What’s the Easiest Country to Get Citizenship of the EU?

Easiest country to get citizenship

Portugal is overall the easiest country to get citizenship of the EU. Read our full guide to Portugal residency options now!

People often ask me: what’s the easiest country to get citizenship of the EU?

It’s a particularly common question among British citizens, many still angry at losing their EU rights after Brexit, especially the right to freedom of movement.

Portugal is, overall, the easiest country to get citizenship of the EU.

That’s due to the following factors:

  • Short residency period of just five years before applying for citizenship
  • One of the world’s most powerful passports
  • Range of flexible visa options to suit remote workers, retirees and investors
  • Dual citizenship OK – keep your original passport
  • Easy language requirements – A2 elementary level
  • Access generous tax benefits while counting up the years to citizenship
  • Reasonable minimum stay requirements
  • What’s more, Portugal has one of Western Europe’s lowest costs of living

But identifying the easiest country to get citizenship of the EU isn’t always an easy task.

There are several countries that could fit the definition of “easiest”.

Let’s examine them in more detail.

What’s the Easiest Country to Get Citizenship of the EU?

If you have significant funds to invest in or make a donation to a country, then it’s possible to get EU citizenship in a matter of months.

If you’re descended from parents who are EU nationals, such as in the case of Italian citizenship, then getting that second passport is usually a straightforward procedure.

The same goes for marrying an EU national spouse. In one particular country, marrying a national can net you a second passport in just a year.

The easiest country to get dual citizenship in the EU also depends on your original nationality.

Check out my video for 8 reasons you need dual citizenship

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UE1E97s2zBo&t=6s

As you can see, finding the easiest country to get citizenship in the EU depends on many factors.

Let’s take a look at some EU countries that fit the criteria of being ‘easiest’ in various ways.

🇲🇹 MALTA: easiest & fastest citizenship by investment

The small island of Malta offers the EU’s most well-known citizenship by investment program.

Malta is one of the only remaining places where making a substantial investment (plus donation) to the government can get you citizenship fast.

Usually, the process takes around 18 months. Malta citizenship by investment is the fastest in Europe. It’s among the easiest countries to get a passport – but only if you can afford it.

Malta also has a passive income residency pathway, which, in theory, you can use to become eligible for citizenship after five years. 

But, we’ve asked around, and, in reality, it seems that the Maltese government ignores or rejects most citizenship applications via this route.

Some foreigners living there have been turned down for citizenship even after 20 years or more of residency. 

Malta wants people to buy citizenship, rather than earn it by actually living there for an extended period.

That might be why Malta seems to discourage applications through the ordinary naturalization route.

🇮🇪 IRELAND: easiest country to get citizenship if you have a UK passport

If you’re a British national, Ireland is one of the easiest European countries to immigrate to (despite Brexit). You can move to Ireland anytime with no restrictions, thanks to the Common Travel Area (CTA).

The CTA is an agreement  between the UK and Ireland that predates the European Union. Under the CTA, British nationals can freely live, work, study, and claim benefits in Ireland (and vice versa).

Once you’ve been resident in Ireland for five years, you can apply for Irish citizenship. An Irish passport will restore your lost EU rights. You don’t even need to learn another language in order to get one.

For non-British nationals, Irish citizenship by naturalization is far more challenging.

Ireland doesn’t have a passive income pathway that leads to citizenship.

The next best option used to be investing €1 million to get residency by investment with the Ireland Golden Visa, also known as the Irish Immigrant Investor Program. But Ireland canceled that program in February 2023.

Now, it seems the only option for non-British, non-EU nationals to move to Ireland is to find a sponsored job opportunity in the country.

🇱🇺 LUXEMBOURG: easiest country to get citizenship bureaucracy-wise

A tiny country sandwiched between France, Germany, and Belgium, on first glance Luxembourg doesn’t look too compelling.

But Luxembourg more interesting than you might think, because it offers not only a viable passive income based residency pathway, but also a fast and efficient citizenship timeline of five years. 

Foreigners who’ve been through the naturalization process report that the Luxembourg government follows the rules precisely.

The information you receive on the government website is exactly what’s done in reality.

That’s not always the case with citizenship applications, so it’s refreshing to see a country that does things by the book.

Luxembourg does have certain language requirements for citizenship.

You’ll need to reach a level of A2 in speaking and B1 in listening on the Common European Language Framework in th national language (Luxembourgish), before submitting your citizenship application.  

(Read more about the EU language levels in our citizenship language learning guide).

What’s more, the Luxembourg citizenship application itself is free of charge, although you may need to pay for preparation of various documents.

🇪🇸 SPAIN: easiest country to get citizenship by marriage

We don’t normally include citizenship pathways by heritage or marriage. But Spain’s is so fast that we felt it was worth including.

After just one year of marriage to a Spanish citizen, the foreign spouse can apply for Spanish citizenship. 

But Spain isn’t the most appealing destination for gaining second citizenship in the EU. 

Most importantly, Spain doesn’t allow dual citizenship. If you want a Spanish passport, you’ll have to give up your original nationality.

Although a Spanish EU passport might be more powerful than your original one, we believe two passports are always preferable to one.

If you don’t plan to marry a Spanish citizen, then we don’t recommend Spain as an option for second citizenship at all. The timeline for naturalization is a whopping 10 years.

You’ll also be subject to high taxes and complicated bureaucracy along the way.

🇵🇹 PORTUGAL: best all-rounder for getting citizenship

We saved the best until last, and the best is Portugal.

Portugal ticks many boxes as the easiest country to get citizenship of the EU. It’s also one of the easiest European countries to immigrate to.

Portugal has a fast five-year timeline to become eligible for citizenship and offers several excellent and flexible residency pathways (such as the Portugal D7 visa or the digital nomad visa).

Portugal recognizes dual citizenship and has one of the lowest language exam requirements for citizenship in the EU. 

Also, if you decide to make Portugal your primary home, you can access 10 years of preferential tax treatment under the non-habitual residency (NHR) tax scheme (although the government has announced plans to close this scheme in 2024).

The NHR is aimed at new residents who have overseas income and/or work in high value professions. 

If you decide to get residency via the Portugal Golden Visa route, you can choose whether or not to live in Portugal.

Your investment will ‘live’ in the country on your behalf, clocking up the five years until you can apply for citizenship.

Portugal offers several investment options for the Golden Visa, including venture capital and private equity funds, investing in film production, incorporating a business, and creating 10 local jobs.

FASTEST Portuguese residency routes

You can apply for Portuguese citizenship after just five years of residency.

This is one of the fastest timelines in the EU. But when are those five years counted from?

Well, the clock starts when you receive your residency permit.

That’s why it makes sense to get to that point as quickly as possible, avoiding any unnecessary hold-ups or complications.

Here are the fastest Portuguese residency routes.

Residency routeBasic requirementsTimeline to residency permit (estimated)Minimum physical stay requirement
Portugal Golden Visa (Investment Funds)Minimum of €500,000 invested into an eligible Portuguese fund.6 to 8 months from time of investing and submitting application at SEF. 7 days per year
Portugal Highly Qualified Activity (HQA) Visa Minimum of €175,000 investment, plus company setup in Portugal. Can all be done via a concierge-style incubator service.1 to 2 months from submitting application at SEF.7 days per year
Portugal D7 ‘Passive Income’ Visa Minimum of €760 per month in passive income, plus 12 months of savings (for one person). 4 months from time of submitting application at embassy.183 days per year
Portugal Digital Nomad (D8) VisaMinimum of €3,040 per month in remote work salary, plus 12 months of savings (for one person). 4 months from time of submitting application at embassy.183 days per year

Read our guide on how to get Portuguese citizenship.

FAQs

What is the fastest European citizenship?

Malta has the fastest European citizenship, if you’re prepared to pay for it. Participants in Malta’s citizenship by investment scheme can secure an EU passport in as little as 12 months. For regular citizenship by naturalization in Europe (assuming no relevant ancestry or marriage), the fastest timeline is five years in a range of countries, including Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, Czech Republic, France and Portugal.

What is the easiest way to get European citizenship?

The easiest way to get European citizenship is through ancestry. If you have parents or grandparents from a European country, you may be eligible to seek citizenship by descent in that country. For those without any European ancestry, the easiest way to get European citizenship is through a citizenship by investment program. Malta’s is the fastest, offering the opportunity to get a passport within just 18 months.

Does a child born in Europe get citizenship?

A child born in Europe does not necessarily get citizenship (unlike in the United States). Giving birth in a European country doesn’t guarantee that the child will be granted citizenship. That’s because European countries grant citizenship on the basis of jus sanguinis (right of blood), rather than jus soli (right of soil). In Europe, a child getting citizenship of the country where it was born depends on the residency status and original nationality of the parents.

Which country gives citizenship easily?

Several European countries give citizenship easily, but it depends on several different factors. Ireland, Portugal, and Italy give citizenship easily if you have the right ancestry. Malta gives citizenship easily if you have enough money for its citizenship by investment program. Portugal give citizenship easily (even without Portuguese heritage), if you maintain residency in the country for five years.

Which countries have the quickest citizenship by naturalization?

The country with the quickest citizenship by naturalization in the world is Vanuatu, where it typically takes a month to be granted.

Which EU countries sell citizenship?

No EU countries ‘sell’ citizenship directly any longer. All require a period of actual residency before you can be eligible for a second passport. However, Malta offers the closest thing to selling citizenship, as you can get a Maltese passport by investment after just 12 months.

Next Steps

What’s the easiest EU country to get citizenship? It’s a difficult question to answer. 

The definition of ‘easiest’ depends on many factors, including your personal circumstances, your existing nationality, your desire to learn another language, and how much money you have available. 

There are other easy routes, such as by descent or by marriage. But here at Digital Émigré, we focus mainly on pathways to EU citizenship that you, the individual, can easily control.

That may involve creating your own online income source to take advantage of passive income visas, or leveraging one of the EU’s residency by investment programs.

In this way, you can be the architect of your own life – no matter where you or your parents happened to be born.

That’s why we prefer Portugal. If you’d like to know more, here’s our guide on how to get Portuguese citizenship.

Related articles:

Join the Digital Émigré newsletter for tips on making your big move.