Residence permit: what is it, and how to get one?
A residence permit is a document that allows its holder to stay in a foreign country for the period of the permit’s validity. Usually, it is up to 5 years.
To maintain the status of a resident, one needs to renew a permit regularly. There can also be requirements on the number of days one needs to spend in the country.
A resident is usually allowed to enter the country anytime, even if the borders are closed for foreigners, use medical services, and buy real estate.
In some cases, a residence permit also gives its holders an opportunity to enter other countries visa-free. For example, this is true regarding the EU states: with a residence permit from one EU country, you can travel to other EU countries without visas.
To obtain a residence permit, a person needs to fulfil some conditions: start a business, enter a university, or marry the country’s citizen. Some countries also give an opportunity to obtain residence permits by investment.
Top 5 countries for residency in Europe
#5. Malta gives permanent residence by investment. It offers future residents two options considering housing in the country.
The first one is to rent a property for the following prices:
- €10,000+ per annum if a property is located in the south of Malta or on Gozo island;
- €12,000+ per annum if you rent a property in northern or central Malta.
The investor also pays an administrative fee of €40,000, a contribution fee of €58,000, and donates €2,000 to charity.
Another option is to buy real estate for:
- €300,000+ if it is in the south of Malta or on Gozo island;
- €350,000+ if a property is located in the north or centre of Malta.
Additional expenses also include an administrative fee of €40,000 and a charitable donation of €2,000. But the contribution fee will be lower than if renting a property — €28,000.
Malta permanent residence is a life-long status, but a residence card is subject to renewal once in five years.
Maltese permanent residents can live, work, study, and do business in the country without restrictions. In addition, they travel across the 27 Schengen states visa-free.
#4. In Montenegro, obtaining a residence permit by ownership of real estate or company formation is possible. In both cases, the document is given for a year with an opportunity to extend it. When it comes to the purchase of a property, there are no requirements on the minimum cost of it.
#3. Greece offers one of the most beneficial ways to obtain the country’s residency by investment. Investors usually choose the purchase of a residential or commercial property for €250,000+.
There are also other options, such as:
- renting a hotel or tourist residence for 10 years — €250,000+;
- purchase of land plot for construction or agriculture — €250,000+;
- timeshare for 10 years — €250,000+;
- purchase of securities or opening a bank deposit — €400,000.
The residence permit is issued for 5 years.
Financially independent people are also eligible to obtain a Greece residence permit. They need to prove they have €24,000+ in their bank account. Retirees can apply if their pension is €2,000+ per month.
#2. Cyprus offers more than 15 ways to obtain a residence permit. Among them are permits for financially independent persons, digital nomads, volunteers, and those who launch startups.
The easiest way is an Autonomous visitor permit. It is given to non-EU citizens with a stable income of at least €2,000 per month outside Cyprus.
Digital nomads from non-EU and non-EEA countries can also reside in Cyprus if they work remotely for companies registered outside Cyprus. The monthly income must be €3,500+ after deducting all taxes and charges.
One more way to obtain a Cyprus residence permit is to invest in local real estate or business. The minimum sum is €300,000.
#1. Portugal has several visas that allow its holders to reside in the country.
The D7 visa for financially independent persons is given to those whose income exceeds the average Portuguese salary. In 2023, it is €760.
A person who obtains a D7 visa also must buy or rent a property in the country to live in, but there is no minimum price requirement. It is also essential to live in Portugal for at least 183 days a year to maintain the status.
People who want to open a company in Portugal can obtain a Startup Visa. There is no minimum sum of money for opening a company; however, a person needs to prove they have €5,200+ a year and rent a residential property.
There is also a program focused on wealthy retirees. They can get a special residence permit if they:
- buy a property which cost exceeds the average property cost in the region;
- have a stable income of €500 per month outside Portugal;
- live in Portugal for at least 183 days a year.
Wealthy people often choose the Portugal Golden Visa, which allows a person to obtain a residence permit by investment. There are seven options:
- real estate purchase — €280,000+;
- purchase of investment fund units — €500,000+;
- supporting arts and restoring cultural heritage — €250,000+;
- investment in research activities — €500,000+;
- capital transfer — €1,500,000+;
- business investment with the creation of 5 jobs— €500,000+;
- opening a company with the creation of at least 10 jobs.
The investor must stay at least 7 days a year in Portugal and can renew their residency every 2 years.
David and his family held Italian visas and frequently travelled to the Schengen Area for business and personal reasons. One time, David was informed he exceeded the period of allowed stay, was fined and banned from entering the Schengen Area for six months.
To avoid this situation in the future and have freedom of movement, the family decided to obtain a European residence permit.
David got residency for himself, his wife and his children. Now he can change tax residency, expand his business to the European market and enter the Schengen countries visa-free.
5 countries to get a residence permit in the Americas
#5. Mexico gives residence permits under the economic solvency ground. To be eligible, a person needs to:
- provide a document proving monthly income of $5,400+ for the last 6 months; or
- provide a document proving a balance in liquid assets of $208,000+ for the last 12 months, as well as bank statements showing this minimum balance each month.
Owners of real estate in Mexico can also obtain a residence permit if their property costs exceed $455,000.
Another way is to purchase shares in the capital stock of the Mexican corporation for at least $227,000.
#4. Antigua and Barbuda offers two ways to obtain a residence permit in the country. They are the Tax Residency Program and the Nomad Digital Residence Program.
Under the Tax Residency Program, you can get permanent residency and reside in the country for an unlimited time. The requirements are:
- buy or rent real estate;
- spend at least 30 days a year in the country;
- pay a tax of $20,000 per annum;
- have an annual income of at least $100,000.
The residence permit under the Nomad Digital Residence Program is issued for two years. It is given to persons who work for companies outside Antigua and Barbuda and have an income of $50,000+ per annum.
Wealthy people prefer to obtain Antigua and Barbuda citizenship instead of a residence permit. It gives an opportunity to travel visa-free to 150 countries, obtain a B-1/B-2 visa to the USA for 10 years and become a tax resident of Antigua and Barbuda.
There are four investment options:
- a non-refundable contribution of $100,000+;
- a real estate purchase for $200,000+;
- a contribution to the University of West Indies Fund of $150,000+;
- a business investment of $400,000+.
#3. Belize’s residency program is designed for retirees and people over 45 years old. To be eligible for the QRP residence visa, a person must have $2,000+ monthly guaranteed payments.
#2. Nicaragua grants permanent, not temporary, residency right away. It is given to anyone who invests $35,000 in Nicaragua's economy. The validity of the residency is 5 years; then, you can apply for citizenship.
One of the requirements under the Nicaragua temporary residence program is to spend at least 180 days a year in the country.
#1. Argentina provides one of the easiest ways to become a country resident. Any foreign person that was born on its territory becomes an Argentinian citizen. Thus, their parents can get residence permits by family reunification. If a foreign woman gives birth to a child in Argentina, the child becomes an Argentina citizen, and she becomes an Argentina resident.
Other ways to obtain Argentina residency include the following paths:
- by nationality — it is given to nationals of MERCOSUR Member or Associate States;
- by being a member of the catholic or non-catholic clergy;
- by investment of 1,500,000+ in Argentine pesos;
- by economic solvency — if a person is a pensioner.
3 easiest Asian states for residency
#3. Malaysia offers The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program for foreigners who want to live there. Several requirements must be met:
- be over 35;
- have a monthly income of RM40,000+ or $9,300+;
- have RM1,500,000+ or $350,000+ in liquid assets — this money can be later used for making a deposit;
- make a fixed deposit of RM1,000,000+ or $235,000+ upon approval.
Under the MM2H program, a person obtains a 10-year multiple-entry visa.
#2. Thailand has the Thailand Elite Residence Program that, under certain circumstances, gives residence permits for up to 20 years. There are several options, and three of the most popular are:
- Elite Easy Access: a 5-year visa — it is given for the one-time fee of $19,000+;
- Elite Family Excursion: a 5-year visa for at least two people — it is required to pay a one-time fee of $25,000 that covers both applicants and an additional $10,000 per dependent;
- Elite Superiority Extension: a 20-year visa is given to those who make a one-time payment of $31,000+.
These types of visas don't require annual fees or have age restrictions.
#1. Cambodia’s residence permit can be obtained for a year. To become its holder, you need to obtain a tourist or business visa on arrival in the airports of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville. It can be extended later.
Then you need to go to a special travel agency, choose the suitable extension option and pay the required fee. It is $285 for a 12-month residence permit. With it, you can reside anywhere in Cambodia and leave and enter the country as often as you want.
Where to reside in the Middle East and Near East
#2. The United Arab Emirates grants residence permits by investment in real estate. Depending on the sum of investment, it can be obtained for either 2 or 10 years:
- The 10-year Golden Visa requires AED 2,000,000+ or $545,000.
- The 2-year visa costs AED 750,000+ or $204,000.
Real estate can only be bought in the UAE freehold zones.
Business owners can obtain a residence permit in the UAE as well. The 5-year residency visa is given for opening a company that costs AED 500,000+ or $136,000+.
The UAE also gives residency permits to freelancers and remote workers. They need to get a special licence and prove their monthly income is $5,000 or more.
Semen and his wife decided to move temporarily to another country and chose to get UAE residence visas by investing in real estate.
The property market in the country is evolving, and prices for different apartments and villas are increasing. It is also profitable to rent them out as the UAE is popular with tourists, freelancers, remote workers, etc. Thus, UAE real estate is always in high demand.
Semen bought two apartments: one for living with his family and the second for renting it out. After obtaining residence visas, he and his wife could move to the UAE.
#1. In Turkey, obtaining a tourist residence permit for a year is possible. To be considered, foreigners must provide proof of their travel plans, for example, plane tickets, hotel reservations, etc.
Another way to get a residency is to invest in real estate. The options are the following:
- $50,000+ — for properties located in small towns;
- $75,000+ — for real estate located in big cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir.
However, it is possible to get a registration required for a residence permit only in the regions approved by the Turkish authorities.
The residence permit by investment is given for 1 year and can be extended.
If you rent a property in Turkey for a long period, you are also eligible for Turkish residency. It is given for 6 months. When applying for legal status, a foreigner must provide a rental contract and an account statement that proves a person has enough money to live in the country.
Some people decide to obtain Turkish citizenship. It allows one to enter 111 countries without visas and get an E-2 business visa to the USA.
There are 5 options for getting a Turkish passport by investment:
- a purchase of a real estate for $400,000+;
- a business investment of $500,000+;
- a bank deposit of $500,000+;
- a purchase of government bonds for $500,000+;
- a purchase of units in an investment fund for $500,000+.
Vanuatu: the easiest country to become a resident in Oceania
A Vanuatu residence permit can be obtained by an individual who is able to prove to have assets of $350,000+. The whole process of preparing a residence card in the country can take as little as 5 days.
It is also possible to obtain Vanuatu citizenship right away. To get it, a person needs to make a non-refundable contribution of $130,000+ to the National Development Fund.
Vanuatu residents can relocate to the island to enjoy living near the ocean and a favourable tax regime. For example, there are no taxes on personal income, inheritance, capital gains and export. Besides, international business companies registered in Vanuatu don’t pay corporate tax for 20 years, replacing it with a fee of $300 a year.
Vanuatu citizens gain all resident benefits and the opportunity to travel freely to 96 countries, including the UK, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Comparison of popular residence by investment programs
Participating in an investment program is one of the easiest ways to become a resident in a foreign country. Among the most popular programs are those of European countries and the UAE.
We have compared residency investment programs by the two most important parameters: required investments and how fast a program participant can get a residence permit.
Residence by investment programs in Europe and the Middle East
|UAE||AED 750,000+||2 months+|
In brief: easiest country to get a residence permit in each region
- The easiest country for obtaining a residence permit in Europe is Portugal. There are options like a D7 visa for financially independent persons, a StartUp visa, a visa for retired persons, and the Golden Visa for investors.
- Argentina offers the easiest way to obtain a residence permit in the Americas. It is given to a foreign mother who gave birth to a child on Argentina territory. There are many other ways to become a country resident, too. For example, if you are a citizen of MERCOSUR Member or Associate States, a member of a catholic or non-catholic clergy, or an investor in the Argentinian economy.
- Cambodia’s residence permit is the easiest one to be obtained in Asia. The two things you need to do are get a visa upon arrival and then go to the travel agency to extend it. The fee is $285 for a 12-month stay.
- To obtain residency in the Middle or Near East, consider Turkey. It grants tourist residence permits for 1 year if you prove your travel plans.
- Vanuatu is the easiest country to get a residence permit in Oceania. The document is issued within 5 days. The requirement is to have assets of $350,000+.
Frequently Asked Questions
In Europe, countries that give residence permits easily are Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Montenegro and Malta.
You can easily obtain residency in the Americas in Antigua and Barbuda, Mexico, Belize, and Nicaragua.
Asian countries whose residence permits are easy to get are Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
In the Middle and Near East, it is a good idea to consider the UAE and Turkey, in Oceania — Vanuatu.
Cambodia is one of the easiest and cheapest countries for immigration. The only thing you need to do to get a residency there is to pay a fee for the required number of months. For 12-months, the sum is $285.
Another easy country to move to is Portugal. It offers many residency options for different groups of people.
Mexico is one of the easiest countries to move to from the United States. It is located close to the USA so you can drive there anytime. It is also a relatively cheap country with a good life level and many expat communities. Another great advantage is that in Mexico, many people speak English.