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Andrew Henderson wrote the #1 best-selling book that redefines life as a diversified,
global citizen in the 21st century… and how you can join the movement.

Global Citizen • Most Popular

Citizenship by Marriage: 14 Passports to Get by Marrying a Foreigner

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In modern Western culture, it’s often assumed that someone from an emerging economy marrying a US person – or Westerner in general – is merely seeking a life of opportunity.

Now, it’s not our job to debate the merits of such assumptions for or against, though it’s worth pointing out that we don’t recommend seeking out foreigners with a view to securing citizenship in their country.

Anyway, with so many tax requirements, who wants to acquire US citizenship or even a green card?

Still, the stereotypical concept of marrying a foreigner for a visa or a green card can cut both ways. There are countries around the world that offer expedited naturalisation to those Westerners who want citizenship by marriage and the second passport that comes with it.

Now, we’re not suggesting that you find some random beau to marry exclusively for the purposes of obtaining citizenship. However, our adage of ‘go where you’re treated best’ can apply just as much to dating as it does to legal tax reduction. After all, it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that global citizens would consider potential partners from other countries a good match.

Many misconceptions, and some downright untruths, swirl around the issue of citizenship by marriage. One common error is the belief that marrying a foreigner immediately grants your citizenship of your new spouse’s homeland. Don’t be fooled, as this is only true in rare cases and generally in Latin American countries.

Instead, marrying a citizen usually allows you to obtain residency in their country. In some of the wealthiest countries, such as Canada, marriage only gives you a reason to start living in the country and begin the naturalisation process in the same way as everyone else.

This can mean years of maintaining a substantial presence in the country and paying taxes. As such, the idea of citizenship by marriage to get a ‘Tier A’ passport may not be a good idea for high earners concerned about tax minimisation.

In some other countries, however, marriage to a local offers a fast track to naturalisation. You generally still need to put in some time there, but it could be far less substantial and may not even require you to pay a lot of taxes.

Instant Citizenship by Marriage

Here are a few of the best:

1. Brazil

How to get a second passport by marriage in Brazil
Brazil has a very good passport and allows dual citizenship.

With a relatively unpublicised residency-by-investment program, Brazil offers foreigners a bureaucratic yet straightforward process if they have money to invest in the country. For example, as a permanent resident of Brazil, you can apply for naturalisation after four years of ‘uninterrupted residence’ and strong ties to Brazil.

However, those with a Brazilian spouse qualify to apply for a second citizenship after just one year of uninterrupted residence there.

Having immediate family ties entitles you to Brazilian citizenship within one year. That means citizenship by marriage is possible, just as it is by giving birth or adopting a child.

Simply being married to a native Brazilian can be equally beneficial for claiming a second passport. Brazil has been noted for not extraditing its own citizens while they are on Brazilian soil. However, this only applies to natural-born Brazilians.

Brazil is a diverse melting pot that allows dual citizenship for naturalised spouses as of 2016, and its passport offers excellent visa-free travel, including to Russia.

2. Israel

How to get a second passport by marriage
Israel has somewhat complicated laws when it comes to living there and becoming a citizen as a spouse of a Jewish person, but they still have a lot to offer passport-wise.

Israel’s ‘Law of Return’ is somewhat complicated but allows Jews and their descendants to obtain permanent residence in Israel relatively easily. It may also apply to marriage in some cases.

An Israeli passport does restrict you from travelling to most of the Middle East, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Living in Israel also comes with a high tax burden, but it is an above-average travel document for the right person.

3. Spain

How to get a second passport by marriage
Though things can get a bit difficult due to bureaucracy, you can be granted residence in Spain only after a year of living and paying taxes there.

There’s no need to invest a lot of money into Spain’s residence-by-investment real estate program.

Legal residents of Spain are subject to the same type of colonoscopy-by-the-taxman charade that US citizens are, and becoming a naturalised Spaniard through residence is a pain.

Naturalisation in Spain is a highly bureaucratic process and usually requires 10 years of solid residence in the country. The tax burden for those ten years can be extremely high. 

However, those married to Spanish citizens can apply for Spanish citizenship after just one year of tax residence. In addition, a Spanish passport is an excellent travel document offering freedom of movement throughout the European Union (EU).  

However, Spain doesn’t generally allow dual citizenship, so obtaining a Spanish passport through marriage may leave you with a difficult choice. 

4. Portugal

How to get a second passport by marriage
If you’re married to a Portuguese person, it will be much easier to get residency, though you will still have to wait a while until you get a passport.

As with neighbouring Spain, Portugal requires those who obtain Portuguese residency to live in the country for at least six years before applying for a passport. However, those married to Portuguese citizens can apply for naturalisation much faster.

However, someone married to a Portuguese citizen or even in a relationship with one can apply for naturalisation after three years of marriage or cohabitation.

The process doesn’t even require you to spend time on Portuguese soil, meaning you could live overseas with a Portuguese spouse and still qualify. Bear in mind that while the process is often easier for foreign spouses, naturalisation will require you to learn some Portuguese and have ties to the country.

5. Mexico

How to get a second passport by marriage
Marry a Mexican citizen and apply for naturalization after just two years.

While you can’t obtain Mexican citizenship through any of the economic citizenship scams you might encounter online, it’s possible to shave three years off the normal naturalisation process and obtain a Mexican passport via the marital route.

As the spouse of a Mexican – and the country recognises gay marriage – you are entitled to apply for naturalisation after just two years of living with that spouse in Mexico.

The United States government and many US citizens may be convinced that Mexico is a poor country everyone is clamouring to get out of. The truth is it’s a two-way street with plenty of people clamouring to get in, including many from the US.

The Mexican passport is a pretty good travel document, ranking as one of the best passports in the world on the Nomad Passport Index, with visa-free access to 152 countries, including the entire Schengen Area of Europe.

6. Ireland

How to get a second passport by marriage
If your spouse is from Ireland and you’re willing to live there for a couple of years, you can apply for a passport after three years of marriage or civil relationship.

Don’t have enough Irish heritage to claim Irish citizenship by descent? Don’t fret  – those married to, or in a registered civil relationship with, an Irish citizen can apply for an Irish passport after one year of ‘reckonable residence’ in the European country, provided that relationship has been for three years or more.

Unlike many other countries, Ireland now recognises gay marriage, so your sexual orientation won’t hold you back from a passport.

The residency requirement prior to naturalisation means you’ll be on the hook for the country’s high-income taxes for at least one year, and you’ll need to spend a reasonable amount of time in Ireland for at least two years to qualify.

But once you have the Irish passport, you’ll be able to live anywhere in Europe and travel almost anywhere on earth. Corporate taxes are quite low, too.

7. Poland

How to get a second passport by marriage
Want to be a citizen of Poland? You will have to spend at least two years there, pay taxes and know the language.

Similar to Ireland’s program, Poland allows those with a Polish spouse to become a naturalised citizen after three years of marriage and two years of uninterrupted residence in the country. Unlike Ireland, Poland is a conservative country that does not recognise gay marriage or civil unions.

In addition to being married for three years, you must actually spend the majority of two years in Poland.

While the country’s presence in the Schengen Area means you may be able to sneak out, the Polish government wants you to live in their country. Your year of residence will incur tax on your worldwide income at rates of 18-32%, although if you have an offshore company, there may be ways to reduce your income legally.

That said, this is still one of the more difficult citizenships to get by marriage.

There is no technical language requirement to obtain Polish citizenship by marriage. Regardless, two years of living in Poland should help you improve your Polish, or at least learn some.

8. Colombia

How to get a second passport by marriage
If you come from another Latin country, you can obtain Colombian citizenship in about a year after marrying a Colombian. Otherwise, it’s going to be at least five years of waiting.

Colombia is the second freest economy in South America, a continent with endless opportunity. In our opinion, the place is perhaps the biggest hidden gem across the Americas, so much so that our Nomad Capitalist’s founder, Andrew Henderson, personally obtained residency by making an investment there.

However, marrying a Colombian citizen speeds up the 5–10 year-long process – in fact marriage shortens the wait to only two years. That’s after passing the citizenship test, which you must take in Spanish. There is a faster way to get your hands on a Colombian passport, but you must be from another Latin country, in which case the timeline is one year.

9. Switzerland

How to get a second passport by marriage
You will have to be married for five years to be eligible to apply for Swiss citizenship, but the perks you get with it are innumerable.

One of the most sought-after second citizenships (or first citizenships, for that matter) on earth, Switzerland offers those married to Swiss nationals a ‘simplified naturalisation’ process.

The late, great singer Tina Turner relinquished her US citizenship in favour of becoming Swiss after fulfilling a rather long 12-year residency requirement. So be warned: getting a Swiss passport through permanent residence alone is a slow process.

However, the simplified naturalisation process allows spouses of Swiss nationals to apply for citizenship after five years of marriage, so long as they live in the confederation. You don’t even need to speak German, French or Italian, but you should be able to show that you have integrated into the Swiss way of life. That means being polite and organised and no more being late for meetings.

It is also possible to qualify while residing outside of Switzerland, but that process takes an extra year. Under this option, you can apply for citizenship after six years of marriage if you can demonstrate some evidence of ‘close ties’ to Switzerland, such as frequent visits during your marriage.

10. Belize

How to get a second passport by marriage
Becoming a Belize citizen doesn’t require much – you can apply for a passport after spending one year in the country.

Belize has several second residency programs, including a popular Qualified Retirement Program (QRP) program for ‘retirees’ aged forty-five and over, but note that this does not lead to citizenship. If you’re a little younger and married to a Belize citizen, you can apply for naturalisation after just one year of legal residence in Belize.

A Belize passport doesn’t offer excellent visa-free travel, but it does fill in the travel gaps that many other Tier B passports don’t have, such as the UK, Ireland, Mexico and South Africa. Belize is also an English-speaking country with a small population, making it easy to acclimatise there. 

11. Serbia

How to get a second passport by marriage
Serbians are charming and friendly, not to mention that their laws on how long you’re supposed to actually live in the country aren’t very precise, which gives you more opportunities to travel around and explore.

Walk around Belgrade for an hour, and you’ll realise that some of the most beautiful people on earth come from Serbia and the Balkans. Not only that, but the people are also very warm and approachable. Serbia is one of our ‘hidden gems’ for lower-cost living in Europe and has the world’s fastest-improving passport.

So, how do you become a Serbian citizen through marriage? Quite simply, you must have been married to a Serbian for three years, maintain permanent residence there, sign paperwork claiming that Serbia is ‘your country’ and renounce any existing citizenship you have.

As with many such countries, the rules on how much time you need to live in Serbia are somewhat unclear and not always enforced, but they are generally less strict than in Western countries that have a nasty habit of counting every day.

12. Cape Verde

How to get a second passport by marriage

Marrying a Cape Verde citizen will allow you to get their citizenship right away, should you so desire. If you want the fastest second passport by marriage, this African country may be your best option.

That’s because anyone who marries a Cape Verde citizen is entitled to apply for ‘citizenship by option’ immediately after marriage. Unlike in other countries, both men and women can qualify for a passport through this method.

Of course, this is not without its own set of challenges. First of all, the population of Cape Verde is barely 600,000 people, meaning you’ve access only to a limited number of romantic contenders. Secondly, Cape Verde is an archipelago far off the West African coast, making it hard to get to and living there a challenge. 

Oh, and most of the population speaks Portuguese.

That said, if you do happen to meet – perhaps in Portugal – a Cape Verde citizen who likes the look of you, it’s possible to get married, skip the five-year naturalisation path and obtain your citizenship almost immediately.

13. France

France Citizenship by Marriage

France holds a certain romantic appeal for many, especially US citizens who can’t seem to get enough of that Parisian ‘je ne sais quoi’, even if it comes with a large side of disdain for, well, Americans. Truth be told, most foreigners can’t get enough of the culture, the wine, the cuisine.

But, here at Nomad Capitalist, we’re wise to their Gallic ways: no matter how many different types of cheese they have, we just can’t get past the high taxes.

That said, perhaps love really does conquer all and if ever there was a European country to fall in love with or in, it’s France.

French nationality law is based on the principles of ‘jus soli’, or right of soil, and people are generally allowed to apply for French citizenship by naturalisation after four years of continuous residence in France. If you marry a French national, you must live in France with your spouse. It’s possible to still apply for citizenship through marriage if you’ve lived together outside of France, but it will take longer. If you were married outside of France, you’ll need to submit the required records to the relevant embassy or consultant. 

So, if you do decide to tie the knot in France, it’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily have to live there to claim citizenship by marriage. Plus, once you do get your citizenship, you are, of course, free to move and work in another EU country, preferably one with lower taxes.

14. Italy

Italy, Citizenship by Marriage

Similar to France, Italy is another European country that brings to mind visions of romance, passion and family. Even for those who don’t have Italian ancestry, Italy still holds a certain allure.

A spouse of an Italian citizen can apply for Italian citizenship after being married for two years if the couple lives in Italy and after being married for three years if they reside abroad. If the couple has biological or adopted children, these periods are halved. 

Marrying an Italian also brings other advantages, such as minimal physical presence requirements while applying for EU citizenship. Add to this the country’s enticing €100,000 flat tax on foreign income plus additional tax benefits at both national and regional levels, and you could enjoy significant tax savings. Now that’s amore.

Other Citizenship Options

Most people don’t take the marriage route to citizenship when looking for a second passport. Still, if you are married to, or planning to marry someone from the countries listed above, many of which offer strong passports, it can be a quick and straightforward path to take. 

Citizenship could be a nice cherry on top of an otherwise fulfilling relationship with someone you met while living your Nomad lifestyle.

Nomad Capitalist is the holistic solution for offshore tax planning, dual citizenship, asset protection and global diversification. Apply to become a client and learn more about what personalised options are available to you.

If you don’t qualify for citizenship by marriage, or you want more information on second passports in general, you can learn more here.


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