- Becoming a citizen in some countries is as easy as living there for a few years, but in others, it’s nearly impossible.
- In Qatar, you would have to be a legal resident for 25 years to be able to apply for citizenship, and if you’re not a Muslim, you shouldn’t even bother.
- Here are eight of the countries where it’s most difficult to become a citizen.
It seems like US citizenship and immigration restrictions have dominated the news since the 2016 presidential election. It turns out that there are a number of other countries where becoming a citizen is quite difficult.
Aside from ancestry and extended residency, one shortcut to foreign citizenship is being a top-level athlete. Some countries will give citizenship to athletes who will improve their chances of Olympic victory.
If you aren’t a world-class pole vaulter, then you may face a long and, in some cases, nearly impossible road to gaining citizenship in countries like Switzerland, China, and Qatar.
Here are eight of the countries where it’s most difficult to become a citizen.
1. Vatican City
With about 800 residents and 450 citizens, Vatican City is the smallest country on Earth, perhaps partially because it has one of the toughest immigration policies on the planet.
According to the Library of Congress, you can become a citizen if you are a cardinal living in Vatican City or Rome, if you are a diplomat representing the Holy See, or if you live in Vatican City because you are an official of or worker for the Catholic Church
If you want to become a citizen, you need to live in Liechtenstein for at least 30 years, with each year before you turn 20 counting as two years. If you’re married to a Liechtenstein citizen and already live in the country, that time period is shortened to five years of marriage.
If you want a shortcut from the 30-year residency requirement, you can ask your community to vote you in after 10 years.
Regardless of method, you’ll have to give up your current citizenship.
The Himalayan nation of Bhutan is known for measuring its success by its National Happiness Index rather than GDP. It is one of the most isolated countries in the world.
The country didn’t open to tourism until 1974 and continues to regulate and monitor travel to the country closely, so you can imagine that the immigration process is not easy.
It takes two Bhutanese parents to be born a citizen, and if you only have one, you have to apply for naturalized citizenship after you have lived in Bhutan for 15 years. The 15-year requirement also applies to government employees.
Those with non-Bhutanese parents who don’t work for the government may apply after living in the country for 20 years, as long as you meet a list of requirements, including no record of speaking or acting against the king or country. If you do that in the future, your citizenship can be rescinded.
Even if you meet the requirements, Bhutan reserves the right to reject you for any or no reason.
If your father is not Qatari, then neither are you, even if your mother is, according to Doha News. If you have been a legal resident of Qatar for 25 years without leaving the country for more than two consecutive months (among other requirements), you can apply for citizenship.
The Doha News reported that Qatar only naturalizes about 50 foreigners a year. Additionally, naturalized citizens are not treated the same way under the law as citizens born in Qatar, likely because the country provides very generous government benefits that would be costly to extend to all citizens.
5. United Arab Emirates
- Warren Little/Getty Images
The UAE, home to the sparkling city of Dubai, will let you apply to be a citizen if you have legally resided in the Emirates for 30 years, according to the CIA.
Federal Law No. 17 states that if you are an Arab citizen from Oman, Qatar, or Bahrain, you can apply for naturalization after three years of residency. Arabs from other countries are eligible after seven years of residence in the UAE. Descendants of Emirate parents are eligible for citizenship if they were born of known or unknown parents within the state.
As of December 2011, UAE women can pass their citizenship to their children, according to Congressional Research Service.
According to the Nationality Law of 1999, after living in Kuwait for 20 years (15 for citizens of other Arab countries), you can apply to be granted Kuwaiti citizenship, but only if you are Muslim by birth or conversion. If you converted, you must have been practicing for five years. You must also speak Arabic fluently.
The Nationality Law also states that the wife of a Kuwaiti man can ask to become a citizen after being married for 15 years.
- Peter Stein/Shutterstock
According to a new law that went into effect in January 2018, to make a home in the snowy Alps of Switzerland, you must have lived in the country for 10 years and have a working permit called a C permit.
The C permit, which allows you to live and work in the country, requires five years of continuous residence in Switzerland for EU nationals, people from European Free Trade Association countries, US citizens, and Canadian citizens. Everyone else has to be there for 10 years before they are eligible.
The Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China allows foreigners to try become naturalized citizens if they have relatives who are Chinese citizens, have settled in China, or “have other legitimate reasons.”
If you don’t have a relative who’s a Chinese citizen and lives in China, your chances of becoming a Chinese citizen are slim. According to the CIA, while naturalization is possible, it is extremely difficult. Long-term residency is required but not specified.