For most folks, health and family are likely some of the most important things in life.
Sure, citizenship by descent (CBD) can be a great way to delve deep into your family history and unravel all of its mysteries, but the true power of pursuing citizenship via your ancestry is in the second passport that could help you legally reduce your taxes, diversify your personal life, find new investment markets, and increase your freedom.
If you’re a seven- or eight-figure entrepreneur or investor, this is an especially enticing opportunity.
But if you’re not thrilled by the thought of spending your valuable time digging around in archives to get that second passport, keep reading.
After all, how can you pass up a second passport that is practically free thanks to your family tree?
But if you’re unfamiliar with CBD in general, stick around to learn more about how it works.
Up ahead, we’ll tell you all there is to know about CBD and its benefits, as well as how and where you can obtain your second passport through your family – and all without paying millions of dollars.
Why Get CBD?
1. It's Cheap
Out of all the ways to obtain a second passport, CBD is the cheapest option available.
2. It's Easy
Easier and faster than you could ever imagine.
3. It's Reversible
If your new passport starts working against you rather than for you, you can always choose to renounce.
What Is CBD?
Simply put, CBD is bestowed by request upon an individual who can demonstrate a bloodline that they can trace to a particular country.
Any country that has the nationality law of jus sanguinis – the right of blood – can give someone its citizenship if they can prove their bloodline. The applicant must provide the birth certificates and other documents that prove his or her connection to the country via ancestry.
For example, if your parents, grandparents, or (in rare cases) great grandparents hail from a country, you could be eligible to get that country’s citizenship yourself. You can skip the naturalization timeline and directly work on acquiring citizenship, and all for a few administrative fees.
So, are you part of the exclusive club of people who can potentially claim CBD saving yourself a lot of money?
If you’re a passport holder in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, your chances of qualifying for CBD are high. Pretty much everyone in those places will have a bloodline running to somewhere in Europe where CBD programs are common.
That said, citizens of other countries may find that they are also eligible to apply for a passport of another country. People have been moving all around the globe for centuries now, but thanks to CBD, some may have good reason to return to their roots.
IS IT WORTH IT?
The answer to this question depends; it depends on how much time you’ve got and how immune you are too byzantine bureaucracy.
The two factors to consider here are money and time.
Both factors are relative to each other, so the answer to the question of whether CBD is worth it for you will depend on how you value each one.
Time. Should you take the time out of your life to pursue CBD?
Perhaps it’s a yes. If it will help you achieve some personal goals like reconnecting with your family or give you a chance to finally live in the European Union area, then an Italian passport might absolutely be worth it for you.
However, do keep in mind that it can take years for a citizenship by descent application to get processed and approved – you’ll need to sit very tight.
The alternative would be to pursue citizenship by investment in European countries, which would yield a passport in less than half a year, but those programs are very pricey.
Which brings us to our next point…
Money. For someone low on time but with enough cash lining the pockets, a citizenship by investment will be the way to go.
This would get you citizenship fast, but you will have to spend a lot of money.
In the end, it’s all a delicate balance of time and money. You must get it just right for your own individual situation to be happy with the outcome.
You shouldn’t spend more money than you can afford just to get a second passport. If that leaves you with no cash to make investments or if it worsens your quality of life, for example, what’s the point?
A second passport should give you MORE options, not less.
Same with time. If you have short-term goals that only a second passport will enable you to achieve, sitting around and waiting for a passport by descent to come in the mail will be counterproductive.
Could a legal residence by investment help you achieve some or all of those goals? The key is to think creatively here.
The Benefits of Citizenship by Descent
You’ll have more options when it comes to your personal and financial life.
It’s the cheapest way to obtain a second passport.
Pass it On
Future generations will benefit from your citizenship too.
You’ll increase your options for tax planning with a second passport.
Ditch your high-tax citizenship with your ancestral passport.
Where Can you Acquire Citizenship by Descent?
Let’s get down to business. If you’re convinced that you want to obtain a second passport by descent, you will need to know exactly which countries offer this path to citizenship.
It’s not a free-for-all; if your ancestry is in a country that doesn’t offer CBD, you won’t be able to get an ancestral passport – simple as that.
There is not a best CBD program either as you can’t choose where your ancestry is from.
That said, here is a list of countries that offer citizenship to people who have ancestors hailing from their shores. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means.
Get Polish Citizenship by Descent
Time to Polish Citizenship: 1-2 years
Polish Citizenship Application Costs: Approximately €300
Eligibility: Polish great-grandparent, grandparent, or at least one parent
Visa-Free Access to 180+ Countries
Acquiring Dual Citizenship Allowed: Yes
Become an Irish Citizen By Descent
Time to Irish Citizenship: 1 year
Irish citizenship application Cost: €287
Irish Citizenship Eligibility: An Irish citizen grandparent (great-grandparent Irish citizen in some cases)
Irish passport Visa-free access: 186 countries
Dual citizenship allowed: Yes
Become a Mexican Citizen By Descent
Time to Citizenship: 6-12 months
Application costs: Less than $100
Eligibility: At least one parent who is Mexican
Visa-free access: 159 countries
Dual citizenship allowed: Yes
Become an Israeli by Descent
Time to Israeli Citizenship: 3-6 months
Application costs: $50
Eligibility: At least one parent who is an Israeli citizen
Visa-free access: 161 countries
Dual citizenship allowed: Yes
Get Hungarian Citizenship by Descent
Time to Citizenship: 6-12 months
Application costs: Under $100
Eligibility: At least one parent who is Hungarian
Visa-free access: 182 countries
Dual citizenship allowed: Yes
Become an Armenian Citizen by Descent
Time to Citizenship: 5-6 months
Application costs: $5
Eligibility: An Armenian grandparent or at least one parent
Visa-free access: 62 countries
Dual citizenship allowed: Yes
Get Lithuanian Citizenship by Descent
Time to Citizenship: 6-15 months
Application costs: $60
Eligibility: A Lithuanian great-grandparent, grandparent, or at least one parent
Visa-free access: 157 countries
Dual citizenship allowed: Yes
Become a Ukrainian Citizen by Descent
Time to Citizenship: 1-2 years
Application costs: Under $50
Eligibility: A Ukrainian grandparent or at least one parent parent
Visa-free access: 129 countries
Dual citizenship allowed: No
Get Italian Citizenship by Descent
Time to Italian Citizenship: 6-12 months
Application costs: $340
Eligibility: A great-grandparent, grandparent, or at least one parent who is an Italian citizen
Visa-free access: 186 countries
Dual citizenship allowed: Yes
How to Apply for CBD
Usually, applying for CBD is a pretty straightforward process.
However, if you see getting CBD as a fun exercise that you would like to do with your immediate family, you will soon find yourself wishing that you left the dirty bureaucratic work to someone else.
You see, the most time-consuming part of CBD is determining if you’re eligible to apply and then gathering all the documents to lodge your application.
Sure, the first part of it all might be fun – you’ll talk with your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles to figure out what your bloodline actually is. You will share fun moments and sad ones, have countless drinks and cups of tea while peeling the layers of history back.
However, do you really want to be stuck in government archives for days on end looking for an obscure piece of paper?
We didn’t think so.
Step 1: Find Out If You’re Eligible
Let us stop you right there. Taking a DNA kit that you bought online and presenting the answers of said test to your nearest French embassy is not how you prove your eligibility.
There is a long and winding road that governments want you to take and it’s called documentation.
So, doing your own research and speaking with your aunt Mary, cousin Josh, and everyone in between won’t be enough either. Unless they have been holding on to the birth and marriage certificates of your ancestors, that is.
We’re sure you’ll be thrilled to find out that your great-grandfather was a gentleman from the United Kingdom – just think about all of the things you could do as a British citizen after getting British citizenship by descent.
But if you don’t have his birth certificate or an ID, your citizenship claim will be no good.
There are certain questions that you’ll be trying to answer in this step:
⤅ Can I apply on the basis of my grandparents being citizens? Great-grandparents? Great-great-grandparents? In other words, how many generations can you go back and still be eligible to apply?
⤅ Is it necessary for both the maternal and the paternal side of your family to have been citizens, or just one side suffices?
⤅ What sort of documents will you need to provide? You need to make sure that there is a reasonable chance you’ll be able to get those documents. Otherwise, you won’t be eligible to apply.
⤅ Are Many countries will require that you prove your ancestor didn’t renounce or lose their citizenship before passing it on. For example, they will want to see that your grandmother Maria didn’t renounce her Estonian citizenship to become an American before birthing your mother. Your mother would have, therefore, inherited the citizenship and made you eligible for CBD.
Step 2: Prepare Your Application
If you’ve determined that you’re eligible for a second nationality by descent – congrats. That’s one of the bigger hurdles when it comes to getting a passport this way.
Next, you must find out what documents you’ll need to process your application. This information will normally be located on the consular website of a country if it offers a CBD program.
It can also be available just in the local language on some obscure governmental website, which will require some digging and a fair amount of time spent on Google Translate.
Usually, the required documents are the following:
- Your birth certificate
- A copy of your passport
- The birth certificates of your ancestors (those relevant to your claim to citizenship)
- Related marriage, divorce, naturalization, and death certificates
Each of the documents will need to be in the country’s official language and have an apostille.
Preparing your application document pack must be meticulously done because your successful outcome depends on it. No cutting corners.
If they’ve asked you for a birth certificate of your great-grandmother Elizabeth, you must provide it to them.
It isn’t always as easy as proving that your mother is a German citizen for example, in German citizenship by descent cases.
Fail to produce the required documents? You risk delaying or extending your application processing. You could also be setting yourself up for a rejection of your citizenship application.
Step 3: Wait for a Decision
Once you submit your application, you will have to play the waiting game.
Whereas with citizenship by investment, the timeline is written out in black and white and is normally 4-6 months, the CBD processing times tend to vary wildly.
From start to finish, a CBD case could take weeks, months or even years to come to a close.
That’s because – let’s face it – the country isn’t making any immediate profit from you. You’re probably only paying them some measly government fee and not a penny more.
They will process your claim, but they will process it on THEIR terms.
The CBD cases are often highly bureaucratic too and can appear totally random.
Since it’s usually the Ministry of the Interior (or an equivalent governing apparatus) that deals with naturalization requests and not a specialized unit as is the case with citizenship by investment, you’ll be at the mercy of local bureaucrats.
The officials could come back six months later and ask for a document that probably doesn’t exist, whereas someone else in your situation might not be asked for that document at all.
It could end up being quite messy.
Should I Get All the Passports I’m Eligible For?
This is the question on everyone’s lips.
Let’s say you’re an Australian citizen and your mother is a British citizen – should you go ahead and get a passport in the UK because you have a British parent.
Generally, the answer is yes.
There will be government filing fees, lawyer fees. What’s for sure is that you won’t need to invest $2 million in real estate to get your passport – great news.
However, there are two factors that you should consider before you accept any passport that might be on your figurative table:
1. Weigh up the risks. There is always the chance that one country or another will introduce the kind of citizenship-based taxation that exists in the United States and tax your worldwide income no matter where you live.
You should also consider whether you would have any travel restrictions if you take on a passport. For example, Israelis will find it difficult, if not impossible, to enter some countries.
The risks of most passports aren’t huge, but you should still consider them beforehand.
2. Consider how easy it is to renounce. You always need to be aware of what the terms of renouncing a citizenship are. Stay in control and if risks to your personal freedoms or your wealth become greater in the future, it will be great to have an escape plan ready.
If you can walk back on a citizenship easily, then there should be no harm in taking it on (if the benefits also outweigh the risks, of course). Some countries, like Argentina for example, don’t let you renounce your citizenship – just a little something to keep in mind.
How Many Citizenships Can Someone Have?
Dual citizenship is allowed in many of the world’s countries when it comes to citizenship by descent.
Meanwhile, others prohibit it. What this means is that if you obtain citizenship by marriage, for example, some countries will make you renounce your original citizenship to obtain theirs instead.
Other countries don’t explicitly allow dual citizenship but tolerate it. They have no laws prohibiting it, but they will only recognize their own citizenship as your sole citizenship as far as your affairs are concerned.
For example, if you’re American and Polish, the government officials in Poland will consider you a Pole.
All in all, most of the world’s countries are slowly coming to terms with the fact that more and more people have multiple passports and citizenships right now.
With people traveling, living, and working all over the place, mixed nationality families are pretty much the norm.
Imagine a Dutch-Lithuanian man marrying a British citizen-Chinese woman; how many passports could their child born have?
Alternatives to Citizenship by Descent
Citizenship by descent won’t be for everyone.
Perhaps you aren’t really interested in digging around in your family’s history, there are no records of your ancestry, or you don’t meet the eligibility criteria for one reason or another.
Luckily, there are multiple other ways to get a second nationality or work towards it over time.
Here are four alternative paths that will lead you to citizenship:
1. Citizenship by investment. This option will take money, and quite a lot of it depending on which country you go for. But if you’ve got little time or patience for bureaucracy, this could be the best path to citizenship for you, provided you’ve got cash to throw at it. In many cases, your investment can actually be recovered (and sometimes even at a profit), so if you can pay a bigger sum upfront to get your passport quickly and without producing stacks of paperwork, citizenship by investment could be it.
2. Citizenship by naturalization. This is another way of saying that you can obtain citizenship by being a resident of a country for a set period of time. For example, Bulgaria will let you apply for its passport in just two years of being a resident and Portugal will make you wait for five years. While most of the countries won’t require you to spend actual time in the country, the naturalization laws normally require that you know the country’s history, culture, and speak its language to be eligible to apply for citizenship.
3. Citizenship by… life. Ok, so that’s not the technical term but there is no better umbrella word that we can think of. Marriage, adoption, bearing children born abroad, or even changing one’s religion are all potential ways of obtaining citizenship in today’s world. We’re not saying that you should marry someone or adopt a child just because you want citizenship of some country, but if you happen to naturally ‘run into’ these life events, you might as well claim the citizenship that you become eligible for.
Citizenship by descent – FAQs
What is CBD?
Citizenship by descent is a means whereby an individual is eligible to claim citizenship if his/her parents, grandparents, or sometimes even great-grandparents hail from a given country. The person who’s applying for CBD will have to provide proof of his/her bloodline to the government to qualify.
How much does it cost to get CBD?
CBD is the cheapest way to obtain citizenship in the world. While other ways involve investing a huge sum of money – six or seven figures – or living in a country for five or even ten years before qualifying for naturalization, CBD is the most cost-effective solution.
How do I get CBD?
The process consists of a few steps. First, you will need to find out as much about your family and bloodline as possible. Then, you will need to gather all the documents that would prove your eligibility to apply for a country’s citizenship due to your ancestry. Finally, you will wait to hear whether you’ve been granted citizenship, if additional documents have been requested, or if your application has been rejected.
How can an American apply for CBD?
Many Americans are in quite a favorable situation as CBD applicants because they have varied bloodlines that can usually be traced back to a European country (or two). The application process is the same as for all other nationals: trace your bloodline to make sure you’re eligible to apply, then put the documents together and actually apply. After that, it’s a waiting game to see if your citizenship application has been approved.
How to prove CBD?
To prove that you’re eligible to apply for CBD, you must demonstrate to the government officials that you meet their citizenship eligibility requirements. Each nation will have its own, specifying how far back your ancestry must go, what proof is required, if you must speak the language, and so on.
Who can apply for Irish citizenship by descent?
People with proven Irish descent can become Irish citizens. Anyone who has a grandparent who is an Irish citizen and can prove that connection can apply for Irish citizenship. In some cases, a great-grandparent who is an Irish citizen could also make one eligible to apply for Irish citizenship, but additional documentation will be needed to qualify for being an Irish citizen.
How long does CBD take to process?
CBD timelines are all over the place. In countries that have a more straightforward system, such as the Irish citizenship by descent program, its Irish citizenship application process will take 6-12 months. In different countries that are more prone to bureaucratic tangles or are strict in enforcing their eligibility criteria, it can take up to two years.
Can I take a DNA test to get citizenship?
No. No country in the world will accept a DNA test, much less an at-home DNA test, as proof of your ancestry when it comes to issuing citizenship. You will have to provide a document trail that clearly demonstrates how you’re related to your ancestors and where their bloodline can be traced back to.
Can I still get a second citizenship if I don’t qualify for CBD?
Yes. There are many different ways to get citizenship, and ancestry is not the only one. You can also get citizenship by investment, naturalization (living in a country long enough to become eligible for its passport), or by circumstance (birth, adoption, marriage, and adoption of religion). Each of these methods will take different amounts of time and money, but the final result will be the same – a second passport.
Now that you know pretty much everything about CBD, you can benefit from its advantages.
We can tell you from experience – as soon as you get that passport, you’ll get an instant feeling of being in control of your life.
Not only will a second passport that you obtain due to your ancestry give you more options as to where you can live, work, and travel, it will also help you optimize your taxes, diversify your personal life, and find new booming markets to invest in.
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Our team constantly researches and analyzes 70+ citizenship programs so we can help our clients take advantage of what works in the real world, not theory. Learn how we can help you get your second passport.