Benefits of dual EU citizenship
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Benefits of a Dual Citizenship

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We are very excited to reveal that one of us became a dual citizen last week. Spoiler Alert: it wasn’t me. Emily has a much easier path to get an EU citizenship than most Americans would as a second-generation immigrant. However, now I’m applying and want to find out the benefits of dual citizenship with a European Union citizenship.

Why get Dual Citizenship?

Emily and I have flirted with the idea of perpetual travel once we hit financial independence. (Update: We pulled the trigger on it!) Also, using Emily’s grandparent’s guest house in Europe as a base makes this an easier option.

However, we knew that we would be playing a counting game of days spent in each country, applying for visas, limited work options, limited or ‘expensive’ healthcare, and overall fewer options for the future. On the other hand, the benefits of an EU dual citizenship can fix all of these headaches.

How to get Dual EU Citizenship?

After a little research, and shuffling through the bureaucratic yellow tape (mostly in Greek), we realized Emily can apply for Cypriot citizenship because her father was born there. After a couple of helpful calls to the Cyprus Embassy, we found out all you have to do is:

  • fill out a few forms
  • provide a copy of the native parent’s birth certificate
  • include parents’ marriage license
  • applicant’s birth certificate
  • both parents’ and applicant’s passports
  • pay a small fee

The embassy said the wait time could be anywhere from 1 year to 18 months. So, it was pretty surprising that we got it back in less than 8 months. Anyway, now that it’s official, and I’m married to a dual citizen & an EU citizen, let’s go over some of the benefits of dual citizenship.

Getting a Dual Citizenship through Marriage

With Emily getting her dual citizenship, now it’s easier for me to obtain one through our obvious marriage. If I were to try to get citizenship without her, the quickest and “easiest” route would require me to purchase real estate. That’s not so bad considering we use real estate to fund our early retirement. However, the real estate must be worth €2,000,000 (or ~$2,160,000 USD in Jan of 2020) and we’d have to keep it for 3 years. Once the 3 years is up, I can sell the property. However, I have to maintain to hold a property worth €500,000 indefinitely. Essentially buying an EU dual citizenship might be a benefit for some, but we don’t keep that kind of cash lying around…

On the other hand, since I’m hitched to the coolest chick on the planet, all we have to do is:

1. be married for three years

2. live in Cyprus for 2 years

Or, if the Cypriot citizen lives abroad

3. be married for 3 years

4. write a letter explaining why the spouse would like to become a citizen of Cyprus

Do y’all know any good writers…? But, now that we can get two EU citizenships, what good does that do us?

Benefits of Dual Citizenship

Lower Cost of Living Options

benefits of EU Dual citizenship
Split, Croatia: one of the dozens of coastal EU cities cheaper than anywhere in the US

Geoarbitrage is one of the great benefits of dual citizenship. Geoarbitrage is a fancy way of saying “make money in strong currencies & move to cheap places to spend it”. We lived in a very low-cost of living area in the US, according to The Earth Awaits. This is one of our favorite websites, which shows the cost of living worldwide and lets you filter dozens of criteria.

 

It would cost the average couple on a “lean” lifestyle $1,736 a month to live in Huntsville, AL. Comparatively, the lowest cost of living place in the EU is Varna, Bulgaria at $807 per month. Literally less than half the cost. So, we could afford to retire there in half the time that it would take us here. Before you start bashing Varna, check out these images from Google.

I know your knee-jerk reaction though: “Who in the hell would work to save money and retire to Bulgaria?” Fair point, but what about Croatia at $962, Portugal at $1,044, Greece at $1,067, or even Italy at $1,349. To add insult to injury, Ireland, France, Spain, and Germany all come in under budget compared to the ‘low-cost of living’ in Alabama.

Traveling with Dual Citizenship

Benefits of Dual Citizenship
EU Countries (minus the UK, now) that you can visit, live and work in as a dual citizen

Another dual citizenship benefit is traveling. As dual EU citizens, we can travel to and from 31 different European countries and stay as long as we’d like without visa requirements or passport limitations. This includes the Schengen area and non-Schengen EU countries.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Schengen area, here’s a brief rundown. With a US passport, you can spend 90 days out of 180 days in the Schengen area. For example, if you spend 90 days traveling around France, Spain, & Portugal, you have to spend 90 days outside the Schengen area before returning. This means you can’t visit 26 of the Schengen countries, which includes the aforementioned three countries, Italy, Malta, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Hungary, Sweden, and many more.

Currently, only 5 European Union countries aren’t in the Schengen Area. These 5 countries are Cyprus, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ireland. Also, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland are the 4 countries outside the EU that are part of the Schengen area.

Having full access to travel, work, or even live in these countries without a long visa process, applying for citizenship, or risk of being detained for overstaying is another one of the incredible benefits of dual citizenship.

Cheaper & Better Healthcare

The bloated healthcare system we have in the US doesn’t work very well, and when it does work, it’s grossly expensive. But for some reason, people love it. Us….not so much. Additionally, there’s not a clear way for an early retiree to get coverage because typically healthcare is tied to your employer, and coverage through the Marketplace is notoriously expensive, and always being threatened to be eliminated.

Cyprus, like much of the European Union, has a universal healthcare system. That’s right, the infamous universal healthcare is all over Europe.

You can choose to go with private coverage and it’s still very cheap. For example, inpatient, outpatient, and dental coverage anywhere outside the US is $183 a month with a $1300 deductible, for both of us.

healthcare as a dual citizen
Here we have a picture of the US healthcare system. What was once a marvel of science & technology has now fallen apart and doesn’t work.

Under the public program in Cyprus, there is a charge for treatment, however, it is incredibly affordable. We’re talking €1 for medical tests, €1 for pharmaceuticals, €6 for a specialist visit. Visits to a general practitioner and in-patient care are free. I forgot to mention that the max out of pocket is €300 per year. Those are some killer numbers. Wait, anti-killer numbers. Saver numbers?

But wait, there’s more! Being an EU citizen entitles you to any medical treatment in other EU countries that can’t wait until you get home. Drink too much wine and suffer from dehydration on the beach in Spain? Covered. Sprain your ankle skiing in Sweden? Covered. Forget to get a refill of your prescription medication before your vacation to Italy? Covered.

We will definitely sleep better at night knowing that if something happens to us, we aren’t forced to go bankrupt just to stay alive. This is without a doubt one of the biggest benefits of dual citizenship.

Working Abroad

Admittedly, work would be a bigger bullet point if our goal wasn’t to move abroad to “retire”. However, it still gives plenty of options if we come across something interesting that would be worth taking time out of our day. As a dual EU citizen, you can work in any EU country without having to jump through hoops. Additionally, employers also prefer EU citizens because they won’t have to fill out any extra paperwork or sponsor someone’s visa.

Want to work as a kayak guide on the coast of Croatia? Interested in being a vintner (winemaker for the poor folks out there) in France? Have you always wanted to be a Yachtmaster in the Mediterranean? One of the benefits of dual citizenship is that all of these, and thousands of other options, are on the table.

Working with Dual Citizenship
We moved to an island in the Mediterranean and get paid to drink coffee.

You could always do what we did and host a coffee tour as an Airbnb experience. Hell, you don’t even need to have dual citizenship to do this. Interested in hosting your own experience and making money where ever you are now? Here’s a link to sign up.

Taxes

Taxes are another of the fun benefits of dual citizenship, as you can move money from country to country. The US has individual tax treaties with each EU country, so you can find the one that best suits your needs and move there. Alternatively, just move your money there if you aren’t interested in moving.

Each EU country themselves have wildly different tax rates. For instance, Cyprus’s income tax has a personal allowance of up to €19,500 (around $22,500) of earned income completely tax-free, and then it goes up to 20% over that amount. Ireland, on the other hand, has 2 tax brackets: €0 – €33,800 is taxed at 20%, and €33,801+ is taxed at 40%. There are also varying rates of corporate tax, so if you are looking for a business headquarters, Europe will be hard to beat.

Misc Benefits of Dual Citizenship

Other various smaller benefits of dual citizenship include:

  • Cell coverage and no roaming charges within the EU, but you can avoid this even as an American without dual citizenship by using the Sprint Kickstarter plan that we use abroad
  • Ability to move goods from country to country without having to deal with overbearing customs agents and policies
  • Recognition of drivers licenses throughout the EU
  • If you are abroad and your home country doesn’t have an embassy, you can use the embassy of any EU country
  • Safety. Sometimes the actions of United States politicians and foreign policy make it unsafe, or uncomfortable to travel to certain areas as an American, but having an EU passport can keep you off the radar when it comes to these areas.

Ultimately, having an EU citizenship gives you options. Options to live in different locations whether the motivation is quality of life, cost, taxes, culture, health, work, or a combination of all of the above. Options to explore a continent, 31 different countries, hundreds of cities, and thousands of locations without restriction. We strive for a life of options. One where money and time are no longer limitations. A life where the world is at our fingertips and the hardest part of our day is deciding where and how to spend our time. One of the many benefits of dual citizenship is that we can make that life a reality.

10 Comments

  • Shlomo

    So, I have an EU citizenship as well as my daughter. We traveled to Portugal where she needed a treatment and there was no option getting a treatment there without paying (we had travel insurance). So, what did we do wrong?

    • James Lowery

      Thanks for reaching out, Shlomo. You should have an EHIC (European health insurance card) issued from your home country that will cover your treatment abroad in the EU. Occasionally, depending on the country and the treatment, they expect you to pay for it and then you’re supposed to submit it to your health system in your home country that should reimburse you, and that would be connected with your EHIC. That is an excellent question though! You can read more info on the rules of the healthcare and other things within the EU here: Europa. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions.

  • Captain DIY

    Man, my mother dropped the ball when I was a kid. I could have had dual citizenship with both the US and the Netherlands, but there was a window of opportunity that closed a long time ago. Maybe it’s worth looking into again though…

    • James Lowery

      That’s definitely worth looking into, Captain. You never know, that door may never fully close. It’s worth mentioning that in our case, if I was of Cypriot descent and was getting my citizenship to live there, I’d have to serve in the military, a shorter stint, but I’d still have to serve. But because I’m not of Cypriot descent I won’t have to serve. My brother in law would have to though. Something worth exploring if you are interested in getting it.

  • Peter Sbashnig

    James, I really like this article and your research. When you do move abroad to Cypress and you are waiting the two years to become a citizen, how will you be covered for healthcare while you are in the non-citizen category? Is it safe to assume that your wife would have to have a private sector policy which would cover you? Even if that is the case, the private sector healthcare is still inexpensive.
    Pete @ BlendedFI

    • James Lowery

      Pete, I appreciate the kind words. You bring up some interesting questions. About waiting to become a full fledged citizen, I could choose to write a letter now while we are abroad explaining why I want a citizenship and if my explanation is sufficient, I would get one before we even move there. But, if I moved there as a non-citizen, I would personally have to get the private healthcare option, but my wife would not have to. The private healthcare cost are the same for citizens of the EU and non-citizens, so the cost of $183 a month could cover the two of us. If she chose to go on the public plan, my cost would be around $100 a month for the same coverage. Thanks again for the question and the positive feedback!

  • Margaret

    Hi there,
    Thanks for a very interesting article.
    As a little amendment/watch out regarding the comment above that “the UK (is) (still currently part of the EU,EVEN AFTER BREXIT)”. Unfortunately that is not the case. Brexit is the shorthand for Britain’s Exit from the EU. So by definition, the UK will NOT be part of the EU once Brexit has been put in place.
    That exit date is currently still set for the end of March 2019.
    Choosing to live in the UK on the assumption that this would provide access to EU privileges won’t work I am afraid. (Unless the UK changes it’s mind about leaving the EU).
    It remains a great place to live of course, so don’t be dissuaded about moving here. But I just wanted to let you know that unfortunately there remains some uncertainty around what precise changes there shall be post-Brexit with the UK’s current enjoyment of freedom of people/goods and services across EU borders.

    • James Lowery

      Margaret, thanks for the reply. You have brought up some interesting points. You did leave the operative word in my statement uncapitalized though. “Currently” was the most important word in there. Which, like you said, will remain true until March 2019.
      There is a provisional agreement in place where U.K. citizens can remain in the EU (and vice versa) where they are resident in the Union on the day of the UK’s withdrawal. I haven’t read through the whole agreement, but I assume if you change countries of residency after that point, you are no longer eligible to remain without a visa of some sort. Unfortunately, as you said, there is uncertainty about the changes that will happen upon Brexit, so it becomes difficult to give suggestions on how to navigate it yet.
      Another interesting fold in the story of Brexit is the surge of applications of citizenship elsewhere in the EU. With the U.K. including Northern Ireland, people born in that area are automatic citizens of Ireland, and still eligible for EU citizenship. Also, there is an estimated number of 5 million people in the U.K. who will be eligible for EU citizenship through Irish descent either through any parent, or grand parent that was an Irish citizen either by birth or naturalization.
      Again, thanks for your reply. I’m hopeful that there are clearer plans and regulations regarding the U.K. and the EU because I loved my time in England, and look forward to going again in the future (hopefully without too much difficulty.)

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