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Which Country Citizenship Is Hardest to Get?

In the changing world, a growing number of people consider relocating to a foreign country. There can be various reasons why such an idea may come to the people’s heads. Some of them are unhappy with the political and/ or economic situation in their home country while others simply want to acquire a more powerful passport that would allow them to enter a larger number of countries without visas.

Many countries will grant citizenship to a foreign national if he or she marries a local person, has ancestors who were born in the country, joins the national army, offers some unique expertise or skills, makes an investment in the local economy, and so on. However, there are national states that make relocating there extremely difficult. Below we discuss the hardest countries to immigrate to.

Hardest citizenship to get

How could you obtain foreign citizenship?

Citizenship is essentially an agreement between the person and the state that imposes certain obligations on both parties and gives both parties certain rights. For example, a citizen of a country has voting rights and he/ she is free to live on the territory of the country. In exchange, the citizen has to pay taxes and in some cases serve in the military.

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Acquiring foreign citizenship is a challenging task. The first difficulty that you are going to face is choosing the right country to immigrate to. You will find ads on the Internet promoting various ‘golden passport’ programs but not all of those ads are trustworthy. Please request our professional assistance in foreign citizenship acquisition and stay away from fraudsters. You are welcome to request a free consultation with our experts on the matter.

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The globalization processes are going on and people are moving between countries more and more often. If a traveler likes a foreign country that he or she visits, the idea of relocating there for good may come to his/ her mind. However, the person who wants to acquire citizenship of a foreign country has to find a reason why the immigration authorities of that country would want to grant citizenship to him/ her. What can be the reasons for acquiring foreign citizenship? We list the most important of them below.

  • Citizenship by the right of blood. This is one of the simplest ways of acquiring foreign citizenship. All you have to do is supply conclusive evidence that one of you ancestors (even if it is your great grandfather, for example) was a citizen of the foreign country. Little costs are going to be involved in acquiring foreign citizenship by the right of blood but the process can take a long time. Some examples of the countries that will grant citizenship by the right of blood include Italy, Poland, and Ireland. 
  • Citizenship by the right of soil. Have you ever heard of ‘maternity tourism’? Some countries will grant citizenship to anyone who is born on their territories even if the child is born to foreign parents. Around 30 countries including the USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, etc. grant citizenship by the right of soil and people from other countries sometimes make use of this opportunity. The child is granted citizenship automatically and its parents have to go through a simplified procedure of foreign citizenship acquisition. That is to say, their naturalization period is going to be much shorter in many instances.
  • Citizenship by marriage. This is one more simple way of acquiring foreign citizenship in a fast manner (normally in 1 to 3 years) because most countries will grant citizenship to the foreign spouse of a local person. To acquire citizenship by marriage, however, you first have to meet a foreign person and fall in love with him or her. Falling in love is important because fictitious marriages are illegal!
  • Citizenship by naturalization. Naturalization is a slow process. You have to live in the foreign country for many years on some legal grounds before you can apply for citizenship by naturalization. In addition to that, you will have to demonstrate complete integration with the local community, learn the local language, and probably pass a test in the history of the country.
  • Citizenship for outstanding achievements. Many countries will grant citizenship to foreigners who have some outstanding talents. For example, Anna Netrebko, a Russian opera singer, has been granted citizenship of Austria, the country of Mozart’s birth. But Anna’s voice and singing skills are fantastic indeed! Thus, you have to be a truly outstanding personality to acquire foreign citizenship on these grounds.
  • Citizenship for military services. There are countries that will grant citizenship to the foreign ‘soldiers of fortune’ who choose to join their armed forces. It is more important, however, to keep in mind the fact that there is conscription in some countries if emigrating is on your mind. If you become a citizen of Israel, for example, you (or your children) will have to provide military services. And the gender does not matter in Israel: both men and women have to serve in the army.
  • Citizenship by investment. About a dozen countries provide this opportunity. It usually takes 3 to 4 months to acquire foreign citizenship by investment. The lowest required investment amount that you can find is US$ 100,000 (a couple of countries in the Caribbean ‘sell’ their passports at this price). You should bear in mind, however, that the so-called ‘economic citizens’ may face some restrictions. For example, they don’t have voting rights in some countries.

We must stress that these opportunities are available in certain countries but not all of them. Theoretically, you could become a citizen of any foreign country but in practice, achieving this goal can be extremely difficult. Below we provide a list of 10 countries with strict immigration laws whose citizenship is hard to get indeed.

What foreign citizenship is the hardest to acquire?

Some national states make it extremely hard for foreigners to acquire their citizenship. They put forward strict requirements to prospective immigrants due to overpopulation, or some economic factors, or political preferences. Below please find the countries that you should probably remove from the list of possible options if you are considering relocating to a foreign state.

  • Andorra. The tiny Duchy of Andorra sitting between France and Spain in the Pyrenees is famous for its ski resorts and its tax incentives. It’s a tax haven, as a matter of fact. Acquiring citizenship of Andorra is difficult. You have to legally reside in the country for 20 years before you can apply for citizenship. If you have attended an Andorran university, the required period of legal residence is reduced to 10 years. Andorrans are entitled to live in France without any visas or permits. The Duchy is not an EU country and neither has it joined the Schengen treaty. It is possible to acquire legal residence in Andorra by investment but the required amount is substantial. Please also note that dual citizenship is not allowed in the country.
  • Bhutan. Acquiring citizenship of the Kingdom of Bhutan located between China and India is highly problematic. As a rule, only the person whose parents are Bhutanese becomes a citizen of the country. A foreigner has to live in Bhutan for 15 years before he or she can apply for citizenship. Besides, the person has to abide by the law and speak Dzongkha, the official Bhutanese language. Dual citizenship is prohibited. Citizens of Bhutan acquiring foreign citizenship cease to be considered citizens of Bhutan. If a naturalized Bhutanese fails to be loyal to the king or the people of Bhutan, his/ her citizenship can be revoked.  
  • Vatican. This is the smallest country in the world with a population of around 800 people. Only 450 of them are citizens of the Vatican. It is virtually impossible to acquire citizenship of the Vatican unless you are a clergyman. You cannot become a citizen of the Vatican by birth because there are no maternity facilities in the country: people can die in the Vatican but they cannot be born there. Naturalization is also impossible. The following three groups of people can become citizens of the Vatican: cardinals living in the Vatican or in Rome, the Holy See diplomats, and those doing military service in the Vatican. The person remains a citizen of the Vatican while he belongs to one of these groups. When a cardinal is transferred to another jurisdiction or when the service of a gourd is over, they cease to be citizens of the Vatican. The state of Vatican issues regular passports to its citizens and the Holy See issues diplomatic passports.
  • China. A foreign national can hardly naturalize in China, a country where around 1.4 billion people live. Of course, foreigners do reside in China but they have the status of legal residents rather than citizens. Only if you have relations of kin with a Chinese national, can you become a citizen of China. Dual citizenship is not allowed. The only realistic way of becoming a Chinese citizen is applying for citizenship in Hong Kong. This region of the country enjoys special privileges that include simplified procedures of citizenship acquisition.
  • Monaco. Monaco is one of the richest countries in the world. In addition to an unbelievably high GDP per capita, the Duchy boasts superb living standards and low taxes. No wonder it is extremely popular with superrich individuals who relocate there from other parts of the world. However, most of them are legal residents of Monaco rather than citizens of the country. To become a full-fledged citizen of Monaco, you have to live in the country for at least 10 years, spending the best part of each year there. Besides, you have to own a piece of residential property in Monaco or have a long-term rent agreement. Now, you can hardly find a place where the real estate prices are higher than those in Monaco. You will have to renounce your present citizenship if you would like to become a citizen of Monaco. Finally, the Duke has to give a personal approval of each application for citizenship of Monaco.
  • United Arab Emirates. The UAE is one more wealthy country. 80% of the local people are foreigners though. Who can qualify for citizenship of the UAE? A foreign national legally residing in the country for thirty years, abiding by the law, and fluent in Arabic. If a foreign national marries a local person, he or she can become a citizen of the UAE in 7 years if the couple has children. If they do not, citizenship can be acquired after 10 years. Only UAE-born citizens have the voting rights. Acquiring citizenship of the country for outstanding talents or achievements is also possible but the Sheikh has to issue a personal approval.  
  • Palau. Foreigners can hardly become citizens of Palau because the legislation of the country says nothing about naturalization at all. You can only be born a Palauan. Dual citizenship is not allowed. The insular state has only 21 thousand people living there and the country is in a free association with the U.S.A. The passport of Palau gives visa-free access to 118 countries including the U.S.A., Great Britain, the EU countries, and so on.  
  • San Marino. This is one of the smallest countries in the world with the population of 33 thousand people only. If you legally reside on the territory of San Marino for thirty years, you can qualify for citizenship of the country by naturalization. If you marry a local person, you have to keep your family going for fifteen years before you can apply for citizenship of the country.
  • Saudi Arabia. The country in the Persian Gulf seldom grants citizenship to foreigners. Non-Muslims barely stand a chance to become citizens of Saudi Arabia. If you live in the country for 15 to 20 years, embrace Islam, and denounce your present citizenship, you can theoretically become a citizen of Saudi Arabia. If a child is born to an international family, it will become a citizen of the country only if its father is Saudi. We must note that the country has recently launched a residence-by-investment program (sometimes referred to as a ‘golden card’ program).
  • North Korea. Foreigners can hardly obtain citizenship of North Korea but this opportunity is rarely sought after, to be frank. Most North Koreans don’t have passports as they never go abroad. If a citizen of the country wants to have a passport, he or she can acquire one but the procedure involves a lot of bureaucracy and the passport costs around US$ 5,000. The North Korean passport allows traveling only to 39 countries and territories without visas.
  • Switzerland. The country is extremely popular with wealthy people of other nationalities wishing to obtain second citizenship. However, the procedure has recently become much more complicated due to the new immigration policies that have been adopted. Normally, you have to live in Switzerland as a legal foreign resident for 10 years before you can apply for citizenship of the country. Some additional requirements include complete integration in the Swiss society and knowledge of the local culture, traditions, and languages. Applications for citizenship are examined at three levels: the municipal, the cantonal, and the federal ones. The task of acquiring Swiss citizenship is going to be simpler if you marry a local person. In this case, you can become a citizen of Switzerland after three years on the condition that you have spent not less than five years in total as a legal resident in the country. The Swiss passport is one of the most powerful travel documents in the world. If you want to acquire one, you can start by applying for legal residence in Switzerland by tax agreement.
  • Equatorial Guinea. You have to legally reside in Equatorial Guinea for 40 years before you can qualify for citizenship of this African country. By the African standards, the country is well developed as it is a major exporter of oil on the continent. Dual citizenship is normally prohibited but a few countries have signed bilateral agreements with Equatorial Guinea that allow dual citizenship.  

Second citizenship opportunities readily available to well-to-do people

If you don’t feel like waiting for years and years until you can become a citizen of a foreign country by naturalization, if you don’t want to renounce your present citizenship, and if you don’t want to learn a language that is hardly spoken anywhere else, we have some alternatives for you. A few countries offer citizenship-by-investment opportunities. 

This is the safest, the simplest, the surest, and the fastest method of acquiring foreign citizenship. You only have to have the following two things: enough money and a clean police record. When applying for foreign citizenship by investment, you have to buy some property in the foreign state, create a business company and/ or a few jobs there, or put money in banks or funds in the country. In some cases, you can make a non-returnable donation to the state fund to qualify for citizenship. Below please find a list of countries that administer citizenship-by-investment programs of certain types.

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CountryAntiguaVanuatuGrenadaDominicaJordanMaltaNorth MacedoniaSt KittsSt LuciaTurkeyEgypt
Minimum investment amount$100,000$145,000$150,000$100,000$750,000€715,000€200,000$125,000*$100,000$400,000$250,000
Remote citizenship acquisition

* Amount until June 2023; after the date, the amount is going to be $150,000.

Professional assistance in acquiring foreign citizenship

The world is one and moving to a foreign country does not have to be something out of the ordinary these days. However, much will depend on what country you choose. Besides, the immigration regulations change all the time and some foreign citizenship opportunities go while some new ones appear. Professional advice would certainly come in handy if you are thinking of acquiring foreign citizenship.

International Wealth experts will gladly help you make the right choice! We will also be happy to assist you in solving some additional tasks that may arise when you obtain a second passport such as opening a foreign bank account or registering a foreign company, for example. We have vast experience in all matters related to immigration.

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