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What Is Citizenship by Exceptional Merit: Eligibility Qualifications List for Popular Countries

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Date Published: April 1, 2024 | Date Updated: April 1st, 2024
By April 1, 2024 No Comments
What Is Citizenship by Exceptional Merit Eligibility Qualifications List for Popular Countries

Immigration policies differ across regions and countries, and most people have to meet stringent requirements and conditions to qualify for citizenship in their new country. Generally, people must obtain work or study visas and reside in the country for a specified duration (usually 5 to 10 years) to qualify for naturalisation.  Some countries, however, offer a facilitated naturalisation process known as citizenship by exceptional merit. But what is citizenship by exceptional merit? This pathway grants citizenship to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional skills, talents, or contributions to the state, allowing them more accessibility to their second passport.


Who Is Eligible for Exceptional Merit Citizenship?


In some cases, it is accelerated permanent residency ultimately leading up to citizenship, while in others, it’s outright citizenship. The US, for example, grants permanent residency (EB-1A visa) to individuals with exceptional abilities who have international recognition in arts, athletics, business, education, and science. They can then qualify for citizenship after five years of continuous residence.

In Australia

Australia also offers a similar accelerated citizenship pathway with facilitated eligibility criteria. Its distinguished talent stream (under the Global Talent program) grants permanent residency to internationally recognized artists, athletes, academics, and researchers. However, it is not open to general application as applicants must be nominated by an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-governmental organization, and only 200 slots are available per year.

In France and the US

In most countries, outright citizenship by merit is usually offered to qualifying individuals in diverse fields at the government’s discretion. France and the US stand out by having eligibility criteria tailored to offer citizenship to skilled military personnel in exchange for their military service to the country, often without any physical presence or residency requirements.

In Greece

Some countries also grant honorary citizenship to individuals and their family members who have made significant contributions to the well-being and development of the country. In 2020, Greece conferred honorary Greek nationality to Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, for their role in Greece’s wildfire aid.


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In Montenegro

Similarly, Montenegro granted Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin citizenship for his contributions to promoting Montenegro and developing its crypto industry.

In Brazil

One area where citizenship by exception is perhaps most evident is international sports. Countries naturalise top foreign athletes of interest to represent them in international sporting tournaments. Brazil, for instance, granted honorary citizenship to British racing driver Lewis Hamilton ahead of the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix.


While citizenship by merit may not be attainable for most, citizenship by investment presents an accessible and expedited pathway to securing a second passport.


In Qatar

At the 2022 FIFA World Cup, one out of every six players were not born natives of the country they represented. The host country, Qatar, was represented by about seven players who were not native-born Qataris. They were foreign players in Qatari clubs who were naturalised to play for the country, such as the Portuguese-born Pedro Miguel.

Even countries in the Gulf region that do not traditionally offer citizenship to foreigners and expatriates have begun to consider doing so for exceptional individuals.

In Saudi Arabia

In November 2021, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced it would grant citizenship to highly skilled foreigners in culture, medicine, sharia, science, and technology.

The aim is to attract exceptionally creative minds to develop the nation in line with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030. However, it will be granted to a limited number of persons nominated based on national interest, and there will be no option to apply for it.

While citizenship by exceptional merit is one of the expedited routes to obtaining second citizenship, it is not a viable route for the vast majority of people as it is exclusively reserved for those in the upper echelons of their careers. Plus, it is not open to application in most countries and is offered to a very limited number of people.


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Are there more accessible routes to a second passport? 


Citizenship by investment (CBI) and residency by investment (RBI) programs offer accelerated and easier route to obtaining second citizenship. Many countries grant citizenship or permanent residency to high-net-worth individuals in exchange for substantial investments in their economy.

CBI is a more inclusive pathway than Citizenship by merit, which is exclusive to the top 1% in every career field. It is open to applicants from every country if they have the required investment amount.

The required investment for CBI and RBI programs varies for different countries. CBI programs in larger EU member countries are typically more expensive than others and often require that you reside in the country.

To obtain citizenship in Malta, for example, you must invest at least €600,000 and complete a 36-month residency requirement or invest €750,000 with 12 months of residence.

Caribbean CBIs remain the best in terms of accessibility, convenience, and ease of processing. You can get Dominican citizenship, for example, by directly investing as little as $100,000 in the Dominican Economic Diversification Fund, and there’s no residency requirement.

Like most Caribbean CBIs, Dominican citizenship grants visa-free travel to over 140 countries, including the Schengen Area, the UK, and the US. Plus, you can own a Caribbean passport in less than six months.

While immigration can pose significant challenges for many individuals, there are expedited pathways to citizenship, such as Citizenship by Exceptional Merit. However, this particular citizenship route is limited to a select group and comes with specific requirements. In contrast, Citizenship by Investment offers a more accessible alternative, enabling a wider range of individuals to pursue dual citizenship by investing in the respective countries.


What Is Citizenship by Exceptional Merit_ Eligibility Qualifications List for Popular Countries 3

Caribbean CBI programs are considered among the best in terms of accessibility, convenience, and ease of processing.




As migration alternatives continue to grow in accessibility and diversity, here are six essential points to keep in mind as you explore your second passport options. Keen to explore diverse routes to naturalisation? Reach out now to secure a comprehensive consultation with our seasoned experts.


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Jeremy Savory

About Jeremy Savory

Jeremy Savory, the founder and CEO of Savory and Partners, runs one of the world’s leading HNW citizenship by investment firms. The second passport company has coverage in over 20 jurisdictions including Europe.

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