguese citizenship, and Irish citizenship by descent extend to two generations. 
  • Lithuanian and Polish citizenship are applicable until the fourth generation. 
  • Italy and Bulgaria have no generational limits for citizenship by ancestry. 

Other factors can also determine the generational restrictions; Spain has a generational limit of one generation; however, if you’re a Latin American citizen with a Spanish national grandparent, you can claim Spanish citizenship by descent. British citizenship by descent is limited to one generation, but there are concessions based on the date of birth and specific situations that allow a grandparent to transfer British citizenship, which include a British citizen who was in Crown service at the time of the parent’s birth, or a British-born grandmother. 

What is an ancestry visa?

An ancestry visa is a type of visa that allows individuals to live, work, and sometimes study in a country based on their ancestral heritage. Ancestry visas in the UK enable citizens born overseas in Commonwealth nations, with at least one grandparent born in the UK, to enter the UK to work or study.