EMN Study on Pathways to citizenship for third-country nationals in the EU

Integration through acquisition of citizenship has become an important topic in many EU Member States in recent years, as the number of new migrants arriving in the EU has increased in recent years. The EMN study found that citizenship is seen by Member States as either the culmination of the integration process or as facilitating the integration process. However, in most Member States, third-country nationals are not actively encouraged to apply for citizenship. 

EU synthesis report

Trends in the numbers of individuals granted citizenship of an EU-28 Member State showed an overall decline between 2014 and 2018. Policies on the acquisition of citizenship have evolved over time, with Member States reporting trends that render access to citizenship either more liberal or more restrictive. As of 2019, policies have been adopted to facilitate integration and adapt to societal changes, such as the drive to improve gender equality  and social inclusion , or to address issues relating to historical conditions and family ties. Conversely, more restrictive measures have been introduced in some countries to protect state security.

The main pathways to citizenship are ordinary naturalisation, special naturalisation and acquisition of citizenship by birth. All Member States offer the possibility to acquire citizenship through ordinary naturalisation, although the rules differ across countries. For instance:

  • citizenship or integration test can be part of the application procedure; 
  • special naturalisation procedures are frequently available and they can include grounds such as exceptional merit or benefit for the country or recovery of lost citizenship; 
  • no Member State currently grants citizenship unconditionally to children born on their territories to non-nationals (in general, a minimum residence period is required);
  • most Member States grant citizenship if an individual would otherwise be stateless, and the majority of them now allow for dual citizenship.

The criteria for granting citizenship and the procedures in place are broadly similar across the Member States but the specific conditions such as processing times, costs to applicants and available support all vary significantly. Naturalisation can be a lengthy and costly process, with limited available support, and a positive outcome is in general not guaranteed, even where all conditions have been met.

Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic-related containment measures have hindered the processing of citizenship applications. Some Member States reported either a full suspension of services or at least delays and most Member States have cancelled or postponed oral appeal hearings due to the closure of courts.


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Publication Date:
Wed 08 Jul 2020
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