Can someone hold nine citizenships – or more?

While multiple citizenship was traditionally rejected, it has nowadays become increasingly common. From 1960 onwards, dual citizenship toleration has indeed increased from one-third to three-quarters of States globally, often attributed to international interdependence and diaspora governance. The acceptance of dual citizenship represents a radical rupture with the dominant view until the mid-20th century, which considered dual citizenship an anomaly comparable to polygamy.


In an interesting thought experiment National Geographic has explained how it could happen to hold nine citizenships. It shows that 81% of countries allow children to become citizens of the country where their mother was born and holds citizenship, compared to 91% of the countries for men. The same gender discrimination is applicable if the parent holds a second citizenship: in 61% of the countries children can acquire their mother’s second citizenship, even if she wasn’t born in that country. Men can transmit their citizenship under these circumstances in 71% of the countries.


The transmission of dual citizenship from the mother and the father already accounts for four citizenships. The other five are made up of marriage, history, migration, birth and investment. While in the past women in principle lost their citizenship after marrying a foreigner, dual citizenship is currently more common. Nearly two-thirds of all countries grant citizenship through marriage after three years. Citizenship may also be granted because of ethnic, historical or cultural ties to a country. FCI has previously reported on how these factors impact citizenship acquisition in the context of Spain and Sephardic Jews, Romania and Moldovans, and Russia and Ukrainians. Dual citizenship arrangements may be very controversial in these circumstances.


Migration can also result in dual citizenship if the migrant meets the requirements for naturalisation. In nearly half of the world’s countries a person can get citizenship within five years. In some countries these requirements have become more stringent, resulting in a more detailed assessment of immigrants’ civic knowledge and language skills. Birth on the territory can also result in citizenship acquisition, although this was more common in the past than it is now. It is mainly in the western hemisphere that countries still adhere to this way of granting citizenship.


Finally, investing a large sum of money in a country can result in citizenship. This ground for acquisition has rapidly gained in popularity, with 20% of the world’s countries currently having some kind of arrangement. Conditions can differ widely, but habitual residence is usually not a condition – in contrast to ordinary naturalisation.


Edited by: Dr. Olivier Vonk

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