How To Get EU Citizenship (5 ‘Passive Income’ Pathways)

Keep EU citizenship after Brexit

How to get EU citizenship after Brexit is an important question for many Brits in 2021. Americans too, as the toxic legacy of Trumpism casts a shadow over the United States.

The EU and the UK finally signed a Brexit deal in the closing days of 2020. That deal holds nothing positive for any Brit who loves the European Union and wants to get EU citizenship after Brexit. Quite simply, the deal denies British citizens their rights to freedom of movement across 27 other nations.

Fortunately, options are still available for British citizens to seek EU residency and get EU citizenship after Brexit. Of course, the path has become more complicated than it was before. There’s paperwork and more stringent requirements.

Gaining a second citizenship takes time, often requires some language skills, and is a privilege, not a right. But the door to the EU isn’t closed. Digital Émigré is here to guide you on how to get EU citizenship.

Having an online business is an important factor in accessing these opportunities, because it allows you to generate income from outside your country of residence.

As a result, you can live in that country without taking jobs away from its local citizens. After a certain period of being resident, you then become eligible to apply for citizenship (subject to the specific requirements of each country).

How to get EU citizenship with passive income visas

‘Passive income’ visas benefit the countries offering them by attracting professional and financially independent individuals. These immigrants can then invigorate the local economy, but without taking jobs from local people.

As a result, some EU countries now offer passive income visas. Many of these can also accommodate online business owners and, in some cases, those who are employed remotely.

The visas are a gateway to residency and, eventually, EU citizenship. Not every country in the Eurozone offers these options, but we believe it will become a trend in 2021 and beyond. In particular, this is more likely since the pandemic has brought remote working into the mainstream.

The following options all come with certain conditions and caveats. In our opinion, only one option ticks all the right boxes: Portugal.

But, for whatever reason, you may have your heart set on a country other than Portugal. In this article, we provide summaries of five visa-to-residency pathways in the Eurozone, which can enable Brits to potentially keep EU citizenship after Brexit.

The best options to get EU citizenship

  1. Portugal: D7 ‘passive income’ visa and residency
  2. Spain: Non-lucrative visa
  3. Cyprus: Income-based visa
  4. Austria: Residency by Independent Means
  5. Ireland: Common Travel Area (British citizens only)

Portugal: D7 ’Passive Income’ visa

  • Income level: Equivalent of Portuguese minimum wage: €7,632 annually (but we recommend €12,000 to be on the safe side).
  • Time to citizenship: 5 years
  • Dual citizenship: Yes

Key points to consider:

  • Dual citizenship is allowed
  • You can freelance for clients both in Portugal and outside
  • You can run an online business outside Portugal
  • You can work remotely for a company outside Portugal or
  • You can open your own business in Portugal
  • You can apply for a job in Portugal
  • Access to NHR tax benefits for 10 years

Learn more about Portugal’s D7 option in our detailed explainer guide. 

Also check out our complete guide to getting Portuguese citizenship.

Spain: Non-lucrative visa

  • Income level: At least €30,000 annually
  • Time to citizenship: 10 years
  • Dual citizenship: No

Key points to consider:

  • Income must come from pensions, overseas rentals, dividends from a limited company, or other investments.
  • Pathway to Spanish citizenship and an EU passport
  • You can include your dependents on the visa
  • No access to public health care, so you’ll need private health insurance.

Also check out our complete guide to getting Spanish citizenship.

Cyprus: Income-based visa (Category F)

  • Income level: At least €9,568 annually.
  • Time to citizenship: At least 7 years
  • Dual citizenship: Yes

Key points to consider:

  • Income must come from pensions, overseas rentals, dividends from a limited company, or other investments.
  • Lower annual income requirement than other EU countries

Austria: Residency by Independent Means

  • Income level: At least €23,200 annually.
  • Time to citizenship: 10 years, including 5 years permanent residence
  • Dual citizenship: No

Key points to consider:

  • Income must come from pensions, overseas rentals, dividends from a limited company, or other investments.
  • Limited number of settlement permits granted per year

Ireland: Common Travel Area (British citizens only)

  • Income level: No minimum income required
  • Time to citizenship: 5 years
  • Dual citizenship: Yes

Key points to consider:

  • British citizens who wish to become resident in Ireland can do so at any time under the Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement, unrelated to EU membership
  • Excellent pathway back to EU citizenship

Summary: how to get EU citizenship

These five options are the best EU visa-to-residency pathways that we’ve discovered so far. They can be used as routes for British citizens to keep EU citizenship after Brexit, albeit after varying periods of time.

Other EU countries, like Estonia and the Czech Republic, offer ‘digital nomad’ visas. But those are of short duration and not designed for people who want to emigrate permanently with an eye on citizenship.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on developments across the Eurozone, monitoring any new residency options for British citizens after Brexit. To stay in the know, sign up to the Digital Émigré mailing list, below:

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12 thoughts on “How To Get EU Citizenship (5 ‘Passive Income’ Pathways)”

  1. Pingback: The Brexit Moving Abroad Guide - Digital Émigré

  2. You have not mentioned France. I am a retired UK MFL teacher and have owned a French property since 1992, making frequent visits there especially since retirement. I have not been able to go there and apply for residency before the 2020 Dec 31st deadline because of COVID and now UK visitors are not allowed to go because of our high infection rates. What should I do? I have heard that the deadline for applications is June 2021. Is this correct? Can I apply from the UK? Please advise? I have had a property and a French bank account since 1992. I also speak fluent French. What are my options?

    1. There is no deadline for applying for residency or citizenship. There is a deadline for applying for new documents for people who have residency documents based upon the UK being in the EU.

    2. Didn't leave the EU during a critical period

      Maybe you shouldn’t have waited until the last minute like so many who are now blaming the EU for missing the date. It was well expected and highly recommended to not leave the EU in this critical time or make sure one is here with plenty of time to spare, but some were just booked to come on the 31st. You had a decision of a lifetime and just had to stay in the UK until the last minute despite warnings to leave well before the end.

    3. Owning property does not count under the Withdrawal Agreement. There is no allowance for arriving after Dec 31st, unfortunately If you were here in 2019, then you can maybe pretend to have been resident then. You would need to be able to evidence that and you would have to apply before 30th June.

      It’s not impossible that France would be lenient but that’s not really how France works, is it?

      Failing that, you would now be a third country national in France. There are presumably other routes for applying for residency but if you’re retired, I expect they require you to have a lot of savings.
      A third option would be marrying a French person or someone else who got residency under the Withdrawal Agreement.
      Fourth option is listed. Go to Ireland for 5 years, get an Irish passport, go to France.

      Good luck.

    4. Hi Judith, thanks for your comment. France wasn’t included because this list focuses only on countries where you can gain residency via having an online business. However, France may have other options available. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, there are several people there who live in / are moving to France, and who may be able to advise you further. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/digitalemigres
      Best wishes, Samantha

  3. Susannah Greaves

    I lived and worked in the Netherlands from 1976 to 2007, speak fluent Dutch, have a daughter with a lifelong Dutch residency permit, receive 60% of the Dutch old age pension and have a Dutch civil service (ABP) pension and would like to return if Brexit is as bad as it promises to be. Do i have a chance?

    1. You should contact the Dutch authorities directly in Holland (IND? I believe) and explain your situation. With your residence history & your daughters status you may have a chance to be resident again and then go for citizenship ASAP. In my case I am trying to get Dutch Citizenship based on my Mum having been Dutch. Problem is the Dutch embassy in London is only partly operational and they are not issuing appointments for presenting my application right now so I’m having to wait and monitor the situation.

    2. Hi Susannah, our main focus is on countries you can move to with digital businesses, so we’re not experts on the Netherlands. But if you’d like to join our Facebook group, I will put you in touch with a British friend of mine who has recently got his Dutch permanent residency. He might have some helpful tips. https://www.facebook.com/groups/digitalemigres

  4. Planned to move March 2020, and was winding business down ,after the 2019 election result.

    Covid knocked me off course, and now permanently employed by NHS.

    I guess at least I have a secure job, to buy property with

    Also still have my UK business, and interested in Portugal as a living base, whilst earning using my UK based business.

    That’s the new plan anyway

    1. Hi Craig, thanks for your comment. I like your plan to live in Portugal while earning from your UK business. It sounds solid to me. This post on Portugal’s D7 visa that might be of interest to you: https://digitalemigre.com/relocation/the-d7-portugal-visa-how-to-beat-brexit/
      Also, please feel free to join our Facebook group for further advice and support. Lots of people are considering Portugal at the moment! https://www.facebook.com/groups/digitalemigres

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