Thousands of non-EU nationals are becoming EU citizens all over the world. How do they manage to do this? In this comprehensive guide, we look at how to become an EU citizen if you weren’t born in an EU country or have a family member that is part of the EU already.

Some of the topics covered include:

What is a European citizen?

A European citizen is a citizen of a European Union member state that enjoys the right to free movement, settlement, and employment across all 27 countries of the union.

To procure EU citizenship, you must apply for citizenship in an EU country. While the process for becoming a European citizen varies between states, in general, the minimum requirement is for you to live in the country for a certain amount of time, provide proof of legal residence in the country and lodge your European Union citizenship application.

Anyone possessing the nationality of an EU country is instantly an EU citizen. EU citizenship complements national citizenship without replacing it.

Why become an EU citizen?

There are many benefits of being an EU citizen. European citizenship grants you unlimited working rights in an EU state, as well as increased international mobility and freedom of opportunities.

Here are the top ten benefits of becoming an EU citizen:

  • Full working and residential rights in 27 EU countries
  • Fantastic tertiary education and scholarship choices
  • Grow your business with full EU protection
  • Right to consular protection by EU member states
  • National health care benefits
  • Privacy laws to protect you
  • A European passport gives you a plan B during times of crisis
  • Own property without a permit
  • Visa-free travel to 153 countries
  • An EU passport can be passed down to future generations
Is Portugal Going to End its Golden Visa Program

Am I eligible for a European passport?

Anyone is eligible for a European passport, provided that they pursue one of the following three options:

  1. Get European citizenship through descent or ancestry
  2. Get EU citizenship through naturalization
  3. Apply for a European passport through a citizenship-by-investment program

European citizenship through your descent/ancestry

The easiest way to get European citizenship is if you have parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents (in some cases) from Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, and many other countries. This type of citizenship is common, and it costs just a few hundred dollars to obtain a European passport. The rules for European citizenship through descent and ancestry will depend on the European country you’re applying for citizenship from.

Become an EU citizen through naturalization

Most countries in Europe give EU citizenship to people who are legal residents of the country. The requirement is for the person to maintain their residency in the country for a set number of years first.

For example, the residency in Portugal and residency in Spain programs offer EU citizenship through naturalization, provided that you are first a permanent resident.

How to become an EU citizen through citizenship-by-investment

EU citizenship-by-investment programs or EU residency programs are the fastest way to get European citizenship if you don’t qualify for citizenship through ancestry. In exchange for a qualifying investment in the nation, you and your family can get EU passports in as little as six months, depending on what country program you pick.

The Best EU Citizenship to Have

One of the best EU citizenships to hold is from Austria. It is one of the most attractive countries in the world in terms of the sheer amount of opportunities it offers. From economic stability, low crime rates, and clean air to excellent infrastructure and job opportunities,  an Austrian passport takes you far. 

But, despite the many advantages of having Austrian citizenship, the country does not allow dual-citizenship, meaning that you will have to relinquish your current passport and citizenship.

Another excellent EU citizenship to have is Portugal. Its 300 days of sunshine per year, long stretch of Atlantic coastline, fabulous food, affordable living costs, and low real estate prices mean having citizenship in Portugal is certainly an asset. 

Although not a direct route to citizenship, you can obtain citizenship in Portugal by investing in real estate. The minimum requirement is a qualifying investment of at least €500,000 ($544,000) in real estate, and a Portuguese passport can be yours in just five years. 

There are also more affordable options. For example, the Cultural Production Golden Visa can be obtained by making an investment of €200,000 if the cultural production is taking place in a designated low-density area.

How to Become an EU Citizen via a Citizenship-by-Investment Program

Do you wish to live in Europe and obtain a European passport? Then you’ll have a difficult time finding an easier path than through citizenship-by-investment. We’ll highlight European countries such as Malta, Portugal, and Spain because they provide a relatively easy process to obtain an EU passport through citizenship-by-investment or residency-by-investment programs.

 Many citizenship-by-investment programs allow you to secure citizenship in a relatively short period of time. This is one of the best advantages of taking the route of citizenship by investment. Another advantage is that your immediate family members are also eligible for EU passports (for an additional fee). 

Keep in mind that anyone with the nationality of an EU country is automatically a citizen of the EU. Be sure that European citizenship is gained alongside your national citizenship, as some countries do not allow dual citizenship.

Become an EU citizen in Malta

Malta’s Citizenship by Investment Program — also referred to as the Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services — provides a quick and efficient journey to a European passport. Maltese citizenship can be obtained after 12 months with a minimum investment value of €600,000 ($654,000), and after 36 months with a minimum investment value of €750,000 ($817,000). In total, three payments need to be made before citizenship is granted. 

malta - how to become an eu citizen

The three investments that need to be made are: 

  1. A direct, non-refundable investment: An exceptional direct investment of a minimum value of €600,000 or €750,000 for the main applicant, depending on the residence period selected: 12 or 36 months (an extra €50,000 fee is required for each dependent).
  2. Real estate investment: A lease for residential real estate for a minimum value of €16,000 per year for a period of five years or the purchase of real estate for a minimum value of €700,000 that must be kept for at least five years.
  3. Philanthropic donation: A donation of €10,000 to a registered sport, cultural, scientific, philanthropic, the welfare of animals, or artistic non-governmental organization or society as approved by the Community Malta Agency (CMA). 

There are some other costs that you will also need to consider, such as due diligence and the administration fee. 

With a Malta passport, you can travel visa-free to more than 170 countries around the world, as well as have the right to live in Malta or in any other EU country.

One of the best things about owning a Maltese passport is that you can pass it down to future generations.

To be eligible for the Maltese Citizenship by Investment program, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Be over 18 years old
  • Have a good character
  • Have a genuine connection to the country (Proof of periods of physical residence)
  • Make the qualifying investment in funds, donations, or real estate

As one of the most popular citizenship-by-investment programs in Europe, the Maltese citizenship application is approved after a few months of processing time.

First, a residency card is issued, which immediately grants free mobility in the Schengen Area for 36 months. Then it takes either one year or three years from the date of the initial residency – depending on the qualifying investment made – to get a Maltese passport

For more information, check out our ultimate guide to obtaining Maltese citizenship below.

Take a look at our Malta Citizenship by Investment Guide by local experts

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Alternatively, you can also speak to our Malta Citizenship by Investment Consultant. Get in touch now.

Get European citizenship in Cyprus

The Cyprus Golden Visa program offers a path to an EU passport for qualifying investors. Applicants must invest at least €300,000 ($327,000) into the country, and in turn, they receive Cypriot residency, which grants you the right to live, study and work in Cyprus or anywhere else in the EU.

The best part about living in Cyprus is that living costs are cheap, the country is safe and secure, and you have a beautiful Mediterranean coastline at your doorstep with world-class beaches.

To gain Cypriot citizenship, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Invest a minimum of €300,000 ($327,000) into the economy, which can be done through various types of investment
  • Submit your application, as well as your biometrics and personal data
  • Procure your residency permit status for seven years

After which, you’ll be eligible to apply for Cypriot citizenship.

A Cypriot passport is extremely valuable to possess, as it allows visa-free travel to 168 countries. Through the Cyprus Golden Visa program, you and your immediate family members can obtain citizenship and live on a beautiful Mediterranean island that’s a short flight away from the rest of Europe.

For more information, speak to our citizenship-by-investment specialist for Cyprus. Get in touch now.

Alternatively, check out our ultimate guide to obtaining Cypriot citizenship below.

Buy property and get an EU passport

Buy property and get an EU passport

A good option for families looking to get European dual citizenship is to buy a property and get an EU passport. Malta offers this option under its citizenship-by-investment program.

Property investments, in general, are a smart way to protect and diversify your assets abroad, with excellent potential for return. Malta’s real estate market has experienced significant growth in the last few years, offering investors an excellent opportunity to make some money from their investments. 

The best part about owning your own property is that you can set up a second home in an exotic European nation while also gaining EU citizenship for yourself and your family.

Become an EU citizen with a Portugal Golden Visa

Portugal’s Golden Visa program is one of the most successful EU residency programs. Portugal provides one of the simplest ways in the European Union to obtain citizenship-by-investment. 

The residency program enables investors to obtain Portuguese citizenship five years after applying to the scheme, provided they maintain their investment and pass a simple language test, which is used to prove their integration with the local community. They will also be required to complete a criminal background check. The program’s advantage is that you do not have to relocate to Portugal. However, you are required to visit the country for seven days each year.

For an investment in the country’s economy, like a €500,000 ($545,000) property purchase, you and your family members can gain legal residency in the country within months. While the program doesn’t immediately grant you citizenship, it is possible to obtain a Portuguese passport after holding your investment for at least five years and fulfilling the criteria under Portuguese nationality law. 

Find out more about the requirements for a Portuguese passport in our ultimate guide to Portugal’s Golden Visa.

Buy property to get a Spanish EU passport

Spain also has a Golden Visa program that can lead to citizenship, provided that you stay in the nation for at least ten years. Like with the Portugal Golden Visa, it is possible to get a Spanish passport through the Spain Golden Visa program if you buy a property in the country worth €500,000 ($545,000) and meet the program’s additional requirements. 

Investors can get permanent residency in five years, on the condition that they’ve lived in Spain for more than four years and two months during the five-year period. Citizenship can be obtained after ten years of living in the country.

Take a look at our Spain Golden Visa Ultimate Guide by Local Experts

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Other ways of becoming an EU citizen: Through marriage

You can also receive EU citizenship through marriage. If you are in a partnership and can prove your partnership to the respective state you wish to gain EU citizenship by marriage from, including a marriage certificate, then it’s perfectly possible to become an EU citizen. Do note that the requirements for receiving EU citizenship by marriage depend heavily on the state.

In Italy, for example, for those married to an Italian citizen, the waiting period for citizenship is two years. During this time, the applicant must live in Italy with an Italian spouse. The waiting time for citizenship is longer if you live abroad with your Italian spouse.

Can US Citizens Get EU Citizenship

While some nations require people to abandon their former citizenship when seeking a new one in a different country, Americans are lucky in this regard. The law of the United States does not oblige its citizen to relinquish their citizenship. Americans can naturalize in any nation at any moment and maintain their US citizenship status.

Many Americans want a second passport in Europe and wonder, “Which EU nations are easiest to obtain citizenship in?” The good news is that obtaining an EU passport is generally quite a simple process.

If you are a US citizen, you can apply for EU citizenship with little to no hassle. US citizens are drawn to EU nations for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Taxation systems that function well
  • Possibilities for investment
  • Ease of travel to the rest of Europe and beyond
  • Tolerance of cryptocurrencies

Which EU country has the easiest citizenship application process?

As long as you meet the conditions stipulated by each program, obtaining citizenship in most European nations is relatively simple. While some governments provide citizenship more easily than others, American citizens are not excluded from having an easy road to acquiring a European passport in the following countries: Portugal, Spain, Malta, and Greece.

Speak to our European Citizenship Specialists

We are a boutique 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 help clients from around the world acquire Golden Visas or passports while diversifying their portfolio with robust investments.

If you’d like to inquire about our citizenship-by-investment services, we encourage you to contact one of our specialists.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Become an EU Citizen

What is the meaning of an EU citizen?

Any individual who possesses the nationality of an EU member state is automatically considered an EU citizen. EU citizenship is an additional status that coexists with national citizenship and does not supersede or replace it. As an EU citizen, you have the right to live, work, or study anywhere in the European Union, provided you report your presence after three months in the country.

What are the benefits of being an EU citizen?

The six most-important benefits of being an EU citizen and holding an EU passport are:

  • Enhanced mobility throughout the European Union
  • Universal healthcare across multiple EU countries
  • Access to advanced educational benefits and employment opportunities
  • Investment opportunities and tariff free international business
  • Ease of doing business anywhere in the EU
  • Live in some of world’s safest countries, and enhanced privacy laws

What are the requirements to become an EU citizen?

The requirements to become an EU citizen will vary from state to state, but there are typically four routes to EU citizenship: Live or work in the EU for a minimum number of years (as set out by the country), marry and live with a spouse who is an EU citizen, apply for a citizenship-by-investment program, or claim lineage if you parents or grandparents were born in an EU country.

What is the easiest EU citizenship to get?

Portugal is overall the easiest EU citizenship to get, with citizenship being granted after five years of living in the country. Belgium also offers easy EU citizenship if you move your business there, while Spain offers the fastest way to get citizenship if you are part of the former Spanish colonies.

What is the fastest way to get EU citizenship?

The fastest way to get EU citizenship would be to apply for a European citizenship-by-investment program. Malta offers excellent investment opportunities for international families looking to get EU citizenship in a year if you take the one-year option.

How to get a European passport as an American?

Getting a European passport as an American depends on your personal situation. In general, you can get a European passport if you go through a citizenship-by-investment program. You can also indirectly get a European passport if you apply for a Golden Visa. Do note that the timeline to citizenship is considerably longer if you opt-in for a residency by investment solution.

Ho can I get a European passport?

The following are ways to secure a Europe passport:

  • Citizenship by descent
  • Citizenship by naturalization
  • Marriage
  • Investment

Citizenship by descent is the easiest and most affordable way to become a European citizen if you are eligible.

How to buy citizenship in Europe?

The only way to buy citizenship in Europe is to go through a citizenship-by-investment scheme. You must invest a certain sum of money in a country that offers the scheme and hold that respective investment for a particular amount of time in order to get citizenship.

How to obtain a European passport?

To obtain a European passport, you must first qualify for the passport. You can do this in a number of ways: marry a European spouse, live in a country for a certain number of years, apply for an EU residency program, or have a family member that’s part of a European Union member state.

Which EU country gives citizenship easily?

Each European country grants citizenship through naturalization after having spent a substantial amount of years in its territory as a permanent resident. Although the conditions vary across all countries, the easiest way to obtain European citizenship might be by applying to the Portuguese Golden Visa program. 

This is because Portugal has one of the most popular residency-by-investment programs in the world. You might want to learn all about how to obtain the Portuguese passport, as the country’s requirements for obtaining citizenship are some of the simplest ones.

What is the easiest way to get EU citizenship?

The easiest way to apply for European citizenship is by ancestry or descent. You can apply for citizenship if you have parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents from EU nations such as Italy, Poland, Hungary, Ireland, and others.

How long does it take to be an EU citizen?

The typical route to getting European citizenship takes seven or more years, but this really depends on the country in question. You must first invest in a country and acquire a five-year residency permit, maintain your investment, and reside in the country for at least seven to ten years – depending on the country – before you can apply for citizenship by naturalization.

How can you get EU citizenship?

There are some steps in place across all EU countries that need to be followed, although the process will vary from country to country.

In general, you will need to legally stay in the EU for a certain number of years, apply for citizenship in an EU country, and apply for permanent residency in an EU country.

Can I live in Europe with Australian passport?

If you have an Australian passport, you do not need a visa to enter the EU. If you stay for more than 90 days (within a 180 days period) you will need to secure a residency permit.

More on becoming an EU citizen