Countries That Factor the Circumstances of Birth Into Citizenship
Many European nations grant citizenship based on jus sanguinis, or “right of blood,” which refers to the nationality of the child’s parents. Individuals born in the U.K. automatically become British citizens if at least one of their parents is a British national or is considered “settled” in the U.K., such as having permanent residency.
Germany boasts similar nationality laws. As of 2000, however, those born in the country to foreign-born parents were also made eligible for citizenship, so long as one of the parents was a lawful resident of the country for at least eight years.
Italy, like the U.K. and Germany, also restricts citizenship by birth to those born to at least one Italian parent. Under Italian law, however, those born in the country to foreign-born parents who meet certain requirements can apply for Italian citizenship within one year of their 18th birthday.
Countries That Couldn’t Care Less Where You Were Born
Plenty of countries—China, Japan, Russia, South Korea—grant citizenship strictly on the basis of whether a baby has at least one parent who is a citizen of the country, as opposed to where the baby is born.
But Gulf countries boast some of the most arduous naturalization processes. In Qatar, where it’s estimated that Qatari nationals make up less than 10 percent of the population, citizenship is inherited solely through the father. According to a new residency law passed last month, foreign-born residents who have lived in Qatar for at least 20 years will be permitted to apply for permanent residency.
Kuwait is similarly restrictive. Like in Qatar, Kuwaiti citizenship is also passed on through the father. According to the country’s Nationality Law of 1959, those seeking citizenship must lawfully reside in Kuwait for at least 20 years (15 years if you are an Arab national). Applicants must speak Arabic and must be Muslim by birth (converts must wait five years before applying).
Citizenship in the United Arab Emirates also passes through the father, though a 2011 royal decree deemed that children born to Emirati women could apply for citizenship when they turn 18. Though Arab citizens from Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar can apply for Emirati citizenship if they have lawfully resided in the country for at least three years, others must reside in the country for at least 30 years.
Garrett Epps: The Fourteenth Amendment can’t be revoked by executive order.
If you’re looking for the polar opposite of birthright citizenship, however, head to tiny Vatican City, where neither jus soli nor jus sanguinis prevails. Instead, the law of the land is something more like jus papam. You get citizenship if you work for the Holy See or if you get some special dispensation for residents of the city-state or relatives of citizens, and you lose it once you no longer meet these requirements. (There are mere hundreds of Vatican City citizens at any given moment.)
Trump may be wrong to state that the United States is the only country in the world with birthright citizenship. But Vatican City is truly the only place where you are a citizen at the pleasure of the pope.