What Is Naturalization?

Naturalization is a process that enables individuals or families to legally become citizens of a country. These would not normally be citizens that have received nationality rights by birth. There are circumstances where a law may automatically make entire groups of people citizens, but more usually an individual needs to follow a legal process to prove their rights.

If successful, the process would normally complete with a certificate of naturalization and a passport, though the specifics will differ from country to country.

As always, please research your own situation very closely and take specific legal advice from a qualified immigration lawyer if needed. What follows is a general discussion of the subject. There is no way for me to know what country you are reading this in and where you might wish to apply, which means that it cannot be considered to be advice.




How Does Naturalization Change Your Life?

The impact of naturalization will obviously differ from person to person and family to family. However, for people who have crossed borders as a migrant – perhaps to escape persecution or conflict – the impact is likely to be profound. Full rights of citizenship open up more job opportunities, make social benefits in the new country possible, make travel much easier and on and on. It really can be transformative.

For others, new citizenship can open up opportunities for travel and study that might previously have been closed. This is one of the major reasons why citizenship by investment has become so important. Wealthy entrepreneurs from countries like China and Russia want to ensure that their families – usually wives and children – can live safely in the developed world and attend prestigious universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge or the Sorbonne.

Does Naturalization Mean Citizenship?

Normally yes, naturalization does mean citizenship and a passport can and will be issued to the successful applicant. I have read about some circumstances where this is not the case, but they are incredibly rare.

The process will differ from country to country, but normally once an individual has been naturalized they have the right to apply for a passport. A separate application would then be needed, but at this stage, it should be issued automatically.




How To Be Eligible For Naturalization

In almost all countries and circumstances, understanding whether you are eligible for naturalization will require a close inspection of the rules of the country and ensuring that your personal circumstances fit. To be eligible for naturalization you will normally need to have lived permanently within the country for a qualifying period. How long that is will depend on the rules of the country, but five or seven years is quite common. There are some countries that require a much longer residence period – Switzerland is a good example of this, where there is a twelve year minimum residency requirement.

Can I Apply For Naturalization?

It needs to be pointed out that being eligible and being able to apply for naturalization are not the same thing. The legal process to apply will be very specific and while a person might be eligible, they might not have the documents that prove this to be the case.

Does Naturalization Renounce Citizenship?

It is very important to know the legislation that exists in both your current and new countries with regards to dual citizenship. Many countries do not allow their subjects to hold more than one passport. If this applies to you then you will likely be forced to give one up. This would mean that to answer does naturalization renounce citizenship, yes it would be required. This is a very serious decision to take and your life, circumstances, family and taxes will need to be assessed closely.

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How Long Does Naturalization Take?

As with many processes of government, naturalization is not normally a quick procedure. Even in the best and most organized countries, it is likely to take one year from start to finish. I have heard of some countries where the process is much longer. For example, in my adopted home of Malta, I have a friend whose application took more than three years to process and this was after he had lived in Malta for almost twenty years and learned the language!

It must be pointed out though that a process like this will normally require that the applicant obtain a number of documents and signatures. Simply arranging these appointments can often add to the time in the process and be no fault of the government or you, the applicant.

Can You Expedite Naturalization?

Generally speaking, no, it is very unlikely that you can expedite naturalization. The process is almost designed to be a test of loyalty to the new country. People that are unable to complete the process do not get their passport and rights, deliberately so. However, the benefit of citizenship by investment is that applicants pay for access to a special scheme. This access usually speeds the process up substantially, but they are normally expensive applications!

Can I Apply For Naturalization Early?

Once again, normally it is not possible to apply for naturalization early. As with the answer above, governments are trying to set the bar relatively high so that only the best applicants are approved. Minimum residency requirements are minimum residency requirements.

Can I Apply For Naturalization From Abroad?

By allowing people to apply for naturalization from abroad, a government would be making it a little more possible for fraudulent applicants to succeed. Therefore, it is very rare for this to be possible. Normally, an application will require attending more than one meeting at a government office. There will probably be a face to face meeting to assess eligibility, a meeting with the police and the swearing of some sort of Oath of Allegiance to the new country. None of these things can be done from outside the country.

Can You Travel During Naturalization Process?

This will depend upon you current status and existing travel documents. If you are a stateless person, then it is unlikely that you will be able to travel. However, for people with an existing passport, it should be possible to travel.

It must be noted that most residency requirements require a person to be permanently resident for multiple years. If you plan to go on holiday or travel for work, this would normally be allowed. However, if you move permanently to another country – usually for any period longer than three months – then you might lose your eligibility to apply.

Can Naturalization Be Denied?

Yes, naturalization can be denied. Firstly, there are many people that start the process but do not complete it. Secondly, the government is trying to establish that the individual is the right kind of person to be granted rights. There are reasons, such as a criminal conviction or bankruptcy, that might make a country deny a person. These rules will differ from country to country, so if you have unusual circumstances, it is best to revert to the underlying legislation or seek the help of an experienced immigration lawyer.

Does A Certificate Of Naturalization Expire?

Successful naturalization would normally grant rights for life. In many countries newly naturalized citizens must register their existing birth certificate with the government as one of the final steps in the process. This obviously means that once granted, it is granted and your new rights will be with you for life, or unless you choose to renounce them.