The top 5 cheapest golden visas are even more attractive as governments slash the money expats must pay for their new travel status. So if your priority is grasping the fastest and cheapest golden visa, these are the five European golden visas with the lowest investment requirements.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen several countries suspend or change their golden visa rules – especially some European Union states with less than stellar economies.
One of the challenges when choosing between citizenship or residency by investment is separating the best deals as each golden visa with different costs and application rules.
To understand the general details, make sure to read the Golden Visa and Golden Passports insight.
Table of contents
This tiny island is sitting in the Mediterranean packs a punch for expats with two routes to a residence.
Both are popular with non-European Union nationals as Malta is an EU member, and passport holders are entitled to visa-free travel in the Schengen Area.
- Citizenship by investment is available with a €600,000 (£515,000) minimum contribution to government funds
- The Malta Permanent Residency Program (MPRP) with a €100,000 (£85,800) donation to government funds
Malta’s citizenship by investment route, which comes with a second passport, has come under intense political scrutiny and is the subject of a legal challenge launched by the European Commission.
The MPRP is a rebranded programme, offering lower investment requirements but significant benefits to foreigners, like a lifetime residency card and the right to work.
Applications take eight months to process, and you need to visit Malta to provide biometric data before the issue of your digital residency permit.
Other requirements include:
- Expats must show they earn at least €100,000 (£85,800) a year and have assets worth more than €500,000 (£429,000)
- The choice of donating €100,000 (£85,800) to government funds, or buying a home for €300,000 (£257,000) or more or renting a home for at least five years
- Cash donations are one-off and non-refundable
- Applicants must have comprehensive private health insurance and no criminal record
The lowest €100,000 (£85,800) donation option rises to €145,000 (£124,500) with legal charges and agency fees.
Read the in-depth guide to Malta Citizenship By Investment Guide.
Portugal’s golden visa is the most popular in the EU and the longest-running program, launched in 2012.
This scheme mainly attracts property investors, snapping up keenly priced homes and generating billions of euros for the economy.
If you’re looking for a European passport program with reasonably low investment thresholds, this might be the option for you.
The demand for homes is high, but property prices in Portugal are reasonable compared to some EU nations.
However, from January 2022, the government will limit investors to purchasing homes in Madeira or the Azores – the expat magnets of Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve are closing for a golden visa business.
The costs of the scheme are also rising.
A final rush is expected since average processing times run to approximately ten months.
Golden visa terms from January 1, 2022, are:
- Property investments start from €500,000 (£429,000) and are limited to the Azores, Madeira or inland territories, increasing from a €280,000 (£240,000) minimum
- Cash contributions or government bond purchases increase from €1 million (£860,000) to €1.5 million (£1.29 million)
- Contributions into research activities or commercial business investments start from €500,000 (£429,000), rising from the current €350,000 (£300,420)
One of the perks of Portugal’s golden visa is the money spent on buying a home is fully recoverable when the property is sold after five years.
Read the in-depth guide to Portugal Citizenship By Investment.
The Greece golden visa is popular with expats for two reasons – the scheme is one of the cheapest, and applicants don’t have to visit the country until their visa is confirmed.
After five years living in Greece, you can apply for full citizenship through the naturalisation programme.
Greek residency permits are managed by Enterprise Greece and come with several investment options:
- Main home property purchases from at least €250,000 (£214,000)
- Investing in hotels, commercial projects or tourist resorts
- Buying shares in a Greek company
- Investors can deposit €400,000 (£343,000) in a Greek bank or buy government bonds from the same threshold.
Legal costs and taxes associated with a property purchase incur about 10 per cent in additional fees, making it one of the simplest and lowest cost EU residency routes available.
Latvia isn’t always an obvious choice as a destination for wealthy expats.
However, investors looking for fast and low-cost investment routes to secure European Union residency may find this program offers substantial benefits.
While you can’t apply immediately for citizenship, foreign nationals can acquire a residence permit for an investment of €250,000 (£214,000) in a property.
You only need to visit Latvia once a year to maintain residency and qualify for permanent residence after five years.
- Real estate options start from €250,000 (£214,000), or government bond purchases for the same value also qualify
- There is a quota of 800 applicants – once met, property investment minimums will increase to €500,000 (£429,000)
- Applicants must pay an additional €25,000 (£21,450) government contribution, or five per cent of the property value, whichever is higher
- Other investment routes include a €50,000 (£43,000) business investment, plus a €10,000 (£8,500) state donation. Fees for larger businesses with more than 50 employees start from €100,000 (£85,800)
To upgrade a Latvian Investor Visa to permanent residence, you will need to have lived in Latvia for five years.
Permanent residents become eligible for full citizenship by naturalisation after five years, but citizenship applicants must meet strict requirements.
They need to have lived in the country full time, speak fluent Latvian and renounce any former citizenship, so maintaining permanent residency or long-term EU residency is often a more attractive solution.
As an English-speaking nation, Ireland is often an easier prospect for British expats looking for EU residency rights, and the country offers a range of investment options:
- Enterprise investments of €1 million (£858,000) for a fixed term of at least three years
- Property investments are available through the Irish Real Estate Investment Trust. Applicants must keep the property for three years
- Philanthropic donations from €500,000 qualify for residency, including projects of benefit to Irish culture, education, arts, sport or health.
If a residency holder wishes to become an Irish citizen, they will need to have lived in the country for at least one year, with four years of cumulative residency in the preceding eight years.
Applicants with Irish ancestry or other links to the country may waive some residency requirements, and dual citizenship is allowed.
Read all about living in Ireland here.
European Golden Visas FAQ
Some of the most common questions asked about Europe Golden Visas.
Many golden visas offer residency rather than immediate citizenship.
Investors can usually apply for a second passport after a minimum number of years and may need to have lived in the country for a requisite period.
Portugal offers citizenship in five years through the residency programme, as does Malta. Still, the Portuguese scheme does not require applicants to have lived there for a compulsory number of years.
The cheapest ways to acquire EU residency are as follows:
Greece – from €250,000 (£214,000)
Montenegro – from €250,000 (£214,000)
Portugal – from €350,000 (£300,000) until January 2022
Spain – from €500,000 (£429,000)
Residency doesn’t always come with a visa. Most schemes provide permanent residency rights in exchange for investment, but others offer residence on a renewable basis. In addition, investors can opt for golden visa citizenship by investment programme to acquire a second passport, although investment minimums are usually higher.
Potentially, yes. Some golden visa schemes include the right to apply for full citizenship after a minimum period. However, some schemes have other criteria, such as speaking the local language and living in the country for a specific number of years. In other cases, you can apply for citizenship by naturalisation after holding residency, but without a compulsory living requirement.
Every country has rules and policies about taking in foreign investors, including factors like:
• Proving sufficient funds to meet the investment threshold
• Evidence that the applicant legally acquired the funds
• Having a clean criminal record
• Meeting minimum age criteria
• Holding private medical insurance
Timescales vary, with processing taking anywhere from a few months to around a year, depending on which golden visa program you apply for.
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