Emigration: The easiest countries in Europe to gain citizenship

Data reveals the easiest and most difficult countries in Europe to gain citizenship. Picture: Anna Hunko/Unsplash

Data reveals the easiest and most difficult countries in Europe to gain citizenship. Picture: Anna Hunko/Unsplash

Published Jan 22, 2024


If you are looking to live in Europe but don’t have an EU passport, you should probably consider your options in Sweden and Norway.

Data shows that these two European countries offer the highest chances of gaining citizenship; Netherlands is ranked third.

At the other end of the scale, Estonia has the lowest foreign citizenship approval rate.

There are, however, slight deviations depending on whether you are a man or woman.

While South African professionals and families emigrate every day to countries all over the world, securing citizenship in Europe is at the top of many people’s lists because of the travel opportunities associated with holding an EU passport. For those with only the ‘green mamba’ passport though – and no skills or marriage links to eventually attain foreign citizenship – it can be near-impossible to relocate to one of these countries.

Based on Eurostat immigration data from 2009 to 2021, Canadian immigration agency CanadaCIS states that the top nine most difficult countries for non-EU citizens to become nationals of are in Central Europe. In Estonia, for example, only one in 200 foreign nationals – 0.6 percent – gain citizenship.

Similarly, less than one percent of non-EU residents in Latvia, Czechia, and Lithuania gain citizenship. This is compared to the European average of 3.56 percent.

In addition to Europe having some of the strongest passports in the world, Bryan Brooks, immigration expert from CanadaCIS says it also has some of the highest quality of life indicators, including high career prospects, living conditions, and healthcare.

He adds: “In nearly nine in 10 countries, the naturalisation rate was higher for women. It could be that women are more eligible, likely to emigrate, or commonly carry the required skills to fill shortages.”

In terms of the most difficult European countries in which to gain citizenship overall, these are ranked in positions five to nine, granting citizenship to less than two percent of its foreign residents.

5. Austria: 1.2 percent

6. Liechtenstein: 1.4 percent

7. Slovakia: 1.5 percent

8. Slovenia: 1.6 percent

9. Germany: 1.8 percent

Of the 10 countries that have the lowest rates for foreign citizenship approval, Denmark is the most difficult country outside Central Europe to attain citizenship, with a two percent acquisition rate. However, CanadaCIS notes that this rate has increased the most over the past 10 years. The granting of foreign citizenship rates in Germany has remained stable while those in Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia dropped.

The easiest European countries to gain citizenship

If you are looking for the good news about your chances of gaining foreign citizenship in Europe, the analysis shows that at least one in 20 (five percent) of non-EU citizens manage to attain citizenship in these countries:

1. Sweden: 9.3 percent

2. Norway: 7.4 percent

3. Netherlands: 7.1 percent

4. Portugal: 6.6 percent

5. Iceland: 6.5 percent

6. Ireland: 6.5 percent

7. Romania: 6.3 percent

8. United Kingdom: 5.9 percent

9. Belgium: 5.8 percent

10. Finland: 5.0 percent

The data also reveals that Sweden has the highest acceptance rates for both men and women compared to other countries. Women have an advantage with a 10.02 percent acceptance rate compared to 8.66 percent for men.

European countries with the largest foreign citizenship gender gaps

Almost every European country gave citizenship to more women (3.85 percent) than men (3.56 percent), with only four in 32 accepting more men, CanadaCIS says. On the other hand, Bulgaria and Romania have the largest citizenship gender gaps in favour of men, with both countries giving citizenship to about 45 percent more men than women.

Greece and Latvia’s acceptance rates were also slightly skewed towards men.

The top three countries accepting more women are Slovenia, Lithuania, and Czechia, which granted three women national status for every two men.

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