Latin-America

How Long It Takes to Get Citizenship in 21 Latin-American Countries


Latin America, considering the region as a whole, is the world’s most open in terms of the ease and alacrity with which foreigners can obtain citizenship. This article will explain why the region’s citizenships are desirable in the first place and how long it takes to obtain each of them.

Why are Latin American citizenships valuable to begin with?

The region is home to some of the highest-quality nationalities outside the EU, thanks to a few salient advantages:

First, most countries in the region offer their citizens very strong passports in terms of visa-free travel. 16 of the 21 countries enjoy visa-free travel to more than 100 countries and 15 of them have visa-free access to the Schengen area. Strongest of all is Chile’s passport, which additionally offers visa-free travel to the United States (subject to eTA approvals).



Second, nine Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay) are signatories to the MERCOSUR Residency Agreement, which allows the citizens of member states the right to freely travel, settle, and work throughout the bloc, similar to how EU citizens can do the same within Europe. All the individual needs is to demonstrate a clean criminal record. After two years of temporary residency, the permit can be converted to permanent status.



Third, much of the region is a geopolitical "safe space." In our article Why a Bulletproof Mobility Portfolio Should Contain a Western Hemisphere Allocation, we explained why a mix of food-and-fuel self-sufficiency, the American security umbrella (Monroe Doctrine), distance from military conflicts, and a historical dearth of wars makes the region a well-suited locale for sitting out global instability.

Now that you understand why Latin American citizenships are valuable, it's time to look at our simplified overview of how long it takes to naturalize as a citizen in each country in four common scenarios:

  1. Under ordinary circumstances
  2. If you are married to a citizen
  3. If you are the parent of a citizen
  4. If you are from a "preferential" country.

How long it takes to get citizenship in Latin American countries under ordinary circumstances

By "ordinary circumstances," we mean that the applicant doesn't have any mitigating conditions that might expedite the length of the residence period required to become eligible for naturalization, such as being married to or being the parent of someone who is already a citizen, or already holding a nationality that qualifies them for fast-track naturalization.

  • Argentina 2 years
  • Dominican Republic 2 years
  • Peru 2 years
  • Bolivia 3 years
  • Honduras 3 years
  • Paraguay 3 years
  • Brazil 4 years
  • Nicaragua 4 years
  • Belize 5 years
  • Chile 5 years
  • Colombia 5 years
  • Cuba 5 years
  • Ecuador 5 years
  • El Salvador 5 years
  • Guatemala 5 years
  • Mexico 5 years
  • Panama 5 years
  • Suriname 5 years
  • Uruguay 5 years
  • Costa Rica 7 years
  • Venezuela 10 years

While naturalization in anything under five years is practically unheard of in Europe (and naturalization of any kind is virtually impossible in most of Asia), it's par for the course in several of Latin America's most attractive countries.



How long it takes to get citizenship in Latin American countries if you are married to a citizen

Many countries in Latin America let you naturalize much earlier if you are married to a local citizen. In some cases - such as in Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras - the residency period is waived altogether, allowing you to apply for citizenship more or less immediately if you have a local spouse.

  • Argentina 0 years
  • Dominican Republic 0 years (six months for husbands, immediate for wives of locals)
  • Honduras 0 years
  • Belize 1 year
  • Brazil 1 year
  • Bolivia 2 years
  • Colombia 2 years
  • Costa Rica 2 years
  • Cuba 2 years
  • El Salvador 2 years
  • Mexico 2 years
  • Nicaragua 2 years
  • Peru 2 years
  • Panama 3 years
  • Paraguay 3 years (no special provision for spouses)
  • Ecuador 4 years
  • Chile 5 years (no special provision for spouses)
  • Guatemala 5 years (no special provision for spouses)
  • Suriname 5 years (no special provision for spouses)
  • Uruguay 5 years (no special provision for spouses of locals, but married foreign couples can naturalize in 3 years)
  • Venezuela 5 years

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How long it takes to get citizenship in Latin American countries if you are the parent of a citizen

  • Argentina 0 years
  • Brazil 1 year
  • Bolivia 2 years
  • Colombia 2 years
  • Cuba 2 years
  • Dominican Republic 2 years (no special provision for parents)
  • Mexico 2 years
  • Nicaragua 2 years
  • Peru 2 years (no special provision for parents)
  • Honduras 3 years (no special provision for parents)
  • Panama 3 years
  • Paraguay 3 years (no special provision for parents)
  • Ecuador 4 years
  • Belize 5 years (no special provision for parents)
  • Chile 5 years (no special provision for parents)
  • El Salvador 5 years (no special provision for parents)
  • Guatemala 5 years (no special provision for parents)
  • Suriname 5 years (no special provision for parents)
  • Uruguay 5 years (no special provision for parents)
  • Costa Rica 7 years (no special provision for parents)
  • Venezuela 10 years (no special provision for parents)

How long it takes to get citizenship in Latin American countries if you are from a "preferential" country

Many Latin American countries offer faster naturalization periods for people from countries they consider more compatible. Usually, this means you're from another country in Latin America or at least from another Spanish or Portuguese-speaking country.

This makes sense: It is easier to "fit in" and integrate into a Latin American country if you already speak the same language and have a similar cultural background and catholic values.

Note that only about half the countries in Latin America have preferred nationalities for purposes of naturalization.

  • Brazil 1 year
  • Colombia 1 year
  • El Salvador 1 year
  • Honduras 1 year
  • Panama 1 year
  • Argentina 2 years
  • Dominican Republic 2 years (no special provision for preferential nationals)
  • Mexico 2 years
  • Nicaragua 2 years
  • Peru 2 years (no special provision for preferential nationals)
  • Bolivia 3 years
  • Paraguay 3 years (no special provision for preferential nationals)
  • Belize 5 years (no special provision for preferential nationals)
  • Chile 5 years (no special provision for preferential nationals)
  • Costa Rica 5 years
  • Cuba 5 years (no special provision for preferential nationals)
  • Ecuador 5 years (no special provision for preferential nationals)
  • Guatemala 5 years (no special provision for preferential nationals)
  • Suriname 5 years (no special provision for preferential nationals)
  • Uruguay 5 years (no special provision for preferential nationals)
  • Venezuela 5 years



Which Latin American countries offer birthright citizenship (ius soli)?

In Latin America, it is the norm rather than the exception to grant citizenship to children born within the national territory. In fact, all Latin American countries save for Colombia offer ius soli, but note that in the case of Suriname, birthright citizenship is only granted if the child was not automatically eligible for any other nationality at birth.

Putting it all together

Latin America is flush with high-quality citizenships that are more easily and quickly available than the global norm.

If you find love in Latin America, travel there to give birth, or come from Spain, Portugal, or another Latin country, you have even faster access to the region's citizenships.



How to get started on your Latin American citizenship journey

To begin working toward a citizenship in Latin America, you'll first need to get some form of residence permit, and remain a resident in the country (though not necessarily physically present, in many cases) for a few years first.

At IMI, we have the world's greatest collection of Latin American program pages, where you can find ways to qualify for residency in the region, not only based on investment but also by starting a business or simply demonstrating a certain income.

Explore our Latin American program pages using the map below, or narrow down your search by filtering programs according to your preferences using our Program Finder.



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Christian Henrik Nesheim AdministratorKeymaster

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 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.

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