Having a second passport is a vital step on the path to internationalization and a great way to open up new opportunities and freedoms for yourself. You could pay lots of money to buy an economic citizenship or get residence somewhere and camp out until you can get naturalized. For those lucky enough to have certain ancestral history, however, getting a second passport can be as easy as applying for what’s already there for the taking. Many countries offer “citizenship by descent”, a process which allows you to apply for citizenship based on having family born in that country.
In many countries, such citizenship by descent is limited to one generation – your parents. Some countries allow you to go back as far as three generations under certain circumstances.
Top 5 Second citizenship by descent
While not exactly citizenship by descent from a nationality, Israel allows Jews and those who convert to Judaism to enter the country under the Law of Return. Once there, you can rather easily obtain Israeli citizenship. The Law of Return also allows for the spouse of a Jew or the child or grandchild of a Jew to return. The law was made to be broad in response to government oppression of Jews in other countries, such as Poland, where Jews often had non-Jew family members living with them.
Whether an Israeli passport is a valuable travel document is up for debate. Israeli citizens are required to serve in the military as part of their civic obligations. Israelis are not permitted to visit Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, or Iran, even under a foreign passport. That’s basically the list of places that don’t recognize an Israeli passport, along with the UAE, Bahrain, Algeria, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. If you’re a US citizen looking to reduce geopolitical risk, an Israeli passport likely won’t help you, but it is good for other reasons.
Polish citizenship by descent laws are downright confusing. The law requires uninterrupted lineage between you and one grandparent with Polish citizenship, which was only possible after 1918. If someone got naturalized and gave up their Polish passport along the way, it could likely mean the chain is broken and you may not be eligible. To make things more tricky, there are various Citizenship Acts that set various standards. Some of the results are somewhat interesting, such as the fact that you may be eligible for citizenship but your sibling may not be.
However, Poland is a growing central European country. One of my colleagues suggests it’s the best place to be in all of Europe right now. Poland’s currency has also been on a roll, at least until it folds into the Euro. You also get the benefits of being a citizen in an EU member country.
Spain’s Law of Historical Memory was passed in 2007 as a way to condemn the Spanish Civil War and ensuing Franco dictatorship. Part of the law allowed for children and grandchildren of Spanish exiles to apply for Spanish citizenship, regardless of whether they or their parents were born in Spain or not. While the window for this has closed, Spain offers other ways to become naturalized through a period of residence. If you have citizenship by birth in almost any South American country, you can apply after one year of residence. If you’re a Sephardic Jew, you can apply after two years of residence.
Spain also offers an instant residency program for those who buy about US$210,000 in real estate. The property market has gotten so bad there that squatters now dominate apartment blocks in several cities. But if you’re not of Hispanic descent or your ancestors weren’t expelled from the country, it’s a way to get residence – not citizenship – in highly unemployed Spain.
Claiming your Italian citizenship is a relatively bureaucratic process, but eligibility is fairly broad. For the most part, you can claim their citizenship by descent if your grandparent was an Italian citizen and neither your parent (their child) nor you gave up your rights to such citizenship. You can even make a claim based on a grandparent’s birth in Italy provided no one along the line was naturalized elsewhere in a way to abandon their Italian citizenship. It can get a little tricky based on when you were born and even based on your sex, but a lot of foreigners are actually entitled to an Italian passport.
Whether Italy is a safe haven is a different story. Strikes there are frequent and the country is broke. Getting an Italian passport for sentimental reasons, or just as a back-up is one thing. Living there is another. It’s fine for now, but if the place turns into the next Greece, you might want to be careful moving too many of your eggs to Italy’s basket.
There are more than fourteen million Irish passports in circulation, despite Ireland’s population of barely four million. Thanks to friendly government policies, getting an Irish passport by descent is a relatively straightforward process. If at least one of your grandparents was born in Ireland, you are entitled for Irish citizenship no matter where you or your parents were born. You simply must register yourself in the Foreign Birth Register, then apply. You can also ensure eligibility for your future children whose great-grandparent was born in Ireland by registering their birth in the Register when they are born.
While Ireland has had its problems, it’s a beautiful country with amazingly friendly people. You can live in Ireland up to 280 days per two years before becoming tax resident. You also have certain rights to live and work in EU or EEA member countries.
More pearls of wisdoms from Nomad Capitalist...
Latest posts by Andrew Henderson (see all)
- Economic freedom starts with a culture that values it - March 5, 2014
- Don’t get too excited by the “collaborative economy” - March 4, 2014
- Does international diversification make you a criminal? - March 3, 2014