Picture this: one of your parents is a full-fledged American, while the other moved over from Ireland back in 1972. You were born and raised in the USA, but thanks to your good ol’ parentals, you have the option to claim dual citizenship with a country that’s part of the European Union (EU).
Problem is, you’d never even thought about your potential dual citizenship until you got accepted into that ah-may-zing university in France, and now you’re pulling your hair out because you can’t decide whether to claim citizenship for those sweet, sweet EU benefits or simply get a student visa. Well, pull no further. Check out our comprehensive evaluation of visas vs passports and find out the best way to travel Europe as a dual US citizen.
Since both visas and passports are documents of entitlement (err, forms of ID), they both allow you to travel overseas. However, that doesn’t mean they give you the same travel benefits.
Because visas come in such a large amount of variation, their travel benefits depend on which type of visa you select.
In most European countries, you’ll be required to enter on a student visa because your reason for coming into the country is to continue your educational studies (obvs). A student visa will allow you to stick around in the country for anywhere between three months to a year, depending on which country you’re headed to. On top of purchasing a visa, some EU countries will also require you to obtain a student residence permit once you arrive, so that you can legally reside there until your overseas course ends.
During your time abroad, your visa or permit will allow you to travel to most other European countries which, FYI, is a HUUUUGE temptation (slash distraction) during those late-night revision sessions. The bummer news is most student visas come with strict obligations such as not allowing you to enter the country until one month before the start date of your degree (UK) and preventing you from getting work (pretty much everywhere).
On the other hand, if you travel to Europe on an EU passport you’ll have access to a heap of benefits outside those provided on the visa. The first of which is that you can study in any country that is part of the EU without having to apply for a visa (though you still might need a student residence permit). You can also skip that slow passport line full of tourists when you reach your overseas destination – giving you more time to catch up on your much needed beauty sleep.
And, it allows you to travel to and work in most European countries while you’re abroad (as if you needed more reasons to dash out and get an EU passport!). This is an incredible benefit, cause if you ever fall in love with one place in particular (ahem, France) then you have the option to stick around for a few more years or get a full-time job.
Just be sure to do a quick google search of the visa or passport you’re eyeing off before you decide which one to choose. There may be some additional (and swoon worthy) country-specific benefits that could apply to you… like no tuition fees if you’re an EU citizen in Austria!
Once you’ve chosen which document you want to travel on, you’ve got to hunt down and gather all the required documents. Then, you’ve got to send original copies off to the country whose visa or passport you’re attempting to secure. Talk about fun!
To get a visa, you will need to go to the government-run visa application website based in the country you wish to travel to. The U.S. Department of State’s U.S. Passports & International Travel page helps you find these bad boys by listing them in the “Visa Requirements” section of each country.
Once you’ve found the website, it will ask you to fill out an online visa application form. There, you’ll have to fill in your deets and fork out the moolah to cover the cost of the visa. You will then be given a list of documents required by the country’s government to validate your visa, which you are often expected to send off before a certain date.
The good news is that if you apply for a visa, you will generally require less paperwork than if you apply for an EU passport, as you don’t have to prove your dual citizenship status. The even better news is that if you get stuck on at certain point or issue during your visa application process, there are plenty of services available to help. These range from government-owned enquiry services to even student exchange administrators at your own university.
The application process for a passport is same as it is for a visa (except, you know, that you fill out an online passport application form instead). However, governmental bodies often require more validation (and therefore more paperwork) for a passport, because you have to prove your claim to citizenship.
The paperwork always seems like it won’t be that stressful to track down – that is, until your mum admits she has no idea where her old Irish passport is, so you’ve got to dig through the files in the windowless upstairs attic. In the middle of summer. Where a mice family lives (ew).
And that’s just your mother’s passport! The list of documents required for an EU passport can range from a few certificates and photographs, to the original birth certificates of both your parents and your grandparents (gulp!).
After you’ve posted your documents, all that’s left to do is wait for confirmation. The processing time for most countries is three to five weeks, although some passport applications can take up to seven weeks, so make sure you get everything submitted with plenty of time to spare!
We all know it costs money to travel abroad. And sadly, the documents to get you there are no different. But just how much price difference is there between a visa and a passport?
The cost of a visa will depend on which visa you select and which country you go to. A general student visa can cost anywhere between $55 (France) and $420 (UK), but you may have to fork out a bit more dough if you also need a student residence permit (up to $335 – yikes!).
The cost of gaining dual citizenship is a lot cheaper and easier than most people initially think. Most EU countries will grant you a passport as long as you can prove you’re a citizen of descent (in other words, that your parent is their citizen). Getting your second passport effectively kills two birds with one stone, because once your passport is approved it acts as proof of your secondary citizenship (score!).
The cost of purchasing a brand-new passport from an EU country averages out to approximately $140 USD (depending on the exchange rate and which country you’re applying to).
It’s also worth mentioning that all EU countries require you to send your application information and requisite documents to them via post. Best to add another $20 to your total.
THE BOTTOM LINE.
All and all, traveling on an EU passport is definitely the way to go. It saves you time and money when entering most European countries, while also maximizing your potential travel options.