Obtaining citizenship, particularly by naturalization, is a difficult task in many countries. Various circumstances can cause difficulty, making citizenship acquisition a complex and time-consuming procedure.
Here are some of the factors that lead to these countries being among the most difficult to get citizenship in:
- Lengthy Residency Requirements
- Language Proficiency
- Cultural and Religious Factors
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10 Hardest Countries To Get Citizenship
Here is a list of the 10 hardest countries to get citizenship in 2023
- Vatican City
- Saudi Arabia
- North Korea
The Hardest Countries To Get Citizenship
Qatar, nestled in the Persian Gulf and known for its immense wealth driven by the natural gas industry, is renowned for the stringent requirements for obtaining citizenship. To become a Qatari citizen as a foreigner, one must reside in the country continuously for a staggering 25 years. Proficiency in Arabic, a clean conduct record, and proof of adequate financial resources to sustain oneself are prerequisites. Furthermore, Qatar does not permit dual nationality, necessitating the renunciation of one’s original passport. An additional criterion is the likely conversion to Islam, making Qatar one of the most challenging countries globally to acquire citizenship.
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2. Vatican City
Vatican City, the world’s smallest sovereign state, boasts a minuscule population of approximately 450 citizens. The stringent citizenship rules are responsible for this small number. Vatican City only grants citizenship under three exceptional circumstances: if one is a cardinal residing in Vatican City or Rome, if one serves as a diplomat representing the Holy See, or if one resides in Vatican City due to employment within the Catholic Church. These highly specific conditions make Vatican City one of the most challenging countries in the world to obtain citizenship.
Nestled between Austria and Switzerland, the affluent microstate of Liechtenstein, with its approximately 40,000 citizens, demands an extensive timeline for acquiring citizenship. Foreigners must endure a residency period of no less than 30 years before they are eligible to apply for naturalization. However, it is possible to reduce this period to 10 years through community approval. Alternatively, marrying a Liechtenstein citizen can expedite the process, allowing citizenship after a mere five years. These demanding conditions make Liechtenstein one of the world’s most challenging countries to secure citizenship.
The remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan maintains stringent entry policies for tourists, and acquiring citizenship is even more challenging. Foreigners seeking Bhutanese citizenship, assuming they do not have Bhutanese parents, must reside in the country for a minimum of 20 years before applying. They must also demonstrate impeccable behaviour during this time, refraining from any negative remarks about the Bhutanese monarchy. The Bhutanese authorities retain the right to reject citizenship applications without providing reasons, and citizenship can be revoked if individuals speak unfavourably about the king or the country in the future.
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5. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich country housing Mecca and Medina, the holiest sites in Islam, presents formidable hurdles for those seeking citizenship. Prospective candidates must have resided in the country for at least 10 years and possess fluent Arabic language skills. Additionally, a clean criminal record and a subjective assessment of being “generally considered moral” are prerequisites. The final decision regarding citizenship applications rests with the Minister of the Interior. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia does not recognize dual citizenship, necessitating the relinquishment of one’s original passport.
Neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, another oil-rich country, mirrors its neighbour’s stringent criteria for citizenship. To be eligible for naturalization, individuals must have resided in Kuwait for a minimum of 20 years, possess fluency in Arabic, and adhere to the Islamic faith either by birth or conversion. Like many Gulf states, Kuwait does not recognize dual citizenship, contributing to its reputation as one of the world’s most challenging countries to obtain citizenship.
Switzerland, renowned for its stunning landscapes and high quality of life, has one of the most stringent citizenship processes in Europe. Foreigners aspiring to become Swiss citizens must reside in the country for a minimum of 10 years and hold a ‘C residence permit.’ Proficiency in one of Switzerland’s national languages (German, French, Italian, or Romansh) is mandatory. The naturalization process involves multiple approval stages at the federal, cantonal, and communal levels, each with varying requirements. Switzerland’s commitment to these rigorous criteria contributes to its reputation as one of the world’s most challenging countries to gain citizenship.
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China, the world’s most populous country, also imposes formidable barriers to foreign citizenship. The Chinese nationality law provides limited avenues for foreigners to acquire citizenship, primarily through family ties or “other legitimate reasons.” The law remains intentionally vague, making the process difficult to navigate. Additionally, there is no specific duration of residency stipulated in the law. China’s complex citizenship requirements deter most foreigners from pursuing Chinese citizenship.
9. North Korea
North Korea, the secretive and isolated country often referred to as the Hermit Kingdom has one of the most enigmatic citizenship processes. While the criteria for obtaining North Korean citizenship are not well-documented, the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly is responsible for granting citizenship. Moreover, North Korea does not recognize dual citizenship, making it one of the most challenging countries to obtain citizenship, even though its desirability is limited.
Japan, with one of the world’s most powerful passports, maintains strict requirements for naturalization. Foreigners must have resided in Japan for a continuous period of at least five years and demonstrate “upright conduct.” The ability to support oneself in Japan is essential, and participation in organizations advocating the overthrow of the Japanese government disqualifies individuals from naturalization. Japan does not recognize dual citizenship, but the language requirement is comparatively lenient, requiring basic proficiency suitable for daily life. These stringent criteria establish Japan as one of the world’s most challenging countries to acquire citizenship.