Your ancestors from as far back as four or more generations ago (your great-great-great-grandparents) could be the key to obtaining a second passport and citizenship in Europe.
Having a passport from any EU (European Union) country also gives you some pretty sweet benefits, including the right to live, work, or study in any EU country.
Here’s what you need to know about acquiring European citizenship by descent and a second passport.
Why get a second passport?
Getting citizenship by descent, a principle known as “jus sanguinis,” which means “right of blood” in Latin, is by far the easiest way to get a second passport and EU citizenship.
There are a lot of benefits to having a passport from an EU country.
Benefits of being a citizen of an EU country:
Passport-free travel: Many EU countries are part of the Schengen area, which means you can travel to other Schengen countries without the hassle of passport or border checks. Just hop on a train, or jump in a car and travel to other European countries as if travelling to another city.
Pass on citizenship to your children: One of the benefits that many people don’t take into consideration is that they can pass on citizenship to their children. This means that when they come of age, they can work and live anywhere in Europe. They can also attend university in Europe, which is much cheaper than in many other countries. For example, my son’s university tuition was less than 400 euros per year in France.
You can live in any EU country: One of the best things about claiming citizenship by descent through a relative from Spain, Ireland, Italy or any other EU or EEA country is that you have the legal right to live, work and study in any of the European countries that make up the EU and EEA (European Economic Area.)
There are currently 27 EU countries and 3 non EU countries that make up the EEA countries (European Economic Area). The EEA agreement brings Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway into the EU’s internal market, guaranteeing the freedom of movement for goods, services, people and capital.
For example, if you want to live in France but have no French relatives but do have Irish relatives, you can claim Irish citizenship by descent and then live in France as if you were a French citizen. And if you decide you would rather live in Germany, Italy, Spain, or some other country that is part of the EEA, you can move there too.
This is exactly what my son’s.
Claiming Irish citizenship by descent but living in France
My husband and our children have been living in France as non-Europeans since 2011. If you’ve ever travelled to Europe, you know tourists can only stay within the Schengen area for 90 days within a 180-day period.
To live in France legally, we had to apply for a 12-month residency permit called the long-stay visa. which means you have to renew annually.
Renewing a long-stay visa isn’t rocket science, but it’s tedious and expensive. After about four years, it became clear that we might be living in France indefinitely.
That’s when I discovered that my sons could apply for Irish citizenship and a second passport because their grandparents (on their father’s side) are Irish citizens born in Ireland.
You can claim Irish citizenship up to the three generations (great grandparents).
Why is having an Irish citizenship even relative in this scenario?
Well, as I already mentioned, having a passport from a country that is part of the EU or EEU grants you the right to live, work and study in 30 different countries without the hassle of applying for visas. Since Ireland is part of the EU, this meant that my boys could live and work in France indefinitely. They would essentially be EU citizens.
How long was the process of applying for Irish citizenship?
To apply for Irish citizenship, it’s important to follow the correct procedure for your country of residence.
The first thing we did was check the Irish consulate website for a list of required documents.
Besides the boy’s birth certificate, we didn’t have many of the other documents the consulate required. Gathering those other documents took us nearly a year. It might take you less time, but we had trouble obtaining the grandparent’s marriage certificate, one of the required documents.
Once we had everything, we filled out a form we downloaded from the Irish consulate website and paid the application fee online -about 200 euros.
We then mailed everything off to the nearest Irish Consulate. Since we live in France, that was the Paris Irish consulate.
Unfortunately, we received two letters from the consulate requesting additional documents, which added an extra two months to the process.
Six months later, we received a letter confirming that their births were registered in the Irish registry, making them Irish citizens.
But that wasn’t the end of the process.
You also need to apply for an Irish passport after you become a citizen
Getting their birth registered in the Irish registry was just the first step. Now we needed to get them their Irish passports, which took another eight weeks and an additional 100 Euros for each passport.
The entire process, from gathering the documents, applying for citizenship and receiving their passports, took nearly two years from start to finish, but it was worth it.
The incredible part of the whole process is we never even had to step foot in the Irish consulate.
Do you qualify for a second passport? How many generations back?
Quite a few countries offer citizenship by descent, which allows you to apply for citizenship based on having a family member from that country.
In some countries, citizenship by descent is limited to just one generation- your parents, or two generations- your grandparents.
Other countries like Italy and Hungary have no limit on the number of generations as 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 some countries have no limit on the number of generations, they may require you to speak the local language and to prove it by passing a language test.
How to start the process?
- If you have not already done so, start by talking with your relatives and looking through your family history to determine which countries you have ties to through your relatives.
- Then, look up each country’s consular website, where you might be able to claim a second citizenship to determine what their requirements are.
- Once you’ve determined that you are entitled to citizenship, start going through the list of requirements that should be listed on each country’s consular website.
- Keep in mind; that the process can take a very long time taking. Months, maybe even years, because you’ll have to track down the documents and order official documents.
List of countries where you may qualify for citizenship through descent
Below is a list of 30 countries that allow dual citizenship. If you can claim citizenship to one of these countries, you can live in any EU country.
27 (EU) European countries
There are currently 27 countries that make up the EU.
All European Union (EU) countries have provisions for citizenship by descent in some form or another. The specific rules and requirements for claiming citizenship by descent can vary from country to country. Some countries have more lenient or straightforward processes, while others might have stricter criteria or limited eligibility.
However, although these EU countries allow dual citizenship, there may be some exceptions or specific conditions depending on the individual’s country of origin, previous citizenship status, and other factors, such as passing a language test.
Also, laws and policies can change over time, so always check with the specific government or official sources of the country you are interested in to verify their current stance on dual citizenship.
- Czech Republic
The United Kingdom (Left the EU in 2020: Brexit)
Additional countries not part of the EU but which allow you to live in the EU
Even if you can’t claim citizenship through descent to an EU country, all is not lost if you can claim citizenship to three non-EU countries in the European Economic Area (EEA).
Claiming citizenship in any of these three countries will give you the same privilege as having citizenship in any other EU country.
The EEA consists of 3 non-EU countries, which also happen to be in the Schengen area.
- 28. Iceland
- 29. Liechtenstein
- 30. Norway
Wrapping up citizenship by descent to 30 European countries
Although the process may take time and effort, the benefits of claiming citizenship by descent and obtaining a second passport and EU citizenship can open doors to a world of opportunities, including living, working, and studying in any of these 30 countries.
And if you can’t claim citizenship by descent, you have other options. Some countries, like France, allow you to become a naturalized French citizen after meeting some residency and language requirements.
You might be interested in reading: How to Get French Citizenship and a passport after 5 years of residency