Where the Best and Worst Places Are to Apply for Citizenship?
I confess, I have been nationality shopping for many years now since I have always known that I wanted to have a family and live outside of the United States. Through my legal education, I have made a mental note every time I have met an expatriate abroad who has enlightened me about some loophole in international immigration law that I could take into consideration for later on.
Working abroad is a great tool; however, if you ever want to not be relying on your employer for sponsorship, it is wise to consider your own nationalization process. This article lists my five best and worst places in the world to try to nationalize without having marriage or family to help you to streamline the process.
The Five Friendliest Places to Naturalize
Before I met my Venezuelan husband, I was actually shopping around for my prospects in MERCOSUR. Surprisingly, Uruguay is one of the most stable economies and it is also one of the friendliest towards expatriate investment and immigration. Legally speaking, I could have overstayed my Uruguayan tourist visa and gone to the department of migration and received papers to work in six to twelve months. I likely would not have even had to hire a lawyer and could have translated the entire process myself. The key to this process is to show proof of funding with a bank statement. Then at that point, you can get a job in Uruguay if you desire or retire. After three years, you will be able to nationalize as an Uruguayan and tango for the rest of your days. Reference: http://www.uruguayrelocate.com
Having many friends from Argentina and Uruguay, I was exposed to how easy it was to nationalize in Italy. Italy honors those who left during World War II and before. Thus, even my friends who had grandparents in Argentina whose grandparents applied to Italy for their citizenship during the economic crisis in the 2000’s, were able to pass that nationality down to their grandchildren. This is an enormous asset to those grandchildren who now have the legal right to live and work in both MEROSUR and the EU. In order to naturalize in Italy, it takes three years for descendants of former Italian citizens, four years for citizens of another EU country, five years for refugees, seven years for adopted children of Italian citizens, and ten years for non-EU citizens. Reference: http://www.esteri.it/mae/en/italiani_nel_mondo/serviziconsolari/cittadinanza.html
Ireland has another provision that is similar to the idea that Italy had. If the grandparent who is born abroad has ties to a grandparent who was born on Irish soil, then they are eligible for Irish nationality. This is a great tool for those Americans who are desperate to work in the EU. This gives those children twice the choice and can also lower their educational expenses since they will be charged the EU tuition rate in both the UK and the EU. The standard period of permanent residency is five years before one can nationalize as a foreigner with no ties. Reference: http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/moving_country/irish_citizenship/becoming_an_irish_citizen_through_naturalisation.html
Brazil is one of the most open countries to immigration in the world with the exception of to Americans. When I was looking in my search, Brazil is quite easy to immigrate to if you can show your capital. If you merely live in Brazil for four years and become fluent in Portuguese or adopt a Brazilian child, you are considered Brazilian by the government. The key to this is getting work papers, which can be demonstrated by bringing money with you to Brazil. Then, you can network and get a good job there and enjoy! Reference: http://www.brazil-factoid.com/citizenship-in-brazil
The Five Least Friendly Places to Naturalize
Having a cousin that lives in Switzerland, I can attest that it is very difficult for people to naturalize there even if they are married to a Swiss citizen. A person has to live in Switzerland for ten years in order to become a citizen and citizenship is not automatic through marriage. Thus, those who are trying to be able to live and work in Switzerland better calculate their moves carefully and bring enough capital with them to sustain them for a long period of unemployment as they attempt to gain nationality and legal permanent residence. Reference: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/becoming-a-citizen/29288376
Israel is fascinating because it is so simple for those who are Jewish and for those who are not, it is basically impossible. Since I have Jewish descent from my Spanish mother, I am actually eligible for Israeli citizenship and my husband and I have added it to our possibility list one day given how supportive the Israeli government is towards those who are Jewish to integrate into society and learn Hebrew. That being said, if you do not have Jewish lineage it is going to be very difficult for you to immigrate to Israel. The best way around this is to get a job in Israel or to have an investor visa. This is likely the only way to immigrate successfully. Reference: https://movingtoisrael.org/how-move-israel-if-you-are-not-jew
Having lived in South Korea, I spoke to many of the locals. South Korea is so concerned with protecting being Korean. It is because of this that even a first generation immigrant who moves to Los Angeles is considered to be a “gyopo,” otherwise known as a non-Korean. In fact, if an American married a Korean, they would have permanent residency for life and would never nationalize. Thus, South Korea is a great place to be a permanent permanent resident, but nothing more. Reference: http://www.hikorea.go.kr/pt/InfoDetailR_en.pt
My home country is one of the most difficult places to immigrate in the world. For the average person with no ties, there is an extensive line of applications and there are only a certain number of slots per country given annually. The permanent residency is obtained through a lottery if one is lucky. Alternatively, one can marry a U.S. citizen, have an investor visa or obtain nationality through their parents. If one does this, they can naturalize in three years after being married to a U.S. citizen or in five years if receiving the green card from their family member. Reference: https://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship/citizenship-through-naturalization. View my thorough explanation about filling out a US immigration visa form here.
Japan has one of the most complex immigration processes in the world as well. One must live in Japan legally for five years as a permanent resident in order to obtain nationality. The issue with Japan is that like South Korea, they are very protective of their culture. Thus, it is quite difficult to become a permanent resident initially and the Japanese government does not recognize many dual nationalities as well. Thus, unless you want to renounce your foreign citizenship, getting the Japanese nationality is a difficult process. Reference: http://www.moj.go.jp/ENGLISH/information/tnl-01.html
My Immigration Advice
Having searched the globe for many years plotting my immigration, I do have a great deal to say on this subject. One of the key points that I would advise is to be careful about dual nationality in the sense of giving up your former passport. The reason for this is that each country has individual treaties pertaining to nationality and thus, you have to be very careful in order to not lose your citizenship. That being said, I have some friends with four passports because they want the choice to live all over the globe.
What I suggest is that if you are American, get another passport if you are eligible because you will be able to work, live, and pay lower visa fees. The best territories to have nationality are in MERCOSUR and the EU. The reason for this is that your choices of living and working are sensational because you can legally live and work in all of those countries. Additionally, do not discount the idea of the investor visa if you do have the capital. Many people have used their exotic real estate purchases to acquire nationality and have found a wonderful place to travel to and raise a family as well. The point of this is that now, there are so many channels to live abroad legally and perhaps even obtain a fun new nationality in the process.
The key is to navigate and plan your moves well and ultimately, do it legally because in many cases, you absolutely can!
Having traveled to 53 countries, I have spoken to business professionals, teachers, backpackers, and made many friendships around the globe. One of the best ways to find out little loopholes about acquiring nationality abroad is to talk to the locals or those who have married a citizen there and have local friends.
These people are going to tell you more than the government websites, even though law school taught me how to understand those as well. The general rule of thumb is to save enough money to prove your income to go anywhere because that is what they are going to see if you did not marry a citizen.
Now that I am married to a MERCOSUR citizen, I can live and work legally anywhere in South America that subscribes to MERCOSUR. Additionally, I can nationalize as a Spaniard because of my family ties and have the right to live and work anywhere in the EU. To top it off, I can also become an Israeli citizen because of my Jewish heritage. The opportunities are endless to obtain nationality if one simply uses what they have in roots, talks to locals, and makes their dream come true through a little global “legal” creativity.
This piece was written by Jacquelyn Vadnais.
Jacquelyn Vadnais is a global traveler, blogger, writer, author, and entrepreneur with a JD/MBA/LL.M degree. To date, she has visited 50 countries, lived in 8, and hopes to see a great deal more of the world.
Find her on Linkedin.