17 countries inside the European Economic Area offer EU citizenship to grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or sometimes even more distant descendants of European citizens.
Because citizenship in one EEA/Single Market country grants the right to live and work in all of them, these citizenships consistently rank among the world’s most desirable.
Tens (potentially hundreds) of millions of non-Europeans qualify for citizenship by descent. We’ve assembled a complete list, as well as an interactive map, of which European (EEA/Single Market) countries offer citizenship by ancestry.
For the purposes of this overview, we’ll ignore the various citizenship by ancestral persecution solutions, such as the ones that apply to people descending from those stripped of citizenship in Nazi-controlled Germany and Austria or from Sephardic Jews in Spain and Portugal.
Note also that while Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are not EU member countries, they are part of the Single Market and their citizens therefore have the same settlement rights across Europe as citizens of fully-fledged EU member states. In any case, none of those four countries offer citizenship by descent to those who are not immediate descendants of citizens.
How many people qualify for European citizenship by descent?
Outside of Europe itself, descendants of European citizens are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Americas. While there are certainly considerable numbers of European descendants living in Africa and Asia (not to mention Oceania, where the preponderance of inhabitants have European ancestry), the largest groups – in absolute terms – are found in North, Central, and South America.
In 2016, in the United States, 133 million Americans (41% of the population) reported they were of European ancestry. That number, however, includes only those who had first-hand knowledge of their European ancestry (or cared to report it): Some 244 million Americans (72%) of the population, self-identified as “White or Caucasian”, many of whom simply consider themselves “Americans”, rather than, for example, Irish-Americans or German-Americans.
In Latin America, moreover, an estimated 32-40% of the population (179-220 million people) are of European descent, and nearly half of them live in Brazil.
All told, more than half a billion people outside of Europe have some claim to European ancestry. Not all of those will be able to prove it, of course. Fewer still will be able to demonstrate they have a European ancestor only two or three generations removed.
A number of European countries, however, don’t place a particular generational limit on citizenship eligibility through ancestry. If you can convincingly argue, through your evidence, that your ancestor was Hungarian, for example, there is – at least hypothetically – no limit on how many generations back you can go. Nomad Capitalist provides an illustrative example:
[…] someone with the last name Almasy – one of the most common Hungarian last names – would almost certainly be able to obtain Hungarian citizenship.
The difference between Italy’s program and the citizenship program in Hungary is that Italian ancestry can only be claimed so far back as Italy existed in its current state.
Yet, in Hungary, if you can establish a paper trail that connected each generation to the next, and then all the way to you, you’d be eligible to apply.
Now, thanks to the growing popularity (and diminishing cost) of genealogical research and DNA testing, the number of non-Europeans able to argue convincingly that they are of European descent is rising.
List and interactive map of European citizenship by descent policies
The list below will tell you which countries currently offer citizenship by descent, along with a link to the source where you can find more information on eligibility requirements, exemptions, processing times, and so on.
|Country||Citizenship by Ancestry Eligibility|
|Austria||1st generation only|
|Belgium||1st generation only|
|Cyprus||1st generation only|
|Czech Rep.||2nd generation|
|Denmark||1st generation only|
|Estonia||1st generation only|
|Finland||1st generation only|
|France||1st generation only|
|Germany||1st generation only|
|Hungary||3rd generation or earlier|
|Iceland||1st generation only|
|Italy||3rd generation or earlier|
|Latvia||3rd generation or earlier|
|Liechtenstein||1st generation only|
|Lithuania||3rd generation or earlier|
|Luxembourg||3rd generation or earlier|
|Netherlands||1st generation only|
|Norway||1st generation only|
|Poland||3rd generation or earlier|
|Slovakia||3rd (Legislation pending)|
|Sweden||1st generation only|
|Switzerland||1st generation only|
If you'd like to find a law firm that specializes in assisting with the often complex procedure of applying for citizenship by descent in one of the above European countries, you may reach out to the editor on firstname.lastname@example.org to request an introduction.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine - online or offline - for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 14 years in the United States, China, and Spain.