How to become an EU citizen

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 qualifying citizen of a European Union member state that enjoys the right to free movement, settlement, and employment across all 28 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.

What is a European citizen?

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 28 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
  • EU passport can be passed down to future generations

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 your descent or ancestry

2.Get EU citizenship through naturalization

3.Apply for a European passport through a Citizenship by Investment Program

Am I eligible for a European passport?

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.

Become an EU citizen through naturalization

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

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

How to become an EU citizenship through Citizenship by Investment

Citizenship by Investment Programs or EU residency programs are the fastest way to get European citizenship. 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. For example, Cyprus offers passports to investors in just six months, provided that you make a minimum financial contribution of €2,150,000.

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, clean air, to excellent infrastructure and job opportunities, an Austrian passport gets you far.

Another best EU citizenship to have is Portugal. Its 300 hours of sunshine per year, long stretch of Atlantic coastline, fabulous food, affordable living costs, and excellent property market prices mean having a Portuguese passport is an asset. The minimum amount required to get Portuguese citizenship is a €280K investment in a renovations project, or by buying a property worth €500K and a Portuguese passport can be yours in just five years.

How to become an EU citizen via Citizenship by Investment

Becoming an EU citizen via Citizenship by Investment is a relatively straightforward and fast process. Citizenship by Investment allows qualifying investors and their family members to get second citizenship and passports by making an investment. While the type of investment and amount varies, investors usually buy properties and get citizenship in under a year.

One of the best advantages of becoming an EU citizen via Citizenship by Investment is that you can have a passport in your hands in a year, plus your immediate family members are also eligible for passports (for an additional fee).

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.

With a Maltese passport, you can travel visa-free to more than 166 countries around the world, as well as access the right to live in Malta or anywhere else in the EU freely.

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

To be eligible for this program, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Be over 18 years old
  • Have a good character
  • Make a combined investment of at least €690,000 in funds, donation and real estate
  • Have a genuine connection to the country (Proof of periods of physical residence)

As one of the most popular Citizenship by Investment Programs in Europe, the European 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 a year or three from the date of the initial residency 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 Citizenship by Investment Program offers passports to qualifying investors. Applicants must invest at least €2.2 million into the country and in turn receive Cypriot citizenship 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 be eligible for this program, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Donate at minimum €2.2 million with various investment options to pick from (From this amount, you must buy property at least worth €500K)
  • Must declare residency for at least six months in the country (don’t have to reside in Cyprus, just declare yourself as a resident)
  • Pass a detailed due diligence check

A Cypriot passport is extremely valuable to possess as it allows visa-free travel to over 160 countries.  Through the citizenship program, you and your immediate family members can obtain citizenship in under a year and live in 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.

Take a look at our Cyprus Citizenship Ultimate Guide by local experts

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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. Both Malta and Cyprus offer this option under their 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 these last few years, offering investors an excellent opportunity to make some money from their investments. Meanwhile, property prices in Cyprus have gone down, with a three-bedroom visa costing around €500K. The best part about owning your own property is that you can set up a second home in an exotic European nation, and gain 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. For an investment in the country like a €500K 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 get a Portuguese passport after holding your investment for five years. 

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

Buy property to get a Spain EU passport

Like with the Portugal Golden Visa, it is possible to get a Spain EU passport if you buy a property worth €500K. However, the Spain Golden Visa doesn’t directly grant you a Spanish passport. Investors can get permanent residency in five years, on the condition 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.

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

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

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 EU citizen?

The meaning of an EU citizen is an individual who is considered part of the European Union member states. As an EU citizen, you have the right to live, work, or study anywhere in the European Union, provided that you report your presence after three months in the country.

What are the benefits of being an EU citizen?

There are many benefits of being an EU citizen. You have increased global mobility, the right to live or work anywhere in the European Union, and are afforded consular protection and legal protection by many EU treaties.

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. Both Malta and Cyprus offer excellent investment opportunities for international families looking to get EU citizenship in a year.

How to get a European passport as an American?

How to get 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 were to opt-in for a residency by investment solution.

Am I eligible for a European passport?

You are eligible for a European passport if you have a family member who is part of an EU country or if you marry an EU citizen. You are also eligible for a European passport if you reside in a country for a certain number of years, or through a citizenship by investment initiative.

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 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: Either 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.

More on becoming an EU citizen