Acquiring citizenship, especially through naturalization, is a difficult task in many countries. Various circumstances can cause difficulties, which is why acquiring citizenship is a complex and time-consuming process.
Here are some factors that make these countries among the most difficult to obtain citizenship:
- Long-term residency requirements
- Knowledge of language
- Cultural and religious factors
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10 hardest countries to get citizenship
The list is based on several reports and references from official sources available online. Here is a list of the 10 hardest countries to get citizenship in 2023
- Vatican City
- Saudi Arabia
- North Korea
The most difficult countries to obtain citizenship
Qatar, located on the Persian Gulf and known for its vast wealth fueled by its natural gas industry, is known for its strict citizenship requirements. To become a Qatari citizen as a foreigner, you must have resided continuously in the country for a whopping 25 years. Prerequisites are knowledge of the Arabic language, clean behavior and proof of adequate financial means for support.
Furthermore, according to the laws in Qatar, they do not allow dual citizenship, which requires the relinquishment of the original passport. An additional criterion is likely conversion to Islam, which makes Qatar one of the most challenging countries in the world to acquire citizenship.
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2. The Vatican
Vatican City, the smallest sovereign state in the world, has a tiny population of approximately 450 inhabitants. Strict citizenship rules are responsible for this small number. The Vatican only grants citizenship in three exceptional circumstances: if someone is a cardinal living in the Vatican or Rome, serves as a diplomat representing the Holy See, or resides in the Vatican for employment within the Catholic Church. These very specific conditions make the Vatican City one of the most challenging countries in the world to obtain citizenship.
Located between Austria and Switzerland, the wealthy microstate of Liechtenstein, with its approximately 40,000 citizens, requires an extensive deadline for acquiring citizenship.
According to a report by the Liechtenstein Institute, a scientific research center and academic institution in Bendern, Gamprin, Liechtenstein, foreigners must endure a period of residence of no less than 30 years before becoming eligible to apply for naturalization. However, it is possible to reduce this period to 10 years through the consent of the community or marriage. Alternatively, marrying a citizen of Liechtenstein can speed up the process, allowing for citizenship after just five years. These demanding conditions make Liechtenstein one of the most demanding countries in the world to obtain citizenship.
The remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan maintains a strict tourist entry policy, and acquiring citizenship is even more challenging. Foreigners seeking Bhutanese citizenship, assuming they do not have Bhutanese parents, must have resided in the country for at least 20 years prior to applying.
Under the Bhutanese Nationals Act of 1985, foreigners must demonstrate impeccable behavior during this time, refraining from making any negative remarks about the Bhutanese monarchy. Bhutanese authorities reserve the right to reject applications for citizenship without reason, and citizenship may be revoked if individuals speak unfavorably of the king or country in the future.
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5. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich country that is home to Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest sites, presents major obstacles to those seeking citizenship. Potential candidates must have resided in the country for at least 10 years and possess a fluent command of the Arabic language.
In addition, the official Saudi government website mentions a clean criminal record and a subjective assessment of being “generally considered moral” as prerequisites. The final decision on citizenship applications is made by the Minister of the Interior. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia does not recognize dual citizenship, which requires renunciation of the original passport.
Neighboring Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, another oil-rich country, mirrors its neighbor’s strict criteria for citizenship. Kuwait’s National Law of 1959 states that those eligible for naturalization must have resided in Kuwait for at least 20 years, be fluent in Arabic, and adhere to the Islamic faith 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 difficult countries to obtain citizenship.
Switzerland, known for its beautiful landscapes and high quality of life, has one of the strictest citizenship processes in Europe. Foreigners who wish to become Swiss citizens must reside in the country for at least 10 years and possess a ‘C residence permit’.
Knowledge of one of the Swiss national languages (German, French, Italian or Romansh) is mandatory. The official website of the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration states that the naturalization process involves multiple federal, cantonal and municipal approval stages, each with different requirements. Switzerland’s commitment to these rigorous criteria contributes to its reputation as one of the world’s most demanding countries to obtain citizenship.
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China, the world’s most populous country, also imposes huge barriers to foreign citizenship. China’s citizenship law, as noted by the Immigration Department, gives foreigners limited opportunities to acquire citizenship, primarily through family ties or “other legitimate reasons.” The law remains deliberately vague, making it difficult to move through the process. In addition, the law does not prescribe a specific length of stay. China’s complex citizenship requirements deter most foreigners from seeking Chinese citizenship.
9. North Korea
North Korea, a secretive and isolated country often referred to as a hermit kingdom, has one of the most mysterious citizenship processes. Although the criteria for obtaining North Korean citizenship are not well documented, a report published by Southern Methodist University, Texas, states that 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, although its desirability is limited.
Japan, with one of the most powerful passports in the world, maintains strict naturalization requirements. Foreigners or foreigners recommended by Japan’s Ministry of Justice must reside in Japan continuously for at least five years and demonstrate “virtuous conduct.” The Nationality Act, 1950, also 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 relatively lenient, requiring basic knowledge suitable for everyday life. These strict criteria make Japan one of the most demanding countries in the world to acquire citizenship.