About a dozen countries have programs where you can obtain citizenship by investing significant sums of money (otherwise known as citizenship by investment).
Citizenship by investment programs are immigrant investor programs where countries offer citizenship to people who invest certain threshold sums of money in those countries. The programs either offer citizenship by investment (golden passports) or residence by investment (golden visa) or a hybrid of both where one gets residence with accelerated progress to citizenship.
There are usually multiple qualification conditions for these programs and they differ by country. Some of the popular requirements could include a contribution of certain sum to government of the country, investment of a minimum sum in real estate, or creation of a certain minimum of jobs.
Of the handful of countries offering citizenship by investment programs almost half are carribean, a few European countries and MiddleEast countries make up the list.
These are the Countries Currently Offering Citizenship by Investment.
Dominica – Dominica has two options for its citizenship by investment program – donation to the government or investment in real estate. Until 1993 it was not possible to gain Dominican citizenship without residing in the country. Now applicants can apply to gain Dominica citizenship through any of the two citizenship by investment options.
Grenada – Grenada’s citizenship by investment program is one of the newest. Applicants need to invest either $150,000 as a donation to government or $200,000 in a government approved real estate project (they would have to maintain the project for a minimum 5 years). The Grenada passport is pretty solid as it gives the holder visa free (or visa on arrival) access to 153 countries including the UK, EU Schengen countries and China.
Vanuatu – To gain citizenship in Vanuatu applicants will have to invest from $130,000 in local development fund. Vanuatu’s citizenship program is one of the fastest and also the only citizenship program in the Asia-Pacific Hemisphere. A single applicant invests min $130,000 while a four of four will require at least $180,000 plus fees. Vanuatu is a chain of 80 islands in the South Pacific ocean to the east of Australia.
Malta – Malta’s citizenship by investment program known as the Maltese Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (MEIN) is aimed at high networth individuals. An individual investor must contribute a minimum of €600,000 to the government’s National Development Fund and prove 3 years of residence. The fast-track route requires the individual investor to contribute €750,000 and show evidence of 1 year residence. Investors must also contribute €50,000 per each additional dependent included in their application.
In addition to the contribution, investors must also invest a further €700,000 into residential real estate, or enter into a rental agreement at a minimum value of €16,000 p.a which must be maintained for five years. A compulsory donation of €10,000 to a registered philanthropic, cultural, sport, scientific, animal welfare, or artistic non-governmental approved organisation or society is also required. The Maltese citizenship by investment program is certainly one of the most expensive
St Kitts and Nevis – The St. Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program is the oldest of its kind in the world (established in 1984). It requires either a minimum donation of $150,000 to the country’s Sustainable Growth Fund (SGF) or an investment of $400,000 (can be reduced to $200,000 for connected investors) in real estate. There are also some government related and due diligence fees.
Antigua and Barbuda – The options for getting citizenship by investment in Antigua and Barbuda include; contributing $100,000 to the Antigua National Development Fund, or investing $1.5 million in establishing a business ($5m for two or more investors), or investing $400,000 in a government approved real estate project (this can be reduced to $200,000 for connected investors). The Antigua and Barbuda passport offers visa free travel to over 160 countries.
Turkey – Turkey has a program that grants either citizenship or residency to applicants who either make a bank deposit or invest in real estate. For the real estate route you need to buy a property with minimum $250,000 plus fees. It was earlier set at $1million but was drastically reduced in September 2018. The Turkish passport allows visa free (or visa on arrival) travel to over 125 countries.
St. Lucia – St. Lucia’s citizenship by investment program started in January 2016. To qualify an applicant must invest the minimum investment level in an approved real estate project or donate to the Saint Lucia National Economic Fund. A single applicant can donate a minimum $100,000, $165,000 for a couple and $190,000 for a family of four. If you choose the real estate option the minimum investment is $300,000 for the main applicant. In May 2020 a temporary bond offering was launched offering an option starting at $300,000 for a single applicant with return of capital in five years.
Bulgaria – Bulgaria’s citizenship program is a two step program. You first apply for the permanent residency program by investing €512,000 into a choice of investment fund vehicles. Shortly after residency has been approved, applicants can then fast-track to the citizenship stage by investing a further €512,000. The total timeframe is around 18 months, making it one of the fastest methods of obtaining citizenship in an EU country.
Montenegro – Montenegro launched its citizenship by investment program as recently as 2019. Applicants can apply by investing in one of several government approved real estate development projects. The investment element ranges from €250,000 in the northern and central region to €450,000 in the coastal region. An additional government donation of €100,000 is required, plus application and due diligence fees. As a citizen you get access to all the privileges of an EU country and visa free travel to 137 countries.
Countries Offering Residence by Investment Programs (many of which eventually lead to citizenship)
Portugal – Portugal’s Golden Visa program was launched in 2012. An investment of €500,000 (or €350,000 reduced option) in real estate in Portugal will get residency permit for a family including dependent children. The golden visa can be renewed every two years providing the applicant spends at least two weeks in the country every two years.
Spain – To get a family residency you will invest €500,000 in real estate and the visa is renewable every two years. After five years you can apply for permanent residence and after ten years citizenship.
Greece – Greece has a golden visa program that grants 5 year residence in exchange for an investment in real estate. You can include children up to 21 years of age in the family application. The visa can be renewed for five years provided you maintain the real estate investment. You can apply for citizenship after 7 years.
Ireland – The Irish immigrant program which was started in 2012 gives applicants from outside the EU the opportunity to gain Irish residency by investing minimum €1.0 million in an approved investment fund. Investors must be of good character, clean criminal record and show proof of a minimum networth of €2 million.
Germany – Germany has an entrepreneurial residency program that requires a total capital of €360,000. For the main applicant you get Permanent Residency after 3 years of holding a temporal residency while for dependants it is 5 years. After 8 years of residing in Germany you may apply for citizenship. Germany offers a solid economy as well as high standards of living.
United States – The USA has two major programs – the EB5 Investor Visa and the E2 Investor Visa. The EB-5 visa gives permanent U.S. residency to those investing into government-approved projects across the United States of America. The USA EB5 investment visa can be beneficial as it grants access to the U.S. education system, the right to live, retire, work and study in the USA, the ability to receive investment back upon the completion of the project and residency for the investor, any children (under 21) and their spouse. The main applicant must reside in the USA for 6 months per year.
The E2 can only be obtained by citizens of countries holding an E2 treaty with the USA such as Grenada, Turkey, Montenegro. The route to residency can be faster and cheaper than EB5 although a key difference with the E2 is that it is a non-immigrant visa meaning unlike the EB5 it cannot lead to a Green Card.
Cayman Islands – The Cayman Islands offer a permanent residency programme which also offers a path to eventual naturalisation and citizenship. The programme is attractive for investors seeking a tax efficient residence as the Cayman Islands have no corporation, income, capital gains, inheritance or sales taxes.
Applicants can qualify by making a minimum investment of $2.4 million into qualifying real estate.
United Kingdom – The UK has the Tier 1 Investor Visa which allows the holder(s) live and work in the UK and ultimately qualify for citizenship provided they meet the criteria. You will be required to invest a minimum £2,000,000 along with meeting other eligibility requirements.
There is also the Startup Visa which enables you live and work on your start-up business in the UK. You will of course need to meet other requirements for eligibility. You can read more about the Start-Up Visa here.
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