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Golden Visas are a hugely popular way for UK expats to gain full citizenship or permanent residency status in attractive destinations worldwide.
Most programs allow wealthy investors to complete residency rights in return for a minimum investment, and you can move to the country, visit occasionally, or reside overseas with dual citizenship status.
There are lots of ways to acquire citizenship by investment, but usually, you’ll need to do one of the following:
- Purchase a property above a minimum threshold.
- Make a capital transfer or state fund contribution.
- Donate to a government-approved charity or NGO.
- Invest in a local business and generate full-time jobs.
- Retain your investment for a requisite period.
In this directory, we’ll look at four of the best citizenship by investment schemes globally, comparing the requirements, minimum investments, and available benefits.
Table of contents
Dominica Citizenship By Investment
The Dominica programme was launched in 1993, making it one of the longest-standing economic citizenship schemes.
It’s also the most affordable investment initiative in the Caribbean, with the lowest-cost route requiring a $100,000 (£73,000) direct government donation.
Processing times take about three months for new applications and are handled by the Ministry of Finance in Dominica.
Investment options include:
- Donating $100,000 (£73,000) to the Economic Diversification Fund (EDF). This donation is non-refundable and increases according to the number of dependents.
- Buying property for at least $200,000 (£147,000) and maintaining it for three years
Benefits on offer include no residency requirements and the option of selling the real estate after three years to recoup the investment without impacting your citizenship status.
There is the reassurance of delayed investment, where funds are only transferred after your application has received full approval.
Citizens can choose to live in Dominica permanently and can decide to move at any time and for any duration. In addition, children born to investors who have acquired citizenship through investment have an automatic right to be registered as lifelong citizens.
The tax regime in Dominica is attractive, with no levies on inheritance, wealth or income, and investors can include their families on the application. That consists of a spouse, children up to age 30, siblings and parents.
As a Dominica citizen, you can travel without a visa to 137 countries, including the Schengen Zone, Russia, Hong Kong and Singapore. The government has no minimum stay requirement or restrictions on dual citizenship.
Malta Citizenship By Investment
The Government of Malta originally introduced its Investor Programme in 2014, with a limit of 1,800 applicants.
They have since replaced it with the Maltese Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment Program.
The key is that Maltese citizenship is available through naturalisation, so applicants need to live in Malta and prove their residency for at least 12 months.
This new scheme, from November 2020, aims to ensure all new citizens have a genuine link with the island and is part of the response to the EU challenge against investment schemes here and in Cyprus.
Investors need to go through three steps to achieve a Maltese passport:
- Make a non-refundable government contribution of €600,000 (£514,000) with a three-year residency requirement or €750,000 (£642,000) with a reduced one-year period.
- Purchase real estate for at least €700,000 (£600,000), or rent a property for five years, on a lease starting at €16,000 (£13,700).
- Donate €10,000 (£8,600) to a non-profit organisation. Investors can split this donation between several charities or NGOs, provided they are all compliant.
While the investment values are much higher than most EU residency schemes, the outcome is full citizenship and a second passport, with dual citizenship, recognised in Malta.
Most European programmes require investment in return for residency, between three and six years before applicants qualify for citizenship.
The scheme allows for full family eligibility, including a spouse, children and parents, and successful applicants can travel visa-free to over 182 countries as EU citizens.
St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship By Investment
St Kitts and Nevis, a two-island state in the eastern Caribbean, was the first to offer economic citizenship back in 1984 and remain a popular route to securing a second passport.
Fast-track investments can be granted citizenship in as little as two months and include a spouse, children, parents and grandparents.
The islands are attractive for business owners since the currency is pegged to US Dollar, and therefore more stable than many other options.
St Kitts and Nevis offers complete confidentiality to investors, citizenship transferrable to descendants, and has no physical residency requirement.
There are three potential investment routes:
- Make a non-refundable donation to the Sustainable Growth Fund (SGF) of $150,000 (£110,000). This contribution increases by $10,000 (£7,400) for each additional applicant.
- Invest $200,000 (£147,000) in a joint investment property. The real estate should be one property worth $400,000 (£293,000) split equally, resulting in co-ownership, and needs to be held for at least seven years.
- Purchase a sole ownership property for $400,000 (£293,000) and retain it for five years or more.
Qualifying properties include hotel units, rental villas and resorts, freehold properties and whole or fractional ownership.
Citizens of St Kitts and Nevis can travel without a visa to 152 countries worldwide and only need to complete their investments once their application is approved.
Immigration agents offering assistance with St Kitts and Nevis must display a certification verifying that the government has approved them to promote the program.
Turkey Citizenship By Investment
Turkish citizenship is a relatively new international program, offering full citizenship and a second passport from investments of $250,000 (£183,000).
Investors are not obliged to declare any overseas assets or income and don’t need to live in Turkey to qualify.
Most applicants choose to invest in property, including rental real estate investments in coastal resorts and city apartments as permanent residences.
One of the appeals of this scheme is that global expats with a Turkish passport can relocate to the USA through the E-2 Investor programme or the UK on a Turkish Businessperson Visa, making it an entry point to other citizenship or residency schemes.
Turkey has three investment routes eligible:
- Purchasing residential or commercial property from $250,000 (£183,000). The property can be rented out and sold after three years. There is also the option of purchasing multiple properties to make up the minimum investment value.
- Investing $500,000 (£367,000) in a fixed-asset investment verified by the Ministry of Industry and Technology. The funds need to be deposited for at least three years or can be used to purchase government bonds for the same period, potentially earning interest income.
- The third option is to establish a business in Turkey. It needs to generate at least 50 jobs for Turkish locals and be confirmed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
Citizenship is transferable to descendants, dual citizenship is recognised, and applicants join over 700,000 expats and 60,000 global businesses established.
Golden Visa Citizenship FAQ
A golden visa is a way to secure residency status, permanent residency, or citizenship in another country.
Applicants must make a minimum investment by purchasing a property or investing in the local economy.
Most citizenship by investment schemes awards an expedited second passport, in a minimal period, usually without requiring the individual to live long-term in the country.
Yes, a golden passport or a golden visa is a legally recognised residency permit or dual citizenship. It means you have the same rights as other residents or citizens of your selected country.
However, a legal challenge was brought by the EU Commission, so there is a chance that some golden passport schemes will change or close in the coming years.
Not usually. Of the four programs we’ve explored here, only the Maltese scheme requires investors to live in the country.
That isn’t a permanent requirement, though, and you can qualify for a Maltese passport after 12 and 36 months of residency.
It depends a little on where you want to move. For example, if you hold EU citizenship status, you benefit from travel freedom throughout Europe.
However, generally, you’ll need to go through the regular visa application routes or acquire another residency permit or citizenship through an investment route.
Some countries do not recognise dual citizenship, so it’s crucial to research your intended destination to ensure it won’t impact your existing rights.
How do I apply for a golden visa?
You can apply directly or find more information about applying for citizenship as follows:
- Dominica: Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica
- Malta: Malta Government Services and Information
- St Kitts and Nevis: High Commission of St. Kitts and Nevis
- Turkey: Presidency of the Republic of Turkey Investment Office
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