Quite a few countries have a nationality law called Jus sanguinis which is latin for “right of blood”. It allows you to apply for “citizenship by descent” based on having a parent or ancestor from a particular country. And claiming that citizenship can be as simple as filling out some paperwork and digging up your family records.
Why get dual citizenship?
There are many benefits to getting a second citizenship and second passport including the possibility to pass on your citizenship to your children and the right to live and work in that other country.
Although it would be fantastic to have dual citizenship no matter what the country, not all citizenship’s and second passports are created equal. One passport or rather one type of passport stands out from the rest in terms of benefits and freedom to travel. Especially if you’ve every dreamt of living in Europe.
An EU passport (any passport from an EU country or EEU member country).
If you’re lucky enough to be able to claim “citizenship by descent” from one of the countries in the European Union, like Ireland, you can literally pack your bags today and move to France tomorrow- without ever having to go through the complicated visa application process. In fact, you could also live and work in Germany, Italy or Spain because like Ireland, they are all part of the EU.
This is exactly how my son claimed his EU citizenship and is able to live in France visa free. More on that process later.
See also: What visa do you need to live in France.
How do you get dual citizenship by descent and a second passport?
In some countries like the UK, “citizen by descent” is limited to just one generation- your parents.
In other countries, like Ireland it’s two generations- your grandparents.
Italy and Hungary have no limit on the number of generations so long as you can provide a paper trail that connects each generation to the next all the way to you.
Keep in mind that the criteria for applying for citizenship by descent will vary depending on the country and your circumstances. For example, even though Hungary has no limit on the number of generations, in some cases they may require you to speak Hungarian.
How to start the process to get dual citizenship?
The process of applying for a second citizenship can be gruelling and time consuming- taking months, sometimes years- but it’s usually pretty straight forward.
- Start by talking with your relatives and looking through your family history to determine which countries you have ties to through your relatives.
- Visit the consular website of the country where you think you may be eligible to acquire citizenship to determine if you are eligible. How many generations back? Through one or both parents? etc.
- Once you’ve determined that you are entitled to citizenship, start going through the list of requirements and gathering all the documentation you need to prove you’re a descendent of a citizen of that country.
- Many people choose to go through a lawyer to help them but you don’t necessarily need one.
How my son claimed a second passport by applying for Irish citizenship by descent
My son’s grandparents on his fathers side were born in Ireland. Since the nationality law of Ireland allows for citizenship by descent two generations back, we decided to try and claim Irish citizenship for him.
The process was long but pretty strait forward. One of the things which made the process easier was the fact that we never had to set foot in an Irish consulate. Everything, including gathering documents was accomplished online, through the mail or by phone.
The most difficult and time consuming part of the entire process was getting his grandparents documents. It took us nearly a year to get them all but it could take you less time.
Once we had all the required records and documents, we filled out a form which we downloaded directly from the Irish consulate website, paid the application fee- around 200 euros and mailed everything off…
Then we waited…
On two occasions the consulate sent us a letter requesting additional documents which tacked on another 2 months to the process.
We didn’t hear anything back for another six months until finally we received a letter in the mail announcing that his birth was recorded in the Irish registry and that he was officially an Irish citizen.
But that wasn’t the end of it. We still had to apply for his Irish passport which took another 8 weeks and an additional 100 Euros.
In total, the entire process took us nearly 2 years from start to finish but it was worth it because it simplified his living situation in France, where we have lived for the past few years.
The right to live in France as an Irish citizen:
As I mentioned before, one of the benefits of having a passport from an EU country like Ireland is you also have the right to work and live in ANY EU country.
As non Europeans who live in France, I no longer have to renew my son’s visa. No annual appointments to the local prefecture where I would stand in line for hours. No expensive annual fees/taxes to pay. No more re-submitting the same damn mountain of paperwork every year. And no more living in fear that his visa might be rejected.
He can now live and work in France with all the benefits of a French citizen (except for voting in French elections) so long as Ireland stays in the EU.
And he can pass on his citizenship to his child at birth provided he registers his child’s birth before they turn 18, otherwise that child will have to go through the same process.
That’s our story. If you would like to live in Europe and your ancestors are from Europe, acquiring citizenship by descent to an EU country may be your ticket to getting there.
List of EU and EEU countries where you may qualify for citizenship by descent
Below is a list of 35 countries whose citizens have the freedom to live in over 32 European countries and 3 non-European countries including Iceland.
Look through the list to see if you have any relatives from those countries and start applying for citizenship by descent.
- Switzerland is neither an EU nor EEA member but is part of the single market and so nationals of Switzerland have the same rights to live and work in any of the other EU and EEU countries.
- Andorra: Even though Andorra uses the Euro, they are not technically part of the Eurozone. They have a special relationship with the EU which gives their nationals many of the same rights as other EU countries.
- Monaco is a part of the EU customs territory through an agreement with France, and is administered as part of France.
- San Marino like Switzerland is neither an EU or EEA member but it has an open door policy.
Does the country allow dual citizenship?
Before you apply for citizenship to another country, find out whether acquiring a second citizenship will effect your current citizenship. Some countries do allow you to have dual citizenship such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. However some countries on the list do not allow dual citizenship.