More Britons than ever are securing a second passport – these are most powerful

The number of Britons holding an Irish passport has risen sixfold in the last decade, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. Analysts have suggested that the increase is, in part, due to a post-Brexit rush for European benefits. There are now almost 160,000 citizens living in England and Wales who also have dual Irish nationality, compared to 26,000 in 2011.

Irish-British dual nationality is open to Britons with at least one Irish parent or grandparent. A successful application allows passport holders to live or work anywhere in the EU without a visa – something that isn’t possible for those who only have a British passport.

This makes the Irish passport one of the most desirable second passports for Britons post-Brexit. But the number of people in Britain with dual citizenship has increased generally since 2011 too, with the number of UK-EU passports possessed by those born in the UK increasing five-fold – from 0.06 per cent of the population (31,400) to 0.32 per cent (156,400).

According to the census, the most popular UK-EU passports among people born in the UK were Ireland (158,300), France (24,600), Germany (22,600), Poland (22,100) and Italy (18,800).

The most popular UK-EU passports

The most popular UK-EU passports

The highest number of dual passport combinations from non-EU countries were Australia (51,500), United States (44,300), Nigeria (24,900), Canada (20,200) and New Zealand (20,200). These rankings change slightly for those who were not born in the UK, with Poland overtaking Ireland and the US and South Africa overtaking Australia.

The most popular UK-non EU passports

The most popular UK-non EU passports

Nine European countries, including Greece, Italy and Poland, allow citizenship by descent up to the third generation or earlier – something that is evidently becoming attractive to an increasing number of British passport-holders. German nationality can be applied for via a range of factors, including for those with family members who were victims of Nazi persecution. And a further 16 European countries allow citizenship depending on heritage, although the terms vary.

Those who only have British passports are limited to visiting Europe for a maximum of 90 days in every six months, and are unable to work without a visa. Travel to the EU will become slightly more complicated in 2024, when the EU plans to introduce the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). All non-EU citizens will need to apply and pay a small fee for an electronic pass before visiting. Those with an Irish passport, of course, will be exempt.

Dual citizens who were born in the UK and hold both UK and EU passports tend to be young – according to the census, nearly 60 per cent were aged under 16. For those with UK and Irish passports, however, there was a much larger range, with the median age at 47.

This year Singapore triumphed as the most valuable passport, with holders able to enter 192 countries and territories largely hassle-free

This year Singapore triumphed as the most valuable passport, with holders able to enter 192 countries and territories largely hassle-free – The Image Bank RF / Getty Images

Which is the most valuable passport? When it comes to leisure travel, the Henley Index, a global ranking by a consultancy advising on citizenship issues, determines their worth based on the number of nations holders can visit without requiring prior authorisation.

This year, Singapore triumphed – holders can enter 192 countries and territories (out of 227) largely hassle-free. The UK passport is ranked at number 12, as is Ireland. Both have a score of 188. But the ranking does not take into account the time limit on European travel, and the introduction of ESTIAs seems likely to affect the UK’s place in the ranking.

If you were hoping to apply for a Singapore passport, however, you’re likely out of luck – the country does not allow dual citizenship, so you would have to revoke your UK passport. Germany and Italy do allow it, and came joint-second on the Henley Index with a score of 190.

The 50 countries with the most powerful passports

The 50 countries with the most powerful passports

For those looking for a passport outside of the EU, continuous residence is often necessary. A person may be able to claim US citizenship if one or both parents was a US citizen at the time of their birth. Otherwise, an applicant must be able to prove that they have lived for 30 months in the US within five years (or three years if married to a US citizen), plus meet certain employment criteria and demonstrate “an affiliation to the principles and ideals of the US Constitution”, among other regulations.

Even in Europe, however, it is not the case that those seeking dual citizenship are necessarily required to have a familial link. Passports for investors, especially in countries where the government is attempting to grow the real-estate market, is very much an option.

A popular scheme in Malta offers a direct pathway to citizenship within three years upon the purchase of a property costing at least €700,000. In Portugal, buying real estate worth half a million euros opens up “permanent residency”, which can be matured into citizenship after five years.


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