Having nine passports is rare; here’s how it could happen

Some 75 percent of countries let their citizens hold foreign passports. Here are some paths to multiple citizenship.

This story appears in the January 2020 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Half a century ago, most countries revoked the citizenship of a person who became a national of another country. Today some 75 percent let their people hold foreign passports, dramatically increasing citizenship options for children. There are more paths to citizenship in European countries, fewer in the Americas (although birthright citizenship is more common), and limited routes in nondemocratic countries, says Maarten Vink, of Maastricht University. Having nine passports is rare; here’s how it could happen.

The size of the circles is the percentage of countries allow this route to citizenship. In 47 countries, it’s easier for men than women to pass citizenship to their children.

Applicable to the U.S.

Family Ties

Other Bonds

18%

100% of countries

birth

Citizenship is automatic at birth, a law that’s rare globally but is more common in the Western Hemisphere.

Maternal dual citizenship

81%

Children can become citizens of the country where their mother was born and holds citizenship.

62%

Children can pick up their mother’s second citizenship, even if she wasn’t born in that country.

paternal dual citizenship

91%

Children can become citizens of the country where their father was born.

71%

Children can inherit their father’s dual citizenship regardless of where he was born.

63%

Marriage

Nearly two-thirds of all countries grant citizenship through marriage after three years.

23%

historical

Citizenship is granted because of ethnic, historical, or cultural ties to a country.

48%

Migration

A person can get citizenship within five years of immigrating in nearly half the world’s countries.

20%

investment

A large investment in a country can come with full citizenship, often without habitual residence.

SOURCE: GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP OBSERVATORY (GLOBALCIT)

Applicable to the U.S.

Maternal dual citizenship

paternal dual citizenship

Children can become citizens of the country where their mother was born and holds citizenship.

Children can pick up their mother’s second citizenship, even if she wasn’t born in that country.

Children can become citizens of the country where their father was born.

Children can inherit their father’s dual citizenship regardless of where he was born.

81%

62%

91%

71%

of countries allow this route to citizenship

In 47 countries, it’s easier for men than women to pass citizenship to their children.

63%

23%

historY

Citizenship is granted because of ethnic, historical, or cultural ties to a country.

Marriage

Nearly two-thirds of all countries grant citizenship through marriage after three years.

48%

20%

18%

Migration

birth

investment

Citizenship is automatic at birth, a law that’s rare globally but is more common in the Western Hemisphere.

A large investment in a country can come with full citizenship, often without habitual residence.

A person can get citizenship within five years of immigrating in nearly half the world’s countries.

SOURCE: GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP OBSERVATORY (GLOBALCIT)