Starting from the beginning – what is citizenship
When we define it in the strictest legal sense, citizenship is a legal status that means someone has a right to live in a state. It also means that the state cannot deport this person or refuse them entry into the state. Oftentimes citizenship is conferred at birth, but it is also possible to obtain citizenship through other means. In fact, economic citizenship is one such possibility where someone may be able to obtain citizenship. Investing in a country may be one of the best ways to do so.
What does Citizenship by Investment mean?
When we break it down at its most basic, citizenship by investment simply means that you receive a passport and a secondary citizenship of another state for investing in the said state. It possible to obtain this through several different economic citizenship programs that may include development funds, establishing a business, government bonds, or real estate. Regardless of what option someone chooses, the result is the same.
Why would you want a second passport?
While this might not be something that everyone has considered before, there can be several reasons for someone to want to obtain a second passport or get citizenship in another state. There are several benefits of getting a second passport that may be both cultural and economic.
- More Internationalisation options – You may have more options to do business, reside, travel, bank, and invest in places that you could not before. This means more opportunities and more freedom. This literally opens the doors of Internationalisation in locales that might have been considered ‘off limits’ before.
- You may drastically reduce your taxes – For many people this is the number one reason to seek out another passport, because it could lower your tax burden significantly. You may find that you are paying little to no taxes at all. Many countries throughout the globe have much lower tax burdens than some of the Western world.
- Free travel – We’ve briefly touched on it earlier, but a second passport allows you more freedom of travel. Not just to the country that you have a passport of, but also to the countries that are aligned with that country. No visa applications or waiting months before you can travel throughout a country.
- Your family benefits – This may not be relevant to everyone, but if one person obtains citizenship, other family members may benefit from this. They may be eligible to freely live in the country and may eventually apply for citizenship.
Understanding the difference: resident vs citizen
When first looking at the options and going through the different ways of finding economic citizenship cheap, you may find that there is a difference between being a resident and a citizen of the country. A resident having residency should be equated with having a green card. You can live in a country for a specific period of time; you are a legal alien in that country – no longer a tourist.
Meanwhile, being a citizen means that you are legally able to get a passport from that country. You can leave and re-enter its borders without restrictions. You are also able to vote in political elections. When looking at the eyes of the law, both you and someone who was native born are considered equal. Whereas a resident could perhaps one day be removed from the country, a citizen has the same natural rights and thus cannot be removed.
The best programs for citizenship by investment
When looking at the various economic citizenship countries, it is important to understand that not all countries are created equal. Some of the countries may have easier paths to citizenship than others. You are going to find everything you need to be successful here.
It may be possible to get citizenship by purchasing government bonds. This means your investment is locked into an interest-free account for several years. Costs are considered relatively high, and you have money that just sits in the coffers of the government. You are not actually getting a return from the sum that you have. Secondly, do you trust your invested government to stay solvent up until the moment that you get your money back?
Investing in an approved business
Certain places like Cyprus, Turkey and Antigua allow you to invest in business, which could potentially net you a good return. Again, it is important that you understand what you are investing in here, because if you have no idea what you are investing in, then it could mean that you are putting your money in a company that is going under. At that rate you could find your investment quickly becoming a donation.
It is possible to get a hefty government application fee and local real estate. Fortunately, you don’t have to live here fulltime and you are able to rent it back out to make some of your investment back. Several countries have lowered the investment required, making this an interesting option for many people who want to gain economic citizenship.
Another reason why this may be attractive is because you are buying an asset. You should be able to get money for it once you decide to sell it back. Most countries allow the investor to sell the home again after a few years.
Donate to a government fund
Simply put, governments that need an influx of capital may be willing to exchange citizenship for money. Governments that need money for infrastructure, healthcare or education may be willing to give you a second passport. Of course, this is an investment that you are not going to get back, this is strictly speaking a donation. Having said that, it is certainly the easiest pathway to a passport.
Does a country benefit from citizenship investments?
The truth behind citizenship investments is that these are also beneficial for the country that you are applying for. They either have money to invest, have a piece of real estate no longer on the market or are getting someone affluential into their country. If the goal is to invest in industry, this could mean more jobs later on, all beneficial.
Best programs for citizenship by investment
If you want to find out what your options are, we want to make it as clear as possible. This is why you will find a selection of the best economic citizenship by country options listed here
On average you should expect a processing time of around two to three months when applying for the citizenship program in Cyprus. For example, for only €300,000 you can qualify for real estate investment. The catch here is that you can only get this through a government-approved development.
After living in Cyprus for 7 years as a resident you are eligible to apply for naturalization. Once applying you will need to be in the country full time for 12 months. Once you acquire citizenship, you are expected to resident in Cyprus.
You may not immediately consider Montenegro, but it is one of the most popular investment locations in the Balkans. It has relatively reasonable citizenship acquisition time and the economic citizenship programme allows for lower investments of around €350,000.
After only 12 months of residency you are able to file for naturalization thanks to the Malta’s Citizenship by Investment Program. You can donate €650,000 to the National Development and Social Fund, invest €150,000 in government bonds, or make a real estate purchase for €350,000 or more.
The taxation in Malta is perhaps the biggest perk. You get a flat tax rate of just 15% for your foreign-sourced income if you qualify.
The United States
There is no denying that the United States is a massive influencer on a global scale, both in terms of cultural and financial guidelines. You can get the ‘green card’ EB-5 visa which leads to US conditional resident status. Eventually this can be your way to obtaining a United States passport. You may become eligible for permanent residency two years after the conditional residence is granted.
You may be able to invest $1 million directly in an American enterprise. Alternatively, you can seek out areas of high unemployment or rural areas and invest $500,000.
The Caribbean as an investment haven
The aforementioned options are nice, but what if you need citizenship much faster and are a smaller investor? In those cases, it may be possible for you to invest in one of the many options in the Caribbean. Especially after 2017, the rules and regulations concerning citizenship by investment have become less regulated.
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts and Nevis is home to the original economic passport program and they have been in business since 1984. While other countries have copied it, this remains the original. The donation starts at around $250,000 and increases. If you want to invest in real estate, you can do so starting at $200,000.
One of the benefits here is that you can get approved in as little as 45 days if you have a valid reason for requesting it. They might be a bit more expensive than some of the other countries in the Caribbean but a good option.
At one point, Dominica offered the cheapest passport after Belize, and that price has risen tremendously in the past few years. You must be able to speak ‘basic English’ and you can start at around the $100,000 price point.
If you are absolutely on a budget and want something else quickly, it might be worth considering if you have few other options available to you.
Antigua and Barbuda
The citizenship program here started in 2012 and it has a unique requirement that we do not see in many of the other countries: out of the first five years you must live there for 35 days. Of course, a long vacation could help you pass the time, but it is rather interesting requirement. The options here are straightforward, running from a $1.5 million business investment, $400,000 real estate investment to a $125,000 government donation.
Especially those who are a bit budget conscious will find this a tremendously exciting option that has several different ways in which you can invest.
This is the latest entrant in the citizenship programs in the Caribbean, and they started with rather stringent requirements right away. The requirement to have a net worth of more than $3 million was dropped in 2017. If you go for the donation option, you have the ability to get citizenship for as little as $100,000.
If you prefer to invest in real estate, you can do so for as little as $300,000. Especially with the low cost it might be an option worth exploring for many who want something different for their economic citizenship program.