Europe Welcomes Political Refugees From Trump’s America

12/01/2016 11:15 am ET Updated Dec 05, 2016
Around Europe, citizenship in EU nations is especially desirable because of the open-borders policy and the right to work in
Wikimedia Commons / Joebloggsy
Around Europe, citizenship in EU nations is especially desirable because of the open-borders policy and the right to work in any state.

From Ireland and Italy to Spain and Germany, liberals seeking to flee U.S. can always return to their roots in EU nations.

With the election of Donald Trump, and the specter of the white nationalist agenda looming in America, some left-leaning citizens of European descent, ironically, may try returning to their countries of origin.

While neighboring Canada and nearby tropical paradises in the Caribbean might get more attention as havens for those fleeing political turbulence and the fear of an authoritarian president-elect, perhaps the easiest escape for many is to ancestral homelands across the Atlantic.

Of course many despairing Americans are just joking about the possibility of becoming an expatriate or a repatriate overseas, but with the new administration taking shape, it’s always good to know what your options are if things take a turn for the worse.

The effects of Trump’s policies and reputation will likely follow American nationals wherever they travel or move, yet foreign sanctuaries could provide worried blue-staters with permanent alternatives.

For those without roots to the north, south, or west, here’s a primer for returning emigration to select European nations. It’s one thing to go for tourism, marriage, or employment but ideally you aim straight for that EU birthright citizenship:

Ireland

With a huge U.S. population of Irish origin, this might be one of the top destinations from Trump world. If your parents were born in Ireland, you are automatically eligible for citizenship. But all you need is one grandparent born there, with documents going back three generations.

If you plan to have children and you want your offspring to inherit their Irishness, make sure you become a citizen before parenthood — though obviously you’ll also need to register them later.

“You cannot claim Irish citizenship on the basis that relation such as a cousin, aunt or uncle was an Irish citizen if none of your parents or grandparents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth,” says the official government website.

United Kingdom

With strict guidelines for returning persons of British descent, the law nonetheless applies to those of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish background. You must have a British parent who was born in the U.K. to be eligible.

British rules also stipulate that you must be of “good character.” If you’re already resident in the U.K., applying for naturalization might be more straightforward.

Since the U.K. may soon be properly departing from the European Union, the benefits of citizenship likely won’t remain the same for long. Brexit is expected to consummate by summer 2019.

Italy

While Rome certainly has lots of red tape in the way of realizing returnee citizenship dreams, Italy actually has some of the easiest regulations. But one of the more frustrating aspects of the Italian laws is that if your family had already taken citizenship in another country, your prospects might be more limited.

Like Ireland, you basically just need one grandparent born in Italy to claim citizenship through jus sanguinis. You may also be able to file a claim if just one great-grandfather was born in Italy, though the same cannot be done based on a great-grandmother.

You will need to provide “the year of birth of every family member in direct line between you and your Italian Ancestor who was born in Italy,” as well as “the year when your Ancestor who was born in Italy and migrated to your country, became a naturalized citizen of your country.” Since the bureaucratic maze can be daunting, it’s best to speak with multiple officials at the nearest Italian embassy or consulate office.

Germany

Similar to the U.K, Berlin will only grant you citizenship if your father or mother holds German nationality, regardless of birthplace.

However, Germany also offers citizenship to descendants of those former citizens who were persecuted between 1933 and 1945. While Article 116 of the constitution applies to all people “deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds,” in practice it mainly involves Jewish victims of Nazi oppression. Nowadays, many British Jews are starting to take advantage of the law to stay within the European Union.

Otherwise, becoming German isn’t so easy, and requires fluent knowledge of the language. Either way, you might have to renounce your current citizenship, so permanent residency could be your best option.

Spain

In theory, only through a parent can you obtain Spanish citizenship. Here’s the main rule: “Persons whose father or mother was Spanish and was born in Spain.” But there are other notable ways to do it.

As in Germany, if your ancestor left between 1936 and 1955 -- during the Spanish Civil War or subsequent dictatorial period -- the 2007 “law of historical memory” enables you to apply for citizenship. Applicants need to demonstrate place and date of birth for relevant relatives who left for political reasons.

Another avenue, since 2015, is for those who can prove Sephardic Jewish origins in Spain. You must be able to show concrete proof not just that you have ancestors who fled after the Inquisition but that you also have a link to contemporary Spanish society through language and culture.

Like many EU countries, Madrid has been struggling with the lingering effects of the financial crisis, high unemployment, and an aging population. New arrivals often add fresh energy to the economy.

Greece

As with people of Irish or Italian origin, Greeks can also count on their grandparents’ origins to apply for citizenship in the Hellenic Republic. But by most accounts, the Greek authorities are quite pedantic about documentation showing ethnicity and heritage.

Depending on where in Greece your ancestors lived, you may have to deal with a local or regional government office to find birth certificates. If you’re lucky, Athenian pedigree could be a faster road to that Greek passport.

Monks of any origin on Mt. Athos were previously able to become citizens. However, in recent years that religious course has reportedly been curtailed.

Greek males between 19 and 45 are obligated to serve in the military, so this is a potential turn-off to would-be citizens. However, serving in the armed forces could also be a more hassle-free way for foreign-born Greeks to become naturalized.

Poland

Akin to the generous but complicated Italian and Greek systems, Poland offers citizenship to persons of Polish origin based on the rule of “unbroken succession.” Although Poland no longer has compulsory military service, the citizenship paradigm necessitates that your ancestor in question only became a citizen of a different country after 1951, when the dual citizenship rule took effect.

However, the rules can be skirted if your grandfather (or even great-grandfather) had no choice but to serve in a foreign military. This can provide a way around the dual-nationality obstacle.

Since Poland was still under the occupation of Russia, Austria-Hungary and Prussia until 1918, furnishing paperwork from the early part of the 20th century might be problematic.

Hungary

In 2011, the Hungarian government began to offer citizenship to anyone of Hungarian descent, up to great-grandparents.

Most of those who’ve since applied for Hungarian passports are ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine and Slovakia who want access to the EU.

But the catch is that you must first pass a basic Hungarian language test. Szerencse alatt élő Donald Trump — good luck living under the new U.S. president!

Or perhaps try Cyprus and Malta in the Mediterranean, then Lithuania and Romania further east.

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