Page update : 22.02.2017
VISAS AND CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT
Immigrant Investor Programs
An increasing number of investors from China, Russia, India, Middle East and many emerging countries are showing interest in the various possibilities to acquire a second citizenship or residence through investment,
The motivations are mainly :
- Increased travel freedom – visa-free travel to more countries
- Ability to live and work in Europe
- Health Care
- Planning for retirement
- Giving children the access to education in private schools and/or renowned Universities
- Secure residency rights abroad in case of political or economic instability in the home country
In front of this demand, increasingly many countries offer now various residence permits or citizenship to wealthy individuals willing to invest or make a capital transfer in their economies. The United States, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and about half of the EU’s 28 countries, have started their economic citizenship programs and offer immigrant visas.
St Kitts and Nevis, islands in the Caribbean, is known to operate the longest existing investment program in the world. Since 1984 this two-island state has attracted many investors who made a contribution to the development of the country, either by making a donation or investment in real estate. In return, investors could acquire the citizenship, provided they passed all the government’s due diligence process.
For the government of St Kitts and Nevis, the sale of passports was a way to attract foreign investment in the country and help diversify an economy that depended on sugar industry.
On the applicants’ side, exiled by political instability in their home country or in search of a passport requiring less travel visa, they came from all over the world, especially from Russia, the Middle East and Asia.
As an example, the holder of a St Kitts passport can travel without a visa in 132 countries around the world, including all of Europe. A passport from China gives access to only 45 countries without a visa.
To measure the power of a passport, it is possible to refer to the « Visa Restrictions Index 2016 » created by Henley & Partners (always subject to change). This index is a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy.
On the 2016 index, St Kitts and Nevis passport rank on 32nd most powerful passport. China is situated on the 87th position.
In the Caribbean, Dominica has followed the example of St Kitts and Nevis and launched its citizenship by investment program as a stimulus for domestic economic growth in 1993. Antigua and Barbuda, a country with good tourism industry and offshore financial services have joined in since late 2013.
These programs in Caribbean virtually result immediately in passports. In Europe, Cyprus and Malta also offer a relatively direct route to citizenship in return for a capital contribution.
Many other Western Governments also introduced investor programs and grant residence permits to wealthy individuals. These residence permits leading eventually to citizenship.
Below is a comparison of several countries offering immigrant investment programs with a general overview of:
- What investment is needed to get residency or citizenship
- How long does it take to obtain permanent residence or citizenship
- The stay requirements (the minimum number of days the investor needs to live in the country in order to be eligible for citizenship)
- Does the country allows the investor to maintain his old citizenship or does not recognize dual citizenship
- Does the passport issued by the new country gives the applicant easy travel (does it have arrangements with lots of other countries for visa free entry)
Important notes :
- Government fees, taxes, service fees are not included
- It is important that you consult your local tax advisor to measure the tax implications of obtaining a second residence or citizenship
Economic citizenship (2nd passport) through real estate purchase and or investment
Under these investment programs, you may acquire citizenship and passport provided you make a capital contribution to the country.
Antigua & Barbuda, since 2013 : Citizenship by Investment – Donation USD 250’000.- or investment in real estate of USD 400’000.- Citizenship for 5 years. Residence requirement of 35 days in first 5 years. Passport access to 134 countries. Dual citizenship recognized. No physical presence required.
Dominica, since 1993 : Economic Citizenship – Donation USD 100’000.- or real estate USD 200’000.- Citizenship after 9-12 months. Passport access to 119 countries. Dual citizenship recognized. No physical presence required.
Grenada, since 2013: Citizenship By Investment (CIP) – Donation USD 200’000.- or real estate USD 350’000. Citizenship after 3-4 months. Passport access to 121 countries. Dual citizenship recognized. No physical presence required.
Saint Lucia, since 2016 : Citizenship by Investment – Donation USD 100’000.- or real estate USD 300’000.- or governement bond USD 500’000.-. Passport access to 125 countries. Dual citizenship recognized. No physical presence required.
St. Kitts & Nevis, since 1984 : Citizenship by Investment – Donation USD 250’000. or real estate USD 400’000. Citizenship after 4-6 months. . Passport access to 132 countries. Dual citizenship recognized. No physical presence required.
Cyprus, since 2012 : Citizenship By Investment – EUR 2’000’000.- in real estate. Citizenship after 3 month. Passport access to 159 countries. Dual citizenship recognized. No physical residence required. Fastest route to EU Citizenship.
Malta, since 2013 : Individual Investor Programme (IIP) – Donation EUR 650’000 and investment in real estate EUR 350’000 (or lease property of minimum EUR 16’000 per year and Investment EUR 150’000 in Government approved financial instruments – Citizenship after 12 months – Passport access to 168 Countries. Dual citizenship recognized.
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Residency to citizenship – through investment and or real estate
Under these programs, you exchange residency rights against an investment or creation of a certain number of jobs. In most cases you are granted with a temporary residence, leading eventually to full permanent residence and then citizenship. Depending on the jurisdiction, you may need to spend some period of time in the country to upgrade to permanent residence and citizenship.
Singapore, since 2004 : Global Investor Program (GIP) – SG $ 2.5 million (USD 1.8 million) – Conditional permanent residence (5 years) renewable. Citizenship after 2 years. Passport access to 170 countries. Dual citizenship not recognized.
Hong Kong, since 2003 : Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES) – HK $ 10 million (USD 1.3 million) – permanent residence after 7 years. Passport access to 156 countries. Dual citizenship not recognized.
Australia, since 2012 : – Investor and Significant Investor Streams – AU$ 1.5 million to $ 5 million (USD 1.1 million to USD 3.7 million). Passport access to 168 countries. Dual citizenship recognized.
Permanent EU residency holders will usually be allowed to travel visa-free throughout the 26 Schengen countries. Bearers of the residency permit may work or study in the country they plan to reside. Once the citizenship is acquired, the investor and his family can live, work and study anywhere in the EU.
Bulgaria, since 2009 : Investor Program For Residence and Citizenship – BGN 1 million (EUR 511’292) = citizenship after 6 years – investment refundable after 5 years without interest. Fast track : double the investment to BGN 2 million (EUR 1.02 million) = citizenship after 2 years – Passport access to 153 countries. Dual citizenship recognized. Physical residence not required.
France, since 2009 : Exceptional Economic Contribution – Investment of EUR 10 million in industrial or commercial assets or creation of 50 jobs – 10 years economic residency permit. Citizenship after 3 years of permanent residency. Passport access to 175 countries.
Greece, since 2013– Permanent Residence Permit for Investors – Investment in real estate EUR 250’000 – Residency for 5 years, renewable. Citizenship after 7 years of physical residence.
Hungary, since 2013 : Investment Immigration Program – EUR 300’000 in Government Bonds – refunded after 5 years without interest. Permanent residence after 6 months. Application for citizenship possible after 8 years of physical residence. Passport access to 167 countries. Dual citizenship recognized. No physical presence required. This program will be placed on moratorium on March 31, 2017.
Portugal – since 2012 – Golden Residence Permit Program – Investment in real estate EUR 350’000 or capital transfer EUR 1 million or creation of 10 jobs. Permanent residence after 5 years. Citizenship after 6 years. Stay requirement : 7 days minimum each year. Passport access to 172 countries. Dual citizenship recognized.
Spain – since 2013 : Investor Visa – Investment in real estate EUR 500’000. Permanent residence after 5 years. Citizenship after 10 years of residency in Spain (more than 183 days each year). Passport access to 175 countries.
United Kingdom, since 2008 : Tier 1 (Investor) – GBP 2 million permanent residence after 5 years (2-3 years if investing GBP 10 million or GBP 5 million provided residence requirements (at least 180 days a year) are met). Citizenship after 5-6 years. Physical residence required. Passport access to 175 countries. Dual citizenship recognized.
New Zealand, since 2009 : Migrant Investment categories – NZ$ 1.5 million to 10 million (EUR 1.0 million to 6.8 million) – Permanent residence after minimum 2 years, maximum 3-4 years. Citizenship after 5 years of residency. Passport access to 171 countries.
Canada (Quebec), since 1986 : Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) – CA$ 800’000 (EUR 580’000) Bonds. Permanent residence after 3 years. Citizenship after 6 years. Physical residence required: 3-4 years. Passport access to 172 countries. Dual citizenship recognized.
United States, since 1990 : EB-5 program – USD 500’000 in targeted employment area ; 1 million elsewhere – Citizenship after 8 years of residence. Physical residence required. Passport access to 174 countries.
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- Most Powerful Passports in the World – 2016 Ranking