How Hard Is It to Get Dual Citizenship?

UPDATED: May 6, 2024
PUBLISHED: May 8, 2024
Happy mature couple enjoying the benefits of dual citizenship

With a growing desire for increased global mobility, more Americans are exploring the prospect of obtaining dual citizenship or even renouncing their U.S. citizenship in favor of a different country’s. Data from the U.S. State Department in 2020 estimated that more than 9 million Americans live outside the country.

Judi Galst is the managing director of private clients for Henley & Partners, an advisor company that helps people obtain citizenship by investment. Since 2019, she says her firm has seen a 554% increase in inquiries. It makes sense, as the pandemic kick-started an interest in the digital nomad lifestyle, as did U.S. passport restrictions. But how hard is it to get dual citizenship?

Why people pursue dual citizenship

Galst observes that a significant driving force behind this trend is a sense of unease among people about the current state of affairs in America. Those who want to move abroad for an extended period of time, or even permanently, do so for a variety of reasons such as better work-life balance, more affordable homeownership and higher quality of life. With the rise in remote jobs, many people now find themselves in a position where their ability to earn isn’t tied to a location. 

However, not everyone pursuing dual citizenship is looking to make a permanent move. Dual citizenship is also increasingly being viewed as an insurance policy for individuals and families. Galst notes, “If they are able to afford it, and to obtain it, they’d like to know that they have a guaranteed route in order to potentially leave the United States for some period of time.” 

Dual citizenship is also a way to improve the lives of future generations. “Some families with young children… want to give them a global opportunity to live somewhere else in the world,” says Galst.

The benefits of dual citizenship

A common misconception that Galst often comes across is that U.S. citizens can only hold one citizenship. However, the United States government does allow its citizens to pursue another citizenship without having to surrender their U.S. citizenship. But since some countries—such as Oman, Japan and Monaco—do not allow their citizens to have dual citizenship, taking on citizenship in one of those countries will require renouncing U.S. citizenship. There are plenty of other countries with strong passports that Americans can have dual citizenship in, though.

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Galst emphasizes the substantial benefits of securing citizenship in a European Union (EU) member country. She notes, “What’s most significant about citizenship is [that], when you look at a place like Europe… if you are granted citizenship in a country that’s part of the European Union, not only do you get the citizenship rights for that country… but you also are given the ability to live… [and] work anywhere in the European Union, as well as in Switzerland.” 

This dual advantage of increased travel privileges and expanded living options underscores the appeal of dual citizenship.

The difference between citizenship and residency

Rogelio Caceres, co-founder and CEO of the Global Residency & Citizenship Group, a global mobility firm, explains that the path to residency is typically easier than the path to citizenship, but there are many tiers, starting with e-residencies.  Countries like Palau and Estonia allow digital entrepreneurs to set up an online company based in the country, but these residencies do not include the right to live there. 

The second tier of residency is temporary residency. These became very popular post-pandemic, with Barbados taking the lead with its digital nomad program. Recently, South Korea launched its digital nomad program, and Japan followed suit. Some of these residencies allow applicants to live in certain country tax-free for six months to a year. 

Permanent residency, the next tier, allows residents to live in another country for a full year. Caceres explains that permanent residencies often provide a path to citizenship, but permanent residents may be restricted by the amount of time they’re allowed to live outside of their country of residence. 

“It’s not a permanent right,” Galst says. “A residence does need to be renewed. [For] some programs, it’s every three years, some every five years.” 

As an example, the U.S.’s policy for permanent residents says those who leave the country for more than a year may lose their permanent residency. 

The last and most permanent option is citizenship. While the path to residency is generally easier, citizenship provides a guaranteed right for life.

Types of dual citizenship paths

There are several ways to gain citizenship including naturalization, marriage, birthright, ancestry and investment, though the options toward citizenship depend on the country. Citizenship through naturalization requires spending a certain amount of time in the country, citizenship through marriage requires marrying a citizen in the country and citizenship through birthright is based on the country you were born in. However, not every country offers birthright citizenship. 

Citizenship through ancestry, which is based on historical ties to the land, is an undervalued strategy that a lot more people could be taking advantage of, according to Caceres. 

“We estimate [conservatively]… that at least 50 million people could be EU citizens if they were to apply,” says Caceres. “That ranges from Italy, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Greece, Czech Republic[and] Slovakia. Even Germany now allows some type of dual citizenship [by ancestry].”

Citizenship through investment is a popular avenue as well, especially for high earners who want to diversify their investment portfolios. For example, according to Galst, gaining citizenship in St. Lucia could cost “as little as $100,000” in qualifying investments. 

The best countries for dual citizenship

Galst says that she typically sees two strategies when it comes to gaining citizenship: There are some who are interested in getting a second citizenship as quickly as possible, and there are others who want to get the most powerful second citizenship. 


The Caribbean emerges as a fast track for second citizenship, offering flexibility and strength in passport privileges. With the potential to secure a Caribbean passport in only six months, individuals can gain access to over 150 countries visa-free, including Europe. Galst says that those who pursue Caribbean passports are typically looking for a contingency plan during crises.

The Caribbean also offers a unique advantage for those who desire mobility and flexibility. Caribbean Community) member countries facilitate easy movement, allowing passport holders to live in nations within the union for up to six months at a time. 


European passports are another focal point for Americans who seek a second citizenship because they provide access to the whole European Union. Galst recommends Greece, Spain and Italy to those who simply want residency in a European country due to their lack of stringent physical presence requirements. For those looking to gain citizenship without staying in the country for an extended period of time, Galst points to Portugal, Malta and Austria. 

Portugal stands out for its relatively accessible path to European Union citizenship through its Golden Visa program. 

“You can make a nonrefundable contribution to an arts or cultural organization for 250,000 euros, or you can invest 500,000 [euros] in venture capital [or] private equity,” says Galst. “You don’t have a huge physical presence required—you [only] have to be there 14 days every two years…. But you do have to pass a Portuguese language test. You need to maintain your investment. You have to renew the visa in year two and year four, and then at the end of holding that visa for five years, you’re eligible to apply for citizenship.”

Malta and Austria offer more expedited routes to EU citizenship but come with significantly higher financial commitments. Malta has an option requiring a  750,000 euro nonrefundable contribution to the Maltese government, a 50,000-euro contribution per dependent and a charitable contribution of 10,000 euros. 

Austria, which has a more discreet program, requires investments that range from 3½ to 8 million euros, and the process takes an estimated 36 months maximum. 

As the dynamics of global citizenship evolve, individuals and families who choose to navigate the tiers of residency and citizenship can choose a path that aligns with their aspirations for a more accessible and versatile future. 

Photo by Prostock-studio/

Iona Brannon is a freelance journalist based in the U.S. You can read more of her work at