A passport from any one of the EU member countries gives you access, privileges and rights to move freely across the EU. Some of the benefits of holding EU citizenship include high quality of life and education, visa-free travel to over 180 countries, access to free health care and social services, as well as professional and business opportunities. If living and working (or perhaps studying or retiring) in Europe is on your radar, becoming an EU citizen can be a great solution since it means that you won’t ever need to worry about visas, residential permits or standing in that “other nationalities” queue at airports.
But how does that work? How long does it take and how much does it cost? Let us take you through some options. In case you didn’t know, there is such a thing as an EU passport and EU citizenship – it’s a status that’s separate from national citizenship but of course, you will need to be a citizen of one of the EU member states to qualify for EU citizenship. There are 27 member states in the EU and each sets its own rules when it comes to national citizenship. Anyone who holds citizenship in one of the EU member states is classed as an EU citizen. These rights also extend to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, and whilst they are not a part of the EU, they belong to the European Economic Area (EEA).
There are four ways of becoming an EU citizen: by descent, naturalization, restitution or investment. At Polaron, we specialize in the first three pathways, but let’s take a look at the third option: citizenship by investment. Currently, in the twelve EU countries that offer the scheme, before you can obtain citizenship, you first need to apply for residence by investment. This process is sometimes called the golden visa program and applicants need to invest up to €1,250,000 to qualify. Approximately 150,000 people obtained residence or citizenship in EU countries via investment between 2011 and 2019.
In March 2022, the European Parliament called for more regulation and phasing out citizenship by investment schemes in the EU by 2025. The main concern for the EU countries is tax evasion, money laundering and corruption. Strict background checks and vetting procedures are being introduced, as well as requirements for physical residence and active contribution to the economy by the applicants. Whilst citizenship by investment in the EU is likely to continue in some shape or form, the ease with which it used to be approved is long gone.
Let’s now explore citizenship through naturalization. Conditions for citizenship through this pathway vary across EU member states, with some countries allowing applications for citizenship directly after acquiring permanent residence, whilst others put the applicants through a rigid process of vetting and testing, years after acquiring permanent residence. You may also need to prove a level of language proficiency, be employed and have a clean police record. However, before you can apply for citizenship through naturalization, you need to be a permanent resident in the country in which you’re applying. Qualifying periods also vary from country to country – from 3 years in Poland to 11+ years in Austria – as does pricing. Whilst many people choose to file their own applications, you can also hire a company, such as Polaron, to help you put the application together. Our services include language tuition, gathering of documentation, translations and interview coaching.
Citizenship through ancestry or descent is a popular option for becoming an EU citizen and is by far the easiest and cheapest way to become a citizen of one of the member states for those who are eligible. There is no common law or procedure for citizenship by descent in the EU. Each EU member state has its own specific rules, application processes and required documentation. You may be eligible for EU citizenship if you have parents, grandparents or great-grandparents that originate from an EU country. In fact, some countries have no limit on generations. EU countries that offer the most flexible route for citizenship by descent are Austria, Czech, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. Polaron has been assisting people of European descent to reclaim their citizenship through ancestry since 2003 with 99.7% success rate. We step in if you need to find archival evidence to back up your claim, translate your documentation, fill in forms and liaise with relevant governments. In most cases, we can even guarantee the outcome of your case. Once you reclaim your citizenship through descent, your children and their descendants can also benefit.
In the last few years, a new pathway to reclaiming EU citizenship became available in Germany and Austria. The legislation applies to former German citizens, as well as people who were denied citizenship due to their race, religion or political persuasion between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945. Direct descendants of these individuals can also apply to have their citizenship reinstated through the process of restitution (re-naturalization). You do not need to renounce your current citizenship if you have reclaimed your German citizenship through this process. In October 2019, the Austrian parliament unanimously adopted an amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Act in recognition of its historical responsibility towards persons persecuted by National Socialism and their descendants. This made Austria the first country in Europe to facilitate reinstatement of citizenship to victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants.
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