The 6 Ways to Get Second Citizenship
Updated: May 19
By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
Famous Istikal Avenue in Istanbul, Turkey
As we've written in the Las Vegas Sun, and elsewhere, the word’s out and nearly everybody and their sister in the United States want a second citizenship (and passport).
Motivations vary, but for Americans, they all tend to be some variation of a) a desire for "Plan B", b) plans to split time between multiple homes and/or c) the wish to work remotely for a period of time in other countries.
The bigger question of second citizenship may be the “how?” In this article, we briefly review the six ways of getting second citizenship.
Note: If you want to skip the reading, and have Malakouti Law tell you all your options, and cost, you can request a consultation immediately, here.
Broadly speaking, there are six ways to get second citizenship.
The first three categories (by residency, descent, or investment) are much more widely available. The last three (by marriage, exception, or religion) are less common but still available to millions of people.
Now, let’s get into details.
1. Naturalization After Period of Residency
Naturalization after a period of residency is typically the longest and least exciting way of obtaining second citizenship.
This is the process of first becoming a legal permanent resident of a country and then applying for citizenship after a specific period of time, typically between 3 to 6 years. Many countries, including England, Mexico, Colombia, the United States and others allow immigrants to naturalize, but this method of obtaining citizenship usually demands a considerable amount of physical presence in the country in order to qualify for naturalization.
This method of obtaining second citizenships includes so-called “golden visas” which are, in fact, residencies that can only lead to naturalization eligibility after a significant period of time ( 3-6 years in many countries, as mentioned above).
Note: there are a few countries that have no minimum statutorily defined physical presence requirement in the country in order to be eligible to naturalize. Those countries still usually require a period of residency before naturalization eligibility.
2. Citizenship by Descent
Old letters, passports, and baptismal records are the sorts of things one might use to prove a citizenship by descent case
Your family tree can lead to a life-changing second citizenship (and passport).
Several European countries have laws that extend naturalization eligibility to children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren in some cases. Some countries (such as Hungary and Croatia) even extend eligibility to descendants without generational limit.
As we’ve written before, we estimate tens of millions of Americans qualify for citizenship by descent in a European country without knowing it. The United States is such a fertile ground for citizenship by descent eligibility because the U.S. was a go-to immigration destination for millions of European immigrants in the early 20th century.
The most difficult part of obtaining citizenship by descent is being properly screened for eligibility. Screening is oftentimes a complicated analysis that factors the law of more than one country, over a lengthy period of time. The second most difficult part of citizenship by descent is obtaining all the original documents such as ship manifest records, U.S. census records, naturalization petitions, apostilled vital documents, and other official records.
Learn more about the basics of citizenship by descent here.
3. Citizenship by Investment
Counterintuitively, oftentimes making a straight donation for citizenship is often better than a restricted "investment"
Citizenship by investment is typically the fastest and easiest way to get a second citizenship…if you have the means (i.e. the skill, the money, the moolah).
In the context of citizenship by investment, “investment” is broadly defined to mean two things. First, investment in the traditional sense - outlay of capital for an asset or interest in a business. Second, a monetary donation to a country in exchange for citizenship. Around ten countries or so offer citizenship by investment. Popular programs include St. Kitts & Nevis and St. Lucia in the Caribbean, Turkey in Eurasia, Malta in Europe and Vanuatu in the South Pacific.
The hardest part about citizenship by investment (assuming you have the money) is making sure you don’t get talked into a losing “investment” by a slick-talking marketing agent.
4. Citizenship (Not Residency) by Marriage
Yes, you can marry directly into a second citizenship in a handful of countries.
Some of these countries require the spouses to have been cohabitation for a period of time before the naturalization application, while others do not.
For example, France is a country that allows spouses of French citizens to apply for naturalization after five years of marriage, even if the applicant is not resident in France. Fiji, Cape Verde, and Ghana are three other countries that offer citizenship by marriage
Note: citizenship by marriage is not to be confused with residency by marriage, which can lead to naturalization after several years. Residency by marriage is much more commonly available, in dozens of countries.
5. Citizenship by Exception
An olympic medal is the kind of accomplishment that could possibly open up citizenship by exception
In certain countries, individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to the country’s society or possess extraordinary talents in fields like science, art or business can be granted citizenship by exception.
The rules related to grant of citizenship by exception vary widely, depending on the country. However, this privilege is not widely available and typically reserved for prominent personalities.
Note: citizenship by exception is not to be confused with honorary citizenship, which often does not entitle the holder to the typical rights of citizenship such as residence in the country, right to vote and a passport.
6. Citizenship by Religion
Some countries grant citizenship based on a person's religious background.
Israel, for example, grants citizenship to people who have Jewish ancestry. Spain and Portugal have also offered naturalization eligibility to descendants of jews expelled from the iberian peninsula in the 16th century. Austria and Germany have also recently offered naturalization eligibility to some descendants of jewish victims of the holocaust.
Citizenship by religion is not commonly available, and the requirements for being eligible can be very particular.
7. Request Consultation with Malakouti Law
There are many ways to get sidetracked, losing time and money, while trying to pursue second citizenship if you don’t have the right guidance.
You can avoid that by requesting a consultation with Malakouti Law to get immediately into the details of your situation with the industry leader in global mobility and second citizenship.
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.