Second Citizenship

January 8, 2024

Reading Time: 6 min

5 questions about Residence Permit and Permanent Residency: what are the differences and features of these statuses?

You don’t have to be a citizen to live in a country. You can get a temporary residence permit or permanent residence permit.

Let’s study out common queries related to residence permit and permanent residency. What permits are there for foreigners, how to get them and what advantages each status has. We will also dispel some common myths.

Vladlena Baranova
Vladlena Baranova

Explained the difference between a residence permit and permanent residence

5 Questions about Residence Permit and Permanent Residency: What are Differences and Features of Statuses

5 questions about Residence Permit and Permanent Residency: what are the differences and features of these statuses?

A residence permit is not a visa

A residence permit is often confused with a long-term visa such as a student or work visa. They are not the same, each gives different rights.

The visa allows you to cross the state border. In fact, this is a permit to enter a country for a specific purpose: for study, work, recreation or medical treatment. As a rule, this is a sticker on the passport page. In some countries, the visa looks like a stamp, insert, or a separate document.

What does a Schengen visa look like and what is the difference between a visa and a residence permit

On a Schengen visa, its category, validity period and period of stay in the country are indicated. Category «C» includes short-term visas — single or multiple entry ones

A residence permit confirms the right of a foreigner to live in the territory of the country. Often the person will prove their identity to enter the country.

The permit looks different in different countries: like a plastic card in the European Union and in Russia, like a passport.

A residence permit incomparably gives more rights than a visa. During its validity period you can:

  • live in the country,

  • buy real estate,

  • cross the border an unlimited number of times,

  • do business,

  • study in public or private institutions,

  • use medical services,

  • Get a driver’s license and purchase a car,

  • travel without visas to the Schengen countries.

What does a residence permit card looks like

A residence permit most often looks like a plastic card

Ways you can get a residence permit other than marriage, study or work

A residence permit can be obtained in different ways; the most common are marriage, study and work. Almost every country has special conditions for investors, businessmen, scientists and highly qualified specialists.

In special cases, the authorities can give a residence permit for specific merits. For example, providing crucial assistance to the police in the search for dangerous criminals.

Consider the popular ways to get a residence permit:

Buy real estate. Similar programs operate in several European countries, the minimum investment is from €250,000.

Invest in the economy. Officially, this can be done in any country in Europe but only some of them actively attract investors with preferential terms of residence permit.

Open a business and create jobs. All European countries make such statements but it is not possible to obtain a residence permit simultaneously everywhere.

Create a family with a citizen of the country. A common option that scammers often use when offering to conclude a fictitious marriage. We talk about this in detail in the article on citizenship in Europe.

Conclude an employment contract. A simple and reliable option if European employers are interested in a specialist.

Reunite with your family. Suitable if a relative — a husband, child or mother — has already received a residence permit. You will have to prove financial dependence or sufficient income.

Enroll in a university. This will allow you to obtain a residence permit status for four to five years. To stay in the country after graduation, you will need to quickly find a job and sign an employment contract.

Conduct official activities. The method applies to diplomats, representatives of international organizations and members of delegations.

Scientific research. You will need a contract with the organization that ordered the research.

Treatment. Suitable if long-term treatment is required. As a rule, it is issued for one to two years and is usually not renewed.

Proof of value. A residence permit can be obtained for special services to the state or for volunteering.

A residence permit in Europe cannot be bought

Some countries, such as Portugal and Spain, have official government investor programs. In exchange for investment, the applicant can get a residence permit faster and easier. You will need to meet the conditions of the program, e.g living in the country for several days a year and pass a Due Diligence check.

Investment options vary. It all depends on the goals set by the state: for example, to support a sector of the economy, revitalize sparsely populated regions or create new jobs.

Usually, investors are offered the following options: buying or renting real estate, opening a company, creating a start-up, buying government bonds and shares of companies or opening a deposit. In some countries, you will need to make a non-refundable contribution to a government fund.

Existing European programs and the most demanded investment options

gr-flag Residence permit in Greece. To obtain the status, you need to buy real estate in the amount of €250,000, invest in the economy of at least €300,000 or prove your financial viability as an independent person.

mt-flag Residence permit in Malta. The cost of obtaining the status will be €30,000, for maintenance — at least €8,750 per year. Real estate can be rented or bought.

at-flag Residence permit in Austria. Suitable for financially independent individuals within an annual quota. You need to have a sufficient level of income of at least €80,000 in accounts, know the language at a basic level and buy or rent a house.

pt-flag Residence permit in Portugal. You can get it when buying real estate in the amount of €350,000, €1,000,000 for direct investments or starting a business providing at least ten jobs.

es-flag Residence permit in Spain. The right to obtain the status given the purchase of real estate for at least €500,000, investments in Spanish companies of at least €1,000,000, opening a deposit for €1,000,000, buying government bonds for €2,000,000 or starting a business.

ch-flag Residence permit in Switzerland is extremely hard to obtain. However, it is possible to obtain a status by investing at least €1,000,000 in the creation of a company. It is much easier to obtain a residence permit by paying an annual lump-sum tax of 450,000 Swiss francs.

gb-flag Residence permit in the UK. Despite the difficulties in the migration sphere and the exit from the EU, the British authorities left the opportunity to obtain a residence permit for investments in the economy in the amount of £2,000,000 or more.

What is a "golden visa"

A residence permit obtained on favorable terms by investments is often referred to as a golden visa. This definition can be confusing: a visa and a residence permit give different rights, which we wrote about above.

The name appeared by analogy to "golden passports", which are citizenship by investment. A golden passport can be obtained in Malta for exceptional services by direct investment.

Nevertheless, the name has a reason: a residence permit in a European country opens up visa-free travel to the European Union. When crossing the border, you need to show only the residence permit. In fact, this document performs the function of a Schengen visa.

Investors get status faster. The procedure, which can take several months without any guarantee, is reduced to one to two months. In the future, special living conditions apply.

Comparison of different types of residence permit

Comparison criterion

Ordinary residence permit

Residence permit by investment

Term of receipt

6 to 12 months

2 to 3 months

Language and History Proficiency Test

Depends on the country


Mandatory residing

At least 183 days a year

0 to 7 days a year depending on the country

Tax incentives



Family members

There are restrictions, often a proof of financial dependence or income level is required

The whole family follows a single procedure

When can you get citizenship

10 to 12 years

From 6 years

Such loyalty and speed of registration is compensated by careful attention to reputation and sources of income. There are strict international requirements for Due Diligence. The applicants confirm that they are law abiding and legal for the proceeds.

Immigrant Invest lawyers, certified by AML Compliance Officers, conduct a preliminary check of the applicant which reduces the risk of refusal of a residence permit to 1%.

How does permanent residency differ from a residence permit

Permanent residency or a permanent residence permit has two meanings: legal and domestic. From the point of view of the law, permanent residency is understood as a permit for living in the country for a long or even unlimited time. This is a legal status that is granted when certain conditions are met.

At the same time, in life they often say “to leave for permanent residence in Europe”, meaning that a person will live abroad permanently and is not going to return. In this case, it is not a matter of legal status, but rather of the intention to stay.

To obtain the right to live permanently in the country, you first need to obtain a temporary residence permit. After a few years, you can apply for permanent residence status: usually it can be obtained only after three or more years of legal and uninterrupted life in the country.

Permanent residency status in Europe gives a foreigner maximum rights and privileges, more than a residence permit:

  • you can leave the country at any time and for any period or live in it as much as you like if permanent residence was issued through investments, in other cases the 183-day rule applies;

  • you can work in any position in private companies;

  • a permit is issued for life and does not need to be confirmed every 1‑2 years. In Europe, permanent residence is renewed every five years;

  • you can use all the benefits and social benefits available to the citizens of the country.

This status differs from citizenship in that it does not give the right to work in the civil service or to participate in elections.

Permanent residence status is the last step before obtaining citizenship. In most European countries, any foreigner, including investors, go through the chain: residence permit – permanent residence – citizenship. This process of gradually deepening ties with the country is called naturalization. The exceptions are Malta and Portugal: an investor can get permanent residence in 5 or 6 months.

Each country has its own requirements, but in general terms, the process looks like this:

  1. The investor receives a short-term visa to travel to the country to select a property, conclude an agreement and submit documents.

  2. Within 1‑2 months, the state gives a temporary residence permit. The status must be renewed: for example, after a year, and then every two years.

  3. After 5‑7 years of residing on a legal basis, you can apply for a permanent residence permit.

  4. After 1‑5 years, you can apply for citizenship.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for government programs in the European Union and the Caribbean.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a residence permit and what rights does it give?

    A residence permit is a document that permits a foreign citizen to reside in the country for a long time. The document also serves as an identity document and allows you to enter the country.

    A residence permit gives a foreigner the rights and privileges of a resident. For example:

    • move and live in the country for a specified period;

    • optimize taxation for yourself and your business;

    • study in schools and universities of the country, undergo treatment in local medical institutions.

    A residence permit does not give the right to visit countries with which the state of the residence permit has an agreement on a visa-free regime without a visa. For example, the Caribbean state of Antigua and Barbuda has such an agreement with the UK. However, with a residence permit in Antigua and Barbuda, you cannot enter the United Kingdom without a visa, but with a passport, you can.

    The exception is the countries of the European Union. With a residence permit of any of these states, you can enter the Schengen countries without a visa and stay on their territory for up to 90 days in six months.

  • What is the difference between permanent residence and residence permit and citizenship?

    A residence permit is a temporary residence permit issued to a foreigner for a specified period of usually one to two years. It needs to be renewed regularly.

    Permanent residence is a permanent residence permit. You can get it only after a residence permit, if you have lived in the country for at least five years. In European countries, permanent residence status must also be renewed every 5 years. You can find out about the advantages of permanent residence status in our material.

    Permanent residence status differs from citizenship in that a resident cannot be a civil servant, vote and participate in elections.

    Citizenship is a permanent legal bond between a person and a state, which implies mutual rights and obligations. The presence of such a legal connection is confirmed by the country’s passport.

    Moreover, one person can be a citizen of several countries. What is the difference between dual and second citizenship?

  • How can you get a residence permit in an EU country?

    Residence permits in EU countries can be obtained in different ways: through marriage, upon admission to a university, under an employment contract, through official or volunteer activities. But the fastest and most reliable option is through participation in state programs of residence permits for investments.

    Today, investment residence permit programs operate in four EU countries: Malta, Portugal, Spain and Greece.

    Top‑7 Countries for European Residence by Investment

  • What do you need and how much to invest to get a residence permit or permanent residency in the EU?

    The countries of the European Union offer various investment options for obtaining a residence permit. The investment amount depends on the option chosen and the number of family members who participate in the program. The total cost of participation is calculated individually for each investor. Under the Portuguese residence permit program, you can invest in real estate, business, research and projects for the preservation of cultural heritage. The minimum investment amount is €250,000. The Greek residence permit program offers to obtain resident status by investing in real estate from €250,000. To obtain a residence permit in Spain, you need to invest in real estate from €500,000. The Malta residence permit program assumes the fulfillment of 3 conditions at the same time: the purchase or lease of real estate, the payment of an administrative fee and an annual tax on world income. The investment amount starts from €220,000.

  • How quickly can you get a residence permit for investment?

    According to the experience of Immigrant Invest, it takes an average of three to six months to obtain a residence permit under an investment program. The main part of this time is spent on the investor’s Due Diligence.

    Immigrant Invest is the only company that has its own compliance department. Our lawyers conduct a preliminary Due Diligence check, which allows us to prepare a high-quality package of documents for participation in the program. This will avoid additional requests and get approval as quickly as possible. Our pre-screening reduces the risk of rejection by up to 1%.