Citizenship Options in the European Union
The European Union is a legal and political entity that is composed of 28 member states, including many of the most powerful and influential countries in Europe including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Portugal, Netherlands, and Denmark.
Conceived in the wake of the Second World War, the EU was established soon thereafter in order to encourage economic cooperation and political stability amongst its nations. To achieve unity and promote cooperation, the EU has the created European Parliament, adopted a single currency, established multiple councils, and founded the European Central Bank.
In order to further unify the member states, the EU has also implemented open door travel and work policies that allow citizens of one EU member state the freedom to travel, work, reside, relocate, and study in another EU member state merely by virtue of possessing an EU passport. There are several other benefits of EU citizenship, as described below.
Who is an EU Citizen?
Any individual who has the nationality (either by birth or by naturalization) of a country that is a member state of the EU is also automatically an EU citizen.
The Benefits of EU Citizenship
There are many and varied benefits to being an EU citizen, which is why hundreds of thousands of foreign investors are clamoring to become EU citizens. First and foremost there is the tremendous benefit to travel and relocate freely within the EU countries. In addition to that benefit, EU citizens are also empowered to run for office and vote in European Parliament and municipal elections. They are also entitled to the diplomatic protections and consular authorities protections of all EU countries.
Moreover, EU citizens can petition the European Parliaments to enact or repeal laws, complain to the European Ombudsman, and contact and receive a response from any EU institution in of one of the EU’s 24 official languages. Finally, EU citizens can exercise the right to review documents of the European Parliament, European Council, and European Commission under specific circumstances, and all EU citizens have the right of equal access to the EU Civil Service.
How To Become an EU Citizen
As stated, in order to become an EU citizen, a foreign national must first become a citizen of an EU member state. Given that there are 28 EU countries, foreign nationals have several options to pursue in this regard. Each country has its own laws and requirements for granting citizenship but there are a few aspects that all nations have in common.
For example, all countries have an option for foreign investors to become citizens but first the investor must contribute a certain amount of money to the country. The amount of the required investment varies and the industries that may be invested into vary as well. Additionally, all countries that offer citizenship by investment programs allow the foreign investor to bring a spouse and minor children to the new country as well.
The countries’ policies do have significant differences which is why foreign nationals should consult will knowledgeable attorneys that can help them decide which program is a best fit for them. For instance, some countries recognize dual citizenship while others require foreign investors to renounce their former nationality.
Additionally, countries have different requirements for how long it takes the foreign national to become a citizen after gaining permanent residence. Some nations require 5 years of permanent residence, whereas others require 10 years. Moreover, many foreign nationals wish to take into consideration tax laws and any breaks or benefits the EU country may offer. Some nations are parties to double tax treaties which ensure that their residents are not subject to double taxation on monies earned from income, investments, etc. But participation in these treaties is not uniform so foreign nationals will need to compare the different tax programs of the EU countries in order to make an informed decision about into which country the national should invest.
Finally, the actual application processes differ significantly with the result that a foreign national may choose to invest a larger amount into one country, instead of investing a smaller amount into a second country, simply because the second country’s application process is more stringent (such as requiring the passage of a citizenship test and proficiency in the country’s language) or takes a comparatively long time.