Earth & Conservation

The Hardest Countries To Become A Citizen

With increasing migration, countries are placing tough policies on who can become a citizen. Where is it most difficult to gain citizenship?

In some countries, including the United States, being born within the territory of a sovereign state is enough to become a citizen. In other countries, citizenship can simply be purchased by those who have the spare cash lying around for another passport. And yet still others are increasing the barriers to citizenship, making it more difficult than ever for new arrivals to join.

Earlier this summer, for example, Denmark introduced a new citizenship test on Danish history and culture so difficult that only a fraction of foreign nationals passed, and even many native Danes struggled with it.

Denmark may have raised the bar to become a citizen, but it still isn't the most difficult country to naturalize, as the video above explains.

RELATED: What Does Citizenship Even Mean?

Take Switzerland, for example, a country with citizenship requirements that include at least a decade of residency and an expectation of integration confirmed only by what are generally considered intrusive measures to monitor how applicants interact with their communities.

Requirements are so stringent that in 2014 Swiss authorities rejected the application of a 75-year-old man who spent four decades in country and even taught at a Swiss university. He didn't, however, know enough about the region's politics and geography to merit citizenship evidently.

Neighboring Austria isn't much more welcoming to prospective arrivals. Even becoming a permanent resident, a stay of more than two years, requires an "integration agreement," which mandates language study as well as social, economic and cultural participation.

To become a citizen requires an individual to live within Austria's borders for at least 15 consecutive years, assuming an applicant can prove full integration. If not, that number doubles. Dual citizenship is also frowned upon.

RELATED: Which Countries Don't Allow Dual Citizenship?

Moving outside of Europe, Japan has puts up some of the highest barriers for anyone looking to pursue citizenship. Although the five-year residency requirement isn't as bad as Switzerland or Austria, the road to citizenship in Japan is complicated by a mountain of paperwork, inspections by immigration officials and a requirement for approval by the Minister of Justice.

So why would anyone want to subject themselves to such a difficult process in any of these countries in order to become a citizen? In each case, all three countries have a high standard of living and quality of life. Switzerland, for example, is the second happiest place on Earth, according to the latest World Happiness Report.

Maybe if citizenship weren't quite so difficult to obtain in these countries, a lot more people would be lining up to join.

-- Talal Al-Khatib

Learn More:

The New York Times: Denmark's Tougher Citizenship Test Stumps Even Its Natives

Independent: Switzerland Denies Muslim Girls Citizenship After They Refuse To Swim With Boys At School

The Japan Times: Many Angles To Acquiring Japanese Citizenship