The fastest countries in the world to become a citizen
On my Youtube Channel, the most commonly asked question by far is, “where can I go to quickly get a second passport?”
While people have always asked me about getting a second citizenship quickly, this question has become far more common in the past few years thanks to major political events like Trump’s election and Brexit. A few years ago, in fact, I originally wrote this article and made my first video about the fastest countries to become a citizen in because so many people were coming to me with this issue.
However, quite a bit has changed since then. In the world of second citizenships (and just about everything else that I talk about here at Nomad Capitalist), the targets are always moving. Today’s fastest citizenship may be tomorrow’s closed loophole, or it may die altogether in a swell of patriotic fervor.
So, given how the world has changed, my team and I have decided to update this article with the latest information on where you can get second citizenship quickly.
However, becoming a citizen of another country can often take quite a bit of time. In Malaysia, for example, it takes at least twelve years to become a citizen, and you won’t be able to keep your current passport since dual nationality is forbidden.
Yet if you don’t have a second passport, the urge to get one can be intense. Having dual citizenship (or even multiple citizenships) gives you freedoms to travel and invest that having one citizenship alone does not.
It’s understandable that someone looking for a second citizenship would want to first determine where they can obtain citizenship the fastest. After all, we frequently discuss the idea that citizenship is rather fungible; plenty of people are born with citizenships in countries they’ve never lived in and couldn’t care less about.
Like I mentioned in my 2017 interview for BBC, today citizenship is somewhat of a commodity. Which passport you carry determines where you can live, where you can travel, where you can work and – in the case of many restrictive emerging markets – where you can invest.
Most westerners, however, aren’t in a rush to obtain Cambodian citizenship in order to buy cheap land in the country, but practically everyone in Iran would jump at the chance to have another passport. Iranians have a heck of a time traveling to most countries – let alone becoming a resident or opening a bank account – thanks to US sanctions against their home country.
When determining which second passport is best to pursue, there are several considerations. These include your current tax situation, where you need to travel, and even your job prospects. I have private clients from emerging countries who have had to turn down lucrative job offers merely because they can’t travel to certain countries or can’t obtain visas quickly enough to satisfy their new employer.
If being a citizen of a country with poor visa-free travel is costing you $50,000 a year, you have an even greater desire than many US citizens to find the fastest countries to become a citizen.
Likewise, high-income US citizens – who are required to pay tax on their worldwide income even if they don’t live there – may want to speed up the process of obtaining another nationality in order to renounce their US citizenship and avoid the ongoing hassles and expenses of paying tax to a country they don’t live in.
On the other hand, a European citizen who can more easily become “tax non-resident” and pay low or zero tax somewhere else may be more willing to wait a little longer to obtain a better citizenship.
Similarly, someone from a country that forbids dual citizenship who wants a second residency that can lead to citizenship as an insurance policy may be even less concerned with the timeline.
While the second passport that you pursue will ultimately depend on factors like this, it’s good to have an idea of where you might be able to quickly become a citizen if you wish to do so.
In this article, then, we’ll discuss:
- Four different ways to become a citizen quickly;
- The best countries for fast second citizenships; and
- Issues to consider with a quick and easy second passport.
If you’re looking for more general information on second passports and citizenship, check out these articles:
- Why You Need a Second Passport Portfolio…and How to Create One
- How to Choose the Best Second Passport
- What are the Benefits of Dual Citizenship?
- The Zero-Tax Citizen: Tax-Friendly Second Passports
The fastest ways to get a second passport
At Nomad Capitalist, I frequently discuss the different ways that you can go about getting a second passport.
Some – like making an investment in a country – are relatively quick while others – like naturalization – can be somewhat slow, so if you’re looking to become a citizen of a particular country, it’s a good idea to understand how you can get that citizenship as quickly as possible.
So, before we review a few specific countries, let’s discuss each of the fastest ways to obtain citizenship.
1. Make an investment
If speed is your goal, then the passport process can be expedited if you have significant cash to invest.
While we won’t be discussing citizenship by investment much in this article, you can read this article that we update on a regular basis to learn about the various citizenship by investment programs available to you, which start at $45,000 per person – or $100,000 per person for a halfway decent passport.
Most quality economic citizenship programs can be found in either the Caribbean (Dominica starts at $100,000) or in Europe (Malta runs upwards of $1 million), but regardless of which option you choose, it will cost you a pretty penny.
However, if you’re looking for the fastest citizenship possible (and have the money to invest), then citizenship by investment could be your best option.
2. Citizenship by Descent
If the price of citizenship by investment is a bit too steep for you, then you can also get citizenship rather quickly through your parents, grandparents, or – in some cases – your great-grandparents. This process is called citizenship by descent, and it usually takes as little as six months.
The majority of these programs are in the EU, where you can get citizenship rather inexpensively if you have European ancestors. Other notable mentions include Canada and Armenia, where my fiancee was able to get a second passport in about five months.
3. Marry a Foreign National
If you are lucky enough to fall in love with someone with a great passport, it’s possible you could be a naturalized citizen of their home country. Foreign spouses often qualify for a shortened waiting period for naturalization – although language requirements sometimes exist. Few countries still offer instant citizenship for foreign spouses, but there are still a few attractive options.
However, this is something that you need to be careful with since getting married under false pretenses constitutes immigration fraud. You can learn more about citizenship by marriage here.
4. Receive special treatment
If you have an exceptional artistic or athletic talent or invest enough money, some countries allow the President to waive naturalization requirements (including language requirements) and make anyone a citizen. Countries that often do this include Albania, Qatar, and Singapore. Poland’s former president used to, but the current party does not.
Special treatment is also the basis for Austria’s alleged economic citizenship program, but it is rarely used. Additionally, most people who would want an Austrian passport wouldn’t qualify on the basis of “not seeming Austrian only.”
The fastest countries to become a citizen through residency
Back when I actively chased as many frequent flier miles as possible, I would sometimes take flights solely for the purpose of getting miles. More miles meant higher status with the airline. We called these “butt-in-seat miles” because you had to actually fly to get them.
Similarly, the fastest way to get a second passport for most people is to spend “butt-in-country time.” Becoming a resident of a foreign country and starting the clock ticking on naturalization is the easiest way to go if you don’t have the benefit of luck or substantial wealth.
One thing to keep in mind as you read through this list, however, is that the timelines given aren’t 100% guaranteed. Naturalization can be a tricky process at times, so even if you can technically get citizenship in a year or two, you may have to wait longer.
Options that No Longer Exist
As I mentioned earlier, the targets are always moving in the world of second citizenship, so it’s important to note a few quick ways to get a second passport that no longer work.
Argentina, for instance, does not offer citizenship in two years – despite what some might say. The Argentine citizenship process requires you to live there for two years to obtain permanent residency, and you must then stay for three more years to become a citizen.
Similarly, I occasionally still see someone suggest that Belgium citizenship can be obtained after three years. As of 2013, however, Belgium extended their naturalization timeline to a minimum of five years – and even that number can be iffy.
Finally, as always, you should always be on the lookout for scams. If someone promises you something too good to be true, then it probably is.
Armenia (3 years)
In addition to having an incredibly efficient citizenship by descent program, Armenia also allows you to become a naturalized citizen in about three years.
While you’ll likely need to make an investment in the country to secure a residence permit, there are plenty of excellent opportunities for investing in real estate in Armenia, and you can also establish residency by attending an Armenian university.
Once you have your Armenian residence permit, the rest is fairly simple. As long as you spend enough time in the country to maintain your residence permit, you can apply for citizenship in just three years. You will need to pass a test on the Armenian constitution in Armenian, but you can even take a translator with you into the test.
Macedonia (1 year)
Macedonia offers the best of both worlds: the benefits of Europe and visa-free access to the Schengen Area, but none of the nonsense associated with being a part of the European Union.
Located south of Serbia in the Balkans, Macedonia is one of the many business-friendly countries in eastern Europe. Tax rates for both companies and individuals are a flat 10%, and the government is efficient.
If you’re willing to start a business and hire local workers, you can become a Macedonian citizen in less than one year. In fact, Macedonia has the least talked about economic citizenship program in the world, targeted specifically at entrepreneurs who can invest at least 400,000 Euros into a real business.
Similar to Portugal’s Golden Visa program for entrepreneurs, Macedonia requires you to tie up your capital but gives you citizenship in as little as 6-12 months. There is no straightforward way to start the process unlike in other European countries, but I have excellent contacts in the region who can help. Macedonia also no longer requires you to live there for six months in most cases.
Dominican Republic (2 years)
Not to be confused with the island nation of Dominica, which allows for nearly instant citizenship in exchange for a six-figure donation, the Dominican Republic claims to offer second citizenship to well-off foreigners in as little as two years. This doesn’t always work in practice, but I actually know someone who followed all the procedures and pulled it off.
While the Dominican Republic passport is of rather poor quality, it does offer access to some highly livable “usual suspect countries” that let practically anyone in as a tourist.
One way to speed up the naturalization timeline is to invest $200,000 in real estate or a business (Colombia similarly offers a faster citizenship route for investors with this amount of cash). However, those who can prove that they have a steady income and are willing to spend some time in the DR can waive the investment requirement.
Nevertheless, I know people who qualified for citizenship in the Dominican Republic in two years but have waited far longer to get it. So, as with any country, the letter of the law may not always prevail.
Peru (2 years)
As I mentioned in my article on the best second residency programs in Latin America, Peru can be an interesting option for a quick citizenship in South America.
Getting a residence permit there isn’t terribly difficult if you’re willing to attend a school or start a business in Peru, or you can prove that you earn more than $1,000 per month in investment or pension income. Then, if you’re willing to spend most of your time in the country, you can have Peruvian citizenship in about two years.
Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need to be able to pass a language and history test in Spanish to get your Peruvian passport, so if your language skills aren’t up to snuff, then it may take you a bit longer.
Paraguay (3 years)
Paraguay has consistently been one of the easiest countries to get citizenship in. While many would be hard-pressed to locate it on a map, the country has a rather good travel document that offers visa-free travel to Europe and all of South America.
However, I can argue that in some cases, the fastest is not always the best.
In theory, you could become a naturalized citizen of Paraguay in just three years. For most people, however, the citizenship process takes substantially longer. You can read more about these challenges here.
Uruguay (3 years*)
If you are part of a family unit actually living on the ground in Uruguay, you can apply for citizenship after three years – so long as you can show substantial ties to the country.
That’s what the asterisk means: if you’re single and your family stays at home, the wait is extended to five years, and on top of that, “family unit” does not only refer to a spouse. In fact, a single child can live with a parent and still qualify.
Owning real estate, renting a real apartment, being a member of social clubs, and having a local doctor also count as “substantial ties” to Uruguay.
Thanks to these complicated qualifications, claiming Uruguayan citizenship has become extremely difficult in recent years. Therefore, I generally recommend against Uruguay because of this difficulty as well as the high opportunity cost here. There are simply better options unless you really wish to become Uruguayan.
Russia (3 years)
If you are willing to start a business or move your existing business to Russia, you may be able to obtain Russian citizenship within three years by merely paying taxes that you would have had to pay anyway. While we often talk about low or no-tax offshore strategies for entrepreneurs, paying 13-19% in Russia might be worthwhile if you would have purchased economic citizenship from another country instead.
You can learn more about Russian citizenship for entrepreneurs here. Russia’s passport does not offer access to Europe, but many successful Russians have long-term Schengen visas or merely obtain European residency from countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Latvia.
Why Do You Need a Second Citizenship?
If you want to become a citizen of another country as quickly as possible, I want you to think about this question – why do you need a second citizenship?
While it’s certainly tempting to get the easiest and fastest second passport available, you need to consider what you’re trying to do with that passport before you dive headfirst into the process of getting one.
Although these countries allow you to become a citizen rather quickly, you’ll still need to invest a good amount of time and money into the process to get that second passport, so it’s important that you pursue the right second citizenship for your needs, desires, and long-term goals.
If you’re a British citizen who’s worried about Brexit, for instance, then you might be tempted to get Maltese citizenship by investment since it allows you to get EU citizenship in about a year.
However, this particular citizenship by investment program has a massive price tag, so unless you need Maltese citizenship for other reasons, then you’re probably better off looking into EU residency options that won’t cost you millions of dollars.
While I understand the urge to get a second passport as fast as you can, you need to think holistically about your goals and strategies in business and in life before you become a citizen of the first country that will accept you. As someone who’s helped hundreds of people get second passports, I can attest to how important it is to evaluate how a second passport will enhance your freedom, your tax strategy, and your bottom line.
If you need help getting second citizenship quickly and want to start the process as soon as possible, you can learn more – and apply for my team to help you – on our second passport page.
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