There are plenty of methods to access second citizenship, one of the most common ones for capital-holders being that of allocating economic resources into a particular nation for the sake of receiving national-like benefits. This is a process naturally directed towards the wealthy, although there are typically three demographics attracted to these programs:
Americans who, seeking to pay a lower amount of taxes, are keen to participate in these programs. The “economic citizenships”, as they are usually called, more often offer investors a more attractive tax environment than the one to which they previously were attached.
Secondly, there are plenty of individuals from emerging countries that aren’t comfortable with the economic situation they have to deal with, whether in terms of overall national development, public services, security, etc. Such conditions are amongst the most common causes behind hundreds of Chinese, Russian or Arab nationals looking for something different elsewhere.
The third type of individual commonly attracted to this kind of program is that of business owners or traditional investors seeking a so-called “Plan B”. This is the planification of an alternative strategy to the way they currently do business, preparing themselves for negative circumstances in the environment they are part of.
That being said, let’s jump into which countries offer the best “economic citizenships”. Which are the best citizenship by investment programs?
WHAT’S BEHIND A GREAT CITIZENSHIP?
There is a common belief that associates the quality of a passport with the total amount of countries that you are able to visit with it. It’s normal for Americans, for example, to feel a sense of fear when renouncing the possibility of traveling to virtually any country on Earth without hesitation, so that’s something that on paper seems and feels great.
Nonetheless, when deciding on a given citizenship by investment program, you should think about the countries you want to visit, or could potentially visit, rather than on the total amount available.
Such an election will also depend on the current nationality you hold, as western citizens are more than often attracted by the great opportunities out there in Caribbean countries when compared to the more expensive European ones. At the same time, Eastern individuals, whether from China, the Arab world, India, or even Russia, might feel more compelled to look after European options that expand their traveling options.
The Malta Citizenship by Investment program is a scheme focused primarily on high-net-worth individuals. Also known as the Malta Individual Investor Program (MIIP), the program requires a minimum contribution of €650,000 to the national development fund established by the government.
In addition, the applicant has to invest €150,000 in government-approved financial instruments and commit to purchase or rent a property in Malta for five years. The value of the property purchased needs to be a minimum of €350,000. After one year of residence, the applicant can apply for Maltese citizenship and obtain a European passport. A Maltese citizen can live, study and work anywhere in the European Union.
Malta also has a separate residency program. The amount of investment is much more cost-effective; however, it does not lead to Maltese citizenship. Nonetheless, the passport alone can potentially let you travel to over 154 countries around the world, which automatically converts this option into one of the most appealing ones for HNWI, regardless of where they come from.
SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS
St. Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program, launched in 1984, is the first citizenship by investment program ever to exist. The scheme accepts real estate investments or donations. To benefit from the program, applicants must make a minimum donation of $150,000 to the Sustained Growth Fund (SGF).
Alternatively, an applicant for a five-year hold period may make a $400,000 investment in real estate in St. Kitts & Nevis, while a seven-year hold period one will be asked to invest $200,000. The process leading to citizenship usually takes about three to six months.
There are a couple of perks regarding this citizenship by investment program, starting with the fact that you could technically re-sell the real estate you previously acquired after several years and, more importantly, the fact that the passport grants you access to over 124 countries including Russia.
Thanks to this attractive program, many other Caribbean countries have been offering similar options for international investors, which accounts for this particular nation to be a highly reliable one to introduce capital.
This country’s program has amongst its condition the payment of a specific amount made for the sake of its society’s development, an investment that must be approved by government officials. The project for which you will provide funding will be managed by the state, and they more often offer options in business areas that are under-developed.
A Montenegrin passport will grant you access to over 112 countries around the world, including all of those from the Schengen Area, Turkey, and Russia. In order to be eligible for the said benefit, you must make a donation to the Montenegrin State of at least €200,000 apart from a real estate investment that accounts for at least €250,000 in value.
One of the silver linings from Montenegro’s program is that its requirements are the same regardless of the number of family members applying for it, which translates into having to make an equal contribution if wanting to include spouses or children.
The most interesting thing about Montenegro comes with the fact that in 2012, the country’s authorities began negotiating processes with the EU, seeking membership. Recent estimations say Montenegro should join the organization in 2025, meaning that all of those who get their citizenship before that happens, will more than like likely become citizens of the European Union eventually
However, the applications are currently limited by a quota of 2,000 and is also expected for the capital donation amounts to increase considering the upcoming attachment of the country to the EU. This means, in other words, that you should hurry up!
ANTIGUA & BARBUDA
Antigua and Barbuda’s citizenship by investment program provides an economic passport to investors. There are a few options applicants can choose from to benefit from the program. Investors can choose to contribute $100,000 to the Antigua National Development Fund. They can also invest $1,500,000 in the establishment of a business.
Alternatively, they can invest $400,000 in a government-approved real estate project (can be reduced to $200,000 for connected investors). Antigua and Barbuda’s passport grants visa-free travel to 121 countries, including the Schengen Area. In addition, the country requires only five days of residency per year. Citizenship and the Antigua and Barbuda Passport can be issued within the first four to six months.
For those thinking in a more traditional European country, Portugal has one of the greatest citizenship by investment programs in the continent. Since 2012, Portugal has been the home for many non-European citizens seeking to acquire the benefits of being part of such a stable organization like the European Union.
There are several requirements for applicants, starting with an investment in Portuguese real estate of at least half a million Euros, a number that lowers to €400,000 if purchasing in a low-density area. Moreover, the investment could be oriented to a €350,000 in property that is at least three decades old, which also can be lowered to €280,000 if invested in a low-density area.
Other options include the transference of at least €1,5 million to a Portuguese bank, the constitution of a local business that employs at least 10 individuals, an investment of €500,000 in any government-approved venture capital fund, whether private or focused in technology, science, or research.
Finally, you could also donate €250,000 to any national heritage or art-oriented fund. It’s also important to highlight that if going with this option, you will be acquiring one of the greatest passports on Earth, with over 155 countries potentially accessible through second Portuguese citizenship.
Citizenship by investment in Dominica is available through two options. The first is by making a financial contribution (donation) to the country under the government’s investor visa program. The second option, available since January 2015, is through investment in real estate. With a minimum investment of $100,000, the Dominica Passport is among the cheapest.
Alternatively, you could also purchase real estate in the country for a value of at least $200,000. There are several interesting options out there to join this program through real estate acquisition, including beautiful resorts and beach houses where you could both invest and spend amazing holidays. It takes about three months after application to obtain the passport.
Until 1993, it was not possible to obtain Dominica citizenship without residing in the country. This rule has been changed by the Government of Dominica. Through its changes, the Dominica citizenship by investment program became not only the cheapest but also one of the most flexible options. Dominica Passport holders can travel freely to about 111 countries, including the United Kingdom and the Schengen zone.
To become a citizen of the Republic of Turkey, there are several options from which investors can benefit. They can make an investment of at least $250,000 in real estate. They can also invest in a company with a minimum capital of $500,000.
Finally, they may prefer to deposit $500,000 in investment instruments of the state or state-owned banks operating in Turkey, provided that they do not withdraw such amount for three years. In addition, employing a staff of 50 is determined as a criterion for applying for Turkish citizenship under the new regulation.
It’s important to notice that Turkish passports grant visa-free permissions in 109 countries and that this program is mostly aimed at Arab nationals looking after an Islamic environment. The process of Turkish citizenship by investment usually takes about 3 to 6 months.
One of the greatest perks of Grenadian citizenship is that of being able to enter both Russia and China, as well as to other 115 countries. On top of that important fact, you would also have citizenship on the only Caribbean CBI that is currently a member of the USA E-2 agreement. Thanks to this, you could potentially carry out business in the US under a part-time methodology, simplifying the overall process a lot.
As for the requirements for the application, the Grenadian government enforces a $150,000 donation per individual which augments to $200,000 per married couple. A valid alternative would be to purchase $350,000 in local real estate.
Even when this country can appear to be a costly option, it can be an attractive one for those thinking of visiting or investing in other great financial environments like China, the US, or India. However, the fact that other passports might offer similar visa access potentially lowers the ultimate value of the country.
This particular country offers investors a unique opportunity: even when it doesn’t allow access to countries like the UK, it does enable free travel benefits to all of the Schengen Area, Russia, and other 108 countries.
This is rather a cheap option for mid-range investors, as it only enforces individuals a donation of €100,000 or the purchase of €250,000 in real estate. However, as this country has become a sort of sage option for Russian oligarchs buying their way in due to its benefits, there is a certain risk regarding the financial resistance of international authorities in the near future.
A smart option for those wanting easy access to Russia’s business sectors, and a great opportunity to gain second citizenship without a great deal of compromise.
If acquiring Austrian citizenship, you will have most (if not all) of your problems automatically solved. You will have residence and work permits to live and thrive in any European country member of the EU, which is always something to take into account.
Of course, it’s no secret to anybody that Austria has a more than great reputation regarding its citizenship benefits. For example, you’ll have visa-free access to endless countries in the world including the US and Canada, which explains why this passport is amongst the best travel documents out there. Moreover, among all the second citizenship programs, the Austrian passport is the one that allows you to travel to more countries in the world without a Visa: 156 nations.
The requirements are pretty straightforward: you will be required to make active investments in local businesses of Austrian origin, whether by creating joint ventures from scratch or by transferring capital to already-existing enterprises. The minimum amount for the contribution does add up to € 3 million, and investing in government bonds or real estate is not among the requirements nor is accepted as part of the application process.
The average application time can go as up to two years, and if the response is positive, you will be a citizen of Austria and enjoy some of the greatest life quality, travel perks, and working environments of the world.
Picking the right country is never an easy call. Your personal, financial and familiar situation always play a role in which nation is the best for you, as the conditions of each investing environment tend to vary.
However, there are several tips we can provide here:
- If you travel a lot and if the European Union is a priority, go for Malta.
- If you are on a tight budget and if Russia is a priority, go for Saint Kitts and Nevis.
- If you don’t have a large budget and want to invest in a country that in a few years enters the European Union, go for Montenegro.
- If you are an HNWI and you want to live and thrive in EU while acquiring the best passport ever, go for Austria.
- If you want a free passport, go to Paraguay. Although you will have to wait at least three years to get it but it is absolutely free.
Moreover, even when most of our clients tend to pick fast-track naturalization processes, we cannot recommend strongly enough to contact our expert team of financial advisors to guide you into the best call possible. Understanding which environment suits your situation is fundamental to both protecting and augmenting your assets, so reach out to our Centurion Capital team and begin this journey in no time.
Warning: The content of this article does not constitute legal or tax advice. It is provided for general informational purposes only and not for the purpose of offering any warranty or guarantee. As laws change frequently, personalized professional advice is absolutely necessary.
Article written by: Fabrice Barra is a cosmopolitan entrepreneur, lawyer, fiduciary and author, one of the world’s leading experts on offshore strategies, corporate haven, international investments and global mindset lifestyles. He is the personal trusted advisor of well-known entrepreneurs, UHNWI, Forbes Global 2000 companies, professional sportsmen, aristocrats, celebrities, investors, people with a net wealth of 7- to 8- or more figures, and he has access to a network of influential people around the world.