Why do you want EU citizenship?
Before we look at how to get EU citizenship, let’s firstly look at why would anyone want an EU passport?
1. EU Citizenship means Visa-Free Travel
For my mother to visit us in Spain on her South African passport she needs a visa. To get the visa she must fly to Cape Town, pay over R1,000. Additionally, she has to produce a seemingly endless pile of letters, insurances, invitations, bank account documents, and stamps in a process that takes weeks. My mother-in-law, with her British passport, just hops on the plane and here she is. EU passports are amongst the most powerful passports in the world when it comes to visa-free travel. Just one of the awesome benefits of EU citizenship. For instance, Germany allows your visa-free travel to 157 countries worldwide, the highest in the world!
2. Education and business opportunities
EU citizenship and an EU passport allows you to freely live, study, and work across the EU According to the QS World University rankings, a third of the top-ranking universities in the world are located in the EU. importantly, EU Citizenship and an EU passport open access to all these universities plus numerous other colleges and schools for you and your children.
3. Financial Opportunities
EU Citizenship and an EU passport the opportunities to live under a tax regime that suits your situation. Additionally, EU regulations offer a layer of privacy regarding taxation that is not available in many parts of the world.
4. Social Security and Civic rights
Access to world-class health care, unemployment programs, pensions and the like, for you and your family, are all benefits to which you would be entitled with EU citizenship. Voting, the right to stand for public office and other civic rights also come with EU citizenship.
5. Consular Assistance
You have access to a range of options in a “worst-case” scenario. It should be noted that EU Citizenship and an EU passport will allow you and your family unrestricted travel, safe passage, consular assistance and much more if there is a situation beyond your control in your country of residence or business.
6. EU Citizenship is a gift to pass onto your children
EU citizenship is something you can often pass onto your children and sometimes your grandchildren, opening a world of opportunities to them.
How can you get EU Citizenship, and what are the fastest ways to an EU Passport?
1. How to get EU Citizenship through your family
Most of Europe follows the rule of Jus Sanguinis. This is the inheritance of a countries’ citizenship from one, or more, of your parents. Undoubtedly, Most people know about this rule. Nevertheless, did you realise that in some countries you can inherit citizenship from your family in other ways? Here are some that you may not know about:
- Ancestry beyond one generation. In Italy, Ireland, Poland, Greece, Hungary and Lithuania you may be eligible for EU citizenship from grandparents, great-grandparents, and even much further back than that in some cases. Check out your family tree using a tool like ancestry.com and then check our individual country pages for details.
- People of Jewish heritage impacted by the Sephardic diaspora. Portugal has an excellent program offering accelerated Portuguese citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews exiled in the 1400s.
- People with ancestors (predominantly Jewish, but also Romany, communists, LBGTI and others) displaced in World War 2. Several European countries offer EU citizenship to ancestors of people who lost their citizenship fleeing persecution, including Germany, Poland, Austria, and Hungary.
2. How to get EU Citizenship through Marriage/ Civil Partnership
This path has some obvious drawbacks if you are not already in a long term, committed relationship with an EU citizen! Seriously, most EU countries recognise the rights of a spouse. Importantly, there are often a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to clear before being granted EU citizenship. Indeed, we strongly recommend using a qualified, trusted immigration lawyer to ensure the smooth passage of any application.
3. How to get EU Citizenship through a Citizenship by Investment (CBI) scheme
Citizenship by Investment (CBI) has become a recognised way for countries attracting inward investment to grow their economies. For most people who have the means, there are two realistic options in Europe. First, Cyprus and second, Malta. The third option is Austria, but the visa is very seldom granted. We’ll explore all three in a bit more depth here. Please note, there are excellent Residency by Investment programs in many countries (including Spain and Portugal). These can be pathways to EU citizenship.
However, you have to serve a residency term before being eligible for citizenship. See our blog for more details. 14 ways to get EU Residency that you might not know about
CYPRUS CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT
The Mediterranean island nation, officially the Republic of Cyprus, has been a member of the European Union since 2004. Its economy, based primarily on tourism, shipping and financial services has rebounded from the 2008 crisis. In addition, it should be noted that it is one of the fastest-growing economies in the Eurozone. Growth across most sectors is projected to continue in the 2020s. A Cypriot passport offers access to the European Union, free travel within the Schengen area and visa-free, or visa on arrival access, to 159 countries as at January 2018.
Any non-EU citizen may apply for Cypriot citizenship through Naturalization by Exception if they meet the requirements of the program. The key areas of which are:
- A €2 million investment into one of the following:
- Real estate, developments and infrastructure projects.
- The purchase, creation or participation in Cyprus based businesses and companies.
- Investment in Alternative Investment Funds or Cyprus based organizations licensed by the Cypriot Securities and Exchange Commission.
- Combination of the above investments, including a maximum of special government bonds of the Republic of Cyprus of €500,000.
- A minimum of €500,000 invested in the applicant’s primary residence. This can form a part of the above €2 million investment under certain circumstances.
- Police clearance from the applicant’s current country of residence.
One of the key benefits of this program is the possibility of a rapid turnaround. In fact, applications correctly submitted are being approved and EU citizenship granted in around 6 months. Clearly, utilising a skilled immigration partner will ensure that these timelines are met. Importantly, there are no residency requirements during or after the application process.
Contact us for more information on the Cyprus Citizenship by Investment Program and access to EU citizenship.
MALTA CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT
This archipelago nation is home to 450,000 people and has been a hub of commerce and trade for centuries. Independent since 1964 and a Eurozone member since 2008, Malta is once of 32 advanced economies recognised by the IMF. The economy has performed well in recent years. To illustrate, GDP grew strongly in 2017 and continuing to surprise on the upside, reaching 7.2%. Real estate continues to show strong and consistent growth across the sector. The low tax rates and the lack of inheritance, death, net worth, high wealth, rates or real estate taxes make living and investing in Malta an attractive proposition.
A Maltese passport gives visa-free access to 156 countries and access to others, including the USA and Australia through Electronic Travel Authority.
Malta’s Individual Investor Programme (IIP) offers full EU citizenship after 12 months once an applicant in good standing has met the conditions of the program.
- A contribution/donation of €650,000 to the National Development and Social Fund for the main applicant, an additional €25,000 for your spouse and each dependent child under 18, and an additional €50,000 for dependent children 18 – 26 years old or dependent parents.
- Purchasing a property for a minimum of €350,000 or leasing a property for a minimum of 5 years with a minimum annual rent of €16,000.
- An investment of €150,000 in government-approved instruments which is held for not less than 5 years.
- A clean criminal record and passing a “fit and proper” test.
The program is efficient and well administered, with processing times of 3 – 4 months. Critically, your chances of a positive outcome are greatly enhanced by working with an experienced immigration professional.
Contact us for a confidential consultation on Malta’s Individual Investor Programme and accessing EU citizenship.
AUSTRIA CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT
This landlocked Central European nation of 8.8 million citizens offers one of the most powerful passports in the world with its EU citizenship. Apart from this, Austria’s economy is also one of the strongest in the world. It is driven by a large industrial base, high levels of global tourism and a robust services sector. Growth in 2017 was twice that of 2016, and the OECD forecast is for the economy to continue to be buoyant through 2019, 2020 and beyond.
Austria is a stable social democracy, with low crime rates, high levels of social inclusion and strong civic institutions.
The Austrian Citizenship by Investment program in an amendment to the Austrian Citizenship act. It is administered through the “person of extraordinary merit” clause. This means there is no fixed criterion for the award of this visa. Critically, the determination is by the government of the day. Consensus on what would work seems to be that, at a minimum, the applicant should:
- Directly invest a minimum of €2 million in a business or enterprise in Austria that will add significant value to the Austrian economy (for example through offering an innovative product or service), create significant jobs in Austria, or create significant export sales.
- The applicant must be of good standing in the eyes of the authorities.
- The applicant must have links to Austria.
The application process is rigorous and involves various levels of government and can take as long as 3 years. While no official statistics are available on the number of these visas granted, anecdotally it is a very small number. Given the complexity of the program, again, working with an effective, experienced partner is critical for success with this visa and its associated EU citizenship.
THAT IS EU CITIZENSHIP, BUT WHAT ABOUT EU RESIDENCY?
The three paths of ancestry, marriage and investment are the quickest ways of gaining EU citizenship and a passport to a European Union country.
If you have more time and are mobile, gaining residency then serving a qualifying period may be a better option. If you want more information about some of the best residency programs in the EU, check out our 14 ways to European Union Residency.
Also see how to Live in the UK on the Tier 1 Investor Visa
AND IF YOU WANT THE EASIEST CITIZENSHIPS IN THE WORLD?
See our blog Where is the easiest country to get citizenship?