The legal provisions for ordinary naturalisation determine which foreign residents may apply for naturalisation. However, these legal provisions are not the only opportunities and obstacles that immigrants face on the path to citizenship. Administrative procedures are crucially important for the implementation of these legal provisions and guarantee access in practice. Based on existing literature on the implementation of naturalisation policies, the ACIT project calculated 38 ‘Implementation Indicators’ (CITIMP), which measure the formal steps of the ordinary naturalisation procedures in 35 European countries.
The CITIMP results suggest that most countries’ procedures contain as many obstacles as opportunities for ordinary naturalisation with many clear patterns across Europe. Promotional measures are often missing or poor quality. Legal exemptions for documentation rarely exist on humanitarian or vulnerability grounds. Documentation from countries of origin is especially complicated for applicants. Not only are most ordinary naturalisation procedures discretionary, but so are many language, integration and economic resource requirements. Most procedures involve potentially long processing times and some amount of bureaucracy, especially when the deciding authority is the executive or legislature. Judicial review is often not guaranteed for language or integration requirements or on specific issues such as discrimination within the procedure. Moreover, this paper finds that European countries that facilitate their ordinary naturalisation law do not necessarily facilitate the procedure. Whatever the interpretation of the meaning of these results, the descriptive analysis confirms the importance of measuring administrative practices.