Analysis

The 9 Supranational Settlement Blocs: Where Citizenship in One Country Lets You Live in Others


As a reader of IMI, you already know that one of the things that make European citizenships so sought-after is that once you become a national of one of the countries in the European Union (or its EEA cousins Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), you also get the right to freely settle in any of the 30 countries in the group.

But such groups – which we’ll call Supranational Settlement Blocs (SSBs) – are not unique to Europe: There are at least nine SSBs worldwide, each of which gives citizens of one member country the right to live in all the others.

In this article, we'll go through each of them, starting with the most familiar one:

1. The EU/EEA Settlement Bloc

Consisting of the 27 European Union countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, this is the world’s largest SSB in terms of number of countries covered. Citizens of each participating state can freely settle in the others without needing visas or permits.

Participating countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden

Switzerland, while not a member of the EU or EEA, is part of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) and has a series of bilateral treaties with the EU that allow for the free (short-term) movement of EU/EEA Bloc citizens through Switzerland. However, even EU/EEA nationals will need to obtain a residence permit to remain in Switzerland for more than three months.

EU/EEA Bloc facts and figures

  • Bloc states: 30
  • Bloc population: 463 million
  • Bloc area: 4.6 million km²
  • Bloc GDP: about 17% of world

2. The MERCOSUR-RA Settlement Bloc

Stretched across 16.4 million km², the Mercosur Residence Agreement SSB is the world’s largest in terms of area covered.

The agreement gives the citizens of each participating state the right to obtain residency in the others as long as they can demonstrate a clean criminal record.

The individual must apply for an initial two-year residence permit (to which he has a right), which he can subsequently convert to permanent status and eventually citizenship.

Participating states:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia (accession pending)
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • Paraguay
  • Uruguay

Note that not all Mercosur member countries are signatories to the Mercosur Residence Agreement, that Bolivia is still in the process of accession, and that Venezuela is suspended.

MERCOSUR-RA Bloc facts and figures

  • Bloc states: 9
  • Bloc population: 404 million
  • Bloc area: 16.4 million km²
  • Bloc GDP: about 4% of world

3. The CAIRCOM-CSME Settlement Bloc

Just as not all Mercosur countries are signatories to the Residency Agreement, not all Caricom states are part of the Single Market & Economy (CSME) agreement.

While comprising 12 countries, the Caricom SME covers an area of just 0.42 million km², a combined population of just 7 million, and an aggregate GDP of just over $60 billion, making it the smallest SSB on our list.

Note also that the right to settle across the bloc is limited to those who can obtain a “Skill Certificate” in one of the member countries, which can restrict the movement of unskilled labor.

Participating states:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Suriname
  • Trinidad and Tobago

CARICOM-CSME Bloc facts and figures

  • Bloc states: 12
  • Bloc population: 7 million
  • Bloc area: 0.42 million km²
  • Bloc GDP: about 0.06% of world

4. The ECOWAS Settlement Bloc

Of all the SSBs on our list, this one is the least integrated. While citizens of each participating state have the right to obtain residency in the others, they still need to apply for a formal residence permit for stays over 90 days.

Such applications are supposed to be simplified for ECOWAS citizens, but note that reports indicate implementation is not homogenous across the bloc and that border agents have been known to request bribes.

ECOWAS continues to work toward its goal of complete, EU-style freedom of movement and settlement, which has proven challenging in practice.

Participating states:

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cape Verde
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Togo

ECOWAS Bloc facts and figures

  • Bloc states: 15
  • Bloc population: 424 million
  • Bloc area: 5.1 million km²
  • Bloc GDP: about 0.08% of world

5. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Settlement Bloc

While subject to occasional political disruptions, the Gulf Cooperation Council allows for free movement and settlement of its nationals across the bloc. Citizens of each participating state can freely reside in the others without the need for visas or permits.

The bloc is home to 58 million, about two-thirds of whom live in Saudi Arabia.

Participating states:

  • Bahrain
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates

GCC Bloc facts and figures

  • Bloc states: 6
  • Bloc population: 58 million
  • Bloc area: 2.6 million km²
  • Bloc GDP: about 2% of world

6. The Nordic Passport Union (NPU) Settlement Bloc

Consisting of the culturally and (except for Finland) linguistically affiliated Nordic countries, the NPU is the oldest SSB on our list, dating back to the 1950s.

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Citizens of each participating state can freely settle in the others without the need for visas or permits.

Note, however, that because all the NPU countries are also members of both the European Economic Area and Schengen, the NPU is mostly redundant from the perspective of settlement rights.

Participating states:

  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Sweden

NPU Bloc facts and figures

  • Bloc states: 6
  • Bloc population: 27 million
  • Bloc area: 1.3 million km²
  • Bloc GDP: about 2% of world

7. The Common Travel Area (CTA) Settlement Bloc

The CTA SSB allows the citizens of Ireland and the United Kingdom (including its crown dependencies Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man) to freely move and settle anywhere within the bloc.

Holding renewed relevance in the wake of Brexit, this SSB is home to some 73 million people and a combined GDP of $3.7 trillion.

Participating states:

  • Guernsey
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey
  • United Kingdom

CTA Bloc facts and figures

  • Bloc states: 5
  • Bloc population: 73 million
  • Bloc area: 0.31 million km²
  • Bloc GDP: about 4% of world

8. The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA) Settlement Bloc

The TTA SSB allows Australians and New Zealanders to settle freely in each other’s countries without any need for special permits or visas.

New Zealand, in fact, extends the same courtesy also to permanent residents of Australia.

Participating states:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand

TTTA Bloc facts and figures

  • Bloc states: 2
  • Bloc population: 33 million
  • Bloc area: 8 million km²
  • Bloc GDP: about 2% of world

9. The Compact of Free Association (CoFA) Settlement Bloc

A legacy of the US trusteeship of certain Pacific island nations in the wake of WWII, Americans are free to reside indefinitely in the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau - and vice versa. Note, however, that nationals of the mentioned Pacific countries are only permitted to travel to the US and apply for admission as non-immigrants as long as they are natural-born citizens or acquired citizenship in 1986.

Participating states:

  • Marshall Islands
  • Micronesia
  • Palau
  • United States

CoFA Bloc facts and figures:

  • Bloc states: 4
  • Bloc population: 340 million
  • Bloc area: 9.8 million km²
  • Bloc GDP: $26.5 trillion

How to Maximize Global Access Through Citizenship in Supranational Settlement Blocs

How might you maximize worldwide settlement rights by strategically acquiring citizenships in the various blocs?

We'll exclude the CoFA bloc from consideration since it only applies to natural-born citizenships.

To maximize for the number of countries you'd gain a right to settle in, you should acquire bloc citizenships in the following order:

  • EU/EEA citizenship - Total: 30 countries
  • ECOWAS - Total: 45 countries
  • CARICOM - Total: 57 countries
  • MERCOSUR - Total: 66 countries
  • GCC - Total: 72 countries
  • CTA* - Total: 77 countries
  • TTTA - Total: 79 countries (40% of all countries)

*unnecessary if your EU citizenship was Irish

There’s no marginal benefit to be garnered by getting an NPU citizenship if you already hold an EU/EEA citizenship.

To maximize for square kilometers accessible, you should gain bloc citizenship in the following order:

  • MERCOSUR citizenship - Total: 16.4 million km²
  • TTTA - Total: 24.4 million km²
  • ECOWAS - Total: 29.5 million km²
  • EU/EEA - Total: 34.1 million km²
  • GCC - Total: 36.7 million km²
  • CARICOM - Total: 37.1 million km²
  • CTA - Total: 37.4 million km²

Again, there’s no marginal benefit to NPU citizenship if you already have EU/EEA.

This approach would give you access to 25% of the world’s land area.

What if you want to maximize for economic access? In that case, you should acquire bloc citizenship according to GDP, as such:

EU/EEA citizenship - Total: $16.9 trillion
MERCOSUR citizenship - Total: $21 trillion
CTA citizenship - Total: $24.7 trillion
GCC citizenship - Total: $27 trillion
TTTA citizenship - Total: $28.8 trillion
ECOWAS citizenship - Total: $29.6 trillion
CARICOM citizenship - Total: $29.7 trillion

This would give you settlement rights in countries representing nearly 30% of global GDP.

Again, getting NPU citizenship if you already have EU is not going to give you any marginal access.

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