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The Ultimate Guide To Becoming An EU Citizen

Here’s your ultimate guide to becoming an EU citizen.

If you want to invest as an expat or high-net-worth individual, which is what i specialize in, you can email me (advice@adamfayed.com) or use WhatsApp (+44-7393-450-837). We also help with golden visas – residency and citizenship by investment.

Nothing written on here is tax advice, and the facts might have changed since this article was penned.


Do you wish to become an EU citizen and obtain a strong EU passport? Maybe you’re from the UK and want to re-join the EU to reclaim your rights after Brexit. Or maybe you’re from a non-EU nation and want to have dual citizenship with a strong and flexible second passport from one of the EU’s member states. The good news is that becoming an EU citizen is simpler than you would imagine.

What is an EU Citizen?

Let us first define what it means to be an EU citizen. EU citizenship is a unique status conferred to nationals of EU member states, granting them the right to vote in EU elections.

It was established in 1992, at the same time as the European Union, with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. An EU citizen is somebody who has citizenship in one of the EU member states.

The legal relationship between the state and the individual is defined as citizenship. It can be acquired by birth, marriage, naturalization, and a variety of other methods. By approving an individual’s application to become an EU citizen, the state confers citizenship to them.

Of course, the state can reject the application for a variety of reasons, some of which are obvious, such as a criminal background check, and others which are purely at the discretion of the state.

Why Become an EU Citizen?

Citizens of the EU have rights, freedoms, and safeguards under EU law. One of the most essential is the right to free movement, which encompasses the ability to live, study, work, and retire anywhere in the European Union.

EU citizens have the right to vote and run for office in the national elections of the state in which they reside. They can also vote in European elections and make choices that affect the entire EU.

Furthermore, as an EU citizen, you will be protected when traveling overseas. When visiting a place where your own country is not represented, you have the right to consular assistance from embassies of other EU member states.

Benefits of Being an EU Citizen

  • Live, work, study, or retire in one of the EU’s 27 member states (30 including the EEA)
  • In times of disaster, have a safe and secure escape route.
  • Gain access to lower EU tuition prices at prestigious colleges.
  • Have the security of heightened consular protection all throughout the world.
  • Gain easy access to national health care benefits, many of which are free.
  • Visa-free travel to at least 153 countries
  • Take advantage of EU privacy regulations.
  • Pass on your citizenship to your spouse and children.

What is an EU Passport?

An ‘EU passport’ is simply one issued by any EU member state such as Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Republic of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

Obtaining citizenship in any of these nations enables you to apply for a passport issued by that country. A Portuguese passport, for example, is an EU passport. It grants you the ability to travel freely among all 27 EU member states, as well as the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) and Switzerland.

The Ultimate Guide To Becoming An EU Citizen
EU Passport

How to Become an EU Citizen After Brexit

Citizens of the United Kingdom can re-join the EU using any of the normal channels. Brits can also enter the EU via Ireland. 

Regardless of Brexit, under the Common Travel Area agreement, any UK passport bearer can freely travel to Ireland (which predates the EU). Naturalization takes five years once you become a resident. You’ll be able to seek for Irish citizenship and rejoin the EU at that moment.

Ways to Become an EU Citizen

There are four primary routes to becoming an EU citizen:

  • Become an EU citizen through ancestry 
  • By way of marriage
  • By way of naturalization
  • By participating in an EU citizenship or residence by investment scheme (“Golden Visa”)

After receiving citizenship, you can apply for a passport from your new country. Depending on the nation you naturalized in and your original citizenship, you may be eligible to preserve dual citizenship, which comes with a slew of advantages.

The number of persons asking for citizenship in EU nations has increased dramatically in recent years. UK citizens are now one of the most common applicants for EU citizenship. The bulk of them got a French or German passport after getting naturalized in these countries after living there for the requisite amount of time.

1. Become an EU Citizen through Ancestry 

Citizenship by ancestry is a common way to become an EU citizen. Depending on the nation, you may be able to apply for citizenship if you have citizens as parents or grandparents.

Even great-grandparents in the case of Italy! Citizenship by descent or heritage is affordable and simple. However, not everyone has an ancestor from another nation – and this is something you can’t truly control.

2. Become an EU Citizen through Marriage 

Another path to EU citizenship is through your EU spouse. Timelines for obtaining citizenship by marriage differ. Spain has one of the quickest, conferring Spanish citizenship after only one year of marriage.

3. Become an EU Citizen through Naturalization 

Citizenship via naturalization occurs when a government grants citizenship to those who have lived in the country legally for the appropriate number of years.

Timelines differ depending on the country. The EU’s quickest timescale is five years (France, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland, and a few others). Others can last up to ten years (Austria, Spain,  Italy, Greece). It is entirely up to each individual country.

At Digital Émigré, we specialize in assisting people in obtaining EU citizenship through naturalization. We believe that an individual’s future liberties should be totally under their control, rather than being determined by a chance of birth.

4. Become an EU Citizen through Fast Track Citizenship by Investment

One common route to becoming an EU citizen is through one of the EU’s various “citizenship by investment” initiatives. This is where you may get a passport in exchange for your money without having to stay in the nation for a long time.

This option is accessible in Malta and Cyprus, with passports valid for one year and six months, respectively. The Cyprus scheme, on the other hand, is now on hold.

The Ultimate Guide To Becoming An EU Citizen
EU Member States

Ways to Get Residency in an EU Country

The first step for naturalization as an EU citizen is to be a legal resident of your chosen nation. That is the new émigré’s first challenge.

The Digital Émigré team includes immigration and tax specialists that can help you with all parts of the residence procedure. There are several ways to get residency in an EU country, the following are some of them:

  • Employment 
  • Self-employment
  • Passive Income or Independent means residency visas
  • Investment (e.g. one of Europe’s Golden Visa programs)
  • Student visas (however these don’t always count towards the years needed for citizenship)

1. Residency through Employment

Finding work in an EU nation is a classic approach to obtain residence there. This entails obtaining a work permit from your new company, which you will then use to apply for residence. However, finding job as a non-EU citizen might be difficult.

Unless you have specialized expertise, EU firms prefer to hire from within the EU first. As a result, we choose residency paths that rely on revenue from remote jobs or internet enterprises.

2. Residency through Self-Employment

Another option for obtaining residence is self-employment. This entails establishing oneself as a self-employed individual in the target nation and utilizing it as a method of obtaining residence.

Varied nations have different regulations, and it is simpler to become self-employed in some than others. For example, we’ve been told that starting up as self-employed in Spain and Belgium is an extremely laborious procedure.

3. Residency through Passive Income

The passive income path to residence permits you to overcome job and self-employment barriers. Although not all EU nations provide a road to the residence through passive income, several do.

Furthermore, the concept of ‘passive income’ differs per nation. It is typically characterized as income earned without working. Royalties, dividends, pension income, investment income, and rental income from foreign property are all examples.

There is still some uncertainty regarding whether revenue from a remote employment with one company headquartered outside the target nation qualifies as passive income.

It does for Portugal. For people with passive income, Portugal’s D7 visa is one of the most flexible choices for obtaining residency. As a result, Portugal is a fantastic option if you wish to have a permanent remote work contract with an overseas company rather than receiving earnings from an internet business.

4. Residency through Investment

One common route to becoming an EU resident is through one of the EU’s various “citizenship by investment” initiatives. You make a financial investment in the nation in exchange for instant residency. You can seek citizenship when the requisite number of years has passed.

Portugal, for example, offers this option through its Portugal Golden Visa residency-by-investment program. Similar schemes exist in Greece, Cyprus, Spain, and Ireland, all of which require you to retain resident status for a specific number of years before being eligible for citizenship.

The residence by investment option is similar to enabling your money to spend time in the nation rather than you physically being there (unless of course, you want to).

Those who employ normal (non-investment) residency as a bridge to citizenship, on the other hand, must make the target nation their primary base for the duration of the process, including becoming a tax resident. This can be a flexible choice in certain countries, but it can be restricted in others.

EU Countries with Golden Visa Programs

Fastest Paths to EU Citizenship through Investment

  • Cypriot citizenship through investment: Obtain passport in 6 months for 2.2 million EUR minimum investment CURRENTLY ON HOLD
  • Maltese citizenship through investment. Obtain passport in one year for 690k EUR minimum investment
  • Bulgarian citizenship through investment. Obtain passport in 18 months for 1 million euro minimum investment

Pathways to EU Citizenship through Residency by Investment

  • Golden Visa for Portugal (citizenship in 5 years)
  • Golden Visa for Greece (citizenship in 7 years)
  • Immigrant Investor Program / Golden Visa for Ireland (citizenship in 5 years)
  • Golden Visa for Spain (citizenship in 10 years)
  • Golden Visa for Italy (citizenship in 10 years)
  • Germany (citizenship in 8 years)
  • Cyprus (citizenship in 5 years)

The Best EU Citizenship to Obtain

It is debatable. Any EU passport grants you free travel across the Schengen area, as well as the ability to live, work, study, and retire in any of the member states.

According to the Henley Passport Index, some EU passports are more potent than others when it comes to worldwide visa-free travel. You should ideally become an EU citizen in a country where you can keep your current nationality.

However, it is not permitted in all EU nations. Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria, for example, all require new citizens to relinquish their previous citizenship.

Dual citizenship is permitted in Bulgaria, but only for native Bulgarians, EU/EEA citizens, Swiss citizens, and spouses of Bulgarian nationals. Two passports are better than one in an uncertain world. As a result, it’s vital to think about whether your chosen nation will enable you to keep your dual citizenship.

Portugal provides one of the most flexible and quickest EU citizenship paths, as well as dual citizenship. A Portuguese passport entitles you to visa-free travel in 188 countries. Furthermore, because Portugal is geopolitically neutral, obtaining its passport is unlikely to cause you problems at border crossings.

Furthermore, Portugal provides a wide range of residence choices, including the D7 passive income visa for remote employees, internet entrepreneurs, and retirees, as well as a comprehensive Portugal Golden Visa residency program that includes many various sorts of investment.

In 2022, obtaining the Golden Visa by investment in Portuguese venture capital or private equity funds is becoming a popular alternative.

Become an EU Citizen in Portugal

Portugal is an excellent destination for obtaining EU citizenship. Here’s a rundown of the advantages:

  • There are several flexible and accessible Portugal residence options to suit your lifestyle and objectives.
  • One of the most successful residence schemes in the EU is Portugal’s Golden Visa program.
  • Golden Visa: Residency by investment of at least 280,000 EUR (subject to certain criteria).
  • Good investment returns for both investment funds and real estate
  • For digital nomads, remote workers, and online company owners, a passive income residence pathway (the D7 visa) is available.
  • In just five years, you can become a citizen.
  • Dual citizenship is permitted.
  • Portugal’s unique NHR plan provides tax savings for ten years.
  • Powerful, well-respected passport that allows you to travel to 188 visa-free places and live, work, study, and retire anywhere in the EU/EEA.
  • The Portuguese passport scored higher than those of the United Kingdom, the United States, and Hong Kong in 2021.

3 Fastest Ways to Obtain Residency in Portugal

After just five years of stay, you can petition for Portuguese citizenship. That is one of the EU’s quickest deadlines. But when precisely do those five years begin? The clock starts ticking when you acquire your residence permit.

That’s why it makes sense to be there as soon as possible, without any needless delays or hassles.

  • Portugal Golden Visa (Investment Funds)
    • Basic Requirement: A minimum of €500,000 must be invested in a Portuguese fund.
    • Timeline to a residency permit: 6 to 8 months from the time of investment and application submission.
    • Minimum physical stay requirement: 7 days per year
  • Portugal Highly Qualified Activity (HQA) Visa
    • Basic Requirement: Minimum investment of €175,000, plus business formation in Portugal. All of this is possible with a concierge-style incubation service.
    • Timeline to a residency permit: 1 to 2 months after application submission
    • Minimum physical stay requirement: 7 days per year
  • Portugal D7 ‘Passive Income’ Visa
    • Basic Requirement: A monthly passive income of at least €705 plus 12 months of savings is required (for one person).
    • Timeline to a residency permit: 4 months from the moment the application is submitted to the embassy.
    • Minimum physical stay requirement: 183 days per year
The Ultimate Guide To Becoming An EU Citizen
EU Flag

3 Fastest Ways to Obtain EU Citizenship

The time it takes to gain EU citizenship is determined on the exact target country and the path you choose to residency. Here are some of the quickest alternatives we’ve discovered.

  • Citizenship by marriage: Spain, one year
  • Citizenship by investment: Malta, one year
  • Citizenship by naturalization: Portugal, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Ireland, plus several others. All of this takes five years. The shortest citizenship via naturalization timetable we’ve identified in the EU is five years.

Becoming an EU Citizen with Passive Income

To become an EU citizen with passive income, you must first become a resident in your target nation of choice for the requisite period of time. Not every EU country enables third-country nationals with passive income to become residents.

Portugal has the quickest and most flexible resident-to-citizenship track, allowing you to seek for citizenship after only five years of residency. In addition, the cost of living in Portugal is among the lowest in Western Europe.

With the growing popularity of “digital nomad visas,” additional nations may soon follow suit. At the moment, most digital nomad visas/residency alternatives cannot be utilized as a road to citizenship.

EU Countries that Offer Residency with Passive Income

Portugal: D7 passive income visa and residency permit 

  • Monthly passive income requirement: 705 EUR (minimum)
  • What about dual citizenship? Yes
  • Citizenship takes 5 years.

Luxembourg: Residency for private reasons

  • Monthly passive income requirement: 2,202 EUR
  • What about dual citizenship? Yes
  • Citizenship takes 5 years.

Cyprus: Income-based visa and residency permit

  • Monthly passive income requirement: 800 EUR
  • What about dual citizenship? Yes
  • Citizenship takes 7 years.

Greece: Financially independent residency

  • Monthly passive income requirement: 2,000 EUR
  • What about dual citizenship? Yes
  • Citizenship takes 7 years.

Malta: Residency by economic self-sufficiency 

  • Monthly passive income requirement: 1,116 EUR
  • What about dual citizenship? Yes
  • Citizenship takes more than ten years.

Austria: Settlement permit (gainful employment excepted)

  • Monthly passive income requirement: 1,933 EUR
  • What about dual citizenship? No
  • Citizenship takes ten years.

Estonia: Temporary to permanent residency

  • Required level of passive income: Unavailable
  • What about dual citizenship? No
  • Citizenship takes 8 years.

Italy: Elective residence by independent means

  • Monthly passive income requirement: 2,597 EUR
  • What about dual citizenship? Yes
  • Citizenship takes ten years.

Ireland: Common Travel Area (UK citizens only)

  • No passive income is necessary.
  • What about dual citizenship? Yes
  • Citizenship takes 5 years.

Spain: Non-lucrative residency permit

  • Monthly passive income requirement: 2,500 EUR
  • What about dual citizenship? No
  • Citizenship takes ten years.

Moving to EU Permanently

Applying for a long-term resident visa in one of the EU member states is the best method to permanently relocate to Europe. There are numerous options for accomplishing this, such as being sponsored by a European business, enrolling in a study program in a European nation, or applying for residency based on passive income or investment.

The application procedure normally starts with applying for an entrance visa at the nearest embassy of your destination country in your home country. When you arrive in your destination country, you can proceed to the second stage, which often entails obtaining a resident visa. After that, you can renew your resident permit for the requisite number of years until you qualify for permanent residency or citizenship.

Final Thoughts

In today’s post-pandemic environment, EU citizenship is quite valuable. An EU passport opens over 30 secure and stable nations to you and your family.

It also gives you access to lucrative commercial prospects within the Eurozone, as well as high-quality healthcare and improved political security while traveling. To become an EU citizen, you have a variety of alternatives, which are mostly dependent on your specific circumstances and objectives.

You will have the same rights to free movement in all EU nations. However, we recommend that you only choose target nations that offer dual citizenship for maximum flexibility and the best potential backup plan.

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Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 739.2 million answer views on Quora.com, a widely sold book on Amazon, and a contributor on Forbes.



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