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In June 2016, Denmark introduced a new multiple-choice citizenship exam focused on Danish history and culture. The test is reportedly so difficult that less than a third of foreign nationals passed, and even many Danes have had trouble with it.
The Hardest Countries To Become A Citizen
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This comes at the heels of other efforts by the Danish government to crack down on immigration, including a law requiring refugees to hand over their valuables upon entry. But even with these new regulations, Denmark is still far from the hardest place to naturalize.
So, where is it the hardest to become a citizen? Well, one of the most infamously hard places to gain citizenship is Switzerland. Unlike Denmark, Switzerland places less importance on a foreigner’s knowledge of the country, and instead ensures that they are fully integrated into society.
Most prospective citizens are eligible only after living in Switzerland for at least a decade, during which time they must fully adopt Swiss culture and traditions. Integration is overseen by local officials, who have been known to go to great, arguably intrusive lengths to monitor applicants, including regular check ups to ensure they interacting with their community.
In one famous case in 2014, a local naturalization commission rejected citizenship for a 75-year-old man who had lived in Switzerland for nearly 40 years and taught at a Swiss University, only because they felt that he did not know enough about the region’s politics and geography.
Austria has similarly strict requirements when it comes to integration. Anyone planning to stay for more than two years must sign an “Integration Agreement”, a six-month program designed to improve German language skills and one’s ability to “participate in the social, economic and cultural life in Austria.”
But the real hurdle on the path to Austrian citizenship is the time commitment. A foreign national has the right to obtain citizenship only after living in the country for 30 consecutive years, or 15 if they can prove that they’ve fully integrated.
Most prospective citizens must also renounce any other citizenship they may have, as Austria does not allow dual citizenship, with few exceptions. But Japan is Perhaps most difficult place to naturalize, where prospective citizens must live in the country for at least 5 years, gain approval by the Minister of Justice and submit a slew of paperwork, which is known to include detailed questions about the applicant’s personal life. Some applicants have reported having their home or workplace inspected by immigration officials, in order to corroborate the details on their application.
If approved, applicants must renounce any other citizenship. According to the Japanese Ministry, this process takes anywhere from 6 to 12 months, however those who have gone through it have said it can take years.
Interestingly, the process to obtain permanent residency, but not citizenship, is even longer. This is because permanent residents receive all the benefits of citizenship, without being required to swear allegiance to the Constitution of Japan or renounce other citizenships.
Although the road to citizenship in Japan, Austria and Switzerland is lengthy and demanding, it is very rare for an applicant to be denied. In Japan for example, about 99 percent of citizenship applications are approved.
What’s more, all of these countries rank extremely high in terms of quality of life. So obtaining citizenship, or at least residency, might be worth the wait. On the other hand, some places are so open to new citizens that you can just buy a nationality, sometimes for only a few thousand dollars.
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