To follow up the article on second citizenship and passport scams, we would like to comment on the new “line of products” in this market – EU citizenship and passport, in particular citizenship of such countries as Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Belgium, Switzerland. Most of the offers are not real, or better to say “too good to be real”. Common sense and certain facts to know about should help you to detect a fake.
A huge number of people from countries that, for one reason or another, have an unfavorable international image, dream of another nationality, which would allow them to travel freely and expand their potential for international employment. Perhaps, not a smaller number of websites offer them to solve this problem within a reasonable fee – get second citizenship and passport of a European country.
Currently, there is only one European country where you can obtain citizenship through economic citizenship program – Austria. You can invest in the country’s welfare and get Austrian citizenship and passport without permanent residence requirement. You have to make the investment before you apply for naturalization and still there is no guarantee you will be granted citizenship. There is no statutory requirement for the investment amount, but the recommended one to have chances to qualify is 2-3 millions Euro. These cannot be passive investments in governmental bonds or personal real estate and should bring real innovations to the country. Dual citizenship is not allowed. The program is not really encouraged or promoted by the government.
Knowing this, isn’t it surprising to hear that you can get a Swiss or Belgian passport for a little over than EUR 30,000 with processing time of 2-3 months?
Second Citizenship and Passport in Belgium
As a matter of example, if you are attracted by one of such proposals to get a citizenship in a European country, say, in Belgium, let’s look closer at Belgian residence and citizenship laws.
Dual citizenship is allowed in Belgium since 28 April 2008. If you become a citizen of Belgium, you don’t need to renounce your other citizenship.
Foreign nationals may be naturalized as a Belgian citizen only after 3 (three) continuous years residence in Belgium. Meanwhile, a permanent residence permit in Belgium (EU residence permit) gives you the right of free movement and residence throughout the EU/EEA countries, with stay up to 90 days in any Schengen zone country.
To apply for residence, an applicant must have certain ties to Belgium, personal or business. Legal ways to establish such ties with a country is a separate matter to discuss.
Following the technical formalities, first you are to get a long-stay residence visa (if you are not from an EU country), arrive to the country, within 8 days to register with the local authorities and get your temporary residence permit (mauve card), normally valid for 3 months. Once you have a fixed address and a regular income, within two weeks of moving to a permanent residence, you must apply for a foreigner identity card and to be officially registered in the foreign population register and get your permanent EU residence permit (blue card).
Then, after three years of residence in Belgium, you are entitled to naturalize as a citizen of Belgium. You can do it by way of declaration. The nationality declaration can only be signed in front of the registrar in the applicant’s municipality in Belgium. This declaration cannot be approved by a Belgian embassy or consulate. Herewith, you are to provide a proof of residence in Belgium along with the other documents supporting your case, and submit them to the administration of the commune where you live.
Your file will be processed by the Service des Naturalisations and the national House of Representatives (Chambre des Représentants), which may conduct further investigations, if needed. Finally, your request for naturalization becomes part of a legislative act to be sanctioned by the King and published in the “Moniteur belge”, the official journal of the national legislature. This is the moment when you get citizenship (from the date of publication) and then your Belgium passport.
On different stages you will be required to provide a whole bunch of personal documents, including certificate of birth (duly translated and legalized), marriage/divorce certificates, medical certificate from an approved doctor, police record, proof of financial situation, and sometimes get fingerprinted.
It’s hard to imagine how all that can be done in a legal way without you providing the necessary paperwork and especially without your personal presence in the country at least from time to time.
There is no “economic citizenship” or “citizenship-by-investment” program in Belgium, which would allow you to bypass the above mentioned residency requirement.
Under any legal option, you would be required to at least present personally within all institutions in Belgium for performance of formalities, and to provide a long list of personal documents in original.
Sometimes, the Internet proposal comes with “residency and passport” concept. Passport is a proof, or, better say, a “consequence” of naturalization. If you get a passport without a certificate of naturalization, this is an illegal document.
If you get both citizenship and passport, but by methods other than legal, including correctly issued passport but on the basis of fake documentation, it poses a significant problem to you. One day your citizenship may be deprived and you can get into even more troubles with the law.
European Citizenship and Passport
Laws governing naturalization of foreign nationals in other European countries are pretty similar. Normally, there are provisions in place in each country giving privileges to stateless persons, refugees, persons having close ties with the country, who can apply for citizenship without any prior residence requirement, subject to proof and documentary evidence of ancestry, ethnicity, family, marriage etc.
Otherwise, you may be entitled to naturalization under common rules based on residency requirements. It’s only the qualifying number of years of residence that differs from country to country. Herewith, you are to hold a permanent residence permit, legally issued and maintained. A substantial strictly physical presence during that period is required, as well as sufficient knowledge of the country’s official language and proof of the financial welfare.
Additionally, a number of countries do not recognize dual citizenship, meaning that you would have to relinquish your current citizenship before or following acquisition of the second one. The below summary should be of help in this regard.
- Austria: maintains official citizenship-by-investment program. Other than that, a permanent residence in the country during 10 years is required. Dual citizenship is NOT allowed.
- Belgium: requires 3 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Bulgaria: 5 years of residence, dual citizenship is recognized, but foreigners obtaining Bulgarian citizenship are requested to renounce their other nationalities
- Cyprus: 5 accumulated years of residence in the last 8 years period, dual citizenship allowed.
- Czech Republic: 5 years of residence, dual citizenship is NOT allowed.
- Denmark: 9 years of residence, dual citizenship is NOT allowed.
- Estonia: 5 years of residence, dual citizenship is NOT allowed.
- Finland: 6 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- France: 5 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Germany: 8 years of residence, dual citizenship is NOT allowed.
- Greece: 10 years, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Hungary: 8 years, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Iceland: 7 years, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Ireland: abolished its citizenship-by-investment program in June 2001. Now a permanent residence in the country during 4 out of 8 years is required. Dual citizenship is allowed.
- Italy: 10 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Latvia: 5 years of residence, dual citizenship is NOT allowed.
- Lithuania: There is no formal “citizenship-by-investment” program in Lithuania, but its current legislation provides for opportunities similar to those of Austria, with applications to be considered on a case-by-case basis and citizenship granted in very special occasions. Other than that, 10 years of residence are required. Dual citizenship is NOT allowed.
- Luxembourg: 7 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Malta: 5 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Netherlands: 5 years of residence, dual citizenship is NOT allowed.
- Norway: 7 of the last 10 years, dual citizenship is NOT allowed.
- Poland: 3 years of residence, dual citizenship is NOT allowed.
- Portugal: 10 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Romania: 5 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Slovakia: “Citizenship-by-investment” provisions, similar to those of Austria, exist in legislation of Slovakia, but there is no established practice. Other than that, 8 years of residence are required. Dual citizenship is allowed.
- Slovenia: 10 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Spain: 10 years of residence are required. This requirement can be reduced to 2 years (but not waived) in case of nationals from a former colony of Spain (it covers a number of Latin American countries and the Philippines). Dual citizenship is allowed.
- Sweden: 5 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- Switzerland: 12 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
- United Kingdom: 5 years of residence, dual citizenship is allowed.
In practice, you may encounter a situation where corrupt officials of a country sell passport blanks, and pushful black marketers position this opportunity to you as a legitimate option.
Having all this in mind, it’s obviously wiser to focus your attention on legally existing programs based on a special statute and guaranteed by the Government. Depending on your immediate goal, you can find a suitable solution. Commonwealth of Dominica and Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis are two Caribbean states with a very favorable international image. Passports of these countries provide an opportunity to move freely around the world, with visa-free access to many first-world countries, including Schengen member countries in case of St. Kitts and Nevis.