Access to Nationality

Key findings

Much-needed citizenship reforms can significantly increase naturalisation rates and boost other integration outcomes for the large number of potential citizens.

Ranking 2014Score
20Czech Republic49
25South Korea36
Ranking 2014Score


Who can become a citizen?

In most European countries, more than half of the non-EU citizen adults have lived there long enough to become citizens. At least two thirds meet the residence requirements in AT, FR, GR, IE, NL, PT and the Baltic states. An important share of eligible applicants are actually second generation adults born and raised in AT, DK, IT, NL (15-20%) and in EE & LV (around 40%).


How easily can immigrants become citizens?

Citizenship policies remain a major area of weakness for most European countries, especially in AT, MT, the Baltics and Southeast Europe. The highly discretionary and costly path to citizenship often discourages rather than encourages immigrants to apply and succeed as new citizens. A few countries have not caught up with international reform trends on dual nationality and citizenship entitlements for children. In contrast, immigrants have slightly favourable opportunities to become citizens in the traditional countries of immigration as well as in PT, SE and DE.

Since 2010, reform efforts were completely undermined in GR, while policies were slightly restricted in CA, NL, UK and, to some extent, BE. At the same time, immigrants' opportunities to become citizens have improved in 11 countries from all corners of Europe, with significant reforms accomplished in DK and PL. More specifically, immigrants in PL enjoy a secure path to citizenship since 2012, with the option to obtain dual nationality, bringing PL up to the EU average. DK finally followed international trends and opened up to birthright citizenship in 2013 and dual nationality in 2014, although immigrants are still confronted with higher language and economic resource requirements in DK than in most European countries. In 2013, GR's Council of State annulled the major 2010 reform, which had brought GR up to the EU average. Immigrants and their Greek-born children again face one of the most restrictive naturalisation policies compared to the other major destinations in Northern or Southern Europe.



  • Countries converging on residence requirements: 5 years is most common (13 MIPEX countries) and 7 years is the average
  • Trend in most countries to create entitlement to citizenship for children born or raised in the country (18 countries, recently CZ and DK)


  • Language levels diverge across countries (A2 in 13, B1 in 12), but few provide enough language courses for applicants to succeed
  • Citizenship/integration test required in only half and even fewer courses for applicants to succeed
  • Income/job required for citizenship in only half, but not in traditional countries of immigration
  • Average fee around 250€, highest in AT, GR, IE, NL, SK, CH, UK, US

Security of status

  • Immigrants who meet all the legal requirements can still be rejected in the highly discretionary procedures in CY, GR, IE, MT, UK, Baltics and Central Europe
  • Entitlement to naturalisation established in most Northern European countries, PT, ES, and now PL
  • Right to reasoned decision & appeal in 31 countries (most recently all applicants in BE, GR, LU, PL)

Dual nationality

  • Dual nationality is increasingly accepted as the rule (25 countries, now CZ, DK, PL) or at least as an exception (now BG, DE, LV, LT)

Best Case & Worst Case

This is a composition of national policies found in 2014 in at least one of the 38 countries

Best case

All settled residents who see their future in the country get full support to become citizens and equally participate in public life. All citizens can be dual nationals. A child born in the country to immigrant parents becomes a citizen at birth (jus soli) like all other children. Someone born abroad has become attached to the country after living there for 5 years. She is entitled to the nationality when she meets the legal conditions, such as having no recent criminal record. The requirement to pass the basic language test and a citizenship course encourages her to succeed through free, flexible and professional courses and tests. As a new citizen, she has the same citizenship protections as her fellow nationals.

Worst case

States that discourage immigrants from acquiring their nationality create a long-term democratic, social and economic deficit. The children and grandchildren of immigrants are still treated as foreigners. An immigrant is not considered eligible unless he has lived in the country for 10+ years. New citizens cannot be dual nationals, though other citizens can. The other conditions are too onerous for many settled residents – or even nationals – to pass (e.g. income, fees of 1,000+ euros). An applicant must pass demanding, discretionary and costly language and integration tests, without the support to pass. The procedure is fully discretionary, without judicial oversight. As a new citizen, he can be stripped of his citizenship at any point in his life, even becoming stateless.


How many immigrants are becoming citizens?

800,000 people have been naturalised every year by the EU Member States since 2010.

Over the past decade, the number of naturalisations has increased in countries passing citizenship reforms, such as GR, LU and PT, and in new countries of immigration, such as IT, PL and ES, while naturalisations fell in several countries with restrictive requirements: AT, BG, DE, DK, EE and LV.

Most recently, between 2010-2012, naturalisation rates rose dramatically in HU, IE, FI and SE and dropped in BE and FR.


What other factors explain why immigrants become citizens?

  • Most from less developed countries in Nordics and Western Europe
  • Most long-settled in Northwest Europe and Baltics
  • Mostly humanitarian or family migrants in US and Northwest Europe
  • Most from countries allowing dual nationality in Southern Europe, Western Europe & Baltics


How often do immigrants become citizens?

Citizenship policies are the strongest factor determining the naturalisation outcomes for immigrant men and women from developing countries. Non-EU immigrant men and women are much more likely to become citizens in countries with inclusive citizenship policies, such as IE, PT, UK, the Nordics and the Benelux countries, than in countries with restrictive policies, such as AT, CH and the Baltic states. The high naturalisation rates in restrictive BG and HU are unrelated to immigrant integration, as most naturalised citizens are not immigrants, but co-ethnics abroad benefiting from special naturalisation privileges.


What do we learn from robust studies?

Immigrants from developing countries are the most likely to naturalise and the most affected by naturalisation policies. The restrictiveness of the policy has the greater effect on their naturalisation rates than other individual and contextual factors. The acceptance of dual nationality is one of the most important policies affecting naturalisation rates. Naturalisation also seems to lead to better employment outcomes and higher levels of social and political participation for certain naturalising immigrants (Bilgili et al. 2015, OECD 2011).