There are plenty of countries in the world where you can move to and start a new life. However, not all countries make immigration easier for foreigners. Strict immigration laws exist for several reasons; some countries are simply more isolated and don’t like foreigners, while others are in danger of overpopulation. In addition to this, certain countries make immigration more difficult depending on your nationality. 

Nevertheless, you should always be prepared before you plan on moving and be aware of which countries are most likely to reject your visa or residence application. 

The Hardest Countries to Immigrate To 

Here are some of the most challenging countries to immigrate to:

  • Saudi Arabia 
  • Kuwait
  • Bhutan 
  • China
  • Japan
  • Switzerland 
  • Denmark 
  • Liechtenstein 
  • Vatican City 
  • North Korea

These countries were also selected due to their strict citizenship requirements.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has strict immigration laws because it tries to protect its cultural values and social structure by not allowing foreign influence. Therefore, moving to Saudi Arabia is difficult unless you have employment and a sponsor. Even after you manage to get a visa, there are some rigid laws that you have to follow, such as you can’t change your sponsor, and your sponsor is usually in charge of holding your passport while you retain your Iqama (residence permit). 

However, on March 14, 2021, a new initiative was put in place to regulate laws for foreign workers. Now, employees can choose their employers and have more mobility in the workplace, and employees can arrange their entry and exit visas without their sponsor’s permission. 

Still, citizenship in Saudi Arabia is difficult to obtain, even if you want to marry a Saudi citizen. For example, if you are not a Muslim, marriage is not allowed, which means you are not qualified for citizenship by marriage. On the other hand, citizenship by naturalization can be obtained if you’ve lived for ten years in Saudi Arabia. 

Kuwait 

Kuwait has one of the strictest immigration policies where every foreigner needs to have a sponsor to be eligible for a Kuwait visa. Recently, Kuwait announced that they plan to reduce the number of foreign workers to deal with the economy’s decline and ensure that Kuwaitis are employed in the same positions that foreigners hold. Therefore, Kuwait’s immigration laws are more likely to be even more difficult in the future.

Moreover, if you want to gain citizenship in Kuwait, you have to be a Muslim by birth or conversion and have lived in Kuwait for 20 years- you must have been converted for at least five years. 

Bhutan

Bhutan is one of the most isolated countries globally, and it has a rigorous immigration regime. Bhutan rarely issues residence permits, and if you want to apply for citizenship, you must have lived in the country for at least 20 years. The easiest way to get citizenship is if both of your parents are Bhutan citizens. However, if you have only one Bhuantese parent, you have to apply for naturalization after 15 years of living there. 

Bhutan also has a stringent tourist visa regime, and the only way to get a visa to visit the country is if you apply through a group organization. 

China 

It’s nearly impossible to get Chinese citizenship unless you have a relative that is also a Chinese citizen. Suppose you don’t have a relative with Chinese citizenship; you can still try to apply for naturalization under other “legitimate reasons,” but the chances of having a successful application are very slim. However, you can still get a work or business visa and live temporarily in China. 

The only exception to China’s strict national laws are residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau.

Japan 

Japan has rigorous rules when it comes to immigration and citizenship. Usually, you can immigrate to Japan under a work visa. Still, the number of foreign workers is low compared to natives, and there have been several reports of abuse towards working immigrants. 

As for citizenship, naturalization is possible if you’ve lived in Japan for five years continuously. However, regulations for naturalization in Japan depend on your nationality and your current residency situation in Japan. 

Switzerland 

For citizens of EU/EEA, moving to Switzerland is easy, but it’s pretty tricky for anyone else. To get a long-term visa to Switzerland, you must be either highly qualified or have enough money. Furthermore, even if you get a permanent residence permit (permit C), you must wait ten years before applying for citizenship. 

Denmark 

Denmark also has some of the most rigid immigration laws, even if you want to marry a Danish citizen. For example, you cannot qualify for Danish citizenship by marriage if you or your partner are under 24 years of age. In addition to this, Denmark also regulates working immigrants based on their qualifications and experience, and without any relevant skills, it’s challenging to get a residence permit. 

Liechtenstein 

Liechtenstein follows the strictest immigration rules because it’s a small country, and it can easily be overpopulated. For that reason, getting a residence permit to Liechtenstein is one of the most difficult immigration processes in Europe. 

Firstly, Liechtenstein issues residence permits only by lottery, which means a limited number of available permits. Secondly, most of the permits are granted to EEA citizens and Swiss citizens. As a result, you can get a permit only if you are a highly qualified worker. 

Moreover, if you want to apply for citizenship, you have to have lived in Liechtenstein for 30 years, with a permanent residence permit for at least five years before the application. 

Vatican City 

The Vatican is one of the countries with the most problematic immigration laws. In fact, you cannot get a residence permit unless you are one of the following: 

  • A Cardinal.
  • A diplomat of the Holy See.
  • A service worker to the church.

There are approximately 800 residents in Vatican City, but only half have Vatican citizenship. As a result, the only way to get citizenship is to belong to the third category, i.e., a service worker. 

North Korea

North Korea, by far, is one of the most problematic countries worldwide to immigrate to. Usually, you can only get a visa to visit North Korea as a tourist, but you have to apply via a tourist agency and follow some strict rules while you’re there. In addition, North Korea allows only some very specific people to live and work there, i.e., NGO workers. 

So, when it comes to North Korean citizenship, it’s nearly impossible to get it unless you were born there or your parents had North Korean citizenship. Citizenship by naturalization is available, but the Supreme People’s Assembly regulates it, and it’s impossible to know whether you qualify for North Koran citizenship or not.