What Is Citizenship By Investment?
By Simon Black
Citizenship by investment is exactly what it sounds like: foreigners invest a certain sum of money in a country in exchange for citizenship and a passport.
Depending on the country, the investment amount can vary from just over $100,000 (Antigua) to over $2.5 million (Cyprus), plus applicable processing and due diligence fees.
Think of citizenship by investment as your shortcut path to a second passport.
But, you’ve got to be careful: Some of these shortcuts are MUCH better options than others.
When you’re parting with a couple hundred thousand or up to a couple million dollars, you need to know exactly what you’re getting into.
For example, although these programs are collectively referred to as “investments”, in many cases you don’t actually get back your principal. It’s more accurate to refer to some programs as “citizenship by donation”. In other cases, you can get some or most of your principal back and potentially even generate an investment return.
Some countries’ passports only allow visa-free travel to a few dozen countries, which excludes North America, Europe, Australia, etc.
Other countries’ passports are good for visa-free travel to over 170 countries and include nearly all of the developed nations, ranking them among the highest quality passports in the world.
Traditionally, there are four ways to obtain a second passport & citizenship:
- Ancestry: If you are lucky enough to have parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents from the right country, you may already be eligible for a second citizenship by descent.
- Time: After you obtain permanent residency in a country you can . This option usually takes several years, but the advantage is that anyone can do this. And in some countries you don’t even have to spend any time there.
- Flexibility: These are unconventional ways to get a second citizenship and passport, such as giving birth in a foreign country, marrying a foreign citizen or even changing your religion…
- Money: And the final option is taking advantage of a citizenship by investment program to legally buy a nationality and thus acquire a second passport.
Among the immigration through investment programs, there are typically two paths – instant citizenship and residency by investment, which leads to citizenship after a few years:
Instant citizenship is just that – you invest in a government fund, real estate property, approved business or government bonds and shortly after the country processes your application, you receive a second passport.
(Frankly, all these options are not really “instant” – you get a passport in about four months or more after submitting your documents. However, it is usually by far the fastest way to obtain a second passport).
Benefits of Instant Citizenship By Investment
Benefit #1: No disruptions to your normal life
Benefit #2: The opportunity to move your entire family to a gorgeous location
We mention gorgeous locations, because the countries offering instant citizenship are mostly in the Caribbean region.
In addition to quickly gaining a passport, at approximately $150,000-$500,000 (for a family of 4) the Caribbean countries offer the most affordable citizenship by investment programs. (Instant citizenship in Europe starts at around €1,000,000 or more.)
But, while each Caribbean citizenship by investment program grants visa-free access to the European Union, the quality of their passports – defined as the number of visa-free countries you can visit – isn’t as high as economic citizenship programs in Europe.
Residency By Investment Leading To Citizenship
Another option is to invest in Europe and get European residency that can eventually lead to European citizenship.
These European Union programs offer a higher-quality second passport, but you’ll have to pay more for it.
And you’ll have to wait– oftentimes five years or more.
These programs are known as Golden Visas. A Golden Visa is not the same as citizenship by investment. It is residency (which can lead to citizenship).
Malta, Cyprus and Portugal all have Golden Visas that grant residency and ultimately can confer citizenship… if you meet the country’s requirements.
But in this article we’ll be focusing only on instant citizenship programs that grant citizenship in 12 months or less – much shorter time frames than the Golden Visa options.