What is the difference between “passport” and “citizenship”?

So why is everyone looking to get hold of EU passport and citizenship? And more importantly, how can one get it?

crossing EU border

These are questions that are asked by many individuals in recent years. Let us first make a clear distinction between “European Passport” and “EU Passport“. While the majority of the European countries are also members of the European Union (EU), some are not – Switzerland, Norway, Serbia, Macedonia, Moldova, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, just to name a few. There are also the European microstates, or the so called “dwarf countries” – Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican City, which are also not making part of the EU. In other words, any EU passport is also a European passport, while the European passport is not necessarily EU passport.

So what is the difference between the EU and the European passport?

To put it simply, people need freedom to travel and to settle down (live, work, study, etc.). Each EU passport provides the ultimate right to its holder to travel freely within the EU as well as to the most countries worldwide, to settle down and to live in any EU state without any restrictions whatsoever. From the other European (but non EU) nationalities, the Swiss, the Norwegian and the passports of the above mentioned microstates provide similar rights as the EU passport. The passport holders of the other remaining European countries do not enjoy similar rights and in many cases even require entry visa to visit the EU.

In a nutshell, the ultimate goal for every “free spirited” individual would be to hold passport of either, any EU country, Switzerland, Norway or the west European microstates.

From EU perspective, each passport of the European Union, being Austrian, Bulgarian, German, Hungarian, Swedish, French, etc., provides absolutely equal rights to its holder within the whole area of the EU. A German national can freely live in Budapest or Stockholm, same as Bulgarian passport holder can freely settle down in Munich, Rome or Paris. This is in our opinion, one of the best achievements of the European Union in terms of civil liberties and freedoms to its citizens.

Is passport same as citizenship?

Basically yes, but not quite. “Citizenship” is associated with the country which the person “belongs” to. “Passport” is the document that the person receives from this country in order to prove his citizenship in front of others (during travel, etc.). For the same citizenship, a different sort of passport can be issued – diplomatic passport, seaman passport, service passport, alien passport, etc. In theory it is even possible that one holds passport, which is not issued by his country of citizenship, for example United Nation passport (laissez-passer), European Union laissez-passer, EU Emergency passport (as per decision 96/409/CSFP), etc. Nationality, to confuse you even more, is the national identity of the individual and can differ from its citizenship, though not really. All these terms are quite language specific and can cause confusion at times.

So how can one get EU citizenship?

There are different options. We read many misleading information online. Basically, from what we have seen, companies who offer citizenship assistance for different (multiple) countries (outside of their own area of expertise), basically write ridiculous stories (like the one we read recently about how one can get citizenship in Poland by simply submitting an application to the President). In general EU citizenship is provided in the following circumstances:

1) Through special decree by the government (most often by the President) for special merits in front of the state. This has been exploited massively by unscrupulous “agents” promising the world to their victims (the would be new EU citizens). Basically, the story goes that the citizenship decree will be signed by a high rank state official in order to obtain immediate citizenship in return for a hefty fee. Unless you have won the Nobel Prize for Peace or are at least as good as Lionel Messi with your feet, your chances under this option are negligent.

2) Through descent. If your parents (or parent) have been Bulgarian citizens for example, you may be eligible for immediate citizenship. Similar rules apply in the other EU member sates, though in some cases they differ significantly. Unfortunately, this option is another “ace” in the hands of the “citizenship agents”, who are often offering their victims to provide them with proof that heir ancestors have been EU citizens. In 100% of the cases, these applications end with either rejection or even penal case against the citizenship candidate.

3) Through legal residence. This option is available usually after 5 or 10 years of legal residence in the EU country. Before citizenship is granted, the applicant has to undergo comprehensive language exam as well as other administrative procedures.

4) Through investment. This option is available to high net worth individuals who can prove they possess sufficient funds to support themselves in the country. Currently only three EU countries offer relatively affordable citizenship by investment programs. For comparison, please read our Bulgaria vs Cyprus Citizenship by Investment and Bulgaria vs Malta Citizenship by Investment. You can also find more information about the Bulgarian state program for Citizenship by Investment and “How to become Bulgarian Citizen via the fast-track option“.

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