The world is unstable right now. We understand. Making sure that you have options open to you and your family makes perfect sense, and is a smart move. Indeed, a second passport is an excellent way to future-proof your life. It does make sense to look at the easiest countries to get citizenship as a starting point. So, here they are, including those nationalities you can get today without having to even get on an airplane! Just remember though, the easiest country for you to get citizenship may be difficult for someone else.
We’ll also look at the most accessible countries for US citizens, and which are the easiest countries for European (EU) citizenship and passport.
Types of Citizenship
There are four main pathways to citizenship. Each country has its own mix of these options with specific requirements. In the sections below we’ll explore your easiest country for each.
- Citizenship by Birth Place. This is the nationality of the country in which you are born.
- Citizenship by Descent. You can inherit nationality. Most commonly, this is from your parents, but it can be from ancestors hundreds of years ago.
- Citizenship by Naturalization. If you live in a country for a time, you can be accepted as a citizen. This includes Citizenship by Marriage, as there is often a fast-track to taking your spouse’s nationality.
- Citizenship by Investment. Countries can grant nationality to people who contribute to their economies by investment or donation.
Easy countries for Citizenship by Birth Place
Jus Soli (or the law of the soil) gives anyone born in the country the right to citizenship. This is also sometimes called “birthright” citizenship. This law is most common in the Americas, with no European country offering unrestricted jus soli nationality.
To claim this, all you need is to have been born in a country that uses this pathway. It doesn’t matter why your parents were there, or what their immigration status was. Children of diplomats or occupying forces are the only people not eligible.
Some notable examples of easy jus soli nationality countries include:
- St Kitts and Nevis
- The United States of America (USA)
For a full list of countries that offer unrestricted jus soli, please see Appendix 1.
Easy countries for Citizenship by Descent
Your bloodline is crucial to many countries. Jus sanguinis is “the right of blood”, and you can reach right back into history with this rule.
Here are some of the easiest countries to get citizenship by descent.
Ireland lets you go back up to three generations. So, if you have a great-grand-parent of either gender, you could get Irish nationality. This generous provision means there are now twice as many Irish citizens abroad as in Ireland. While the joke that a sip of Guinness qualifies is not true, many still can become Irish through ancestry.
- You can get citizenship if your grandparent was born in Ireland. This entitlement is not affected by when or where you were born.
- You can also get citizenship through a great-grandparent. You and your parent must be registered on the Foreign Births Registry. This entitlement is also not affected by where you were born. To become an Irish citizen from your great-grandparent, your parent, who is of Irish descent, must have registered in the Irish Foreign Births Register between the years 1956 and 1986, or if you were born after 1986 they need to have registered before you were born.
As a European Union country, Ireland can be an easy way to get EU citizenship for those lucky enough.
Italy has a welcoming view of citizenship through descent. If you have some Italian heritage, you may well be eligible for citizenship.
On March 17th, 1861, Italy took the first steps towards becoming the country we know today. For citizenship, you need to have an ancestor who was an Italian citizen at that time or born in Italy after then.
There is a restriction as the lineage must be unbroken. So, no ancestor can’t revoke their Italian nationality or become a citizen of another country before their next in line was born.
To illustrate, here are two scenarios.
- Your Italian ancestor moved to Argentina in 1890. While still an Italian citizen, they had a child that took Argentinian nationality. You are descended from the child born in Argentina. In this case, you can apply for Italian citizenship.
- The same scenario, but the ancestor who immigrated took Argentinian nationality and revoked their Italian citizenship when they arrived. They then had their child. In this case, you would not be eligible.
There are exceptions and additional rules, but if you meet those two requirements, then Italy may be an easy EU citizenship for you. We’re writing a detailed guide to Italian citizenship and passport.
Poland has a similar rule to Italy, but their citizenship by descent rule goes back to 1920, just after independence in 1918. So, you’ll need an ancestor who was born in Poland after 1900 (so they were still a minor when the law was passed.)
Your claim is based on any ancestor having lived in Poland as a Polish citizen after that time. You can claim citizenship if you have an ancestor who meets those criteria.
Poland only recognizes you if your Polish nationality was passed on unbroken. So, suppose any of your ancestors revoked their Polish citizenship before the birth of the next generation. In that case, you will not be eligible.
A new Hungarian nationality law was passed in 2011. If you have family that meet the requirements, you may be eligible for citizenship.
The law covers descendants of anyone who was a Hungarian citizen before 1920 or between 1941 and 1945. This includes areas that used to be part of Hungary but are now parts of neighbouring countries such as Slovakia and Romania.
And, there is no restriction on how far back you can go. As long as you can show an unbroken, qualifying link, you may be eligible.
There is a requirement to speak basic Hungarian before you apply.
Other countries that offer some form of ancestry program
Here are some other countries that offer citizenship by descent programs that go beyond your parents.
- United Kingdom
Descendants of those persecuted
Several European countries offer citizenship to descendants of victims of state persecution. Examples of this include:
Portugal Sephardic Jewish citizenship
If you can show you are a descended from the Sephardic Jewish community, you may be eligible for Portuguese citizenship. This community was persecuted and expelled from the Iberian peninsula around 1492.
German and Austrian citizenship for Nazi victims
Israel’s Law of Return
Many people can be eligible for Israeli nationality through the Law of Return. It is not just a “citizenship by descent” program; it has a broader scope.
To qualify, you must be one of the following:
- Descended from a Jewish citizen.
- Married to someone eligible under the Law of Return (including same-sex partnerships).
- A practising Jew, including converts from another religion.
For those who qualify, you must intend to settle in Isreal. You’ll need to live in Israel for three months before you get citizenship and a year before you get a passport.
Related Blog you may enjoy: Understanding our roots with Ancestry DNA
Which are the easiest countries to get Citizenship by Investment?
The easiest nationality might be one that you buy. Many countries use citizenship to boost their economies. The Citizenship by Investment programs range in cost and quality, with some even giving you a great return on your money.
Here’s a detailed article on Investment Visa programs with more pros and cons, but we’re just looking at the easiest here.
Malta’s Individual Investor Programme (MIIP) offers a quick and easy way for European Union citizenship. But it doesn’t come cheap.
You’ll need to have an income of more than €100,000 or have savings of €500,000.
You’ll make a €650,000 non-refundable donation to the Malta national development fund.
Then, you’ll need to invest €150,000 in Malta Government Bonds or securities listed on the Malta stock exchange. You must hold the investment for a minimum of five years.
Finally, you’ll need a property in Malta. You can purchase one for more €350,000 or rent for more than €150,000 per year.
Meet those requirements, and this is one of the easiest European citizenships to get.
Antigua and Barbuda CBI
A one-time donation to the Antiguan National Development Fund in the minimum sum of US$100,000 allows you to apply for citizenship. The amount is US$125,000 for a family of five and over.
You will also need to pay a processing fee of USD$25,000 for up to a family of four. Also, you need to pay USD$15,000 for each dependent after that.
This program gives you and your family full citizenship. A passport from Antigua and Barbuda provides you with visa-free travel in 126 countries globally. This access includes all the Schengen countries, Canada and much of South America.
St Kitts and Nevis CBI
This citizenship by investment programme focuses on real estate investment. To qualify, you will need to invest more than US$200,000 in a pre-approved real estate project. After seven years, you can sell the property.
Alternatively invest in a pre-approved real estate project of upwards of US$400,000 for each main applicant. You can sell this property after five years.
There are two sets of fees payable.
- The first is a processing fee of US$7,500 for the main applicant. And, each dependant over 16 years will also be liable for a US$4,000 processing fee.
- The second is a one-off fee on approval of the citizenship of US$35,047 for the main applicant. This fee is US$20,047 for a spouse and US$10,047 for all other dependents. The dependents fee is applicable regardless of their age.
Vanuatu has a Citizenship by Investment program that often takes less than two months, making it one of the fastest programs in the world.
The process is simple. You must be able to prove that you are worth more than $500,000 as a first step. Then, donate $130,000 to a government development fund, pay your $5,00 application fee and collect your passport.
Citizenship by naturalization
For most people, citizenship by naturalization is going to be your best bet. However, it does take time… But, if the easiest way to move to a new country is what you are after, this is a path a second passport.
This process has four steps.
- Move to a country as a temporary or permanent resident.
- Stay in the country legally for the naturalization period.
- Pass any required language, nationality, or cultural exams.
- Apply for your new nationality and passport.
The appeal here is that residency is often a much easier first step.
Which countries have the quickest citizenship by naturalization?
How long you have to wait for naturalization is different depending on the country and your circumstances. Some countries can be as short as two years, while others as long as ten.
Many counties offer shorter residency qualification periods for people like refugees, spouses of citizens, adopted children, and other groups.
The fastest standard citizenship by naturalization countries
Argentina has the shortest standard time. At just two years Argentina nationality lets you live and work in any of the MERCOSUR countries. Argentina also offers a wide range of qualifying residency permits and visas.
Peru also has a two-year residency requirement.
Countries with a three-year residence requirement:
- Honduras (with just one year for Central-American nationals and two years for Spaniards and Ibero-Americans.)
- Poland (The fastest EU citizenship by naturalization.)
- Serbia (Joint fastest European citizenship by naturalization.)
Countries with a four-year residence requirement:
- Brazil (Three years if you own a qualifying property or business.)
Some countries with a five-year residence requirement (not a complete list):
- Czech Republic (Czechia)
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom (UK)
Easy residence permits and visas that can lead to citizenship
The first step is to get residency of another country. Here are some accessible residence options for you to think about.
These are agreements between countries that allow each other’s citizens to live and work in each other’s countries. After a period of residency, you can become a citizen of that country. Here are some agreements:
- The Nordic agreement between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
- European Economic Agreement (EEA) is an agreement between all 27 EU countries, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Citizens of these countries can live, work, and move freely in the EEA Area.
- The Trans-Tasman Agreement between Australia and New Zealand allows citizens of both countries to live and work freely in each other’s countries.
- The MERCOSUR agreement makes it easier for citizens of South American countries to get residency in each other’s countries.
Residency by Investment
Governments across the world offer residency visas if you invest in their economies. Here is a flavour of some of these opportunities. Please visit our Investment Visa page for a complete view of available opportunities.
Portugal Golden Visa
To access this residency by investment program, you must invest upwards of €350,000 in property or shares. Additionally, you must visit Portugal once a year for a few weeks over five years. Also, you’ll need to get some Portuguese language lessons, but then the powerful Portuguese passport could be yours.
Click on this link for all the information you need on Portugal’s Golden Visa.
Spain Golden Visa
Invest €500,000 in real estate, and you can apply for the Spanish Golden Visa. After ten years of residency and proof of basic Spanish, you can apply for citizenship. There are other alternatives for the Golden visa. These include a €1,000,000 purchase of shares or a €1,000,000 bank deposit. Alternatively, investing in government bonds for €2,000,000.
Please see this article for more details of Spain’s Golden Visa.
Mauritius Residency by Investment
This island paradise welcomes investors. There are two main options for Mauritius Residency by Investment.
- Buy an approved property for more than USD375,000 for your residence or as an investment. You are eligible for residency as long as you own the property.
- Invest more than $375,000 into a qualifying Mauritian business and you’ll get a 20-yer residence permit.
Both pathways lead to Mauritius citizenship for you and your family.
Latvia Residency by investment
Latvia has an excellent residency by investment program that is proving very popular with investors.
There is a range of options in which you can invest. Each investment class has a different threshold.
- Share Capital (Business with less than 50 people) – €50,000
- Share Capital (Business with more than 50 employees) – €100,000
- Real Estate – €250,000
- Government bonds – €250,000
- 5-year fixed deposit in a Latvian bank. – €250,000
There are other fees involved. Head here to find out more information about the Latvia Residency by Investment program.
Many countries offer residency if you can prove an income that will allow you to meet the expenses of living there. Your income may be from, for example, an investment, an offshore business or a pension. The residency visas in this group have many names, and often have slightly different requirements and restrictions. Here are a few examples of income visas around the world.
- Nicaragua has a cheap income permanent residency visa. Proof of a monthly income from reliable sources of US$750 for you and US$150 for each family member is sufficient to qualify.
- Spain offers permanent residency if you can show an annual income of €25,920 plus €6,480 for each dependent through its Non-Lucrative Visa. This renewable visa is for one year. Notably, after five years in the scheme, you can apply for permanent residency in Spain.
- As a freelancer earning at least €800 per month you could be eligible for a “Freiberufler” visa. This income-based visa gives you residency rights to live and work in Germany.
Related Blog you may enjoy: The fastest ways to a European passport
Many countries around the world open their doors to retirees, and often the age of retirement is relatively young. Some allow foreigners over 45 to claim retiree status.
Have a read of our article with details of Countries with Retirement Visas for a full rundown on this topic.
To be eligible for the retiree visa, you usually have to show that you have a regular income. This income could be from a pension, investments or other passive income.
Here are just a few of the retirement visas available with a monthly income requirement.
- Argentina – $500 (The Argentina Pensionado visa)
- Nicaragua – USD$ 600 (and USD$150 for each family member. You must be over 45 years of age)
- Honduras – USD$ 600
- Costa Rica – USD$ 1,000. Importantly, you need to be able to prove that this income will last for your lifetime.
- Guatemala – USD$ 1,000
- Panama – USD $1,000 (The Panama Pensionado Visa)
- Thailand – USD$ 2,000 (Or a deposit account of USD$ 25,000. You must be over 50 years of age.)
- Aruba – USD$ 2,300 (You need to be over 55 years of age)
- Malaysia – USD$ 2,500 (You need to be over 50 and show approx USD$ 83,000 in assets)
- Mauritius – USD$1,500 (The Mauritius Retirement Visa)
- Portugal – USD S1,250 (The Portugal D7 Passive income Visa)
- Spain – USD$ 2,600 (The Spain non-lucrative visa)
- Vanuatu – USD$ 2,800 (This amount needs to be transferred to a commercial bank in Vanuatu)
- United Kingdom – USD$ 2,900 (You must be over 60 and have an existing connection to the UK)
Many countries have a points-based immigration system aimed at highly skilled professionals in certain branches of IT, science and medicine. In other countries such as Australia, they have a list of skills that are in demand.
If your profession is on the list, you could be eligible for a residency visa. The program may have other requirements, for example, proficiency in English. Skills needed range from bakers to botanists to architects.
We’re written a detailed article on Skilled Migration Visas to help you find the best program for you.
Panama Friendly Nations Visa
Panama has a great program offering permanent residency and a work permit. This visa is for people with professional ties to Panama, and it applies to all citizens of the 47 Friendly Nations. This link has a full list of qualifying nations.
You can prove your professional link to Panama in many ways. It could include starting a new business, purchasing an existing business or being hired in some professional capacity by an existing Panamanian enterprise.
If you are self-employed, you could register your company in Panama or set up an off-shore company. You’ll also need to deposit USD$5,000 into your local bank account with an additional USD$2,000 for each dependent. After five years, you can apply for Panamanian citizenship and a passport.
See our detailed article for everything you need to know about the Panama Friendly Nations Visa.
The easiest European countries to get citizenship
The most accessible European country to citizenship will depend on you. But, here’s our rankings.
Portugal – best overall
- varied and accessible residency options.
- 5-year naturalization.
- Residency by Investment and the Golden Visa.
- flexible marriage definitions, including same-sex and common law.
- Third generation citizenship by descent.
- Sephardic Jewish citizenship.
- Flexible birthright rules.
Find out everything you need to know about Portugal citizenship in our detailed article.
Spain – easiest for those from Latin America, Phillippines or USA
- Spain has a long naturalization period of ten years. But, the government reduces the wait to just two years for citizens of former colonies. So, for citizens of those countries, you can get citizenship after only two years of legal residence.
- This pathway is also open to USA citizens. But there is an extra step. Move to Puerto Rico for 12-months before moving to Spain, and you will qualify for this reduction in naturalization time as well. You need to apply for a “Certificate of Puerto Rican Citizenship” as a USA citizen who has lived on the island for 12-months.
See our full guide to Spain citizenship here.
Austria and Germany – easiest for descendants of Nazi-era refugees
- Both these EU countries offer accelerated and streamlined pathways to nationality.
See all your options for German citizenship in our guide.
Italy, Ireland, Poland, and Hungary – the easiest through ancestry
These four countries all have generous and flexible approaches to citizenship by descent. If you have ancestors from any of these countries in the family tree, then it is worth some more digging.
Malta – the easiest Citizenship by Investment
Malta offers the best direct citizenship by investment option in Europe.
Things that impact where you can easily get citizenship
- Which nationalities do you already hold?
- Which country were you born in?
- Who is your partner? What is the status of your relationship, and what are their nationalities?
- You ancestry. Specifically, where are your parents and grandparents from and what is your family history?
- How much money do you have available to invest or spend on a second passport?
- What are the available pathways to residency for your chosen country?
- How long are you willing to live in a country before becoming a citizen of that country?
Second citizenship could be exactly what you need right now
As you can see, there are many ways to get citizenship of a second country. Family ties, investment and residency are three of the easiest ways to achieve this.
We have only given you a very high-level flavour of what is possible. Head over to our homepage to explore more options for citizenship, residency, and a passport. We have in-depth guides to many countries around the world with detailed immigration options.
And, in these uncertain times having a second passport could be a lifeline. What’s more, it can open up a world of opportunities for you and your family.
You may be interested in some of our other blogs
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Appendix 1 – Countries with unrestricted birthright citizenship
Countries with unrestricted birthright citizenship
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- Saint Kits and Nevis
- St Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines