I claimed dual citizenship – here’s how you may be able to do it too
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Dual citizenship is sometimes considered the ultimate lifehack. It opens up a ton of travel opportunities and lets you live, work, vote and own property in another country. This can make a move abroad much easier, as you don’t have to worry about visas and work permits in your second “home” country.
One of the easiest ways to acquire dual citizenship is by descent. Many countries let you claim citizenship if your parents, grandparents or — in some cases — great grandparents were born in said country. There are other avenues to dual citizenship too, with some of the most popular being investment and naturalization.
I was able to claim citizenship by descent in the Czech Republic in 2016 and will discuss the process I went through in this article. After this, I’ll give you a list of countries that offer citizenship alongside basic eligibility information.
Before we dive into the article though, I want to make something clear: if you decide to pursue citizenship abroad, make sure to consult a lawyer. You must understand the ins-and-outs of eligibility requirements, tax implications and other nuances before you start the process of claiming your second nationality.
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How I claimed Czech dual citizenship
I claimed Czech citizenship by descent a little over five years ago. The Czech Republic allows children and grandchildren of those born in the Czech Republic or now-defunct Czechoslovakia, so long as they are not already Slovakian citizens. As of 2014, the Czech Republic recognizes dual-citizenship, so I can hold both my U.S. and Czech nationalities legally.
Most of my mom’s side of the family is still in the country, and I was lucky that my uncle is a lawyer in Prague who is familiar with the process of claiming Czech citizenship. That said, the process is still fresh in my mind, so here’s a look at the process I followed to claim my citizenship and passport. It’s important to understand that these are different processes, as you’ll usually have to claim citizenship before you can apply for a passport.
The process of claiming my Czech citizenship
I started the process of claiming my Czech citizenship in late 2015. I emailed my uncle in the Czech Republic, who informed me that he’d recently done the paperwork for another family member in the U.S. and was still familiar with the process. In short, I had to get a handful of documents, which included:
- My U.S. birth certificate with an apostille stamp
- My parents’ marriage license with an apostille stamp
- My parents’ respective birth certificates with an apostille stamp
- One grandparent’s birth certificate with an apostille stamp
These documents could be the original or an official copy from the U.S. government. I got these documents from my mother and had them apostilled locally in Chicago before a trip to visit family in Prague. I brought the documents with me and — upon arrival in Prague — filled out a few forms to get my Czech birth certificate (Rodný list, in Czech). My Czech language skills are very basic, so my uncle walked me through the paperwork at his office.
We walked to an immigration office in downtown Prague and dropped off the forms and documents to be processed. We were told this would take a few weeks and that all paperwork would be mailed to my uncle’s flat. My uncle informed me that my Rodný list would be all I needed to claim my Czech passport at my then-local Czech consulate in Chicago.
Applying for my Czech passport
My Czech birth certificate was processed quickly in Prague, so my uncle picked up the documents and mailed them to me. This document effectively showed that I was a full-fledged Czech citizen and could then begin the process of applying for a passport. I was living in Chicago at the time, so I checked the website for the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Chicago to find the documents and information needed to claim my passport.
Turns out, there wasn’t a ton required. I only needed to bring my newly issued Czech birth certificate, my U.S. passport or driver’s license and the passport fee (cash and in U.S. Dollars). Nowadays, the Czech consulate requires a passport photo too, but this wasn’t required when I applied for my passport. At the time, these were taken at the consulate. I gathered the documents and called the Czech consulate to make an appointment to register for my passport.
My first appointment at the Czech consulate was pretty simple. I walked in and met with one of the Czech consular officers — she collected my documents, payment, took my headshot and scanned my fingerprints. After some small-talk, I was told that I’d get a call when my passport was ready for pickup at the consulate. I believe that I could’ve had my passport mailed too, but I would have had to bring Priority Mail postage with me. A few weeks later, the consulate called my cellphone and I was given a time to pick up my passport.
All in all, this process took a little over six months between applying and receiving my passport. Since then, I’ve used my Czech passport when traveling to and from Europe. Like any other European Union citizen, I can use my Czech passport to enter European countries through the EU lane and stay indefinitely. This has saved me a ton of time when traveling and would — if I so chose — let me live and work anywhere in the European Union indefinitely.
Related: U.S. citizens will soon need a new travel registration to enter Europe
Countries that offer citizenship by descent
Interested in doing something similar? There are a handful of countries around the world that offer citizenship by descent — requirements vary, but it usually extends to those whose parents or grandparents were born abroad.
Below is a chart of countries that offer citizenship by descent alongside some basic requirements. Actual requirements may be more extensive, so do your own research if you think you’re eligible for citizenship.
I’ve also included a handful of countries that offer citizenship to those who can prove cultural ties to the country. Do note that I’ve excluded countries that prohibit dual citizenship.
|Argentina||Have at least one parent be a native Argentinan citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Australia||Have at least one parent be an Australian citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Austria||Have one parent that is an Austrian citizen, with specific exceptions.|
|Brazil||Have at least one parent be a Brazillian citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Canada||Have at least one parent who was born in Canada or became a naturalized citizen before you were born.|
|Cape Verde||Have at least one parent or grandparent with Cape Verdean citizenship at your time of birth.|
|Chile||Have a Chilean parent who can prove one of their parents or grandparents was granted Chilean citizenship by birth or naturalization.|
|Colombia||Have at least one parent who was a Colombian citizen by birth or naturalization.|
|Costa Rica||Have at least one parent who is a Costa Rican citizen.|
|Croatia||Have at least one parent who was a Croatian citizen at the time of birth, so long as you’re registered with the Croatian government before your 18th birthday.
Alternatively, you are eligible for citizenship if both of your parents are Croatian citizens — even if you don’t register.
|Czech Republic||Have at least one parent or grandparent who was a Czech or Czechoslovak citizen.|
|Denmark||Have at least one parent who is a Danish citizen.|
|Dominican Republic||Have at least one parent who is a Dominican citizen.|
|Estonia||Have at least one parent who was an Estonian citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Finland||Have a Finnish father who is legally married to your mother.|
|France||Have at least one parent who was a French citizen at your time of birth.|
|Germany||Have at least one parent who was a German citizen at your time of birth, though there may be other exceptions to allow for citizenship.|
|Greece||Have at least one parent with Greek nationality; citizenship can be transmitted from generation to generation indefinitely.|
|Hungary||Have at least one Hungarian parent or grandparent and pass a basic Hungarian language test.|
|Ireland||Have at least one parent or grandparent with Irish citizenship. If grandparent, he or she must have been born in Ireland.|
|Israel||Have at least one parent who is an Israeli citizen at your time of birth, or claim through Law of Return.|
|Italy||Have Italian heritage; there is no limit on the number of generations but some restrictions are in place.|
|Kenya||Have at least one parent who was a Kenyan citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Lithuania||Have a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent who had Lithuanian citizenship between 1918 and 1940 and left the country during Soviet occupation.|
|Luxembourg||Have at least one parent who was a Luxembourgish at your time of birth.|
|Mexico||Have at least one parent who is a Mexican citizen born in Mexico.|
|Mongolia||Have both parents be Mongolian citizens at your time of birth.|
|Netherlands||Have at least one parent who was a Dutch citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Norway||Have at least one parent who was a Norwegian citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Nigeria||Have at least one parent who was a Nigerian citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Phillippines||Have at least one parent who was a Filipino citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Poland||Have parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who resided in Poland after 1920 or whose address can be found in various registers and held Polish citizenship until the day of your birth.|
|Portugal||Have at least one parent or grandparent who was a Portuguese citizen. If grandparent, you must be familiar with the Portuguese language and have ties to the local Portuguese community.|
|Romania||Have at least one parent or grandparent who was a Romanian citizen at some point in their lifetime. Or, have a great-grandparent who was a Romanian citizen and lost citizenship involuntarily.|
|Singapore||Have at least one parent who was a Singaporean citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Slovakia||Have at least one parent who was a Slovakian citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Slovenia||Have at least one parent or grandparent who was a Slovenian citizen.|
|South Africa||Have at least one parent who is a South African citizen at your time of birth.|
|South Korea||Have at least one South Korean parent.|
|Spain||Have at least one parent or grandparent who was a Spanish citizen, with some restrictions.|
|Sweden||Have a Swedish mother or a Swedish father who is married to your mother.|
|Switzerland||Born to at least one Swiss parent regardless of their place of birth, although the child must be registered at the local Swiss consulate by age 22 if born abroad.|
|Taiwan||Have a father who is a Taiwanese citizen at your time of birth.|
|Thailand||Have a Thai mother or a Thai father who is married to your mother.|
|Tunisia||Have at least one parent who was a Tunisian citizen at the time of your birth.|
|Turkey||Have at least one parent who is a Turkish citizen at your time of birth.|
|Ukraine||Have at least one parent who was a Ukrainian citizen at the time of your birth or if a direct family member was born by August 24, 1991, on territory that later became part of Ukraine|
|United Kingdom||Have at least one parent who was a British citizen at the time of your birth.|
|United States of America||Have at least one parent who was an American citizen at the time of your birth.|
Other avenues for acquiring dual citizenship
While citizenship by descent is the easiest route to dual citizenship, there are a couple of other avenues. Here’s a quick look at other ways you can acquire dual citizenship.
Citizenship by naturalization
Many countries will let you apply for citizenship after you’re there for a set period. For example, expats are eligible to apply for Czech citizenship if they’ve held the right of permanent residence in the Czech Republic for at least five years (three for EU citizens) and are proficient in the Czech language. Many countries have similar laws, so it may be worth looking for a job abroad if you’re interested in eventually becoming a foreign national.
Citizenship by investment
A handful of countries around the world offer citizenship to those who make substantial investments in their country, but it isn’t cheap. A popular example of this is Malta — you can acquire Maltese citizenship after making a nonrefundable donation of €650,000 (~$736,000) donation to a Maltese government fund, purchase €150,000 (~$170,000) in three-year government bonds and invest at least €350,000 (~$396,000) in Maltese property to be eligible for citizenship. Malta is in the EU, so this is a popular track to effectively “buy” EU citizenship.
On the other hand, you can donate $100,000 to a government fund and purchase at least $300,000 worth of real estate to be eligible for citizenship in St. Lucia. This citizenship would let you work and live in St. Lucia and use your St. Lucia passport to travel to countries that have visa-free agreements with St. Lucia. This isn’t typically worthwhile for U.S. citizens, but may be of use for those with less powerful passports.
Citizenship through religion
Some countries will let you claim citizenship if you have specific religious beliefs. For example, ethnic and religious Jews can apply for citizenship in Israel through the Law of Return. You can claim citizenship if you have a Jewish grandparent, have converted to Judaism or meet other requirements stated in the law. As someone with Jewish grandparents, I plan on claiming Israeli citizenship after the coronavirus outbreak is controlled.
Having dual citizenship is an incredibly powerful tool. It can make traveling and living abroad considerably easier, and it may prove to be more important than ever in a post-coronavirus world.
In this article, I showed you how I claimed Czech citizenship by descent and discussed how you can claim dual citizenship by descent. This is an incredibly privileged benefit to have, so if you’re also eligible for a second nationality through descent, I highly recommend you claim it. You never know when you’ll want to live and work abroad or travel somewhere that where your current passport doesn’t have visa-free access. Just be sure to speak with a lawyer first so you fully understand all implications of claiming that citizenship.
Feature photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy
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