Immigration: what about EU citizenship ?

Employment and Social Affairs

Immigration is a social phenomenon of great relevance nowadays. The EU is trying to cope with massive inflow of migrants mainly focusing on the emergency; but emergency is just a short term perspective, while immigration is a long term issue that has to be dealt with a long term strategy. As regard immigration policy it could be highlighted that despite living in Schengen area, a place characterized  by the free movement of people, services and capital, actually there is not  a shared immigration policy at the EU level: namely, the EU lacks a comprehensive nationality law.

Looking at how is regulated the right to gain citizenship in Europe we can see many differences and one can wonder to what extent the EU citizenship exists: despite Schengen rules an EU legislation on citizenship right is still lacking. Thus the social question arising from this situation is if these rules could have an effect on wider immigration issue, with migrants moving towards the countries where is easier to became citizens with the recognition of full rights.

Basically we can divide the ius soli principle, giving citizenship on the ground of the birth place and the ius sanguinis, where the citizen status is transmitted from parents to children.

We can say that the ius soli citizenship is the predominant rule in the United States and – since the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was enacted in 2004 – no European country grants citizenship based on unconditional jus soli. The 28 EU States have not the same legislation on this issue and they apply whether the jus sanguinis or  jus soli principle, or a combination of both. Even the most flexible EU Member State legislation in terms of granting citizenship does not include a pure ius soli principle.

On October 13th, the Italian Parliament approved, for the first time, a new law recognizing Italian citizenship mainly on grounds of ius soli, rather than of ius sanguinis. This means that third-country nationals’ children could be registered – at birth or when they reach the age of consent – as Italian citizens if they were born in Italy (where at least one of the parents has a regular residency permit) or have attended Italian schools for at least five years. The new law goes now to the Senate for debate.

In Germany the ius soli principle is stronger than in other European countries, but it is still tempered  in several ways: the basic rule followed for the recognition of German citizenship is the “blood”, but all those children born from at least one parent that has a permanent residence permit for three years and living in Germany for at least eight years, can apply to become German citizens. As Germany, also Ireland applies ius sanguinis, but a child can acquire the Irish nationality if he/she has at least one parent residing in the country on a regular basis since three years before he was born.

Acquiring British citizenship is some way easier. As regards United Kingdom,  a child born on British soil by a single parent, that has already a British citizenship, is automatically a citizen of the United Kingdom. Citizenship is acquired even after three years of marriage with a British citizen.
In the Netherlands we can say that the ius soli is extremely weak: citizenship is granted only after the age of majority (18 years) and only if you had been living in the country for five years without interruption and you hold a regular residence permit. Basically, children born in the Netherlands from foreigners must wait until they are 18 years old to hand over the request for dutch citizenship.

As the Netherlands, also Spain has a strong ius sanguinis, while ius soli principle is still weak. A child who has at least one parent born in Spain can apply for citizenship. Otherwise, you can apply for Spanish citizenship after 10 years of residence in the country, with work and permanent residence permit, or after a marriage with a Spanish citizen, but only after one year from the date of the wedding.

As regards France, a sort of “double ius soli” is applied. A child born in France from foreign parents can become a citizen very easily. Otherwise , citizenship can be acquired only from the age of 18: if you have foreign parents but living regularly in the country for at least five years. A foreigner can also become a french citizen, if he/she marries a French citizen, but only after  two years.

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