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How to Apply for EU Citizenship

By Melissa Cheri - Updated January 24, 2019
City of London business and banking aria at sunset

Citizenship in the European Union allows you to live freely (this includes work and travel) in any of the Member States, in addition to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. These countries are not part of the European Union, but have entered into EU trade agreements.

There are five ways in which you can obtain citizenship in the European Union.

Make an Ancestral Claim

Ancestry is a legitimate ground upon which to base a claim for citizenship within the European Union. If you can prove your parents and, in some cases your grandparents, were born in European Union country, you may qualify for that country's citizenship with a shorter waiting period. Other exceptions such as this exist for ancestors of many former Soviet bloc countries. If you are interested in this option, you should consult your family tree and determine if any of your ancestors were born in a European Union country.

Citizenship by Naturalization

Citizenship by naturalization is another way to obtain European Union citizenship. This path to citizenship involves establishing residency in a Member State and essentially waiting for the appropriate number of years before applying for citizenship. The requirements for residency vary from State to State within the European Union. You should check with the Member State of your choosing to determine how long you need to live in that State to claim residency.

Some European States may require anywhere from a few weeks to a few months per year to establish residency. This does not mean you have to give up your primary residence, but you should be able to show some connection to the country. After you have established residency for the required number of years, you may then apply for citizenship.

Citizenship by Marriage

The path to European Union Citizenship through marriage is not immediate or automatic.This should be considered an extension of Citizenship by Naturalization. However, if you are married to an EU citizen, depending on your spouse's Member State, your marital status may shorten the length of time you have to wait for approval. For example, in Sweden the wait drops from five years to three years if you are either married or in a registered partnership with a Swedish citizen and have obtained the appropriate residence permit.

Please note the rules vary by Member State, so it is important to consult the rules first.

Citizenship by Investment

A third path to citizenship in the European Union is citizenship by investment. This is exactly what it sounds like: you gain citizenship by either investing in the country (think real estate) or by making a donation to a struggling nation. This is perhaps the quickest path to European Union citizenship. Unlike other paths, your citizenship may be approved in as little as six months.

Exceptional Citizenship

Exceptional Citizenship in the European Union is similar to citizenship in the United States offered to people who possess an extraordinary talent. Such extraordinary citizenship is not limited to the arts. Some of the world's best athletes obtain citizenship in European Union because of convenience.

It is important to remember that being granted exceptional citizenship is rare, difficult to obtain and often limited to those whose citizenship will enhance the profile of the Member State. However, if you believe you may meet the high standards for exceptional citizenship, it is certainly worth exploring.

Obtaining European Union citizenship may prove challenging, but it may also be rewarding depending on your needs.

Tip

Marriage to an EU citizen still requires a period of residency in your spouse's native country.

About the Author

Melissa McCall is an accomplished lawyer, science journalist and legal analyst. She graduated cum laude from Syracuse University in 2003 and spent two years as a Judicial Law Clerk, followed by 2 years at a general litigation firm and a brief stint as the Director of Environmental Protection for the Virgin Islands. Since leaving the US Virgin Islands, she has worked as a legal recruiter, legal writer and legal analyst.

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