Unlocking the EU Passport: A Guide to Dual Citizenship

Imagine breezing through European borders, living, working, and studying in any European Union (EU) member state without the usual bureaucratic hurdles. For many Americans with European ancestry, the dream of obtaining dual citizenship is closer than they think. The journey requires understanding your family history and carefully documenting your ancestral relationships.

Benefits of Having an EU Passport

Obtaining an EU passport offers a wealth of advantages that can significantly enhance your quality of life, both personally and professionally.

Freedom to Live and Work: An EU passport grants you the right to live and work across all EU member states. You can settle in cosmopolitan cities like Paris, Berlin, or Rome, or choose a quieter lifestyle in the charming villages of Portugal, Spain, or Greece. 

Access to Services: As an EU citizen, you would have access to various public services and benefits, including healthcare, education and employment benefits.

Global Mobility: With an EU passport, your travel opportunities expand exponentially, including simplified travel across Europe, with no border checks between EU countries due to the Schengen Agreement, and visa-free travel, in which you can visit over 180 countries without the need for a visa or obtain one upon arrival rather than in advance. 

How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for an EU Passport?

The eligibility criteria for dual citizenship vary depending on the EU country in question. However, a common requirement is proving direct descent from a European ancestor. Here are a few examples of how specific countries approach eligibility:


Italy offers dual citizenship through the principle of Jure Sanguinis (right of blood). You may be eligible if:

  • You have an Italian ancestor who was a citizen after the unification of Italy in 1861.
  • Neither your Italian ancestor nor their descendants renounced their citizenship.
  • You can prove an unbroken line of descent with relevant documents.


Ireland recognizes dual citizenship through its Foreign Births Register:

  • Eligibility extends to grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Irish citizens.
  • If your grandparent was born in Ireland, you can apply.
  • If your great-grandparent was born in Ireland, your parent must have registered in the Foreign Births Register before your birth.


Poland allows descendants to reinstate Polish citizenship:

  • Your ancestor held Polish citizenship before 1951 or between 1951 and 1962.
  • They did not renounce or lose their Polish citizenship.
  • Your family can trace an unbroken line of descent.


Germany provides a unique path for descendants of Holocaust survivors:

  • If your ancestors were persecuted under the Nazi regime, you might be eligible for citizenship. The policy applies to descendants of German citizens who fled due to persecution.

Other EU Countries

Other countries, such as Spain, Portugal, Greece, and France, have specific criteria and historical pathways that allow descendants of emigrants to obtain citizenship. It’s crucial to research each country's requirements or seek expert advice to determine your eligibility.

Identifying the Point of Origin of Your Ancestors

A critical first step in obtaining dual citizenship is identifying the point of origin of your ancestors. Point of origin simply refers to the town or city where your ancestors were born. Understanding their birthplace will help determine your eligibility for dual citizenship and guide your search for relevant documents.

Key Genealogy Records

To trace your ancestry accurately, you’ll need to gather specific genealogy records that prove your familial connections. Here are the essential documents:

  • Birth Certificates: Vital for establishing the identity of each generation.
  • Marriage Certificates: Confirm relationships between generations.
  • Death Certificates: Provide additional family details and help link generations.
  • Census Records: Offer insights into residency, occupations, and family structures.
  • Naturalization Records: Verify the citizenship status of ancestors.
  • Immigration Documents: Trace your family's journey across borders.
  • Military Records: Offer personal details and sometimes birth locations.
  • Church Records: Baptism, marriage, and burial records can supplement vital records.

Strategies for Identifying the Point of Origin

  • Interview Relatives: Older family members might provide useful clues.
  • Search Online Databases: Genealogy websites like Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, and MyHeritage have vast collections of records.
  • Consult Historical Directories: Old city directories can reveal your ancestors' locations.
  • Visit Local Archives: Many European countries maintain local archives with valuable records.

Application Process to EU Member Countries

Obtaining dual citizenship requires meticulous planning, research, and adherence to each country's specific requirements. Here’s a step-by-step overview of the process:

  1. Confirm Your Eligibility:
    • Review the eligibility criteria for your target country.
    • Ensure you can prove a direct lineage with the required documents.
  2. Gather the Necessary Documentation:
    • Obtain certified copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates.
    • Collect apostilles or legalizations for documents as needed.
    • Retrieve naturalization records to confirm your ancestors’ citizenship status.
  3. Fill Out the Application Forms:
    • Each country provides specific application forms.
    • Carefully complete all forms, providing accurate and consistent information.
  4. Prepare Supporting Documents:
    • Include proof of residence, family photos, and other supporting evidence.
    • Write a cover letter explaining your eligibility.
  5. Submit Your Application:
    • Submit your application to the relevant consulate or government office.
    • Some countries allow online submissions, while others require in-person visits.
  6. Attend an Interview (if required):
    • Some countries require an interview as part of the application process.
    • Prepare to answer questions about your lineage and intent to obtain citizenship.
  7. Wait for Approval:
    • Processing times vary by country but can take several months to over a year.
  8. Complete Post-Approval Steps:
    • Register your citizenship with the relevant national authorities.
    • Apply for your new passport.

Country-Specific Guidelines

Here's a closer look at the requirements and process for some EU member countries:

Italy: Jure Sanguinis (Right of Blood)

  • Eligibility:
    • Any descendant of an Italian citizen who never renounced citizenship.
    • Unbroken line of descent is required.
  • Required Documents:
    • Birth, marriage, and death certificates for each generation.
    • Naturalization records showing whether your ancestor became a citizen of another country.
  • Application Process:
    • Submit your application to an Italian consulate or the Italian municipality where your ancestor was born.
    • Attend an interview and provide biometric data.
    • Obtain an Italian tax code (codice fiscale).

Ireland: Foreign Births Register

  • Eligibility:
    • Direct descendants of Irish citizens born in Ireland.
    • Grandchildren and great-grandchildren can apply if their parent registered in the Foreign Births Register.
  • Required Documents:
    • Birth certificates of the applicant, parents, and grandparents.
    • Marriage certificates (if applicable).
    • Proof of address and identification.
  • Application Process:
    • Apply online through the Department of Foreign Affairs.
    • Send supporting documents by mail.
    • Register in the Foreign Births Register upon approval.

Poland: Reinstating Polish Citizenship

  • Eligibility:
    • Any descendant of Polish citizens before 1951 or between 1951 and 1962.
    • Proof that your ancestor did not renounce Polish citizenship.
  • Required Documents:
    • Birth and marriage certificates.
    • Naturalization records (if applicable).
    • Official confirmation of your ancestor’s Polish citizenship.
  • Application Process:
    • Apply through the Polish consulate or a regional administrative office in Poland.
    • Provide translations of documents into Polish.
    • Await confirmation from the Ministry of Interior and Administration.

Germany: Restoring Citizenship for Holocaust Survivors' Descendants

  • Eligibility:
    • Descendants of German citizens persecuted by the Nazi regime.
  • Required Documents:
    • Birth and marriage certificates.
    • Proof of persecution (emigration documents, affidavits, etc.).
    • Naturalization records (if applicable).
  • Application Process:
    • Submit an application to the German consulate or Federal Office of Administration.
    • Provide translations into German.
    • Attend an interview (if required).

Overcoming Common Challenges

Obtaining dual citizenship isn't always straightforward. Here’s how to tackle some of the most common challenges:

Incomplete Documentation

  • Problem: Lack of birth registrations (common before the 1920s).
  • Solution:
    • Seek alternatives like church records, family bibles, or military records.
    • Use census data or naturalization documents as supplementary evidence.

Discrepancies in Records

  • Problem: Variations in names, dates, and places across documents.
  • Solution:
    • Provide affidavits explaining discrepancies.
    • Include additional supporting evidence to clarify inconsistencies.

Legal and Bureaucratic Hurdles

  • Problem: Navigating consulate requirements and timelines.
  • Solution:
    • Stay organized with a checklist of required documents.
    • Be prepared for long processing times and follow up regularly.

Language Barriers

  • Problem: Documents may need to be translated into the target country's language.
  • Solution:
    • Hire certified translators experienced in genealogical records.
    • Ensure translations are accurate and meet official requirements.

How Trace Can Help

Navigating the complex process of obtaining dual citizenship can be overwhelming. Trace offers two pathways to guide you through this journey:

Professional Research Services

Our team of experienced genealogists can help you:

  • Document Your Lineage:
    • Conduct thorough research to prove your descent from European ancestors.
    • Identify and locate vital records, including birth, marriage, and death certificates.
    • Verify your ancestor's citizenship status through naturalization and immigration records.
  • Obtain the Correct Documentation:
    • Provide guidance on obtaining certified copies of required documents.
    • Assist in getting apostilles or legalizations for foreign documents.
    • Translate documents into the appropriate language.

Self-Paced Learning Courses

If you prefer a more hands-on approach to research and documentation, Trace also offers:

  • "A Complete Guide to Immigration & Naturalization":
    This comprehensive course provides in-depth instruction on identifying your ancestor’s point of origin and obtaining the immigration and naturalization records in the United States. 
  • Dual Citizenship Courses for Specific Countries:
    Dive deep into the unique requirements of your target country with tailored courses that include:
    • Detailed overviews of eligibility criteria.
    • Instructions for gathering and verifying the required documents.
    • Insights into the application process and consulate requirements.


Unlocking the EU passport can open doors to incredible opportunities, allowing you to live, work, and explore the rich cultural landscapes of Europe. While the journey to dual citizenship requires patience, diligence, and careful documentation, it’s a journey worth embarking on.

By thoroughly understanding your family history and gathering the right documents, you can take the first step toward realizing the dream of dual citizenship. Trace is here to help guide you every step of the way, whether through personalized research services or empowering self-paced courses.

Reach out to Trace today and begin your journey to unlocking the EU passport. The world is waiting!

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Written by

May 8, 2024
Wesley is the founder of hello@traceyourpast.com.

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