Citizenship by investment: the 10 most popular programs

Citizenship by investment: the 10 most popular programs
Citizenship by investment: the 10 most popular programs

Second citizenship offers new opportunities for business, study and travel. In 2018, Bloomberg ranked citizenship by investment programs, including 10 countries in Europe and the Caribbean.

The concept of citizenship by investment first appeared in the 1980s. In 1984, the Caribbean island state of St Kitts and Nevis passed a law that allowed foreigners to acquire the country’s citizenship in exchange for a significant contribution to the economy. Over the past four decades, internationalism and multiculturalism have become a global trend, and now such programs are also offered by countries in Europe.

The countries offering citizenship by investment programs receive additional external investment to support and revitalize the economy. In return, the investors enjoy the benefits of their second passport, allowing them to travel without visas to numerous countries throughout the world, open accounts at international banks, and work, including starting a business, in the new country selected by them.

Although a second citizenship can be obtained without investment, the terms are stricter and applicants need to live in the country for several years before their application is approved. In contrast, for citizenship by investment, the application process is much shorter, and the requirements are not as strict: for example, you do not have to learn the local language.

Citizenship by investment programs have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, investigations of widespread corruption and other global processes. Under pressure from the European Union, Cyprus closed its program and Malta has made the terms for its program and its Due Diligence procedure much stricter.

In order to cope with the economic hardship facing it, Turkey has reduced the minimum investment in real estate to a quarter of the original amount, and in 2019 Montenegro began issuing passports for investment. At the same time, the programs of the Caribbean countries are gaining popularity due to their transparency, speed of registration and affordability. Several countries in Oceania have also announced plans to launch citizenship by investment programs.

How much does it cost to obtain citizenship by investment in real estate

Minimum investment by country

Country Minimum amount excluding taxes Minimum period/length of investment Year launched
Austria €10,000,000 1985
Malta €700,000 or rent of €16,000 per annum 5 years 2014
Montenegro $350,00 5 years 2019
Turkey $250,000 3 years 2017
Dominica $200,000 3 years 1993
St Lucia $300,000 5 years 2015
St Kitts and Nevis $150,000 5 years for real estate investments 1984
Grenada $350,000 or $220,000 for state-approved properties 5 years 2013
Antigua and Barbuda $400,000 or $200,000 for joint investments 5 years 2013
Vanuatu $130,000 5 years 2017

Malta citizenship by investment

гражданство Мальты за инвестиции
Sliema is the center of resort life on the island. Valletta, the capital of Malta, can be reached by ferry in 15 minutes.

The Malta citizenship by investment program was launched in 2014, but its terms were changed in 2020. Under the new law, Maltese citizenship can be granted by naturalization for exceptional services by direct investment. In this process, the investor first receives a residence permit for 1 or 3 years, depending on the investment amount. The investor can apply for citizenship after completing this residence period. A residence permit immediately gives the holder the right to visit any EU country without a visa for up to 90 days.

The new terms include an even stricter Due Diligence process, which is fully compliant with EU anti-money laundering directives. Applicants are audited by a government agency, law enforcement agencies and independent organizations.

How to Successfully Pass Due Diligence
In order to reduce the possibility of the application being rejected to 1%, we conduct our own preliminary Due Diligence check on our clients. For this purpose, our company employs certified specialists in financial risk assessment and anti-money laundering.

According to Bloomberg’s estimates, investors wanting to obtain Maltese citizenship, on average, invest about €1,000,000 in the country’s economy. A large part of the investment is an irrevocable gift to the state. The investor is required to take the following steps:

  1. Make a contribution to the Malta Development Fund ranging from €600,000 to €750,000, depending on the length of the citizenship process, which can vary from 36 months to 12 months.
  2. Buy a property in Malta for €700,000 or rent a property for at least €16,000 per annum.
  3. Donate €10,000 to charity.
In addition to citizenship, Malta offers residence permits and permanent residence by investment. They can be used to enter the European Union without a visa. The investment required is much less. For example, the non-refundable contribution is reduced to €58,000.

Montenegro citizenship

The Montenegro citizenship program was launched in 2019 and it is expected to be available only until the beginning of 2022; the number of participants is limited to two thousand. One of the advantages of the program is that citizenship can be obtained in four months without mandatory residence in the country.

As Montenegro is not a member of the European Union, its passport does not give the holder the right to live and work indefinitely in any European country. Nevertheless, citizens are allowed to enter the European Union without a visa by using an electronic permit issued through the ETIAS system.

In order to participate in the program, investors must make the following two payments:

  1. Invest €250,000 or € 500,000 in government-approved development projects, with the sum depending on the region.
  2. Make a non-refundable contribution of €100,000 to a government fund.
Montenegro is expected to join the European Union in 2025. Consequently, participants in the program will become full citizens of the EU in the next few years, as soon as Montenegro joins the EU as planned. After it joins the EU, a Montenegro passport holder will be able to live in any EU country without any restrictions and will also be able to work and do business there.

Citizenship in the Caribbean and Oceania

Best passport by investment: citizenship of the Caribbean countries and Vanuatu
Antigua and Barbuda is famous for its tropical forests and transparent sea with coral reefs and yacht clubs. Tourism provides the country’s main source of income

Citizenship programs in the Caribbean are distinguished by significantly lower amounts of investment and greater commitment to applicants. In most cases, citizenship can be obtained by the whole family: the husband and wife, as well as their children, parents, grandparents and siblings.

Each country has a mandatory Due Diligence check. The United States and Europe have started closely monitoring these programs, and the Caribbean countries are striving to comply with their requirements.

The Caribbean programs are in demand among investors who want to travel around the world without visas, including the UK and the Schengen countries. With a Caribbean passport, it is also easier to obtain a visa to the United States. A Grenada passport holder is eligible to apply for an E-2 U.S. investor visa for 5 years.

A Caribbean passport also offers the holder the opportunity to reduce tax payments and conduct profitable international business. A Caribbean passport makes it easy to open an account at any bank in the world and register property and other assets..

All the citizenship programs in the Caribbean countries offer investors the choice between making a non-refundable contribution or buying property. In addition, applicants need to pay for the Due Diligence check, a non-refundable administrative fee and an application processing fee – the specific amount depends on the composition of the family. For example, in St Kitts and Nevis, Due Diligence costs $7,500 for the main applicant and $4,000 for each additional family member over the age of 16 included in the application.

Vanuatu’s citizenship by investment program, launched in 2017, is the newest one in the region. It stands out for its fast registration process and relatively small investment. A Vanuatu passport by investment can be obtained in a couple of months. There is only one investment option: a non-refundable contribution of at least $130,000.

The program closely follows the best international practices and the requirements of the European Union; as a result, its Due Diligence check of applicants has been steadily becoming stricter every year. Nevertheless, it is currently the most affordable citizenship by investment program.

Comparison of citizenship by investment programs in the Caribbean

Program Minimum non-refundable contribution Minimum investment in real estate
Citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda $100,000 $400,000 or $200,000 for joint investments
Citizenship of Vanuatu $150,000
Citizenship of Grenada $200,000 $350,000 or $220,000 for state- approved properties
Citizenship of Dominica $100,000 $200,000
Citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis $150,000 $400,000 or $ 200,000 for joint investments
St Lucia citizenship $100,000 $300,000

Additional administrative costs are incurred, depending on the number of participants in the application.

Certain countries, such as Vanuatu and Antigua and Barbuda, have announced that they wiil accept payments for their citizenship programs in cryptocurrencies. This will allow them to be less dependent on US banks, which are slow to process payments to small countries.

Turkish citizenship

Second citizenship by investment: Turkish passport by investment
Some investors prefer to invest in resort properties for vacation or rental. For example, in Antalya

Turkey launched its citizenship by investment program in 2017 and at first was not very competitive: the minimum investment required was $1,000,000. However, a year later, the minimum investment in real estate was reduced to $250,000, and today, this is the most popular option.

The success of this program is due to the fact that it is quite easy to find suitable properties for $250,000. Investors applying for citizenship usually buy an apartment with one or two bedrooms in the center of Istanbul in business class houses.

A large number of apartments and villas are sold in resorts in Antalya, Bodrum and others. The real estate market in Turkey is highly developed and new properties are constantly appearing on the market.

Other advantages of the program include the favourable conditions offered to applicants and the quick registration process. The investor does not need to know the language or live in the country, and real estate can be rented out. The Due Diligence check is carried out in an accommodating manner, and the whole procedure takes 2-3 months.

A Turkish passport is not suitable for travel to the European Union. However, it can help the holder start a business in the United States or Britain, with which Turkey has agreements. For example, a Turkish passport holder is eligible to apply for an E-2 U.S. 5-year investor visa.

Austrian citizenship by investment

Best European passport: Austrian citizenship by investment
Tourist accommodation sector is one of the most attractive investment sectors in Austria

The Austrian citizenship by investment program is one of the most expensive programs.
Many wealthy people would like to become Austrian citizens, but the Austrian government has limited the number of applications.

The amount of investment is determined on an individual basis and is usually at least €10 million.

€10,000,000

is required to participate in the Austrian Citizenship Program

Passive investments such as government bonds or real estate are not acceptable. The applicant must actively invest in the Austrian economy, create jobs and generate exports.

The investor needs to confirm the legality of the source of their funds and provide proof of no criminal record, complete information about themselves and impeccable recommendations.

A citizenship by investment application requires government approval at several levels. Even before the formal process begins, unofficial permits from key ministries must be obtained, which is a difficult bureaucratic condition to fulfill.

The program has existed since 1985. Due to the opacity of the procedure, the exact number of investors who took part in it is not even known. We advise investors to consider another program: a residence permit in Austria for financially independent persons.

The chances of getting a residence permit are higher and the result is predictable. The conditions, terms and the whole procedure are governed by the Austrian law “On temporary and permanent residence” and a quota is allocated annually.

An Austrian citizen can live and work in any EU country without restrictions. An Austrian passport allows the holder to travel visa-free to dozens of countries around the world, including the United States. Life in Austria is very comfortable and the country is regularly included in the most developed countries in Europe and the world.

Frequently asked questions

Citizenship by investment is offered in Europe, the Caribbean and Oceania.

Malta grants citizenship by naturalization for exceptional services by direct investment. According to the law, a foreigner first receives a residence permit, and submits an application for citizenship one or three years later. In 2020, this was the only way to obtain citizenship in the European Union by investment in the economy.

It is possible to obtain citizenship by investment in Montenegro, but it is still not part of the European Union.

Citizenship by investment programs are offered in five Caribbean countries and in Vanuatu in Oceania.

Each country offers its own investment options, depending on the needs of the economy.

Malta grants citizenship by naturalization based on direct investment. The applicant must fulfill three investment conditions: transfer money to the National Development Fund, make a charitable donation and buy or rent property.

Montenegro offers citizenship by investment in real estate, in particular in the construction of hotels and the infrastructure for tourism.

The citizenship programs offered in the Caribbean offer different investment options. To obtain a passport, an investor transfers money to the country's state fund and buys real estate, invests in a business, or purchases government bonds.

Vanuatu passports by investment are issued to applicants who contribute to the National Development Fund.

Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St Lucia accept applications from investors who invest at least $100,000 in their economy. However, the cost increases when additional family members are included in the citizenship application.

The Vanuatu program is expensive: under its terms, applicants must make a contribution of at least $130,000.

The Caribbean states of St Kitts and Nevis and Grenada have set the minimum investment at $150,000.

The Montenegro program considers applicants who are prepared to invest €350,000, or about $425,000, in real estate projects related to tourism.

Maltese citizenship is granted only by naturalization for exceptional services by direct investment. Applicants need to not only fulfill the investment conditions but also maintain their residence permits for one or three years. Those planning to apply for citizenship in three years need to invest €690,000 and those planning to apply after holding a residence permit for one year have to invest €840,000. This is the most expensive option, but it also offers a passport of an EU member state.

The Vanuatu program offers applicants the opportunity to get a second passport in the shortest possible time in only 1 to 2 months.

The Caribbean programs take slightly longer to issue passports: 2 to 6 months.

Obtaining a Montenegro passport takes at least six months.

A Malta passport by investment is issued only a year or three years after the applicant gets a residence permit.

All countries with investment programs allow an investor to obtain citizenship together with their spouse and children under 18 years of age. In most cases, some close adult relatives can be added, albeit, with restrictions.

Malta citizenship by direct investment is issued to the main applicant’s spouse, children under 29 years old, parents and grandparents over 55 years old.

Montenegro sets only one condition for children over 18 years old: they must be financially dependent on the investor. There are no other restrictions, including age restrictions.

A Vanuatu passport can be obtained by the investor’s children under 25 and parents over 50.

The Caribbean countries allow the whole family of the investor, including siblings and grandparents, to be added to the application. The main condition for family members is to be financially dependent on the investor.

Due Diligence is a mandatory step in all citizenship by investment programs. To pass it, the investor has to prove the legality of the sources of their income and provide a no criminal record certificate.

The concerned country’s program department has the right to reject a citizenship by investment application for the following reasons:

  • the investor was convicted in their country of origin for a crime, for example, in the financial sector;
  • the investor cannot prove the legality of the sources of their income;
  • the investor is included on sanctions lists;
  • the investor is associated with the activities of banned organizations;
  • the investor has been denied a visa, citizenship or residence permit in the past.

Immigrant Invest conducts its own preliminary Due Diligence check, which reduces the risk of rejection to 1%.

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