Obtaining Citizenship in Europe: A Comprehensive Guide

Citizenship in Europe

Europe, with its rich history, diverse cultures, and robust economies, is a desirable destination for many seeking to obtain citizenship. Whether for work, family, or personal reasons, acquiring citizenship of a European country can provide numerous benefits, including the right to live, work, and travel freely across the continent. This guide will explore the general process of obtaining citizenship in Europe and highlight specific pathways in a few key countries, including Serbia.

Understanding European Citizenship

Citizenship laws in Europe vary significantly from one country to another. However, most countries follow a few common pathways to citizenship:

  1. Citizenship by Descent: If you have parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents from a European country, you might be eligible for citizenship by descent. This pathway often requires proving your lineage through birth certificates and other documents.
  2. Citizenship by Birth: In some countries, being born on the country’s soil can grant you citizenship, although this is less common in Europe compared to places like the United States.
  3. Citizenship by Naturalization: This is the most common method for foreigners to obtain European citizenship. It typically requires living in the country for a certain number of years, demonstrating language proficiency, and integrating into society.
  4. Citizenship by Marriage: Marrying a citizen of a European country can sometimes expedite the citizenship process. Each country has its own rules regarding how long you need to be married and reside in the country before applying.
  5. Citizenship by Investment: Some European countries offer citizenship or residency through investment programs. This usually involves making a significant financial contribution to the country’s economy.

General Requirements for Naturalization

While the specific requirements vary, most countries will require applicants to:

  • Have legal residency for a certain period, often between 3 to 10 years.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the local language.
  • Show knowledge of the country’s culture, history, and government.
  • Have a clean criminal record.
  • Provide proof of financial stability as well as the means to support yourself.

Pathways to Citizenship in Key European Countries


Germany is one of the largest and most influential countries in Europe. To become a citizen through naturalization, you typically need to focus on:

  1. Residence: Live in Germany legally for at least 8 years. This period can be reduced to 7 years with successful completion of an integration course, or even 6 years in some cases of special integration.
  2. Language: Demonstrate proficiency in German at the B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
  3. Knowledge: Pass a citizenship test covering German laws, culture, and the political system.
  4. Financial Stability: Show that you can support yourself and your dependents without relying on state welfare.
  5. Renunciation: Generally, you must renounce your previous citizenship unless you belong to an EU country or have special circumstances.


Italy, known for its rich culture and history, also has specific pathways to citizenship:

  1. Residence: Legally reside in Italy for 10 years. This period is reduced to 4 years for EU citizens and 5 years for refugees and stateless individuals.
  2. Language: Prove proficiency in Italian, usually at the B1 level of CEFR.
  3. Integration: Show integration into Italian society through employment, education, or family ties.
  4. Descent: Italy is generous with citizenship by descent, allowing those with Italian ancestry up to two generations back to apply.


Spain offers various routes to citizenship, emphasizing cultural and linguistic integration:

  1. Residence: Live in Spain for 10 years. This period is reduced to 2 years for citizens of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, and for Sephardic Jews.
  2. Language: Demonstrate proficiency in Spanish.
  3. Cultural Knowledge: Pass a test on Spanish culture, society, and constitution.
  4. Integration: Show active participation in Spanish society.


France, with its robust social system and cultural appeal, has a straightforward yet thorough naturalization process:

  1. Residence: Live in France for 5 continuous years. This period can be reduced to 2 years for those who have completed higher education in France or contributed significantly to the country.
  2. Language: Demonstrate French proficiency at the B1 level of CEFR.
  3. Integration: Show integration into French society, including knowledge of French history, culture, and values.
  4. Economic Stability: Prove financial stability and sufficient income.


Portugal offers one of the most attractive citizenship pathways, particularly through its Golden Visa program:

  1. Residence: Live in Portugal for 5 years, including under the Golden Visa program, which allows residency through investment.
  2. Language: Demonstrate basic proficiency in Portuguese (A2 level of CEFR).
  3. Integration: Show ties to the Portuguese community and knowledge of the country’s culture and history.
  4. Descent: Citizenship by descent is available for those with Portuguese ancestry.


Serbia, located in the Balkans, has a relatively straightforward path to citizenship, with some unique opportunities:

  1. Residence: Live in Serbia for at least 5 years continuously under a permanent residency permit.
  2. Language: Demonstrate basic proficiency in Serbian, usually through an interview process.
  3. Integration: Show integration into Serbian society, which can include employment, family ties, or cultural participation.
  4. Marriage: Foreigners married to Serbian citizens can apply for citizenship after three years of marriage and residence in Serbia.
  5. Investment: Serbia offers residency through investment in property or business, which can eventually lead to citizenship.

Citizenship by Investment Programs

Several European countries offer citizenship or residency through investment programs, including:

  1. Malta: Requires a significant contribution to the National Development and Social Fund, investment in real estate, and holding residence in Malta.
  2. Cyprus: Previously offered one of the most popular programs, which required a substantial real estate investment. Note that the program has undergone changes and suspensions.
  3. Portugal: The Golden Visa program allows residency (and eventually citizenship) through real estate investment, job creation, or capital transfer.
  4. Serbia: The request to acquire Serbian citizenship can be granted to a foreign national whose naturalization is in the interest of the Republic of Serbia. The decision on what constitutes the “interest of the Republic of Serbia” is made by the Government of the Republic of Serbia. 

Therefore, the state may conclude that certain foreign investments are of particular significance to national interests, thus being willing to approve the request for acquiring Serbian citizenship. You can find available legal advice and guidance by contacting Pekić Law Office and set the wheels in motion.


Obtaining citizenship in Europe involves navigating complex legal requirements, but the rewards can be substantial, offering security, mobility, and a high quality of life. Each country has its unique set of rules and pathways, so it’s essential to research and understand the specific requirements of the country you’re interested in.

For those serious about pursuing European citizenship, consulting with immigration experts or legal advisors can provide invaluable guidance and support throughout the process. With patience and determination, the dream of becoming a European citizen can become a reality.

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