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Easiest Countries to Get Citizenship in 2024

Becoming a citizen of another country can be a complex and lengthy process. However, some countries offer easier paths to citizenship than others. This guide examines the easiest countries to obtain citizenship through the main routes – investment, descent, marriage, and naturalization.

Types of Citizenship Acquisition

There are several ways that foreigners can acquire citizenship in another country:

Citizenship by Investment: Also known as citizenship by contribution, this involves making a substantial financial investment in a country in exchange for citizenship rights. Popular programs are offered by Caribbean nations and European countries such as Malta and Cyprus.

Citizenship by descent: You may be eligible for citizenship in a country where you have ancestral ties, such as a parent or grandparent. Countries such as Italy, Ireland, and Poland have citizenship by descent programs.

Citizenship by marriage: Marriage to a citizen of a country may qualify you for an expedited naturalization process in some countries, after meeting other criteria.

Citizenship by naturalization: This involves meeting a country’s eligibility requirements for permanent residents to become naturalized citizens, usually including factors such as minimum residency periods.

For those who wish to obtain a second citizenship quickly, investment and descent programs offer the fastest routes. Naturalization involves the longest waiting period, while marriage can provide an expedited path in some countries.

Benefits of Second Citizenship

There are several potential benefits to having citizenship and a passport from another country:

  • Global mobility – A second passport gives you more freedom to travel and visa-free access to more destinations.
  • Tax benefits – Some countries have favorable tax laws for residents and citizens. You may be able to legally reduce your tax liability.
  • Business Opportunities – Doing business and owning assets can be easier with a second citizenship.
  • Security and stability – In times of turmoil, a second citizenship provides an insurance policy and an alternate place to live.
  • Retirement Options – You can choose to retire in a country where your citizenship gives you residency rights and access to health care.
  • Passing it on – In many cases, citizenship can be passed on to future generations.

The easiest countries for citizenship by investment

For high net worth individuals, citizenship by investment programs offer the fastest route to a second passport. Here are some of the easiest countries to obtain citizenship by investment:

Saint Lucia – From $100,000 donation
  • Minimum investment of $100,000 one-time donation to the National Economic Fund
  • 3 month processing time
  • Visa-free access to 146 destinations
St. Kitts & Nevis – Minimum contribution of $150,000
  • Minimum contribution of $150,000 to the Sustainable Growth Fund
  • 60-day processing available under expedited application process
  • Visa-free travel to 156 countries
Antigua & Barbuda – Minimum donation of $100,000
  • Contribution of $100,000 to the National Development Fund
  • Citizenship in 3-4 months
  • Visa-free travel to approximately 150 countries
Dominica – From $100,000 contribution
  • Contribution of $100,000 to the Economic Diversification Fund
  • 3-4 month processing time
  • Visa-free travel to over 140 countries
Grenada – From $150,000 contribution
  • Minimum $150,000 contribution to the National Transformation Fund
  • Citizenship possible within 3 months
  • Visa-free travel to over 140 destinations
Malta – From €700,000
  • Variety of investment options including €700,000 real estate purchase
  • 12-14 months processing time
  • Citizenship in an EU country
Cyprus – From €2 million
  • Minimum investment of €2 million in real estate or companies
  • 6 months processing time
  • Citizenship in a Mediterranean Island Country

European programs offer citizenship in top economic regions, but require larger investments of at least $700,000. To understand the EU’s regulations on these investment programs, refer to the European Commission’s overview of Investor Citizenship and Residence Schemes.

Easiest countries for citizenship by descent

Citizenship by descent allows you to apply for citizenship in the country where your ancestors came from. The requirements vary from country to country. Some of the easiest countries for citizenship by descent programs include

For Italy

  • Must have proof of Italian heritage through birth records showing lineage.
  • At least one ancestor must have been an Italian citizen at the time of the child’s birth outside of Italy.
  • Lineage must be unbroken – no ancestor must have renounced citizenship before the birth of their child.

For Ireland

Lineage must be unbroken – no ancestor must have renounced citizenship before the birth of their child.

  • Must have a grandparent or parent born in Ireland.
  • Will need their original birth and marriage certificates to prove lineage.
  • Registration process takes approximately 6 months.
    For Poland
  • Must have a Polish parent or grandparent who lived in Poland after 1920.
  • Requires proof of Polish ancestry such as birth and marriage certificates.
  • Processing time 1-6 months.

For Hungary

  • Simplified naturalization if you have ancestors who were Hungarian citizens.
  • Must present Hungarian documents to prove ancestry.
  • Must pass basic Hungarian language test.

For Greece

  • Greek ancestry required through a parent or grandparent born in Greece.
  • Must provide birth certificates and documentation proving ancestry.
  • Process may take 1-2 years.

For Germany

  • German citizenship possible if you have a German parent or grandparent.
  • German language skills required.
  • Processing time 6-12 months.

The time frame for acquiring citizenship by descent ranges from a few months to 2 years in some cases. The main requirements are proving your ancestry with documentation and passing language tests in some countries.

Easiest Countries for Naturalization and Permanent Residency

For those without ancestry or investment capital, naturalization may be the only path to citizenship in another country. This requires living as a permanent resident for a certain period of time – usually 2 to 10 years.

Some of the countries with the shortest residency requirements for naturalization include:

  • Argentina – 2 years residency required
  • Peru – 2 years residency
  • Mexico – 2-3 years residency
  • Paraguay – 3 years residency
  • Chile – 5 years residency
  • Dominican Republic – 5 years residency
  • Belgium – 5 years residency
  • Spain – 10 years residency
  • New Zealand – 5 years of residency

The naturalization process also depends on factors such as your employment status, civic integration, language proficiency, and criminal record, if any.

Many countries also offer permanent residency visas for those who wish to live long-term without becoming citizens. Some of the easiest countries to become a permanent resident include

  • Panama – Several fast-track options are available, including a Friendly Nations Visa for citizens of over 50 countries.
  • Mexico – The Temporary Resident Visa can be converted to a Permanent Resident Visa after a period of 4 years.
  • Portugal – The D7 visa leads to permanent residency in 5 years.
  • Spain – Non-lucrative resident visa can become permanent after 5 years.
  • Uruguay – Rentista visa requires only passive income of $1500 per month and leads to permanent status.
  • Colombia – Retirement visa available to those over the age of 55. Permanent status granted after 5 years.
  • Malaysia – The Malaysia My Second Home program grants 10 year visas to foreigners. Renewable indefinitely.
  • Ecuador – Visas available for retirees, investors and professionals. Can apply for permanent residency after 3 years.

Most of these countries require proof of continuous income for a number of years and have minimum stay requirements to obtain permanent status.

Quickest and cheapest ways to get a second passport

For a quick and affordable second passport, the Caribbean islands offer the fastest options with the lowest investment requirements, starting at $100,000 in St. Lucia and Dominica:

  • St. Lucia – From $100,000 donation and 3 months processing.
  • Dominica – From $100,000 donation and 3-4 months processing.
  • St. Kitts & Nevis – From $150,000 donation and 2-3 months processing. Expedited processing is available.
  • Antigua & Barbuda – From $100,000 donation and 3-4 months processing.
  • Grenada – From $150,000 donation and 3-4 months processing.

In Europe, Montenegro offers the fastest access to an EU passport in as little as 3-6 months with a €350,000 investment in development projects in underdeveloped areas.

For citizenship by descent, Italy has one of the simpler and faster processes, with the possibility of obtaining citizenship within 1-3 years in some cases.

Vanuatu offers the fastest citizenship timeline in the world, providing citizenship in just 1-2 months with a $130,000 donation to the government fund. However, the Vanuatu passport only provides visa-free access to about 120 countries.

The cheapest options for citizenship start at $100,000 for Caribbean CBI programs. Alternatives such as residency by investment in Portugal can cost as little as €250,000. But naturalization involves the longest waiting period, typically 5-10 years of residency.

Second citizenship opportunities through income visas

Some countries offer long-term residency or “passive income” visas to those who can demonstrate a regular monthly income above a certain threshold. While not as fast as CBI programs, these provide a pathway to second residency and potentially second citizenship through naturalization.

For Portugal

  • The D7 visa requires a stable foreign income of just €750 per month.
  • Gain temporary residency and potentially permanent residency after 5 years.
  • Leads to eligibility for citizenship after a total of 6 years.

For Spain

  • Non-lucrative visa requires a minimum income of €2,130 per month.
  • Provides an initial 1-year visa, renewable to 5 years for permanent residency.
  • 10 years total residency leads to eligibility for Spanish citizenship.

For Italy

  • Elective residency visa requires income of €31,000+ per year.
  • Gives eligibility for permanent residency after 5 years.
  • 10 years total residence leads to eligibility for an Italian passport.

For Greece

  • The Greece Golden Visa requires an income of €2,500+ per month.
  • May become a permanent resident after 7 years.
  • Greek citizenship possible after 7 years of permanent residence.

Requirements vary, but generally include proof of regular income for a year or more, commitment to minimum residency periods, background checks, and medical exams.

Easiest European Countries to Naturalize

For those seeking naturalization in Europe, some countries offer easier and faster paths than others:

  • Portugal – 6 years residency required, relaxed language requirements.
  • Spain – 10 years residency, but can be as little as 2 years for Spanish speakers.
  • Ireland – 5 years residency, plus 1 continuous year prior to application.
  • Belgium – 5 years residency with work or investor permit. Language test required.
  • Greece – 7 years continuous residence. Moderate Greek language proficiency required.
  • Germany – 8 years of residency, but only 6 years for spouses of German citizens. Strong language skills required.
  • France – 5 years on skills and talent visa. Must integrate into French culture.
  • Luxembourg – 5 years residency. Language and integration criteria.
  • Switzerland – 10 years residency. Strong local language skills required.

Naturalization timelines range from 5-10 years for most of Europe. Language skills and cultural integration are also required in many cases before citizenship can be granted.

Is citizenship by marriage an option?

Marriage to a citizen of a country may in some cases provide a shortcut to naturalization. However, the process still takes 1-5 years depending on the country. Some options include

  • USA – 3 year process after marriage to a citizen and proof of true relationship.
  • UK – Can apply after 3 years of marriage and residency. English and cultural tests required.
  • Germany – May apply after 2 years of marriage instead of the standard 8 years. Language skills required.
  • Spain – Apply after 1 year of marriage instead of standard 10 years of residency.
  • Greece – Process takes only 3 years after marriage versus standard 7 years.
  • France – Spouses are eligible after 4 years instead of standard 5 year residency. Integration criteria apply.

For EU countries, being married to an EU citizen will exempt you from some of the naturalization requirements. Marriage may expedite the process, but does not grant immediate citizenship rights in most countries.

Which countries allow dual citizenship?

Most of the countries that offer citizenship by investment programs or easy naturalization allow dual citizenship, including Malta, Dominica, St. Lucia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Spain, and others. For a detailed understanding of dual citizenship, especially from a U.S. perspective, the U.S. Department of State’s guidelines on Dual Nationality are an essential read.

Some countries restrict dual citizenship, such as

  • China – Dual citizenship is limited and strictly controlled. It is difficult to obtain a second citizenship while retaining Chinese citizenship.
  • India – Indian citizens who acquire another nationality may lose their Indian citizenship. Overseas citizenship option available, but with restrictions.
  • Japan – Japanese citizens cannot hold dual citizenship by law, but dual citizens are not penalized if the second citizenship is acquired by birth.
  • Netherlands – Dutch citizens can lose their Dutch nationality if they acquire another nationality by application. Some exceptions apply.

Check the laws regarding dual citizenship before acquiring a second citizenship from these countries. Acquiring a second citizenship could jeopardize your rights as a citizen of countries such as China or India.

Which passports offer the most travel freedom?

The global mobility a passport provides is primarily based on how many countries you can visit without a visa:

  • Japan, Singapore – Offer visa-free / visa-on-arrival access to 192 countries.
  • Germany, South Korea – 190 visa-free countries.
  • Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain – 189 visa-free countries.
  • Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden – 188 visa-free options.
  • France, Ireland, Portugal, UK, USA – 187 visa-free countries.
  • Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland – 186 visa-free countries.
  • Australia, Canada, Greece, Malta – 185 countries.
    Caribbean countries offer less travel freedom – Jamaica with 79, St. Kitts & Nevis with 156, Antigua & Barbuda with 151 visa-free countries.

The European Union passport generally offers the most visa-free travel access in the world. However, EU citizenship requires an investment of at least €700,000 for fast-track options such as Malta.

Tips for Choosing Your Second Citizenship

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Here are some considerations when choosing a country for alternate citizenship:

  • Look for fast processing times – The Caribbean averages 3-6 months for citizenship by investment.
  • Evaluate access to visa-free travel – Compare the global mobility a passport provides. EU passports offer broad access.
  • Evaluate Taxes – Some countries do not tax worldwide income or have low tax rates for residents.
  • Evaluate Business Freedom – Choose jurisdictions that make it easier to operate businesses, own property, and hold assets.
  • Consider asset security – Choose jurisdictions with strong legal systems to protect assets. Avoid political volatility.
  • Consider Healthcare – Look for countries with modern healthcare systems and affordable universal coverage.
  • Consider Quality of Life – Factors such as low crime, environmental quality, infrastructure and recreational opportunities.
  • Compare Residency Requirements – Some CBI programs have minimum residency requirements to maintain citizenship status.
  • Check Family Rights – The ability to pass citizenship to spouses and children is desirable.

Obtaining a second citizenship takes time, effort, and often money. But the benefits can be worth it for many who want alternative living options, security for the future, and greater freedom to do business and travel.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the fastest and cheapest countries for citizenship by investment?

The Caribbean countries generally have the fastest citizenship by investment programs, with processing times ranging from 2 to 6 months in countries such as Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada and St. Kitts & Nevis. Investment amounts start at around $100,000 in some Caribbean countries, making them the cheapest and fastest options.

Which are the easiest European countries to become a citizen?

Which are the easiest European countries to become a citizen?
Among European nations, Malta and Cyprus have some of the easiest citizenship by investment programs. In Malta, an investment of €700,000 can get you citizenship in 12-14 months. Cyprus offers citizenship in 6 months for a minimum real estate investment of €2 million. Montenegro offers citizenship in 3-6 months with an investment of €350,000.

Which countries offer the easiest naturalization and permanent residency?

Argentina and Peru offer citizenship in as little as 2 years of residency. Mexico requires 2-3 years, Chile 5 years. For permanent residency, Panama, Uruguay, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and Malaysia have accessible options with renewable visas.

Which countries are easiest to obtain dual citizenship?

Most countries that allow citizenship by investment or easy naturalization allow dual citizenship. This includes Caribbean countries, EU countries such as Malta and Portugal, and Latin American countries. However, China, India, Japan and others restrict dual citizenship.

What are the easiest European countries for citizenship by descent?

Italy and Poland have some of the easiest citizenship by descent in Europe. Ireland, Hungary, Greece, Germany, and other EU countries also allow citizenship by descent.

Which country has the shortest naturalization process?

Peru and Argentina allow citizenship after only 2 years of residency. St. Kitts & Nevis offers expedited citizenship in 2-3 months with an investment of $150,000. For a $130,000 donation, Vanuatu offers citizenship in as little as 1-2 months.

What are the income visa options?

Countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece offer long-term visas to those who can prove foreign income above a certain monthly or annual threshold. These provide a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

Does marriage provide an easier path to citizenship?

Marriage to a citizen may facilitate and expedite naturalization in some countries. But the process still typically requires 1-3 years of post-marriage residency before citizenship eligibility.

Which passports offer the most freedom to travel?

Passports from countries such as Germany, Finland, Spain, Sweden and others allow visa-free entry to over 188 countries worldwide.

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