Are you an American or other non-EU citizen looking for a way to live and work in the EU, but cannot get a residence or work permit?
Because only EU citizens have the right to live and work in Europe without restriction, the easiest path to living and working in the EU is to claim EU citizenship through descent or origin should you have an ancestor born in one of the current European Union member states or non-EU countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway. Many times, there are no language or residency requirements, and applications for repatriation are processed quickly. Citizenship from an EU country would then entitle and allow you to apply for an EU passport and national ID.
There are typically only two ways of getting EU citizenship and an EU passport:
1) Birth in an EU country (yourself or an ancestor);
2) By living in an EU country legally with a residence permit and going through naturalization.
If you are married and/or have a child with an EU citizen, all legitimate non-EU spouses and minors of EU citizens are entitled a residence/work permit, which essentially grants the same rights and privileges as an EU resident. You may also be eligible for a shortened waiting period for citizenship by naturalization, but there are almost always language and in-country residency requirements. There is no automatic way of getting EU citizenship through marriage due to fake marriages, bribery and fraud. Thus, there is no such thing as marrying for EU citizenship.
Please be aware that all countries still recognize citizens by nationality, i.e., Belgian, Greek, Spanish, British, etc. The EU has not fused into one big country, and there are no one-size-fits-all rules for the whole of Europe. The EU is a collective made up of separate member states (countries) — much like the United States is a country made up of separate states such as California, Florida and New York — with each retaining its unique borders and laws.
If you do not have an ancestor or spouse from the EU, see other options for EU citizenship and living and working in the EU by clicking, “How to get EU citizenship, passports, visas and permits to live and work in the EU” if you have not already read this article.
*Article last updated on October 2, 2013. Waiting for resolution to three plagiarism claims.
Dual citizenship with the EU
It is imperative you consult directly with an official government authority in your homeland regarding your country’s stance on dual nationality or dual citizenship with the target EU country before starting this process. If you do not, you risk getting misleading information and possibly losing your current citizenship. Certain countries allow it, some don’t.
If you are an American citizen, see the U.S. Department of State’s page titled, “Advice about Possible Loss of U.S. Citizenship and Dual Nationality.”
If you are already an EU citizen, seeking dual citizenship with another EU member state is redundant and carries no real benefits in theory. In reality, however, some EU countries do show preference toward its citizens even though it goes against EU directives.
Helpful links to official sites
Should you have questions, you must consult directly with an official government body, such as the consulate or embassy in your homeland, or the appropriate government ministry in the country of concern. Do not consult forums, a friend or relative or lawyers advertising citizenship services on the Internet, or you risk being cheated of time and money, in addition to getting damaging advice as each case is unique.
Be aware that citizenship applications may only be offered in the native language of the country concerned, even if they do not require applicants to be fluent.
Bulgaria* - Bulgarian Citizenship for Bulgarians and foreigners (new link from Ministry of Justice), Acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship (old link)
Croatia** – Acquiring Croatian citizenship via ancestry (origin)/birth/naturalization, 100-Question test added to requirements (as of November 2012), How to apply for Croatian citizenship, Answers to FAQ, Law on Croatian citizenship,
Cyprus - Cypriot citizenship for Cypriots, foreigners, descendants (new link) or Acquisition of Cypriot citizenship by Registration or Naturalization
Czech Republic – How to get Czech citizenship/dual citizenship, Czech passport and Czech nationality law
Denmark – Declaration of Danish citizenship, Did you acquire Danish citizenship at birth? (new link), Statsborgerskab: How to become a Danish national (new link) and Danish Citizenship Act *Be aware that Denmark has restrictions on dual citizenship
France – Being a French citizen (new link), French nationality (Ministry of Justice; new link), Acquisition of French citizenship by marriage, naturalization or birth (new link), Who can be or become a French citizen? (new link), French nationality (new link), Conditions for applying for French citizenship, Acquiring French nationality (new link), and French Nationality, French Citizenship Code
Germany – German citizenship and Dual nationality (new link), Application for German citizenship certificate¹(new link), Law on German nationality and FAQ German citizenship. — Old links left in place as evidence of plagiarism: Law on German nationality and FAQ German citizenship
¹Recommended by commentator ‘Chris’ who used it to stake a claim through an ancestor
Greece – “Greek citizenship by claim or Greek origin, ancestry, descent,” and “Ways to get Greek citizenship” and “Greek citizenship by naturalization” (articles based on official documentation/real-life experience). Official site has old Greek Citizenship Code (in English). You may also consult with a Greek consulate/embassy outside Greece or the Interior Ministry in Greece.
Hungary – Hungarian citizenship and passports (new link), Hungarian citizenship by naturalization, ancestry and other cases (official; new link), About Hungarian citizenship and Hungary Act of Citizenship. A law passed on May 26, 2010 allows people of Hungarian descent to claim citizenship without living in Hungary, but candidates must speak Hungarian.
Ireland – Irish citizenship by birth, descent and naturalisation after marriage, Who can become an Irish citizen? and Entitlement to Irish citizenship (and forms) — Old links left in place as evidence of plagiarism: All about Irish citizenship: Who qualifies, dual citizenship, fees, application, processing time
Italy – FAQ Italian citizenship (Ministry of Foreign Affairs; new link), Italian nationality (Interior Ministry; new link), Ways to become an Italian citizen (Italian Consulate, in Italian/English) and Italian citizenship (City of Torino, Italy),
Latvia – Ways to acquire Latvian citizenship (Ministry of Foreign Affairs; new link)
Lithuania – Lithuanian citizenship via ancestry/descent, Information on Lithuanian citizenship (Immigration; new link), How to get a Lithuanian passport (new link) and Lithuanian Citizenship Law (new link), Dual citizenship with Lithuania (new link)
Luxembourg – Nationality of Luxembourg (Ministry of Justice; new link), ”The Luxembourg Nationality” in PDF (in English) and Luxembourg nationality online (in French), Acquiring Luxembourg nationality. Luxembourg allows dual citizenship
Netherlands – How to acquire Dutch nationality/citizenship, Obtaining Dutch nationality by option or naturalization (new link), Naturalization exam, I want to be Dutch (Currently only in Dutch) *Laws governing Dutch citizenship as of October 10, 2010.
Portugal – Portuguese nationality (in English), Portuguese citizenship by ancestry, birth, marriage, non-marital partnerships, adoption, naturalization (new link), Portuguese citizenship (in Portuguese), Who can acquire Portuguese nationality?. Also consult with the Portuguese consulate/embassy in nearest you.
Spain – Application for the granting of Spanish citizenship to descendants, Ways to acquire Spanish citizenship, Spanish citizenship by choice for foreigners of no Spanish descent (PDF; new link) — Old link left in place as evidence of plagiarism: Granting of Spanish citizenship
Sweden – Becoming a Swedish citizen and Dual Citizenship with Sweden
United Kingdom – All about British citizenship, Becoming a British Citizen (new link), The British Citizenship Test: How much do you know? (Telegraph)
*There are restrictions on citizens from Romania and Bulgaria in 13 EU member states. The EU will make an official announcement when these restrictions are lifted.
**Croatia joined the EU on July 1, 2013 and there are restrictions on free movement of its citizens in the majority of member states until 2015/2018/2020 (2+3+2 rule).
Non-EU countries with bilateral agreements with the EU
The following countries are technically non-EU countries, however they all have bilateral agreements with the EU that allow their citizens the right of movement, residence and employment in the EU member states.
Iceland – Icelandic Nationality Act, How to get Icelandic citizenship, FAQ citizenship with Iceland (new link), Dual citizenship with Iceland. Is Icelandic citizenship for sale? – Old links left in place as evidence of plagiarism: Residence Citizenship of Iceland, How to apply for citizenship with Iceland
Liechtenstein - Obtaining citizenship in Liechtenstein through marriage or nationalization/residency (PDF from Migration & Integration), Right to Liechtenstein Citizenship By Birth, Legitimation or Marriage (PDF from municipality) — Old link left in place as evidence of plagiarism: How to obtain citizenship in Liechtenstein
Norway - Who can obtain Norwegian citizenship? and Citizenship for Nordic residents
Switzerland - Swiss citizenship by naturalization/residency (new link), Acquiring Swiss citizenship after marriage (new link), FAQ: Becoming a Swiss citizen (new link) and Swiss citizenship overview
* All questions should be directed at the respective consulate or embassy in your homeland, where personnel are authorized to dispense official advice and accept citizenship applications.
“Twenty people who switched nationalities” — BBC News
“How Many People Live in the EU” — Europa.eu
“How Many People Live in the EU” — Europa.eu (old link left in place as evidence of plagiarism)
All websites linked above
“Ways for American/non-EU citizens to stay legally in Greece”
Other related articles, see “EU.”
Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author who has lived and worked in the EU since 1997. To learn more, see “About Me.”
Please note my copyright policy and be aware that plagiarism and copyright violations will be pursued.