Holding a European Union (EU) passport gives a person several benefits. It allows a person to travel, work and live in any EU country without a visa. The only way a person can obtain an EU passport is to become a citizen of an EU country. This is done by being born in an EU country, having ancestors who were citizens in an EU country, through military service or through a process called naturalization.
Many people wrongly believe that there is an actual universal "EU passport." In reality, an EU passport is a passport that's issued by any EU country. Only people who are citizens of an EU country are issued EU passports. EU residents might live and work elsewhere in the EU but hold passports from their originating country.
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Each of the 27 member states of the EU has its own specific set of laws and requirements to obtain citizenship in that country. Contacting the immigration office of the specific country is the best option for finding this information. Typically, only four options are available to become a citizen.
In most cases, even if someone is born in an EU country, he or she still doesn't automatically get citizenship. For example, if a person is born in Germany, he or she gets citizenship only if at least one parent lived in the country for at least eight years. Being born in the country does, however, make the application process faster and easier.
Some countries also allow citizenship through military service. It's not a common or easy way to get an EU passport. This method of citizenship is not recommended for most people.
A common misconception is that a person can apply for an EU passport if he or she marries an EU citizen. In reality, this will give that person residency in the country, but he or she will still have to go through the naturalization process, which takes years. Only after residing in that country for a certain period of time and passing country-regulated tests can someone gain citizenship.
Perhaps the easiest method of gaining citizenship and a passport is ancestral origin. Each member state of the EU has varying rules for people trying to use their ancestral ties to obtain citizenship. Some countries require a more direct line of ancestry, meaning that at least one parent must hold citizenship in that country. Others are more lenient and allow a person to gain citizenship through great-grandparents or even further down the family line.