Each European nation has its own set of laws and rules one must follow before becoming a citizen | Credit: picture-alliance/dpa/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU
Each European nation has its own set of laws and rules one must follow before becoming a citizen | Credit: picture-alliance/dpa/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

Each individual country in Europe has its own set of rules to naturalize into the country. No matter where you end up, it will take years and some money. In part 2, InfoMigrants takes a look at Poland, Finland, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Luxembourg.

Note: This is part 2 of a series. For part 1 (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Norway), click here.

Poland (EU)

There are several ways one can obtain Polish citizenship. The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) states that any foreigner can apply by filling out a form, stating why they are applying for citizenship, and handing it to a consular or military official. The application will then be given to the Polish President. Knowledge of the Polish language is not necessary and citizenship can be granted without a fee. However, the President's decision in this case is final and cannot be appealed.

If an applicant does not want to try this, they can try another way. Applicants must hold a permanent residence permit (zezwolenie na pobyt stały) or EU long-term residence permit before submitting an application. 

Both refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection can apply for the residence permit if they have lived in Poland for at least five years prior to applying for the permit. The time needed for the asylum procedure is taken into account.

A refugee who has lived in Poland with a proper residency permit for two years can be declared a Polish citizen. This is not the case for a beneficiary of subsidiary protection. They must fulfill the same requirements as other foreigners who want to become Polish citizens. They must live in Poland for at least two to three years while holding a residency permit or legally live in the country for at least ten years before applying for naturalization.

No matter the legal standing, an applicant must prove they have proficiency in the Polish language (at least a B1 level) and provide legal entitlement to stay in a residential property. Language proficiency tests are not offered very often and can be costly (between €90-180 depending on age and skill level). The exam is offered three times in 2019; the first opportunity was in March.

After the language test, the fee to obtain Polish citizenship is 219 Zloty (€51, $57). Dual citizenship is allowed by Polish law.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that a non-Polish person who has resided in Poland for at least two years on a residency permit or long-term EU resident permit, and is married to a Polish citizen for at least three years, may apply for citizenship.

Finland (EU)

The Finnish Immigration Service (Maahanmuuttovirasto Migrationsverket) says that a person can obtain Finnish citizenship if they

  • are at least 18 years old and their identity has been established (showing a valid passport)
  • understand Finnish or Swedish at a satisfactory level. If the applicant is hard of hearing or deaf, Finnish or Swedish sign language is also acceptable
  • have lived in Finland for the previous five years, or lived in Finland for seven total years after turning 15, with the last two of those years being without interruption
  • were not found guilty of any crime (except for crimes that result in a small fine)
  • have accumulated no debt under public law (includes taxes, fines, student loans and hospital fees)
  • can show the source of their income that will sustain them

The residency period can be shortened due to several reasons, however:

  • If the language skills are adequate, an applicant must have lived in Finland for the previous four years without interruption or for six years after turning 15, with the last two years without interruption.
  • If the applicant's spouse is Finnish, and they have lived together for at least three years, the applicant can apply for citizenship after living in Finland for four consecutive years. 
  • If the applicant is a refugee or receives subsidiary protection, the applicant can apply after living in Finland for four years without interruption or for at least six years after reaching the age of 15, with the last two years without interruption. The residency period is determined from the date the applicant submitted the asylum application or residence permit. If the applicant came to Finland as a quota refugee, the residency period begins on the date the applicant moved to Finland.
  • If the applicant is stateless against their will, the applicant must have lived in Finland for the past four years without interruption or for at least six years after turning 15, with the last two years without interruption.

If at least one of the married parents is Finnish by nationality, the child will gain Finnish citizenship automatically. If the non-Finnish father is not married to the Finnish mother, the child is Finnish if it is born on Finnish soil. But if this child is born abroad, the child can become Finnish by declaration. If neither parent is a Finnish national, Finnish nationality will only be given in exceptional cases

It costs €380 to apply electronically and €480 to apply non-electronically, and it takes between five and nine months for the application to be processed.

Greece (EU)

AIDA says Greece's Citizenship code allows foreigners to apply for Greek citizenship after completing the following:

  • reaching the age of majority (18 years old)
  • the applicant has not been irrevocably convicted of a number of crimes internationally in the last ten years,
  • is not undergoing a pending deportation order
  • has lawfully resided in Greece for seven consecutive years before submitting the application (this is reduced to three years for refugees, but there is no reduction for subsidiary protection beneficiaries)
  • hold the proper residency permit depending on legal situation

Applicants should also have a decent knowledge of the Greek language, be integrated in Greek economic and social life, and be able to participate in political life.

The process for naturalization is very long. The Commissioner of Human Rights for the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatovic, said that the average naturalization process in Greece took 1,494 days (over four years). That is due to a backlog of applications dating all the way back to March 2010.

It costs €100 for refugees to apply for citizenship through naturalization and €700 for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. The process requires the applicant to submit a statement to the Municipal Authority to the place of residence; the application will go to the prefecture authorities. The statement must be submitted to the mayor of the applicant's city of residence in the presence of two Greek citizens who act as witnesses.

If all requirements are met, the application will go to the Naturalization Committee. If the committee deems the applicant is worthy following an examination and/or interview, the Ministry of the Interior will determine whether the applicant is suitable for Greek citizenship. If approved, the applicant has one year following the positive decision to take an oath to the country. If the applicant does not do this within the time allowed, the decision is revoked.

Dual citizenship is allowed under Greek law, provided the applicant's home country also allows it.

Slovenia (EU)

AIDA states that an applicant must do the following in order to naturalize to Slovenia:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • be able to provide for themselves and those they are obliged to provide for
  • pass the Slovenian language test
  • not have been sentenced to a prison longer than three months or probation for more than one year
  • not have their residence in Slovenia annulled
  • not pose a threat to public order or to the state
  • settled their tax obligations
  • pledge to support the constitutional order founded by the constitution of Slovenia

Beneficiaries of international protection can apply for citizenship after five years of uninterrupted residence. The request for citizenship must be sent to the administrative unit of the place of residence.

Dual citizenship is allowed in Slovenia.

Slovakia (EU)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) states that non-Slovak nationals can become Slovakian by doing the following:

  • have a permanent residence in Slovakia for at least eight consecutive years immediately before submitting the application
  • have a clean criminal record, meaning any conviction was expunged less than five years ago, the criminal prosecution against you was suspended and the probation period expired less than five years ago
  • not have been sentenced to expulsion from the state
  • not currently be under criminal prosecution
  • demonstrated knowledge of both spoken and written Slovak and knowledge of Slovakia
  • comply with the obligations of foreign nationals in the legal system

There are several exemptions to these rules, however:

  • if you are married to a Slovak citizen, and you and your spouse have lived together in Slovakia for at least five years, you can immediately apply for citizenship
  • if you "represent a significant benefit" to Slovakia in economy, science, technology, social affairs, culture or sports, or if Slovakia is interested in granting you citizenship, the Slovak language requirement is not necessary
  • if you had a permanent residence in Slovakia for at least three years before turning 18 years old, you can immediately apply for citizenship
  • if you are a minor whose legal representative or guardian is a Slovak citizen and you have had a continuous residence in Slovakia for at least two years immediately prior to filing an application, you can immediately become a citizen (this does not apply to children under two years old)
  • if you are a refugee who was granted asylum at least four years before submitting the application
  • if you were born in Slovakia and had permanent residence in Slovakia for at least three years, you can immediately apply for citizenship
  • if you are stateless and had continuous residence in Slovakia for at least three years before submitting the application

The application must be submitted in person to the district authority according to your place of residence or a diplomatic mission or consular office of Slovakia if you are not in the country.

    It takes no longer than two years for the Ministry of the Interior to decide on the application. It costs €700 in total to apply for and grant an adult citizenship in Slovakia, €150 for a child between the ages of 15 to 18 and €100 for a child under the age of 15. There may be cases where someone is exempt from certain fees.

    Hungary (EU)

    AIDA states that non-Hungarians can apply for citizenship after the following requirements have been met by the applicant:

    • lived in Hungary for at least eight years straight 
    • clean criminal record and not being indicted on any charges
    • properly able to support oneself and have a legal residence in Hungary
    • is not considered a threat to public policy or national security
    • passed exams in basic Hungarian language (basic constitutional studies exam), or can provide an exemption to the test (full or partial legal limitation)

    Recognized refugees and stateless persons must reside in Hungary for only three consecutive years before filing the naturalization application. People with subsidiary protection must reside in Hungary for eight years. 

    The application is handled by the Government Office of Budapest. Documents that show one's nationality and legal standing (such as passports and legal records) must be provided along with the application. AIDA says the applicant is interviewed about most every aspect of their life, including professional life, private life, views on religion, politics and Hungary. 

    The Hungarian Helsinki Committee states that there is no standard threshold for what is acceptable as a secure livelihood and accommodation. The report continues by stating the fee for the basic constitutional studies exam was 52,500 Hungarian Forint (€170) in 2015. However, applicants are not required to pay an administrative fee to file an application. 

    There is no set deadline to issue a decision, but the process usually takes at least one year. The Government Office of Budapest usually forwards applications for naturalization to the Minister of the Interior within three months of the application being filed. As the decision is not administrative, it cannot be appealed, nor can a judicial review be mounted against the decision. If the application is successful, the applicant will be presented with a certificate of naturalization and must take a citizenship oath or pledge of allegiance in order to become a citizen.

    Luxembourg (EU)

    Luxembourg states that naturalization is open to all adults who have done the following:

    • legally lived in Luxembourg for at least five years
    • understand the Luxembourgish language, as demonstrated by passing a Luxembourgish language test
    • completed the "Vivre ensemble au Grand-Duche de Luxembourg" course ("Living together in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg" course covering the following subjects: citizen rights, state and municipal institutions in Luxembourg, history in Luxembourg and European integration)
    • have not made false statements, concealed important information or acted fraudulently during the application process

      The documents that must be included with the application include:

      • full copy of the applicant's birth certificate
      • a copy of their valid passport or identity or travel document
      • completed biographical questionnaire signed by the applicant or legal representative
      • criminal records by competent foreign authorities
      • Luxembourgish language test pass certificate
      • certificate confirming the "Vivre ensemble au Grand-Duche de Luxembourg" course

      The application is free to file, but there may be some costs involved, such as getting an official translation of certain documents.

      Applications are made to the civil registrar fo the commune of the applicant's place of residence. The applicant must appear in person before the registrar.

      Dual citizenship is allowed in Luxembourg.


      ***Editor's note: This list may not be complete and does not substitute advice given by a lawyer.
       

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