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The most generous countries granting citizenship to foreigners in Europe

Reuters/Paul Hanna
Moroccans welcome.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

When it comes to turning its new arrivals into citizens, one EU country has been much more generous than the others.

Spain granted citizenship to more foreigners than any of its EU neighbors in 2014, according to the latest data (pdf) released this week. In that year, 205,880 people were given Spanish citizenship, the biggest group coming from Morocco (17%).

When considering the size of a country, the rankings change. Looking at the naturalization rate—that is, the ratio between the number of people granted citizenship in a country in a year and the number of foreign residents in that country at the start of the year—Sweden comes out top. It had the highest naturalization rate in 2014, with 6.3 new citizenships granted per 100 resident foreigners, well above the EU average of 2.6.

In terms of where new EU citizens come from, Moroccans were the most common, with more than twice as many getting passports from EU member states as the next-largest group, Albanians.

In 2014, this many people…from this country…were granted EU citizenship the most here…and second-most here
35,300IndiaUnited KingdomItaly
25,100PakistaniUnited KingdomItaly

Overall, 890,000 foreigners acquired citizenship in an EU country in 2014, down 9% from the year before. The vast majority of the newly naturalized citizens (89%) came from non-EU countries. The EU guarantees citizens the right to live and work in any other member state—and countries in the so-called Schengen Area don’t conduct checks on borders between them—so the incentive for holding multiple passports from EU countries is low.

That pattern may soon change. If the UK votes to leave the EU in a referendum on June 23, it could inspire similar votes elsewhere, potentially unravelling the bloc and altering the status of citizens who once took the ability to live, work, and travel abroad with a foreign passport for granted.

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