Globalization has had its great effects, among which is the ability of nomadic souls and their families that span borders to acquire citizenship in different countries. From time immemorial, people have travelled and as various national immigration and citizenship policies were implemented, people chose to acquire other citizenships and had the chance to embrace foreign traditions, exchange cultural views, pursue new lifestyles, gain access to better education and healthcare systems and, most importantly, obtain new travel privileges.

Citizenship acquisition arises in numerous forms, such as by place of birth,  by descent or through naturalization.

Elementary Overarching Principles of Citizenship

Jus sanguinis: This Latin phrase means by ‘right of blood’ and refers to citizenship acquired not based on the place of birth but through the citizenship of one or both parents. This means that an individual can acquire the nationality of one or both parents, irrespective of where the person was born.

Jus soli: This means ‘right of the soil’ and offers unconditional citizenship to anyone born in a  nation’s territory. Such “birthright” citizenship is not very common but exists in a few prominent nations around the globe, including the United States and Canada.

Plenty of countries practice a mix of jus sanguinis and jus soli, while others practice solely jus soli.

Acquisition of Citizenship

Below are the primary ways a person acquires citizenship:

By Birth: Most people acquire citizenship by birth, either via jus soli or jus sanguinis. It is not necessary to possess a passport to enjoy all the rights and privileges associated with the citizenship acquired at birth. Once citizenship is acquired, it can be passed on to future generations. 

By Naturalization: Most countries have clearly defined national citizenship policies and procedures set out in local law. The naturalization process can generally be undertaken after satisfactory completion of permanent residency for a defined duration as per the applicable policies. It is usually necessary to maintain permanent residence based on employment, refugee status, marriage or family in the country of desired citizenship for a sustained period prior to applying for naturalization.

By Investment: For over 30 years, many countries have offered programs through which an individual can acquire citizenship through investment, and this remains a very popular option for High Net Worth Individuals seeking ease of travel and a safe place to park their wealth.

By Refugee Status: Thanks to the United Nation’s Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention) and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, among other international treaties, persons who are granted refugee status in a country other than their country of birth or citizenship can usually qualify for citizenship in the country of refuge.

Birth Aboard Aircraft and Ships: Persons born in an airplane, or on a ship in international waters, face challenging questions related to citizenship rights. Generally, the jus sanguinis principle applies, and the baby acquires the citizenship of his or her parent(s). In some cases, however, the jus soli principle applies—for example, a baby born in American airspace is a U.S. citizen at birth.

Dual Citizenship: Some countries permit multiple citizenships while others do not. This means that in some cases, a person who acquires citizenship in a new country may automatically forfeit any previously held citizenships.

For further advice on citizenship rules, please contact me at [email protected].