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What Countries Offer Citizenship By Ancestry? Everything You Need To Know

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

You may consider it obvious that if your parent or grandparent was a citizen of a particular country, you would automatically inherit citizenship of the country too. While that may be true in many cases, you still need to go through a long and complex application process to actually acquire citizenship by ancestry in most countries. There are multiple reasons why you may want to apply for ancestral citizenship. Some applicants are looking to reconnect with their roots while others may have loved ones or an ancestral home they want to go back to. Others may be looking for new opportunities in their career or business and a second citizenship by descent would help them in their efforts in a new country.

Whatever be the reason, it is important to know what countries offer citizenship by descent and where you can most easily acquire a passport by descent.

What countries offer citizenship by descent?

Not all countries offer you the same easy process of acquiring citizenship by ancestry. In fact, many countries do not atumatically and easily acknowledge the right to citizenship through descent. So you need to be doubly sure that the country you are applying to offers ancestral citizenship.

Some of the countries with ancestry citizenship provisions are listed below.

Citizenship By Ancestry


If at least one of the child’s parents was an Israeli citizen, the child is automatically entitled to Israeli citizenship. However, if one of the parents, particularly the mother, is a foreign citizen, and the Israeli Ministry of Interior has any doubts about the other parent being an Israeli citizen, they may be required to undergo a DNA test to positively establish paternity.

Israel also has another way of offering citizenship to Jews based on heritage. This is the Law of Return, which allows Jews, descendants of Jews, and Jewish converts to apply for Israeli citizenship while retaining their original citizenship in another country.


Portuguese nationality works on the principle of jus sanguinis or citizenship by descent. This means that Portuguese nationality is handed down to a child born to Portuguese parents, irrespective of where the child was born. However, it is important to note that Portugal considers eligibility for citizenship by descent only up to second-generation descendants, that is grandchildren. So you will be eligible for citizenship through descent if either your grandparents or a parent was a citizen of Portugal. You don’t enjoy the same rights by establishing a connection with your great-grandparents who were citizens though.

More relevantly for many Jews of Sephardi descent in Israel and abroad, anyone who can prove their ancestors were exiled Spanish Portuguese Jews is also entitled to Portuguese citizenship.


Austria follows the principle of jus sanguinis, that is the right of blood or citizenship through descent. A child born to an Austrian mother automatically gains Austrian citizenship, irrespective of whether the parents are married or not. In the case of a marriage between an Austrian citizen and a foreign national, the child also acquires Austrian citizenship if only the father is an Austrian citizen.

If the parents are not married and only the father is an Austrian citizen though, the child can acquire Austrian citizenship by the declaration of parenthood by the father or a court of law within 8 weeks. If this 8-week window is passed, other ways of acquiring citizenship have to be followed.

Furthermore, Jews whose distant ancestors were stripped of their Austrian citizenship or had to leave Austria after the Nazi takeover are also entitled to Austrian citizenship by descent.


Germany also follows the right of blood when it comes to citizenship by ancestry. If any one of your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents was a German citizen, you may be eligible for German citizenship by ancestry. For anyone born to married parents before 1975, you may be eligible if your father was a German citizen. For children born to married parents after 1975, citizenship can be restored if either your father or mother was a German citizen.

For children born to unmarried parents before July 1993, citizenship could only be claimed if your mother was a German citizen. But after July 1993, a child born to unmarried parents, where only the father is a German citizen, can also claim citizenship.

Germany also offers citizenship by descent if any of your ancestors were stripped of their German citizenship due to persecution under Nazi rule.


Romania also offers ancestral citizenship if any of your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents were Romanian citizens during their lifetime.


Citizenship through decent in France is also relatively simple. You are considered a French citizen if at least one of your parents was a citizen of France at the time of your birth. You can claim your French citizenship by descent through declaration. However, it is important the parent-child relationship is established with proof when the child is still a minor.


Bulgaria offers citizenship by ancestry up to the third generation. This means if either of your great-grandparents, grandparents, or parents was a Bulgarian citizen, you may be eligible for citizenship too.


Any person whose parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents were born in Lithuania may qualify for Lithuanian citizenship by ancestry. For obtaining citizenship by descent in Lithuania, you have to prove that your ancestor was of Lithuanian origin and declare in writing that you self-identify as a Lithuanian. However, to claim your Lithuanian citizenship, you will have to renounce any other citizenship you hold in another country.


Children born to a Dutch mother are considered Dutch citizens by law if the mother had Dutch citizenship at the time of their birth. Children born to a Dutch father and a non-Dutch mother will be considered Dutch citizens by law if the father retained his Dutch citizenship at the time of their birth. Any child born to a Dutch father and a non-Dutch mother can also acquire Dutch citizenship. But the father has to be a Dutch citizen at the time of their birth and acknowledge the child before birth.


Citizenship through descent in England works if one or both of your parents were British citizens at the time of your birth, irrespective of where you are born.


US citizenship can be obtained if a child is born to a US citizen parent (or parents) outside the US, or by naturalization. For US citizenship by naturalization, at least one parent has to be a US citizen and parents need to meet certain minimum physical presence requirements in the US. Also, the child has to be below 18 years of age at the time of application.


Canada offers citizenship through descent to an individual if at least one parent was a Canadian citizen by birth or naturalization. It only offers citizenship by descent up to one generation born abroad. an exception, in this case, is made only for the children and grandchildren of people in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Which is the easiest citizenship by descent?

It is easiest to apply for citizenship by descent in countries like France, Romania, Bulgaria, where you are automatically considered a citizen through descent if one of your ancestors was a citizen during their lifetime. In such cases, all you need to do is prove your ancestry and produce evidence of your ancestors’ citizenship in the country.

These are the easiest citizenship by descent applications, unlike others that have several requirements to be met.

What countries allow dual citizenship based on heritage?

Certain citizenship by descent countries in the EU and elsewhere allow dual citizenship based on heritage. So you can hold both your heritage passport from the country alongside your original passport from your current country of residence. Some of these countries with ancestry citizenship that allow dual citizenship include (but are not limited to)

  • Germany
  • France
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Lithuania
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Poland

Other non-EU countries that offer dual citizenship include the USA, Canada, the UK, and a few others.

Consult an immigration lawyer

Citizenship by ancestry can be tricky terrain. Most citizenship by descent countries have a long list of requirements and the criteria are not the same everywhere, as we have seen above. Understanding the requirements of the country you are applying to is the key to ensuring a successful application. Our experienced immigration lawyers can help you understand the legal requirements, help with the paperwork and guide you throughout the application process. Assistance from our immigration lawyers will ensure that you obtain your ancestral citizenship faster and with minimum hassles.

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