Most people who live in Australia would agree – it’s a pretty fantastic place. We’ve got a lifestyle which is envied across the world. So for many of us, becoming a citizen of another country isn’t something we’ve even remotely considered.
And with politicians currently dropping like flies for being dual citizens, you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be for the best if you stick with the green and gold right now.
But it turns out, applying for dual nationality with another country is actually a very good idea, even if you think you’re never going to live anywhere else.
Many Australians are eligible for dual citizenship
The 2016 census showed that 49 per cent of Australians were either born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas. This means that a large proportion of our population has a good chance of being eligible for citizenship via descent, in another nation.
Alison Johnson is the founder of wherecani.live, an online service which shows where you are likely to be eligible for citizenship. She says the benefits of obtaining another citizenship are immense:
Alison Johnson says second passports for Australians are great (unless you're a Member of Parliament)
“Apart from reducing the cost and hassle of having to get visas to other countries, [becoming a dual citizen] opens up opportunities to live and work in those countries – you also receive the benefits and privileges… such as social services, and for the younger generations; schools and universities.”
As well she explains, because of the way immigration systems work in many countries, when you obtain your second citizenship, you’re not only benefiting yourself but also your children and grandchildren.
“The key thing… is that you can pass that citizenship on to your children or your grandchildren, and it opens up opportunities for them a generation down the line… so that they are able to work and live and move around the world freely,” Johnson adds.
How to check your eligibility
Different countries have different immigration laws regarding how and when citizenship by descent will be granted – and these laws can often be quite complex.
Ireland, for example, may grant you citizenship if one of your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents was born in Ireland, regardless of your birthplace.
The situation is similar in Italy, where you’re eligible for citizenship if you can prove you have an Italian ancestor anywhere down the line, as long as their citizenship was not renounced.
If one of your grandparents was born in the United Kingdom and you live in a Commonwealth country, you may be eligible to work in the UK provided you can prove you won’t be dependent on public funds.
Additionally, if you or your spouse is a British citizen and you’re seeking to citizenship for your child, you need to do this before they turn 18 or they could miss out on full citizenship.
To see exactly where you can apply for citizenship without trawling through immigration documents, visit wherecani.live, and after just a few questions you’ll receive a full list of your eligibilities.
Citizenship by investment
Many countries around the world also offer citizenship-by-investment programs, which grant full citizenship, as well as residency programs allowing you to freely live and work in the country. You can invest by buying real estate, starting a business, investing in local companies, buying government bonds or having your pension paid into the country.
For example, if you buy a property in Malta for €220,000 ($329,000 AUD) or in Portugal for €350,000 ($530,000 AUD), you can apply for a residency permit and be on a pathway to eventual citizenship, if you commit to live there for an extended period (usually five years or more).
Closer to home, if you can prove you and your spouse receive $3,500 AUD a month (for example from superannuation payments or income from investments), you’re eligible for residency in Vanuatu.
Johnson says the countries benefit because they have more sources of income flowing in and she adds: “At the same time, people get to have a beautiful lifestyle on a beautiful island, so it works well for both parties.”
Certainly sounds like it could be a great way to retire!
If you could be a citizen of any other country in the world, where would you choose?