A glance at birthright citizenship regulations across Europe

Updated Feb. 13 | The Swiss voted on Sunday to ease the restrictions for citizenship on third-generation immigrants.

Original Story:

BERLIN — As voters in Switzerland are deciding Sunday whether to make it easier for “third-generation foreigners” to get the country’s citizenship, here’s a glance at how other countries across Europe are handling citizenship and birthright issues for immigrants of the first, second or third generation.

Different from the United States, where every child born on American soil automatically becomes an American citizen regardless of his or her parents’ nationality, being born in Switzerland doesn’t mean automatically mean becoming Swiss, a situation echoed in a few other European nations.


Children of parents with foreign passports receive German citizenship at birth if one parent has lived in Germany for at least eight years and has unlimited residency status. The children also get to keep their parents’ citizenship. At age 21, they are supposed to choose one of the two nationalities. However, the obligation to give away one passport has in recent years been watered down by new regulations and there are a lot of exceptions to the rule meaning more and more children of foreign parents continue to keep their dual citizenships after their 21st birthday.

United Kingdom

A child born in the United Kingdom is automatically a British citizen only if one parent is a citizen of, or settled in, the U.K.

A U.K.-born child without a parent who fits the bill can become a British citizen later — either if they live in Britain till they are 10; or if either parent becomes legally settled in Britain.


Those born in Italy can ask, when they turn 18, to become an Italian citizen if they have continued to live in Italy since birth. The request must be formally made before the 19th birthday. It’s usually a straightforward process for these young people.


All children born in France of foreign parents automatically gain French citizenship at the age of 18, if they live in France and have lived here for five years since the age of 11.


In Greece there is no birthright citizenship. So if a child of foreign parents is born here, it doesn’t give them the right to Greek citizenship.

Czech Republic

Birthright citizenship is only given to foreign children born in the Czech Republic if the parents are considered stateless or if one of the parents has a residency permit for a period longer than 90 days.


Citizenship is automatically granted to children born in Spain who have at least one Spanish parent. If neither parent is a Spanish citizen, children born in Spain to legal residents can obtain citizenship after one year.

Associated Press writers across Europe contributed reporting.