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BIENVENIDOS A ESPAÑA

The most generous countries granting citizenship to foreigners in Europe

Reuters/Paul Hanna
Moroccans welcome.
By Marta Cooper
Published Last updated 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.

92,700
Morocco
Spain
Italy
41,000
Albania
Italy
Greece
37,500
Turkey
Germany
France
35,300
India
United Kingdom
Italy
34,800
Ecuador
Spain
Italy
27,800
Colombia
Spain
Italy
25,100
Pakistani
United Kingdom
Italy
24,300
Romania
Italy
Hungary
21,400
Bolivia
Spain
Italy
20,900
Peru
Spain
Italy

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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