Citizenship by investment in 2020: a comparative analysis of various immigration programs
Several countries of the world offer foreign nationals the possibility to become their citizens in exchange for investment. The required investment amounts differ from one country to another and the same is true for the citizenship acquisition timeframes. Below, we compare the immigration programs offered by more than a dozen national states in 2020.
Many wealthier people from all parts of the world are looking to obtain a second passport. This document is able to provide for greater mobility and visa-free travel all around the globe. Besides, it can facilitate doing business at the international level, making investments, and opening bank accounts in various jurisdictions.
The island country of St Kitts and Nevis was the first to launch a citizenship-by-investment program back in 1984. In 1993, the neighboring state of Dominica joined St Kitts and Nevis and started its own citizenship-by-investment program. The demand for a second passport increased drastically after the world financial crisis of 2007-2008. This made other countries follow the example of St Kits and Dominica. The Caribbean state of St Lucia and the Pacific country of Vanuatu also started issuing passports to foreigners who brought money to their economies. You can also become a citizen of a European country in exchange for investment. Malta and Cyprus, in particular, offer such opportunities.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: the main advantages
What benefits do you acquire when you obtain a second citizenship? These are numerous indeed and the main ones are listed below:
- Freedom of travel all around the world without a visa.
- Enhanced security and confidentiality.
- Protection against wars and political troubles.
- Better education opportunities for the children.
- Access to top quality medical services.
- The possibility to avoid mandatory military service (if you obtain citizenship-by-investment in Grenada or Dominica, for example).
- The possibility to invest into international markets.
- The possibility to acquire a stable passive income if you invest into real estate or a business company in the country whose citizenship you purchase.
- Enhanced tax planning opportunities and minimization of the fiscal burden on your worldwide income.
- The simplicity of doing international business.
We should stress that many countries do not require that the applicant for their citizenship pay a personal visit there. With some immigration programs, you may never see the country whose passport you hold! The second citizenship acquisition can be performed from the comfort of your home.
There are exceptions, however. Malta, Cyprus, and Turkey require that the applicant for their citizenship be personally present when submitting the application documents. Moreover, you have to physically reside in these countries for twelve, six, and three months respectively before you can become their full citizen. Antigua, in its turn, requires that the economic citizens come to the country on a regular basis and spend a few days there on each visit in order to retain the citizenship.
The timeframes of the application processing differ from country to country. The fastest citizenship is granted within six weeks, the slowest one can be obtained within twelve months.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: the investment options
There are several investment types that the applicant for a second citizenship can make use of:
- A non-returnable donation to the state fund. This is the least expensive way to acquire a second citizenship but the donations are not refundable.
- Returnable investments into Government-approved real estate in the country.
- Returnable investments into Government-approved business companies in the country.
- Returnable investments into Government-approved state bonds, shares of commercial enterprises, or investment funds.
- A bank deposit in the country.
- Provision of employment opportunities for local people.
As of the beginning of 2020, over a dozen national states run citizenship-by-investment programs. Below we provide a complete list of countries that grant citizenship to foreign nationals in exchange for investments. The prices indicated do not include the due diligence fees, the application processing fees, and other state duties. To compare the immigration programs we also indicate the timeframes of citizenship acquisition and point out the main advantages that each program boasts.
Before we go on to describe every country separately, however, we would like you to bear in mind the following facts:
- Dominica and St Lucia offer the least expensive passports to sole applicants.
- Antigua and Barbuda has the least expensive immigration program for family applicants.
- Vanuatu and St Kitts have the shortest citizenship acquisition timeframes: you can receive the passports within six to eight weeks there.
- Malta and Cyprus offer the most powerful passports in terms of visa-free travel opportunities.
- Grenada, Turkey, and Montenegro have agreements with the USA that allow their citizens to obtain a non-immigration residential E-2 visa to the United States.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Antigua and Barbuda – minimum US$ 100,000
The Caribbean state of Antigua and Barbuda is a true magnet for billionaires and superyachts that come there in the high season. There are three alternative ways to become a full citizen of this country:
- Make a non-returnable donation of US$ 100,000 to the National Development Fund.
- Purchase Government-approved real property that is worth at least US$ 200,000 and retain it in your possession for minimum five years.
- Make an investment of at least US$ 400,000 into a business corporation and remain the business (co-) owner for five years.
Normally, the application processing is completed within three to four months since the date when the application for citizenship is submitted. Antigua allows dual citizenship and thus you do not have to renounce the citizenship of your home country (if it allows dual citizenship too).
There is no need to visit the country when applying for its citizenship. However, to retain the citizen status you have to visit the islands at least once a year for the first five years of holding the passport and stay there for at least five days on each visit.
The passports issued to foreign investors are valid for five years. When this term expires, the passport has to be renewed and the new passport is going to be valid for ten years.
Canada recently cancelled the visa-free arrangements with Antigua and Barbuda, which has made the passport of this country a little less valuable. At the same time, Antiguan citizens can travel without a visa to about 150 world countries including Schengen zone states and Great Britain.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Dominica – minimum US$ 100,000
The Commonwealth of Dominica is also located in the Caribbean basin. It is not to be confused with the Republic of Dominica, which is a different state. Dominica offers two ways of citizenship acquisition for money:
- Make a non-returnable donation of US$ 100,000 to the Economic Diversification Fund.
- Purchase Government-approved real property that is worth at least US$ 200,000. You can resell the property after three years if the buyer is not another applicant for Dominican citizenship. If he or she is, you can resell the property after five years while remaining a full citizen of the country.
Normally, the application processing takes about three months since the date of the documents submission. Dominica allows dual citizenship so you do not have to renounce the citizenship of your home country. Currently, the Dominican passport gives visa-free access to 139 countries of the world.
You do not have to come to Dominica in order to obtain its passport. Nor do you have to reside in the country to remain its citizen. At the same time, the passport of Dominica will give you the right to live in the tropical paradise as long as you wish.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: St Lucia – minimum US$ 100,000
St Lucia is one more small Caribbean country that offers its citizenship in exchange for an investment. There are four alternative routes that you can take in order to acquire St Lucian citizenship:
- Make a non-returnable donation of US$ 100,000 to the National Economic Fund.
- Purchase Government-approved real property that is worth at least US$ 300,000 and retain it in your possession for five years.
- Purchase zero-interest Government bonds that are worth at least US$ 500,000 and retain them in your possession for five years.
- Invest at least US$ 1,000,000 into a Government-approved business project that will create minimum six permanent jobs.
Normally, the application processing takes about three months since the date when the application documents are submitted. St Lucia also allows dual citizenship so you do not have to renounce your current citizenship. The passport of St Lucia can be obtained without leaving home and it provides for visa-free access to 145 countries including the Schengen zone countries and Great Britain.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Moldova – minimum 100,000 EUR
In order to acquire citizenship of Moldova you have to make a non-returnable donation of 100,000 euros (US$ 111,000) to the state fund. Normally, the passport can be obtained after three months since the date of the application submission.
Moldova allows dual citizenship so you do not have to renounce your present citizenship. The Moldavian passport gives visa-free access to about 120 countries including the Schengen zone states and Turkey. Moldavian citizens are entitled to apply for an E-2 visa to the United States. Moldova is an official candidate for the membership of the Schengen zone.
At the current moment, the authorities of this post-Soviet republic have temporarily suspended the citizenship-by-investment program. It is expected that the moratorium will be lifted this autumn.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Vanuatu – minimum US$ 145,000
The island country of Vanuatu is located in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean. It provides for an opportunity to acquire the passport of a member state of the British Commonwealth of Nations. A non-returnable donation of US$ 145,000 to the state fund has to be made in order to qualify for citizenship of Vanuatu.
You do not have to visit the country to obtain its passport. Vanuatu authorities have managed to shorten the application processing time to six weeks only. One of the most outstanding advantages that Vanuatu citizenship brings is a visa free access to Schengen countries, Great Britain, and the Russian Federation simultaneously.
In total, you can travel without a visa to around 130 countries with a Vanuatu passport. The passport is valid for ten years and it can be extended afterwards.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Grenada – minimum US$ 150,000
The Caribbean state of Grenada offers two immigration routes to the foreign investors seeking to become its citizens:
- Make a non-returnable donation of US$ 150,000 to the National Transformation Fund.
- Purchase Government-approved real property that is worth at least US$ 220,000 and retain it in your possession for five years.
Normally, the application processing takes around three months since the date of the application documents submission. You do not have to pay a visit to the country when applying for its citizenship.
Grenada permits dual citizenship so you do not have to renounce your present citizenship. As of this day, the passport of Grenada gives visa-free access to 142 countries including Schengen zone countries, Great Britain, Russia, and China. Besides, Grenadian citizens are eligible to apply for an E-2 visa to the USA.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: St Kitts and Nevis – minimum US$ 150,000
There are two alternative ways to acquire citizenship by investment in the Caribbean state of St Kitts and Nevis:
- Make a non-returnable donation of US$ 150,000 to the Sustainable Growth Fund.
- Purchase Government-approved real property that is worth at least US$ 200,000 and retain it in your possession for seven years.
The applications for citizenship are processed within three to six months. However, for an additional pay, you can shorten the waiting time to six to eight weeks. St Kitts also allows dual citizenship so you do not have to renounce your home country citizenship. The passport of this country will give you visa-free access to 154 countries including the Schengen zone states and Great Britain.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Egypt – minimum US$ 160,000
The Egyptian citizenship-by-investment program is the youngest of those that are currently in operation. It was launched in the autumn of 2019. As of the beginning of 2020, Egyptians have visa-free access only to 49 countries and territories of the world.
You can become a citizen of Egypt via investing into real estate in the country. There are other options that you can use as well to acquire Egyptian citizenship such as making a bank deposit, buying Government bonds, or donating a certain amount of money to the state fund.
The required investment amounts are as follows:
- Make an investment of at least US$ 160,000 into a joint business project whose total investment value is US$ 400,000 or more.
- Make a non-returnable donation of US$ 250,000 to the state treasury.
- Purchase real property in the country that is worth at least US$ 500,000. You can buy the property from the state, from a legal entity, or from a private individual.
- Make a zero-interest bank deposit of US$ 750,000 (you can withdraw the money after five years) or a zero-interest bank deposit of US$ 1,000,000 (you can withdraw the money after three years).
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Turkey – minimum US$ 250,000
The possibility to purchase citizenship of Turkey arose quite recently, in January 2017. Initially, the price was very high, which drove the demand down. In the autumn of 2018, the Turkish Government lowered the required investment amount to boost the demand for citizenship of the country.
Currently, foreign nationals are entitled to apply for Turkish citizenship if they purchase real property in the country. In addition to that, there are the following immigration routes:
- Purchase real property that is worth at least US$ 250,000. You can purchase any property, as it does not have to be approved by the Government for the citizenship-by-investment program.
- Make a US$ 500,000 deposit in a Turkish bank.
- Purchase a US$ 500,000 worth of state bonds.
- Purchase a US$ 500,000 worth of shares of a real estate investment fund or a venture investment fund.
- Provide employment opportunities for at least fifty people.
Normally, the application processing takes about two to three months since the date of the application submission. Turkey allows dual citizenship and it does not require that you should renounce your current citizenship. A Turkish passport gives visa-free access to 111 countries as things stand for now. It should be noted that Turkish citizens still need visas to enter the Schengen zone countries, Great Britain, or Canada.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Montenegro – minimum 350,000 EUR
In the autumn of 2019, the Montenegrin authorities started admitting application for citizenship-by-investment from foreign nationals. The maximum number of the applications to be approved was set at 2,000. The program will be in operation for three years only and it will be closed in 2022 even if the limit specified above has not been reached.
Foreign applicants have to meet the following financial requirements in order to become citizens of Montenegro in exchange for investment:
- Make a 250,000 EUR investment into real estate located in the northern part of the country or a 450,000 EUR investment into real estate located in the capital city of Podgorica or on the coast. The investment has to be supplemented by a non-returnable donation of 100,000 EUR to the State Development Fund.
- Invest 2,000,000 EUR into the agricultural sector and create minimum ten new jobs.
- Invest 4,000,000 EUR into the wood processing industry and create minimum twenty jobs.
- Invest 3,500,000 EUR into fishery (including fish processing industry) and create minimum twenty jobs.
The investors obtain a residence permit within one month since the investment is made and they obtain Montenegrin citizenship within six more months. The passport of Montenegro provides for visa-free access to 124 countries including the Schengen countries and the Russian Federation. Montenegro is an official candidate for the EU membership.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Jordan – minimum US$ 750,000
Jordan started granting citizenship to foreign investors in February 2018 but as the demand for this product was quite low, the country authorities decreased the initial price by 25%.
Foreign investors can use several options to acquire citizenship and the passport of Jordan:
- Make a US$ 1,000,000 zero-interest three-year deposit to the Central Bank of Jordan.
- Purchase a US$ 1,000,000 worth of state bonds and retain them in your possession for three years.
- Purchase a US$ 1,000,000 worth of shares of a state-approved commercial entity and retain them in your possession for three years.
- Invest US$ 750,000 in a small- or a medium-size business in the country and remain the business (co-) owner for three years.
- Invest US$ 1,500,000 in a large business in Amman or US$ 1,000,000 in a large business outside the capital city, create at least twenty new jobs, and remain the business (co-) owner for three years.
Given the fact that the passport of Jordan gives visa-free access to 51 countries only (as of the beginning of 2020) the price of Jordanian citizenship is rather high.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Malta – minimum 880,000 EUR
The Maltese legislation provides for two alternative possibilities to become a citizen of the country:
- Rent residential accommodations in the country that are worth at least 16,000 EUR per year (or 80,000 EUR per five years).
- Purchase any property in Malta that is worth minimum 350,000 EUR. The property can be resold after five years.
In addition to that, the applicant for citizenship of Malta has to make a 650,000 EUR donation to the Development Fund and invest another 15,000 EUR into state bonds that have to remain in his or her possession for five years.
The Maltese citizenship-by-investment program differs from other analogous programs in that it requires obtaining a permanent residence permit first and then retaining this status of permanent resident for twelve months. Only after this time elapses can the applicant be granted full citizenship of Malta in exchange for investment. Thus, the time required for the acquisition of Maltese citizenship exceeds one year.
Malta allows dual citizenship and does not require that you should renounce your home country citizenship. The Maltese passport provides for visa-free travel opportunities to 183 destinations including the Schengen zone countries, Great Britain, the USA, Canada, and Australia.
We should note that the Maltese economic citizenship program (the so-called Malta Individual Investor Programme or MIIP) is the only such program that has been officially approved by the European Commission. At the same time, this is far from a low-cost immigration program.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: Cyprus – minimum 2,150,000 EUR
In order to become a citizen of Cyprus you have to purchase a residential estate first (any property will do as it does not have to have a Government approval). The property has to remain in your possession for life. Second, you have to make two donations:
- A direct non-returnable donation of 75,000 EUR to the Research and Innovations Fund.
- A direct non-returnable donation of 75,000 EUR to the Cyprus Corporation for the Development of Land Resources.
In addition to these requirements, the applicant for Cypriot citizenship has to meet one of the following financial obligations:
- Purchase any real estate that is worth at least 1,500,000 EUR (the property can be resold after five years).
- Purchase an existing business in the country or establish a new one while investing at least 2,000,000 EUR into it (the business can be sold after five years).
- Invest at least 2,000,000 EUR into stocks and bonds or any other securities that Cyprus-based corporations issue (the securities can be resold after five years).
- Combine the investment options described above. The total investment amount has to come up to at least 2,000,000 EUR.
Normally, six to eight months pass between the moment of application submission and the passport issuance. Cyprus also allows dual citizenship so you can keep your home country citizenship too. You have to visit the island at least once in order to become a citizen of Cyprus.
The Cypriot passport allows travelling to 174 countries without a visa including the Schengen zone countries and Great Britain. The Government of Cyprus hopes to arrange for a visa-free travel to the USA for its citizens in the near future.
Citizenship by investment in 2020: apply for our services
Our experts have vast experience in helping clients acquire economic citizenship of various countries. We are able to provide the relevant services of the highest quality because we know all the ins and outs of this multibillion-dollar business. We exercise strict confidentiality of the customer information and personalized approach to every client who applies for our services.
Our partner law firms that specialize in the immigration law and real estate deals and know about all citizenship-by-investment opportunities are located in dozens of countries all around the world. The countries mentioned above provide for opportunities to acquire their citizenship via a donation or an investment. There are other states that do not run such programs but they will offer you a permanent residence permit if you purchase residential accommodations or other property located on their territories. We will be happy to assist you in relocating to another national state or in diversifying your assets by buying foreign property.
If you are considering the opportunity to obtain a second passport or a second place of residence, you are most welcome to apply for our assistance. We will help you make the best decision possible and guide you through all the bureaucratic processes. Please place your requests for services (or for more information) by writing to [email protected] . We are true professionals in these matters and our clients trust us.