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Are You a Remainer Thinking of Moving to the EU? What You Need to Apply for a Passport.


Humanosity says…With Brexit looming and the status of British immigrants in the EU still not settled this article looks at the numbers of Brits living in the EU, moving to the EU and which countries are seeing the highest numbers of applications.

It seems that Ireland has seen the highest number of Brits applying for passports and given the long history of Irish migration to Britain, it’s perhaps no surprise that there are many Brits who meet the criteria to apply for an Irish passport, which is usually via an Irish grandparent. At the last count applications from Brits for Irish citizenship were up over 1000% to nearly 9,000.

Despite the large numbers of British immigrants living in EU countries – the latest figures from the UK Office For National Statistics suggest that the number is around 1.3 million.


Although Spain has the highest number of British immigrants it has one of the lowest rates of Brits applying for citizenship. Of the more than 300,000 Brits who live there, the Spanish Ministry of Justice says that

It says that in 2016, the year of the EU referendum, 33 British citizens applied for Spanish nationality. In 2017, that rose to 181, then rose again to 209 in 2018.

The reasons why this is so low can perhaps be explained by a couple of factors. Firstly Spain doesn’t recognise dual citizenship. UK citizens are meant to give up their passports in order to claim Spanish nationality. Naturally many are reluctant to do this. Secondly, applicants have to pass a Spanish language test as well as a Spanish culture exam. Alternatively, naturalisation can take place if you have lived in Spain as a permanent resident for 10 years.


Although there are a number of different estimates, there are thought to be somewhere in the region of 160,000 Brits living in France. The country does accept dual nationality. According to the French Interior Ministry, the number has risen tenfold since the referendum – rising from 386 Britons in 2015, to 1,363 in 2016 and to 3,173 in 2017.

The French process doesn’t recognise nationality by descent from grandparents like in Ireland. However, you can become a naturalised citizen after five years of permanent residence. This drops to two years if you complete a postgraduate degree at a French university. Also, you can become a citizen by marrying a French citizen. Applicants will have to take a language and culture test.


Figures from the ONS show that just over 95,000 Brits live in Germany. According to a study conducted by The University of Oxford in Berlin and WZB Berlin Social Science Center, the number of Brits applying for German citizenship was up from 622 in 2015 to 7,493 in 2017

Germany has traditionally been a country, where citizenship is passed on to the next generation through the bloodline, irrespective of the place of birth. As of 2000, a child born in Germany automatically receives German citizenship.

People can be naturalised after 8 years of residence which can be reduced to six years if the applicant speaks good German or has worked for a charity in Germany.


There are about 30,000 to 50,000 UK citizens living in Italy which allows dual nationality. Anyone with Italian parents can apply and if you can prove your paternal ‘bloodline’ and uninterrupted citizenship back through the generations to the date of the founding of the Italian state in 1861 then you can also apply. Naturalisation takes ten years. Marriage to an Italian brings this down to two years – three if you don’t live in Italy.

Although the Italian Consulate General in the Uk didn’t have exact figures they stated that “In the first semester of 2019, we have received nearly 400 citizenship requests which include both applications by lineage/ancestry as well as by marriage. Of this total, British citizens rank as the largest portion of those requesting Italian citizenship”.


Portugal has taken a positive approach to Brits applying for citizenship even if there was to be a no-deal Brexit. The country allows for dual citizens, citizenship through a grandparent and the naturalisation process takes six years and requires a language test.

It’s estimated that some 20,000 to 30,000 Brits are resident in Portugal and according to official figures the number of applications from Brits has jumped from 50 – 60 a year before the referendum to just under 500 in 2018.

Other EU countries

The University of Oxford in Berlin and WZB Berlin Social Science Center conducted a study on EU migration. They found that a record 84,000 Brits are expected to leave the UK for a European country in 2019. This contrasts with 59,000 in 2008.

The figures for many of the other countries in the EU is more vague. There are reports of a surge in numbers in Sweden. The country is home to around 20,000 Brits and naturalisation takes five years, three years if you live with a Swede. Citizenship through heritage only goes back as far as your parents.

Click here to read the full study

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