Access to Nationality
Facilitating access to nationality can significantly increase naturalisation rates and boost integration outcomes.
How easily can immigrants become citizens?
Nationality policies are a major area of weakness in most European and non-European countries, especially Austria, Bulgaria, the Baltics, Eastern Europe, and India. The highly discretionary, expensive path to citizenship often discourages rather than encourages migrants to apply. A few countries (10/52) still have not caught up with international reform trends on dual nationality and citizenship entitlements for children. By contrast, immigrants have favourable opportunities to become citizens in many countries, e.g., Sweden and the traditional destination countries (Canada, New Zealand and US).
Since 2014, nationality policies have become more restrictive in Argentina, Denmark, Greece and Italy. In 2015, though, Greece did introduce more favourable conditions for Greek-born children of immigrants.
Immigrants’ access to nationality has improved significantly in Brazil and Luxembourg and, to lesser extent, in China, Greece, Latvia, Moldova, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.
For example, in Luxembourg, the wait for the first-generation was lowered from 7-to-5 years and their efforts are rewarded for learning Luxembourgish, while the right to citizenship was regained by spouses and extended from the third- to the second-generation.
- Ordinary first-generation immigrants face a wait of five years in half the MIPEX countries (23).
- Citizenship entitlements exist in half of the countries for children born or educated in the country to foreign parents. In the other half, these children must undergo a naturalisation procedure. Unconditional birthright citizenship for the second generation exist in the North and South American countries included in MIPEX.
Conditions and security of status
- Language requirements differ significantly across countries. Nine countries require only A1 proficiency or carry out no assessment; 19 require A2 proficiency and 24 require B1 proficiency or apply discretionary procedures.
- Immigrants do not have to undergo an integration requirement in nearly half of the MIPEX countries. In the other half, they must pass a test as part of the process. Only Belgium and Luxembourg allow ordinary applicants to complete a specific course.
- Proof of income or employment is required for citizenship in the slight majority of countries (33/52). 12 countries require that applicants demonstrate a minimum income, while the remaining 21 countries impose more demanding requirements.
- Criminal record requirements are demanding in the slight majority of countries (32/52). Applicants are ineligible if convicted of a crime, sentenced to imprisonment for more than five years, or charged with other offences (e.g. misdemeanours or minor offenses).
- Dual nationality is fully embraced by a slight majority of countries (31 countries, including most recently Brazil, Moldova, Norway and Turkey), while 11 other countries only allow dual nationality based on exceptions.
Policies and integration outcomes: What do we learn from robust studies?
Removing the obstacles to citizenship that immigrants face around the world is helping immigrants not only to become national citizens, but also to feel more like equal members of society. Nationality policies are one of the best studied areas of integration policy, with over 30 independent studies linking MIPEX with key integration outcomes.
Immigrants’ chances to naturalise as citizens are strongly influenced by the policies in place, especially on dual nationality, birthright citizenship and the legal and procedural requirements. Inclusive policies can also boost some immigrants’ acceptance, socio-economic status, political participation, sense of belonging and trust.