Obtaining dual citizenship marks an instrumental change, particularly for those individuals who strive for greater freedom of movement and a more secure way of life. Many people often feel tied down to the citizenship they gained at birth. In certain instances, this citizenship poses restrictions or limits the ability of people to move freely or does not guarantee a secure and aspiring future. It is for this reason that an increasing amount of people are exploring their options and determining how to get dual citizenship.

Citizenship laws vary by country, as does the allowance of dual citizenship. Due to the differentiated ways countries grant citizenship, it is not uncommon for an individual to be legally entitled to a second citizenship without his/her knowledge. However, most people are not this fortunate, and have to actively pursue or put in the time to get a second citizenship. It is very easy to take citizenship for granted. Many do not realize the benefits and privileges granted through holding one particular citizenship over another. It is no coincidence for instance that there has been a surge in British citizens securing second citizenships as a result of Brexit. It was not until the rights they had gotten accustomed to enjoying came at risk of being stripped away that they considered the option of dual citizenship. Britons are urgently seeking to get dual citizenship primarily to continue enjoying the right of freedom of movement within the EU.

Although a large majority of countries nowadays allow dual citizenship, some countries have stricter laws on the issue than others. Dual or multiple citizenship occurs when an individual holds two or more citizenships simultaneously. When it comes to the question of how to get dual citizenship, this can occur mainly through descent/ancestry, naturalisation, and the more recent phenomenon of investment migration. In this respect, some countries might be preferred over others since they offer a comparatively expedited road to citizenship under either of these three certain criteria.

How to Get Dual Citizenship by Descent

Certain countries base their citizenship legislation on the principle of ius sanguinis, otherwise known as citizenship by descent. In this case, citizenship may be granted based on affiliations with the country arising from parentage or ancestral lineage. Although such a process is unlikely to be short of bureaucracy, it might be one the most guaranteed and efficient way of gaining dual citizenship.

Ireland and Italy are known for having granting citizenship by descent, and both also happen to allow dual citizenship. In the case of Ireland, if either parent is an Irish citizen by birth, marriage, adoption, or naturalisation at the time of birth, the child or adult would be entitled to Irish citizenship. However, the descent laws in Ireland go much further than this. If an individual has one grandparent who is an Irish citizen born in Ireland, the individual may become an Irish citizenship, even if neither of his/her parents were born in Ireland themselves. The Irish citizenship of successive generations may be passed on in this way on the condition that each generation ensures their registration in the Foreign Births Register before the birth of the next generation.

Similar to Ireland, Italy also grants citizenship through the principle of ius sanguinis to those whose ancestors were Italian citizens, however the criteria are slightly stricter. Amongst these conditions, the Italian ancestor must have been alive after Italy’s unification in 1861, must not have naturalised elsewhere after before July of 1912, and sufficient proof must be given that neither the applicant in question nor any of the direct ancestors ever renounced their Italian citizenship. Furthermore, the transmission of Italian citizenship through maternal lineage is possible only for children born after January 1, 1948.

How to Get Dual Citizenship by Naturalisation

Most countries around the world have in place a legal framework for naturalisation, whereby foreigners can apply for citizenship upon fulfilling a set of conditions. This is usually dependent on satisfying a specific period of legal residency, which varies for each country. The general period of residency is that of five to seven years. Oftentimes, however, an expedited naturalisation process is available in the case of marriage, whereby shorter residency periods are established.

Some of the notable countries with relatively lenient residency requirements include Peru, Argentina, and Canada. The former two both have a minimal two-year residency requirement which needs to be satisfied prior to applying for citizenship, while Canada requires three years of permanent residency in the five years preceding the submission of the application. Apart from residency, other criteria are generally implied. Typically, this would include swearing an oath of allegiance to the country, declaring an intention to obey the country’s laws, reaching a minimum age requirement, being of moral character, and basic knowledge of the country’s language, history and culture, which is often assessed through a citizenship naturalisation test.

With regards to marriage, it is extremely rare for a country to allow automatic naturalisation in the event of marriage. Rather, countries tend to grant residency on the basis of marriage, and in turn a swifter process for naturalisation. Prior to applying for citizenship, Spain, for instance, requires only one year of legal tax residence for a foreigner who is married to a Spanish citizen. Ireland calls for one year of “reckonable residence” within at least three years of marriage or a registered civil relationship. Foreigners married to a Polish citizen can also apply for naturalisation in Poland after two years of uninterrupted stay within the country as a permanent resident, or long-term EU resident.

How to Get Dual Citizenship through Citizenship by Investment

One recent and somewhat revolutionary development in the field of citizenship has been the gradual implementation and rising popularity of citizenship by investment programmes. These programmes allow for the granting of citizenship to individuals who make a specific significant investment to the country. In this respect, for many affluent individuals, citizenship by investment programmes are an efficient way to get dual citizenship. Investments may range from government fund donations, stocks or bonds, and real estate or business investments. This particular phenomenon has been a direct repercussion of individuals becoming increasingly aware of the benefits and merits of holding dual or multiple citizenship status.

Citizenship by investment programmes first originated in 1984 in the tropical Caribbean country of St. Kitts and Nevis. Since then, numerous citizenship by investment programmes have been introduced across the globe. As of 2019, five Caribbean countries have citizenship by investment programmes in operation- St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Dominica. Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Antigua and Barbuda, for instance, all grant citizenship within a three-month processing time for a minimum investment of USD 100,000 for a single applicant. The Caribbean programmes are therefore ideal for those who wish to get dual citizenship, yet who prefer flexibility and are particularly pressured on time.

However, there are also acclaimed citizenship by investment programmes across Europe, namely in Malta, Cyprus, and Austria. The programmes, while being of the highest standard, grant successful reputable applicants visa-free access to the 26 countries in the Schengen area, as well as the opportunity to reside and do business in any of the European Union (EU) member countries.

Although getting dual citizenship through such programmes requires a more substantial financial commitment than through other means, many individuals often find the process worthwhile given the newly gained travel freedom, personal security, enriched quality of life, and long-term financial benefits.