There’s quite a bit of nuance surrounding citizenship and immigration policy when tied to overseas investments. But in the world of citizenship-by-investment programs and golden visas, a second passport is actually very much in reach, provided you can get through a stringent vetting process and can donate or invest in your country of choice.
There are more than 10 countries where you can obtain citizenship simply by buying property. Many of these countries, in addition to offering citizenship by real estate or business investment, have citizenship-by-donation programs. There are other countries that offer residency following investment, which can later lead to citizenship—these are affectionately dubbed “golden visa” programs. Portugal notably has a golden visa program, where you can invest for residency and apply for citizenship down the line, but we’re focusing on countries where citizenship comes without the residency hurdle.
Here, a selection of countries where buying a home gets you a highly coveted passport.
Malta’s citizenship-by-investment program is the first of its kind in the EU. Maltese citizenship means gaining the right to live and work within the European Union. Citizenship here can be approved in as little as four months, with opportunity for mobility within the Schengen countries even sooner, thanks to a fast-track residence card. The actual passport will likely take a full 12 months to receive. Applications for citizenship by investment must be submitted by September 21, 2020, and the government will not accept more than 1,800 applicants annually. The minimum investment threshold is €650,000 ($770,000) by the primary investor and additional investments for spouses or minors/dependents.
St. Kitts and Nevis
The citizenship-by-investment program in St. Kitts and Nevis is “the most established and long-lived program in the Caribbean,” says La Vida Golden Visas. There are two ways to get citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis; the first, to make a donation, and the second, to invest in real estate. Citizenship by donation can be pricey in countries where it’s offered (in St. Lucia, it’s a required $100,000 donation; in Cyprus, it’s about $2.37 million). St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship-by-investment program asks that you invest at least $200,000 in property that has been pre-approved by the government. There’s an additional $25,000 required for government fees and the buyer (and citizenship applicant) must hold onto the property for seven years.
According to Henley & Partners, the “Austrian Citizenship Act states that the government can reward foreign persons with citizenship in the event of extraordinary merit.” That extraordinary merit includes investment or notable contribution to the government. The investment must be for several million dollars, put into real estate or an Austrian business. With this showing of extraordinary merit, an Austrian (and therefore, an EU) passport can be obtained, though it takes upward of two years.
To obtain Montenegrin citizenship by investment, the foreigner must make a “defined economic contribution to Montenegrin society through an investment in an approved development project, and a capital contribution to a fund designated by the government for the advancement of under-developed areas,” says Henley & Partners. It should be noted that Montenegro is not an EU country, nor a country of Schengan, though those accepted to this citizenship-by-investment program are immediately granted “visa-free or visa-on-arrival” access to Schengan countries. Montenegro is also a candidate for Schengan and EU acceptance, and through this citizenship-by-investment program, applicants who donate $100,000 or invest $250,000 into approved real estate could get a passport in as little as three months.
St. Lucia’s citizenship-by-investment program is in its infancy compared to others—it just launched in 2016. The real estate investment minimum is $300,000, and donation for citizenship to the Saint Lucia National Economic Fund is also an option, ranging from $100,000 for an individual to $190,000 for a family of four.
To obtain Cypriot citizenship, you must invest €2 million ($2.37 million) in real estate. In addition, you have to donate €100,000 to the government's Research and Development Fund and another €100,000 ($118,000) to the Land Development Organization. Overall, you’re looking at a €2.2 million ($2.6 million) price tag for citizenship in Cyprus. But with a high price point comes a high payoff; you can get a passport within six months, and, as the citizen of a country in the European Union, you can live and work in other countries within the EU.
Antigua and Barbuda
There are three different options for those interested in obtaining an Antiguan passport. First, citizenship by donation, wherein you can give $100,000 to the Antigua National Development Fund. And two investment approaches; Foreigners can invest $1.5 million into establishing a business within Antigua and Barbuda, or they can invest $400,000 into real estate, though it must be a government-approved real estate project.