Jus Soli, or birthright citizenship, is a concept that has been applied for centuries throughout various countries. The premise of birthright citizenship is simple; those born within a country’s borders are granted direct citizenship.
However, in practice, birthright citizenship can get quite complicated, as each country continues to set its own laws and restrictions.
What Is Jus Soli?
In April this year, Portugal passed a legislation regarding Jus Soli. According to this law, after one year of having a Portuguese residency, should you have a child born, they would be able to obtain Portuguese nationality immediately.
The idea of obtaining a preferable citizenship for one’s children remains a major attraction, and in a world where travel times are short and visas are plentiful, it has given birth to a new type of tourism altogether – birth tourism.
Birth tourism refers to those who obtain a visit visa to give birth to their child in a country that has Jus Soli laws in place, allowing them to obtain a citizenship for their newborn.
Unlike immigrants giving birth to their children abroad in their new country of residence, birth tourism only requires a visit visa and a well-timed trip.
One of the countries with the highest birth tourism rate is unsurprisingly the USA, as the nation has unrestricted birthright citizenship laws in place, allowing anyone born on its land to obtain US citizenship directly.
While birth tourism is not easily tracked, the Center For Immigration Studies, a US based think tank, estimates that 33,000 people on visit visas give birth in the US each year. The center also states that most of these birth tourists hail from China, Taiwan, Korea, Nigeria, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, and neighboring Mexico.
The premise of birth tourism has quickly grown, but those considering it must be aware of the country’s birthright citizenship laws, as not all Jus Solis are born equal, and travelling to a country to give birth for the purposes of gaining citizenship without understanding birthright citizenship regulations can be a costly and futile affair.
Understanding Birthright Citizenship
First, there are unrestricted and restricted birthright citizenship laws. Unrestricted birthright citizenship means that anyone born on the soil of a nation will automatically obtain citizenship, no matter their circumstances. This is the case in the US, Canada, and even Brazil, which many estimate may be one of the most birth-touristic countries in the world thanks to its powerful passport and easy visa process.
The following table provides a list of countries with restricted and unrestricted birthright citizenship:
Other countries have restricted birthright citizenship, which means that in addition to being born within the country’s jurisdiction. This is the case in the United Kingdom and Ireland, for example, where to gain citizenship in the former, one of the newborn’s parents must either be a citizen or a settled resident in the UK. Settled in this context refers to someone on a permanent residence permit, or an indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
As for Ireland, one of the parents must actually be a full-fledged citizen, hence negating the entire premise of birth tourism.
Most countries allow the children of their citizens born abroad to apply for citizenship; and with a few exceptions such as Saudi Arabia requiring the father to be a Saudi national for the child to obtain citizenship, it allows for people who venture into birth tourism to obtain dual citizenship for their newborn on the day they are born.
Understanding the laws of birthright citizenship is the first obstacle, the second is getting to the country at the right time. This usually requires a visa, unless a person has visa-free travel to a country, and in the case of the US, it is difficult for pregnant women to obtain B1 or B2 visas during their second and third trimesters.
The Dual Benefits Of A Dual Citizenship
Nevertheless, birth tourism remains highly attractive, especially for those who have already obtained a second citizenship through investment. For example, a person that obtains a Maltese citizenship through investment gains the ability to travel visa-free to the United States and Canada, two countries with unrestricted birthright citizenship, and the latter even provides free healthcare.
By getting a Maltese citizenship, a person can structure it so that their child is born in the US or Canada, giving them a third citizenship in the process, in addition to the Maltese one and their original citizenship, essentially tearing down all mobility obstacles in their child’s path and providing them with the tools they need to fulfill their potential.
Another simplified route that allows people to get another citizenship for their children is through the Portuguese golden visa, which awards those who invest in Portugal with a residency permit for themselves and their family members. If a person has a golden visa and has a child within Portugal then that child can become a citizen after one year of their birth. As the golden visa has a fast track to citizenship after five years and minimal residence (just seven days a year), it is an excellent option for those looking to get a second citizenship for their children in a relatively short time frame while also laying the groundwork for getting the citizenship themselves a little farther in the future.
Birthright citizenship on its own remains a very interesting topic, however, when combined with citizenship by investment, it can yield outstanding results that are open to very few people around the world.
To know more about citizenship through birthright or investment, contact us today to talk with one of our second citizenship experts.
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