How hard is it to become a citizen of another country?

Help Mr. Athena and I solve an argumen… I mean, discussion, we had this morning.

We were talking about immigration policies, both US and elsewhere. He then said “I’ve often thought about going to Europe and becoming a European citizen and just living the rest of my life over there.”

From what I know, it’s virtually impossible to do such a thing, and I told him that. We might be able to get a job and the European equivalent of a green card for a while, but actually becoming a citizen is extremely difficult. Hell, from what I know, going to Canada and becoming a citizen is next to impossible. He maintains the opposite - it might take some time, but it wouldn’t be especially difficult for us to give up our US citizenship and become a French (or whatever) citizen.

So solve this for us, please. Given that we’re middle class, college educated working adults (we’re both in the computer industry), what are the chances that we could:

a) become citizens of an European country, such as France, Germany, etc.
b) become citizens of Canada

We’re planning on staying together, so the whole “marry a citizen” thing wouldn’t work for us. And although both of us have decent job skills, neither of us is, say, one of 5 people in the world who has job skill “X”, and is therefore of interest to just about any country.

As you say correctly, you do not need to become a citizen in order to reside in a country. European countries have different requirements but, in general, you need to be a resident for a number of years before you can become a citizen. Just like in the USA. And you need to fulfil certain requirements (job offer, etc) to be granted residency. Just like in the USA.

It’s really contingent on the country. Here’s Switzerland :

Swiss citizenship can be acquired through what is called naturalization.
To become naturalized, you need to have resided in Switzerland for at least twelve years, three of which occurred within the five years prior to the request. Time spent in Switzerland between the ages of 10 and 20 years counts double.
Phase one: federal authorization
The request is to be made to the Aliens Police in the municipality of residence. From there, it will then be sent to the Federal Department of Justice and Police, who will give a principle authorization if the following conditions are met:
You are integrated in the Swiss community.
You are accustomed to Swiss way of life and practices.
You comply with the Swiss legal system.
You in no way compromise the internal or external security of Switzerland.
Since Switzerland is a federal country, authorization must then be obtained from the canton and the municipality.

Phase two: cantonal and municipal decisions
The canton and municipality of residence can add further conditions and set the cost of acquiring citizenship before approving it. Conditions vary greatly from one region to the next. Some municipalities apply rather open policies, while others will go as far as granting nationality by means of a local population vote. Cost also varies according to municipality and canton.

I’m assuming in both these cases, I’d have to apply for and be accepted for a job with a Swiss/French/Whatever company. Meaning, for whatever reasons, this company needs my particular skills, and has to prove that the skills can’t be found in-country. In the US, I believe this is fairly strictly regulated - just because a French guys can write Java code doesn’t mean that he can apply for a US job, get it, and automatically be in the running for US citizenship, especially now that there are thousands of out of work American Java programmers running around. Doesn’t it have to be a skill that the country has determined to be in need of?

Just like in the USA, residency can be obtained for several reasons. A job offer for which no locals can be found, marriage to a resident or national, political asylum, etc. But yes, you cannot just go and say “I wanna live here”. Which is pretty stupid IMHO. I have family on both sides of the Atlantic and my cousins and I have been dealing with this stupidity all our livesThose who are American citizens have trouble staying in Europe and those who are European have trouble staying in America.

Although what is said about Swiss citizenship above is not wrong, it is not complete. The fundamental fact is that in order to become a Swiss citizen, the first (and really only barrier) is to be accepted by a community (Gemeinde in German, communaute in French). Once that is done (by vote, at least in small commutities), the canton then rubber stamps the decision and you are a citizen of that canton and ultimately the federal government adds its imprimatur, but that is generally a formality. So what does it take to become accepted by a community. Well, think of it as something like an exclusive country club. In German speaking areas one of the requirements is to become fluent in Swiss German. Speaking standard German is little help. In French speaking communities, standard French is sufficient. But to be integrated into the community is important. It wasn’t always this way. A little over 100 years ago (1898, IIRC; I have seen the certificate in a museum in Bern devoted to him), a poor and unknown student named Albert Einstein was naturalized by the Gemenide of Hottingen in the city and canton of Zurich and had obviously not lived there for 12 years or anything like that and may not have been terribly fluent in Swiss German.

Now in Canada it is completely different. Legal residence for five years (including four of physical, although that is sometimes flexible and for my daughter they counted the time she spent away at college in the US) and a more-or-less trivial quiz on Canadian history, together with $200 and you are in. You do not have to give up previous citizenships, incidentally and my children are all dual citizens, as would I be had I bothered to become a citizen. However, some (many) countries take away citizenship if you become citizen of another country. The US used to, but the supreme court decided some time ago that only a formal renuncatiation was valid. (But some countries require that you do that to become a citizen.)

If I am not mistaken, Germany has naturalization law (so there are third generation, thoroughly germanified Turks, who are not citizens and have no possibility of becoming it) and also does not recognize renunciations. This is enough to illustrate the wide variance in practice.

Germany has permitted naturalization since (at least) 2000. The current law requires (not permits - there is no discretion for the government) citizenship after 8 years of residence, renunciation of other citizenship, a source of income, and social and cultural integration. France is similar, except they do not require renunciation, and citizenship is at the government’s discretion.

Becoming a citizen of Canada is easy once you’ve become a “Landed Immigrant” (Legal resident)… just live here 3 years and take an easy test…
How easy is it to get in? That I’m not sure about since I was a child when I moved here so my parents did the dirty work, but it’s my understanding that Canada is one of the easiest Western countries to qualify for residency in.

In any country the most difficult part is getting residency which is a required first step before you can become a citizen.

Hari Seldon
Although what is said about Swiss citizenship above is not wrong, it is not complete. The fundamental fact is that in order to become a Swiss citizen, the first (and really only barrier) is to be accepted by a community

And there’s also the small proviso that to get a residence permit in the first place, you have to bring buckets of money with you. Annual income over 100,000 Swiss francs (CHF) if you want to retire there, annual profit over 200,000 CHF if you want to run a business, etc.

wooba is correct; getting Canadian citizenship is not that hard. Canada takes a large number of immigrants per year, and after that becoming a citizen is merely a matter of waiting three years and passing a elementary-school-level civics test.

Must have something to do with the law of supply and demand. :wink:

Austria has one interesting way of obtaining citizenship, the likes of which I have never seen before. According to the Austrian Embassy,

So, I guess if you’re not a citizen of an EU country and have a Ph.D., your chances of getting foreign citizenship quickly are very good…

Most countries have some naturalisation procedure, but the specific procedures and how tough they are both formally and in practice will vary wildly from place to place. In addition they may vary depending on what your original nationality is.

In general the sequence will be

(a) acquire a right to permanent residence, either through marriage, family connections, exercise of asylum rights, a qualifying job offer, investment of a large amount of money in the country or whatever - what is possible here will vary from place to place;

(b) exercise that right (i.e. go and live there) for a period;

© apply for naturalisation;

(d) (possibly) satisfy other criteria such as mastery of the language, pass a civics test, not have any criminal convictions or expensive diseases (this last may have been addressed at the permanent residency stage, but it can be addressed again);

(e) (possibly) renounce your existing citizenships;

(f) (possibly but not often) complete your military service obligation;

(g) (usually) pay a fee, and

(h) sign or recite any declarations and participate in any ceremonies required.

In Sweden, you become a citizen by being born here (out), adopted by Swedes (out, I presume), having a non-Swedish parent marry a Swede (unless you want to hassle your parents, this is out) or by application.

To apply you need to be 18, have a permanent residence permit (get a job here before you move and this shouldn’t be a problem) and have lived here for five years without making a nuisance of yourself. If you’re stateless, four years is enough. You’ll also have to fork out around $150.

That’s how you do it. It may sound like a hassle, but you’ll witness midnight sun, see polar bears walking on the streets and socialize with Eskimos.

Not that easy. “Ordentlicher Professor” (ordinary professor) is German for “top dog” :wink: i.e. an ordinary professor outranks extraordinary, assistant etc. professors. The appellation is a bit dated in Germany but seems to be alive and well in Austria and Switzerland.

Just a Ph.D. won’t be nearly enough.

BTW Germany used to have something similar (you got automatically naturalized by being appointed to a civil service post). This seems to have been abolished post-WWII, probably because the Nazi state government of Brunswick used this to naturalize Hitler in 1932 by appointing him to a sinecure (second try; previously they wanted to appoint him to an university professorship :eek: )

I think it used to be, and may still be, the case that you can obtain US nationality by enlisting and serving satisfactorily in the US army. You can acquire French nationality through satisfactory service in the French Foreign Legion.

In other words, nationality in return for government service. A bit like Austria and, formerly, Germany.

From sone-one who has migrated twice (admittedly, not to the countries you are contemplating).

Stop. Think again. And again. Then stop, and think again.

Migration is the second most traumatic thing you can ever go through in your life (second only to death of a long-time spouse). Not just me saying it - there’s lots of research.

Here’s how I did it:
1 - Work for an American company that has overseas offices.
2 - Get a transfer to (in my case) England. This requires that the company jump thru the hoops required to get me a work permit.
3 - After 4 years on a work permit apply for a permanent resident visa.
4 - After 1 year as a permanent resident, apply for citizenship.

Although I’m sure that it can be that complicated in certain communes, it doesn’t have to.
For example, in Geneva, it’s not unheard of that people acquire a Swiss passport without even speaking very good French. It’s enough to show that you have lived there for a long time, have enough income not to be aburden on the government or more than enough money to live on. If you fullfill all those criteria, you just have to pay a small fee of CHF15’000 or so. (~USD 10,000).

I would like to point out that Switzerland is rather extreme in this respect. Most EU countries are much more lenient. If you have lived in the country for five years, and speak the language to some extent, that’s normally enough to get a passport.

One more thing to note though: Not all countries accept dual citizenship! By acquiring a Swedish passport, for example, you have to renounce any other citizenship. (The Swedish laws are starting to get more lax on this, but from what I can understand that’s the current situation.)