How To Get Your Citizenship Abroad

Becoming A Global Citizen 

Though there are a few people who move abroad temporarily, most of us who have gone through the gruelling process of emigration and immigration are probably in it for the long haul. 

That means that at some stage you will undoubtedly have to complete a citizenship test in your new country. Though the tests and criteria for citizenship vary greatly between countries, we’ll go over some basic rules, requirements and test criteria.

How to get citizenship

As mentioned above, the criteria for citizenship varies between countries – so there will be regional differences to consider.

How fast you will be eligible or granted citizenship will depend on your “ties” so to speak, with the country, and not all countries offer all of these citizenship options:

  • Citizenship by descent
  • Citizenship by birth within the country borders
  • Citizenship by marriage
  • Citizenship by investment or business value
  • Citizenship by religion
  • Citizenship by adoption
  • Citizenship by concession (social/public status)

Jus Soli

The fastest route to obtain citizenship would be by birth, should the particular country in question offer this type of citizenship. Birthright citizenship is also known as Jus Soli which translates as “right of the soil” and means that a person is entitled to citizenship of the country where they are born.

Jus soli has two variations though – which is unrestricted or restricted jus soli. Unrestricted jus soli grants citizenship by default to individuals born within country borders. Countries offering this type of citizenship include:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Barbados (pending review)
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Cuba
  • Dominica
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Fiji
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Lesotho
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Tanzania
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tuvalu
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

Restricted jus soli means the person born in the country or their family members must satisfy certain prerequisites, such as at least one parent being a citizen, residing in the country permanently at the time of the child’s birth or other rules as determined by the government. Countries with restricted jus soli include

  • Australia – requires one parent to be a citizen or permanent resident or if the child has been living in Australia for 10 years
  • Bahrain – requires the birth father to have been born in Bahrain and have valid residency permits
  • Brazil – not available to children born to foreign diplomats or parents who work for other governments at the time of the child’s birth
  • Cambodia – only applies to children born to parents with legal residency in Cambodia.
  • Chad – jus soli applied automatically, but the child chooses their own citizenship (that of their parents or Chad) at the age of 18.
  • Costa Rica – jus soli is unrestricted but requires registration with the Costa Rican government before the age of 25)
  • Dominican Republic – does not apply to children born to individuals who are considered “in transit” or with expired visas.
  • Egypt: only granted to children whose fathers were also born in Egypt.
  • France:  applied unrestricted to children with at least one French parent, but restricted to children of foreign citizens pending a review of their age and length of residence.
  • Germany: granted to children with at least one parent who has permanent German residency and who has lived in Germany for eight years.
  • Greece: granted to children born in Greece who have not been granted dual citizenship. Also allowed for children whose foreign parents have had legal residence in Greece for 5 years.
  • Hong Kong: granted unrestricted to children born in Hong Kong with parents who are citizens of the People’s Republic of China.
  • Iran: applies automatically if at least one of the parents was also born in Iran.
  • Ireland: requires at least one of the parents to have been born in Ireland or the UK
  • Malaysia: applies if at least one parent is a Malaysian citizen or permanent resident.
  • Morocco: only applies to children whose parents were also born in Morocco and who have legally immigrated. The citizenship is, however only granted upon registering with the Moroccan authorities two years prior to adulthood.
  • Namibia: applies if one of the parents is a Namibian citizen or ordinarily a resident in Namibia.
  • New Zealand: only applies if at least one parent has New Zealand or Australian citizenship or permanent residency.
  • Peru – jus soli is unrestricted but requires registration with the Peruvian government at 18 years of age)
  • United States of America – jus soli is applied automatically but excludes children of foreign diplomats or children born to enemy forces engaged in hostile actions as determined by the 14th Amendment.
  • Portugal: applied unrestricted should the child not have foreign citizenship and not be the child of foreign diplomats or government workers and have resided in Portugal for more than five years.
  • South Africa: applies to children whose parents are citizens or permanent residents.
  • Spain: applies if one of the parents is a permanent resident and had resided predominantly in Spain at the time of the child’s birth.
  • Thailand: requires that both parents have legal residency and domicile in Thailand and have lived in Thailand for at least five years.
  • Tunisia: requires that both the father and grandfather have been born in Tunisia.
  • United Kingdom: requires one of the parents to be a British citizen or be legally settled in the UK.

Jus Sanguinis

The second fastest route in which one can get citizenship is by being a descendant of other native citizens. This principle is called jus sanguinis and posits that one’s citizenship is not determined by where you are born, but what your heritage is.

Different countries have different interpretations and applications of jus sanguinis, but there are some places where you can count on the citizenship or place of birth of your mother, father or grandparents to either score citizenship or speed up the process.

Some countries which offer jus sanguinis citizenship include:

  • Austria
  • Armenia
  • Canada – limited to one generation born outside Canadian borders
  • China
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Germany – subject to linguistic and cultural tests. Also applies to individuals and their descendants who were denaturalised by the Nazi regime and now live outside German borders.
  • Haiti
  • Iceland
  • India – a Person of Indian Origin card which allows visa-free travel within India is also granted to individuals with grandparents of Indian descent provided that the applicant and their ancestors have never been citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan or China.
  • Ireland – offered up to two generations from grandparents. The person eligible for such citizenship is also allowed to pass his/her entitlement on to his/her children.
  • Iran – if born outside Iran the father needs to be Iranian.
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Norway
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America

There are other countries which also apply variations of jus sanguini based on one’s ethnicity include Greece, Finland, Afghanistan, Armenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Kiribati, Liberia, Lithuania, Rwanda, Serbia, Spain, South Korea and Turkey.

Single or dual (multi) citizenship?

Another aspect to consider is whether you want dual citizenship or if you want to cede your existing citizenship for the new citizenship.

This may not always be voluntary, as certain countries do not permit dual citizenship. Consequently you may forfeit your old citizenship by default when you become a citizen of another country, or conversely, your new country may expect you to renounce your existing citizenship for new citizenship to be granted.

Countries which do not allow dual citizenship include:

  • Andorra
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Botswana
  • Brunei
  • Burma
  • China
  • Czech Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Estonia
  • Fiji
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Malaysia
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Solomon Islands
  • Thailand
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Venezuela
  • Zimbabwe

Citizenship by naturalisation

One may also be eligible for citizenship depending on how long you or your family have been residing in a particular country. Some countries require permanent residency within their borders which exceeds a decade before you are eligible for citizenship, while others have swift turnaround times.

The countries where citizenship can be acquired by naturalisation in the shortest time include:

  • Macedonia – 1 year
  • Dominican Republic – 2 years
  • Paraguay – 3 years
  • Uruguay – 3 years
  • Russia – 3 years

Other requirements

You should remember that there will be other requirements to be met for you to gain citizenship. Some countries work with point systems, and some offer concessions for unique cases.

Things you may be vetted on include:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Citizenship of family members
  • Political or religious activity
  • Level of education
  • Linguistic proficiency
  • Financial assets
  • Tax residency
  • Current income bracket
  • Criminal history
  • International business activities
  • Ordinary place of residence
  • Country of origin
  • Familial structure
  • Skills and proficiencies
  • Current professional position
  • Travel history
  • Investment value

The investment value, of course, is another quick fix for affluent persons or business savvy individuals who want to fast-track the citizenship process.

This option grants citizenship to individuals who make significant investments in the country where they are applying for citizenship OR aim to launch or develop businesses, programs or other professional initiatives in this country which will have a significant economic and social benefit for the country.

One popular method for gaining citizenship which has also come under much scrutiny is citizenship by marriage. Some countries offer fast-tracked naturalisation to foreign spouses of local citizens. It should be noted that due to widespread fraud under this type of citizenship application. If this is you – then be sure that authorities will be digging around in you and your spouse’s backgrounds and relationship to establish its authenticity and the validity of your case.

Then, of course, there is citizenship by concession. Governments may grant citizenship to foreigners based on their status – whether they are professional athletes, famous chefs, world-renowned scientists, hollywood movie stars or pop idols.

Fast-track the process

Remember that your citizenship application may be deemed far more favourable if you have proven your dedication to your new country and your intent to stay there. One such move is to emigrate financially from South Africa. This process will not affect your South African citizenship – but will merely make you a tax resident in your new home. And governments tend to like people who pay their taxes.

If you need help with the process, remember that Rand Rescue has the skills, tools and resources to manage your financial emigration on your behalf. But why not contact us for a free consultation where we’ll explain your options and the processes required for your individual financial portfolio.

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