If you are interested in buying property to obtain citizenship of another country, you have at least 5 options to choose from. In this article, we’ll name countries with official citizenship by investment programs. By investing in a specific real estate project you can get citizenship or residency in one of these countries: Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Thailand.
European countries don’t give their citizenship away in exchange for a simple investment, while smaller jurisdictions in the Caribbean offer full citizenship to investors for a reasonable investment and application process requires less time.
Several countries in the Caribbean, such as Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, offer citizenship in exchange for an investment of $300,000 (Saint Lucia) and $400,000 (Antigua and Saint Kitts) in an approved real estate project. It’s possible to return the investment by selling the real estate object in 5 years. However, you must keep in mind that there are additional fees – government processing and due diligence fees – that are non-refundable.
Additional fees for Antigua and Barbuda passport: government processing is $50,000 for a family of 4; due diligence is $7,500 for a main applicant, $7,500 for a spouse, $2,000 for a dependent child from 12 to 17 years of age, $4,000 for a dependent child from 18 to 25 years of age and for a dependent parent over 65 years of age.
Additional fees for Saint Kitts and Nevis: government processing is $35,000 for a main applicant, $20,000 for a spouse, $10,000 a dependent child under 30 years of age and for a dependent parent over 55 years of age; due diligence is $7,500 for a main applicant, $4,000 for any other person in the application.
Additional fees for Saint Lucia: government processing is $50,000 for a main applicant, $25,000 for each dependent under 18 years of age, $35,000 for each dependent over 18 years of age; due diligence is $7,500 for a main applicant, $5,000 for any other person in the application.
Now let’s go through European countries that exchange citizenship for an investment in real estate. The amount of investment is much higher, but it may be worth it, particularly if you are interested in remaining an EU citizen post-Brexit or you simply fancy a European passport more, and wish to pass that on to future generations by descent.
To participate in Malta’s citizenship by investment program you will need at least €650,000 plus €25,000 if you wish to include your spouse in the application. This investment is non-refundable and will be donated to the Maltese National Development and Social Fund. You will also be required to buy property with a minimum value of €350,000, and invest at least €150,000 in stocks, bonds approved by the Maltese government (should be held for 5 years). And also there are additional fees: due diligence fee for a main applicant is €7,500, for a spouse – €5,000, for a dependent child under 18 years of age – €3,000, €5,000 for any other dependent in the application.
Cyprus citizenship by investment program has similar terms and condition to Malta’s, however, the minimum amount of investment, in this case, is €2,000,000. You can divide the investment, and, for example, invest €500,000 in government bonds and €1,500,000 in other assets.
Another option is to invest in Portuguese real estate to obtain permanent residency first, and after 6 years of legal residence, you’ll be able to apply for a citizenship. To participate in Portugal’s Golden Residence Permit Program a non-EU citizen will need a real estate investment of at least €500,000 or €350,000 in a property constructed more than 30 years ago, or located in an area of urban regeneration.
You’ll be required to reside in the country for 7 days per year to meet the requirements of the program.
Cyprus and Malta also have residency by investment programs that provide the possibility of acquiring an EU residence card. However, only Cyprus residency might be converted into citizenship in 7 years, Malta doesn’t have this option.
Thailand offers interesting residency option – a 20-year visa for $60,000 per person, plus $600 annual fee. The program is called Thailand’s Elite Residence Program. It was established in 2003 and re-launched in 2017. This long-term visa / temporary residency includes such privileges as VIP assistance through immigration and passport control and unlimited short-haul airport transfers for international flights. There are no restrictions on property investment.
No matter what option you choose, you should be prepared to go through a rigorous background check and provide evidence detailing the source of funds used to purchase the real estate objects. This is possible to purchase real estate in your name or in the name of a company or trust.
As you can see, there is quite a number of options to choose from. Ask your agent to do a thorough research before making a final decision. Take into account the strength of a country’s financial and legal institutions, country’s tax regime, political stability, access to quality healthcare, etc.
If you find your country of choice is a high-tax jurisdiction, fret not. Good wealth planning strategies can often be utilised to lessen, if not eliminate, the tax burden. For this reason, it is critical that your adviser knows not just the various citizenship or residency programmes on offer but understands the tax implications of settling in a particular country, as well as various tax treaties that may exist.