8 European Citizenships by Descent You May Qualify For [Updated for 2023]
Updated: Apr 19
By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
Your parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents may have given you a gift of dual citizenship…even if you don't know it.
Citizenship in a European Union is coveted worldwide
“You can’t have your tuchus in two saddles at once”, but fortunately, in 2023 you can have citizenship in two countries at once.
Americans have taken notice and are many seeking dual citizenship citizenship aggressively. At Malakouti Law, we help many Americans pursue European citizenship by descent.
Here are 8 European citizenships you may qualify for through ancestry, and be able to attain with the right guidance. All 8 of these countries are members of the European Union (“EU”), giving their citizens freedom of movement and residency inside the European Union. Also, none of these 8 countries require you to renounce your current citizenship.
Beautiful Irish countryside cottage
The emerald isle has had an enormous impact on American culture.
That’s because over thirty million Americans (including this author) identify as being of at least partial Irish descent. Luckily for them, old grandpappy’s Irish citizenship could be a path to a coveted Irish citizenship. This author believes Irish citizenship is the most valuable citizenship in Europe for freedom of movement because Ireland is the only country that’s member of both the European Union (“EU”) and the Common Travel Area (“CTA”). This gives Irish citizens the right of residency in England, Wales, Scotland, as well as France, Spain or any other EU country.
Who qualifies? Ireland offers citizenship by descent to children and grandchildren of people born on the island of Ireland. These first and second generation descendants can qualify for Irish citizenship through the Foreign Births Registry.
Colorful village Vernazza in Cinque Terre, Italy
As a highly touted tourist destination, Italy needs no introduction.
There are also a lot of Italian descendants in the United States - to the tune of an estimated 17-18 million people. Fortunately, many Italian-Americans with an interest in their old-country do have a path to a very valuable citizenship.
Italy, an EU country, has jus sanguinis (“right of blood”) citizenship by descent without generational limit. This means if your great-grandparent was born in Italy then your grandparent, your parent, and ultimately you may have a claim to Italian citizenship by descent. One important point of disqualification is that your qualifying Italian ancestor must not have naturalized in the United States before the next generation in your ancestral line was born. Secondly, some different application protocols may apply if your line of ancestry to an Italian relative includes a female ancestor.
Mariacka Street in Gdansk, Poland
An estimated 7+ million Americans may qualify for Polish citizenship by descent.
Generally, an applicant must have a direct ancestor who was Polish and did not leave territory of Poland before 1919. The ancestor also must not have emigrated to the Soviet Union. As always with citizenship by descent cases, getting the relevant documents is of paramount importance. This means passports, official birth records, ship manifest records, census records and naturalization petitions.
Ancient Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, Hungary
For such a small country of only 10 million, Hungary has a lot of descendants that live in the United States.
If you have ancestors from the former Austro-Hungarian empire, which includes modern day Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, and Slovenia), you may qualify for citizenship in Hungary. Here’s a litmus test - if your grandmother used to cook goulash or chicken paprikash, you may want to look into your eligibility for Hungarian citizenship by descent.
Hungary has two paths to citizenship by descent. First, with Hungarian verification of citizenship, you apply to be recognized as a Hungarian citizen by showing all your direct ancestors were Hungarian citizens, and so you were also born a Hungarian citizen.
Second, with Hungarian simplified naturalization, you qualify for Hungarian citizenship by showing you had one direct ancestor who was Hungarian and you can speak Hungarian at least conversationally. Time to bust out the flashcards and audio lessons.
Learn more here.
Majestic Orava Castle in Oravský Podzámok, Slovakia
If castles, mountains and central European culture make you pump your fist and say “yes!” then Slovakia may be for you.
Just last year, in 2022, Slovakia passed a sweeping new citizenship by descent law - one which this author had a hand in helping nudge along. The upshot of the new law is that you may qualify for Slovak citizenship by descent if you had:
A parent, grandparent or great-grandparent (the qualifying ancestor);
Born in the territory of modern day Slovakia;
And your qualifying ancestor was a citizen of Slovakia or Czechoslovakia.
As always with citizenship by descent matters, there are a number of other caveats.
Learn more here.
Pristine Brela beach, Dalmatia, Croatia
If beaches, stunning views and boating are your thing, Croatia’s probably also your thing.
Home to some of the most picturesque shots for the ‘gram, Croatia’s mainland has over 1,100 miles of coastline. Croatia’s many islands add another 2,500+ miles of coastline. Croatia article 11 of its citizenship act includes a path for citizenship by descent to people who have a direct ancestor who was Croatian and born in modern day Croatia, without generational limit. If the ancestor moved from the territory of modern day Croatia to another country that was part of the former Yugoslavia (such as Bosnia or Serbia), the applicant may have to apply as a member of the “Croatian nation” under article 16.
As usual, documentary evidence is the name of the game for a successful application.
Austria (Restoration of Citizenship for Descendants of Holocaust Victims)
Historic Salzburg, Austria
The architecture and cultural refinement of Vienna belies Austria’s dark history just a few generations ago - its role in the rise of nazism and the holocaust.
In 2020, Austria finally created a formal path to citizenship for descendants of Austrian citizens killed in the holocaust. Descendants of those who were killed in the holocaust or fled the country to escape nazi oppression are able to apply for Austrian citizenship by declaration. In May, 2022 the qualifying criteria was extended to descendants of residents in Austria who were victimized by the nazi party, providing the ancestor was a citizen of a country from former Austro-Hungarian empire (i.e. Czechia, Hungary, Slovakia, etc.)
Austria, a country that is normally stingy about permitting dual citizenship, fortunately does allow naturalizing citizens to keep their original citizenship. If you have a relative who died in Austria during the holocaust or fled, you may want to get yourself screened for Austrian citizenship.
Colorful Freedom Square, Brno, Czech Republic
If you have central European blood in your ancestry, you may be able to enjoy stunning Prague, not as a tourist but as a citizen.
That’s because, since 2019, Czechia offers a path to citizenship for children and grandchildren of former Czechoslovak citizens. One important caveat - your Czech ancestor must have had right of residence in the “Czech-side” of Czechoslovakia. As a practical matter, this means most of the qualifying ancestors will have been Czechs, and not Slovaks.
Note: if you have a Czechoslovak ancestor who was born on the Slovak side, you may qualify for the new Slovak citizenship by descent law, mentioned above.
If you have a Czech grandparent or even grandparent, you may want to start digging in the family records and/or contact us at Malakouti Law to be screened.
Become a Client of Malakouti Law
If you’re interested in investigating citizenship by descent, the first step is to be screened for eligibility. Proper, thorough screening is a process that’s chronically underestimated.
Click here to book a consultation to be screened for citizenship by descent and possibly become a client of Malakouti Law.
How Easy is it to Get Citizenship by Descent?
Pursuing second citizenship by descent can be simultaneously more difficult yet more possible than many people think. This is because many people qualify for ancestral citizenship that don’t know it, but oftentimes they must jump over many hurdles to be approved.
What hurdles? First, being properly screened for eligibility. Screening, especially when dealing with three or more generations, is the most skill-intensive element of getting citizenship by descent.
Second, obtaining certified birth, marriage, naturalization, and immigration records, sometimes of ancestors that were born over 100 years ago in a foreign country.
In our experience, the proper screening and gathering of all necessary documents from different states, and countries tend to be the most challenging aspects of citizenship by descent. But, when there’s the possibility of a life changing European Union citizenship at the end of the process, the difficulty is with it.
Each immigration and citizenship case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps. The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Attorney marketing.