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Learn How You Can Move to Europe Through Citizenship by Descent

Make Your Move to Europe Happen! Learn How to Get an EU Passport Through European Citizenship by Descent

Are you an American eager to move to Europe and start a new life? Have you perhaps dreamed of an exciting new adventure in the European country where your ancestors were born?

If this sounds like you, citizenship by descent could be the way for you to become a European Union passport holder. And while the information you’re about to read targets Americans seeking to obtain EU citizenship, some of this content is also relevant to non-Americans. If you’re originally from another country, please check with your local European consulate to verify their specific citizenship by descent guidelines.

What is Citizenship by Descent?

Citizenship by descent is an option to get a passport, and other benefits of being a citizen, from your parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents’ country of birth. Although each European Union (EU) country has its own requirements to determine if you qualify, getting an EU passport through citizenship by descent is a fairly direct process for Americans seeking to make a life for themselves in Europe.

Some Reasons Why You Might Want to Get an EU Passport

Citizenship by descent is a meaningful way to honor your ancestors. Along with being a direct way to connect with your heritage, European citizenship provides opportunities that many Americans may not have in their home country. This includes affordable health insurance, safer neighborhoods, and a more relaxed lifestyle. 


Of course, citizenship in Europe also gives holders the flexibility to live and travel to many more countries than what Americans can do with just a US passport.

Is Citizenship by Descent the Way for You to Move to Europe?

As mentioned, each EU country has their own guidelines. In How to Get European Citizenship by Descent in 28 Countries, you’ll learn the requirements needed to pursue this EU passport option in the country you want to make your new home.

ebook cover of how to get european citizenship

Curious to learn more? Following is a look into the Spanish citizenship by descent process and a teaser of the type of information you’ll receive in How to Get European Citizenship by Descent in 28 Countries.

Here’s How To Get Started on Getting Spanish Citizenship by Descent

With a population just under 50 million, Spain is approximately the size of Texas. The country’s warm climate and vibrant culture are big draws for expats from all over the world. So, it’s understandable why Americans who qualify for Spanish citizenship decide to pursue getting an EU passport this way.

Step 1 – Do Your Homework

First things first. Chat with your family to learn more about their history and connection to Spain (or any EU country). While this may seem obvious, you never know what you’ll learn when you dig a little deeper into your heritage.


Step 2 – Confirm that you qualify to apply for a Spanish passport

Aside from having at least one parent who was born in Spain, you’d also qualify for an EU passport if a parent or grandparent is Spanish – and born outside of the country! 


Due to Spain’s political history, you may meet the requirements for Spanish citizenship by descent if your relative left Spain anytime between 1936 and 1955. And, if you were born before 1982, to a Spanish mother with another nationality, you may also qualify for an EU passport.


Step 3 – Gather Your Documents and Get Started

Once you’ve established that you meet the Spanish citizenship by descent qualifications, get going and contact the Embassy of Spain or your local consulate to confirm all the documents required to start your application process.

Other Ways to Get Citizenship from Spain

If you’re Jewish and your ancestors were born in Spain, you may qualify for Sephardic Jewish citizenship by descent. As of 2020, a law remains in place allowing those of Sephardic descent to apply for citizenship this route. Contact the Embassy of Spain or your local consulate for more information.


And, if you’re from an Ibero-American country, your process of getting an EU passport is quicker than most. After two years of legal residency in Spain, you can directly apply for a Spanish passport. 


Now that you have a better sense of the steps and requirements needed to get an EU passport through ancestry, what are you waiting for? Get your copy of How to Get European Citizenship by Descent in 28 Countries, to learn more.

Some European Citizenship via Descent Success Stories to Inspire You

While applying for citizenship by descent appears like a daunting process, the following She Hit Refresh members reinforce that it’s absolutely worth it. In fact, a common theme from all three women was not to let fear stop you from making your dream of moving to Europe come true. So, get ready to get inspired!

Based in Chicago, Tricia, 43, and her wife got the travel bug a few years ago. Once the pandemic hit, she started thinking about how she can work from anywhere in the world. 

Since Tricia’s grandmother was born in Ireland, she and her wife decided to apply for Irish citizenship by descent. And, in an impressive six-week time frame, she got all her documents in order. Now, she is patiently waiting for her application for Irish citizenship to be approved. She even inspired her brother to pursue getting his Irish passport this way too! 

Tricia feels she and her wife will have a better quality of life in Ireland. Aside from having the option to live in other EU countries, she anticipates moving to Ireland will be an easy transition because gay marriage is legal. But perhaps the most meaningful part of Tricia applying for Irish citizenship by descent is that it’s the perfect way to honor her late grandmother! 

Because Zahra’s father was born in Sweden, getting an EU passport has been part of her birthright. So, in 2016, after going through an extensive application process that included submitting her father’s birth certificate and parents’ marriage license, she moved to Europe.


Sweden allows children born to Swedish parents outside of the country to obtain citizenship by descent. However, this needs to be done within a specific timeframe and entails the Swedish parent applying for their child to get citizenship. 


Since Zahra’s application was done when she was at the cusp of the age deadline for getting an EU passport this way, she was initially denied Swedish citizenship. However, after an appeal, her application was approved.


One of the many perks for Zahra, now 31, is that she holds dual passports. She now lives in Spain and is furthering her career in education. Zahra has no regrets about her decision and is grateful that her EU passport has provided her with more travel and work opportunities than if she just had a visa.

Katherine is the child of one of the children of the Spanish Civil War. Her mother, like many other children in Spain, was displaced to another country during the Spanish Civil War and then World War II. 


After the wars, Katherine’s mother eventually went to the UK, where her parents met, married, and started their family. Since her father was American and in the US military, the family moved to the U.S when Katherine was 3 months old and her father was stationed in California. 


When there was a brief window of opportunity for the children of Spaniards affected and displaced by the Spanish Civil War to get Spanish citizenship, Katherine’s sister was able to get a Spanish passport using this route. After missing the application deadline, Katherine had to wait until Spain enacted a law that allowed her to apply for Spanish citizenship as the child of a Spanish citizen. 


Katherine originally thought that she might retire in Spain. However, she decided to move sooner and started her 5-year plan to hit refresh. At 49, she was able to make her dream a reality. Her only regret has been that she didn’t move to Spain sooner – when her children were younger. 


Moving to Spain, thus returning the family to Spain, has been a beautiful way for Katherine to honor her family. She’s lived in Madrid the past two years and recently, her daughter moved from California to join her. 


The biggest challenge for Katherine was working with an attorney who was costly and inefficient. Because of this bad experience, she recommends doing much of the legwork yourself; before deciding if you want or need to hire a lawyer too. Afterall, you are your own best advocate!

Ready to Get Started?

So, why should you get How to Get European Citizenship by Descent in 28 Countries? This resource was created to help you feel less overwhelmed and excited about applying for an EU passport and citizenship based on your ancestry. If you don’t have the time and don’t know where to start, this guide breaks down the how-to-do with links to resources and next steps to take in simple terms.

And, if you’d like to know more about other options of how to move to Europe and get that coveted EU passport, check out I’m Outta Here: An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe. In this user-friendly digital book, you’ll learn about different types of visas available to you if you find that citizenship by descent isn’t the way for you to live in Europe. 

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