How can you ‘buy’ foreign citizenship without spending any money?

Buying a product without paying money for it… This certainly sounds as if it was an oxymoron. However strange it may appear though, it is possible to purchase foreign citizenship ‘for free’ if you put some money into state bonds or bank deposits. This is a perfectly legal way to build up a collection of foreign passports without spending too much money nor running high risks. Where can you ‘buy’ citizenship without wasting money? You can do it in one of the following four countries: Saint Lucia in the Caribbean, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt.

A second passport brings numerous important advantages to the holder indeed. You can use beneficial tax regimes, travel freely all over the world without visas, use you second country of citizenship consulates’ assistance in foreign countries, and enhance your general mobility and liberty. 

There are multiple ways of acquiring second citizenship naturalization being the most widespread one. But it takes years and years to become a citizen of a new country via naturalization. If you are not prepared to live in a foreign country for a long time waiting for the moment when you become entitled to apply for full citizenship, there is another option that you have, namely, acquire foreign citizenship by investment.

The smallest flat payment that you have to make when applying for a second passport is required when you make a non-recoverable donation to the state fund designated for the purpose of accepting donations from foreigners wishing to become citizens of the state. Nearly a dozen countries in the world provide for such an opportunity.

However, when making a donation to the state fund, you are parting with the money for good. Yes, it is the most carefree way of obtaining second citizenship, as you do not have to worry about finding the right piece of real estate to buy nor the right business in the country to invest in.

The latter options are also riskier than making a non-returnable donation. The property that you buy can go down in value (most resort property owners are incurring losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example) and the business can go bankrupt.

At the same time, there is a method of foreign citizenship acquisition that does not require giving any money away and that does not involve any risky investments either. We realize that it sounds too good to be true but it is. Please keep on reading to find out more about the perfect way of acquiring second citizenship.

Where can you ‘buy’ foreign citizenship without spending too much money? Saint Lucia

St Lucia is probably the most attractive option to consider. The country has been running a citizenship-by-investment program since 2015. There is a possibility to become a citizen of St Lucia in exchange for a donation. We should note that the required donation amount in this country is the lowest one in the world – US$ 100,000. Only Dominica asks as much for its citizenship while all other countries charge more.

St Lucians also offer a more inviting option, however. You can put half a million US dollars into government bonds, hold them for five years, and then sell them back. These are zero-interest bonds but the Government of St Lucia guarantees their redemption after the set period of time, which is certainly good news. If you fulfil these requirements, you will qualify for citizenship of this Caribbean country without paying too much money for that.

More than this, there is a special ‘crisis’ offer that is going to be in place until the end of 2020. You can invest twice as little – a quarter of a million dollars – in coronabonds and hold them for five to seven years thus qualifying for St Lucian citizenship.

Understandably, you will incur certain costs, as the money that you put into the bonds will be ‘frozen’ for several years. However, if you are going to lose less than US$ 100,000 (the required donation amount) by freezing US$ 250,000 for five years, this option makes good sense from the economic point of view.

Where can you ‘buy’ foreign citizenship without spending too much money? Turkey

The second option is Turkey. The possibility to acquire citizenship of this country appeared quite recently, in 2017. Initially, Turkey was asking US$ 1,000,000 for its passport but as the demand was almost nonexistent, the price was lowered to US$ 250,000. Today, you can invest this sum of money in real estate located in the country and hold it in your possession for three years, which will make you qualified for Turkish citizenship.

When the cost of citizenship of Turkey became much lower, the demand for Turkish real estate grew considerably. Many foreigners started to buy property in the country and currently, many interesting pieces of real estate have already been sold.

Yes, you can still find some attractive offers, but if you look at the Turkish realtors’ websites, you will find that mostly non-liquid pieces of property are on offer these days. You really have to know the local real estate market very well if you are planning to acquire Turkish citizenship by investment into property there. Unless you do, you may end up buying a house that you will not be able to sell back even at a fraction of the price. There is an alternative, however.

You can also put US$ 500,000 into a bank deposit in Turkey and keep the money there for three years. In this way, you will become eligible for Turkish citizenship. After three years, you can withdraw the money while retaining the passport. It is true that the required investment amount is twice as much as the investment into property but the risks are much lower. You can make a US dollar deposit or a Turkish lira deposit. The latter option is not advisable as the lira exchange rates are highly volatile.

Even though deposits are insured in Turkey, the guaranteed limit is not very high. For this reason, you had better put money in several different banks thus diversifying the risks (the local immigration legislation allows doing so). There are a few good banks in Turkey, as a matter of fact. If you make deposits with two or three of those, your risks are going to be minimal.

As the money has to be kept in the bank(s) for three years only, Turkey looks even more attractive than St Lucia does in this respect. Probably, Turkey should not be your number one choice but if you can afford putting half a million dollars in a bank for three years, this can be a nice way to enlarge your collection of foreign passports. It is important to note that commercial banks in Turkey offer attractive interest rates so your money is not going to be completely idle for three years.

Where can you ‘buy’ foreign citizenship without spending too much money? Egypt

Let us now consider option number three, namely, Egypt. This country also launched a citizenship-by-investment program only a short while ago. Actually, the program adjustment process is still underway and it has not received wide coverage in the media thus far.

However, it is already certain that you can put 11.8 Egyptian pounds (US$ 750,000) in a local bank and keep the money there for five years thus qualifying for citizenship of Egypt. You can also make a deposit of 15.7 million pounds (US$ 1,000,000) and keep the money in the bank for three years, which will also make you eligible for the Egyptian passport.

Thus, if you have a million dollars that you can put in the bank, you have another chance to collect more foreign passports. Please keep in mind, however, that unlike with Turkey, you can only make an Egyptian pound deposit with the Central Bank while no interest will be added to the money.

It is reasonable to expect that the national currency of Egypt is going to fluctuate. At the same time, the Egyptian pound has actually been growing in relation to the euro and the US dollar in 2019 and 2020 after a serious prior drop. If the political situation in the country continues to stabilize, the tendency may well continue too.

Where can you ‘buy’ foreign citizenship without spending too much money? Jordan

The fourth option of Jordan has characteristics similar to those of Turkey and Egypt. The country launched a citizenship-by-investment program in 2018 but the initial prices were a bit too high again. Few people are talking about this program and few people know that now the costs of acquiring Jordanian citizenship have been decreased by one third. The following risk-free options are currently on offer:

  • Citizenship of Jordan in exchange for a bank deposit of US$ 1,000,000 (used to be US$ 1,500,000) with the Central Bank at a zero interest for three years (used to be five years).
  • Citizenship of Jordan in exchange for purchase of government bonds that are worth US$ 1,000,000 (used to be US$ 1,500,000). You have to keep the bonds in your possession for three years (used to be five years) and then you can sell them back to the Central Bank.

Yes, Jordan’s offer is the most expensive one. However, you have a choice of making a bank deposit or purchasing government bonds. Besides, the required investment period is three years only, same as that in Turkey and Egypt. Thus, if you have a spare million dollars, you can invest it in acquiring one more passport, namely, the passport of Jordan.  

Should you ‘buy’ foreign citizenship without spending too much money or should you apply for a ‘golden visa’ instead?

There is one more way to acquire foreign citizenship that will suit those who are ready to wait. We are talking about the chance to apply for a ‘golden visa’ that will bring temporary residency in a foreign country and will ultimately lead to a permanent residence permit. Many countries, including a number of European ones, employ this method of attracting foreign direct investments into their economies. A ‘golden visa’ also requires that you should make a bank deposit or buy state bonds of the country whose residency you seek.

The key difference between the citizenship-by-investment programs described above and most ‘golden visa’ programs is that you are supposed to permanently reside in the foreign country for three to fifteen years (depending on the specific country) before you become eligible for its citizenship.

This requirement will have some consequences in terms of tax obligations that may appear unacceptable for wealthy international businesspersons who prefer to be tax residents of low-tax jurisdictions thus lessening their fiscal burden.

There is one exception, however. You can apply for a ‘golden visa’ in Portugal if you put one million euros in a local bank and keep the money there for five years. After this period expires, you will become entitled to apply for full citizenship of Portugal on the condition that you pass a Portuguese language test.

What is important is that you do not have to live in Portugal permanently or even the best part of the year. You only have to spend seven days in the country during the first year of holding the visa, fourteen days in total during the next two years, and fourteen more days in total during the final two years.

This is a wonderful deal indeed! You keep your money with a secure bank that pays an interest on your deposit. You do not buy any real estate whose price may go down in the future the way it is doing now due to the pandemic. You acquire a legal resident status in an EU member state, which allows you to reside anywhere you like within the borders of the European Union. And in five years’ time you become an EU citizen! This is a chance not to be missed in case you can afford making a secure investment of a million euros into this opportunity.  

Should you ‘buy’ foreign citizenship by putting money in a bank deposit or government bonds or should you purchase real estate in a foreign country instead?

As you probably know, Caribbean states offer the most attractive conditions of acquiring their citizenship in exchange for investment into real property. The smallest required investment amount is found in Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, and Dominica. You have to put minimum US$ 200,000 into real estate in these countries in order to qualify for their citizenship. Grenada requires an investment of minimum US$ 220,000. Just to remind you, the least expensive offer found in Eurasia is made by Turkey: US$ 250,000.

However, if you are thinking about purchasing real estate in the Caribbean to acquire foreign citizenship, you have to remember that there are certain restrictions in all the countries offering citizenship by investment. You can only buy property that is approved by the Government if you want to obtain the passport of a Caribbean state. In case you invest the minimum required amount, what you will have is partial ownership of a suite in a resort complex.

This means that you will not be the sole owner of the suite and thus you will be able to use it only for a few weeks per year. The rest of the time, the suite is going to be used by other co-owners or rented to tourists by the resort administration.

The property must remain in your possession for three to five years, depending on the country. When this period is over, you can try to sell it to somebody else while only a few resorts in the Caribbean have buy-back options. Obviously, selling a piece of property is going to be more troublesome than withdrawing money from the bank account or selling back government bonds.

In Turkey, there is no requirement that the prospective citizen should buy only government-approved property – any piece of real estate will do. However, this does not make selling it back after a few years any simpler.

High risks may be involved in buying real estate in a foreign country unless you conduct careful market research. Besides, when you own a villa abroad, for example, but you do not live there permanently, you have to cover the maintenance costs or find a realtor who will let it on short-term leases on your behalf.

Naturally, zero-risk investments do not exist. If you put money in a bank, it may go bust and you will lose the best part of the money. If you buy government bonds, you may not be able to sell them baсk in case a default happens in the country. At the same time, making a deposit with a secure bank or buying bonds issued by a trustworthy national government would be a far less risky investment than buying real property in order to acquire foreign citizenship. Making a non-recoverable donation should look even less reasonable in many cases.

Where can you ‘buy’ citizenship during the COVID-19 pandemic?

If you need a foreign passport urgently, while the pandemic is still raging around the globe, we do not have any good news for you, unfortunately. As things stand for now, St Lucian citizenship-by-investment program is the only such program that currently keeps on going.  

Only St Lucia accepts applications for citizenship via the Internet without requiring that the applicants pay personal visits to the country. Some other national immigration agencies have simply suspended acceptance of applications, such as the Portuguese Stranger and Frontier Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras or SEF), for example. Other countries such as Turkey, for instance, still make it obligatory that the prospective new citizen visit the country at least once. This is impossible in practical terms during the times of closed borders, cancelled flights, and global lockdown.

The current pandemic crisis makes it too plain to see that holding only one national passport means running serious risks in this unstable world. Hopefully, our troubles will soon be gone and there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. At the same time, experts say that it would be unreasonable to expect that the world is going to be ‘back to normal’ even when the current pandemic is over. All national budgets have already suffered great losses, some economies have fallen by as much as one third, and hard measures will have to be taken in order to restore the economic processes.

One of such measures would be levying higher taxes on the wealthy ones, at least for a certain period of time until the country’s economy feels healthier. That is why now is a good time to think about investing in a second passport and reserving a spare landing field for yourself and your loved ones. It looks like we have mostly lived through the pandemic but who knows what troubles may arise tomorrow?

We have argued above that making a bank deposit or buying government bonds that will be redeemed with a guarantee may be the most sensible option to choose when applying for foreign citizenship. Personal situations can be different however. Maybe by making a non-returnable donation you will lose less money than by putting a larger sum in a zero-interest deposit for a few years. Or maybe you are going to put the foreign property that you buy to full use thus acquiring both residential accommodations and a foreign passport simultaneously. All of the options available in the second citizenship market are worth considering. The key thing is that you must obtain a foreign passport or two one way or the other if only you can afford it.

Purchasing foreign citizenship: some concluding remarks

Whatever method of acquiring a second passport you opt for, it is not going to come at no cost at all. National governments use citizenship-by-investment program for the purpose of attracting foreign capital to their countries and thus you will have to spend some of your hard-earned money when applying for foreign citizenship.

You will have to cover the costs of the necessary consultation services, the immigration agent services, the legal services, and so on. Besides, every country will have some application processing fees and state duties that you have to pay. However, if you believe that putting some money into the acquisition of a foreign passport would be a wise investment to make, then our specialists will gladly assist you in finding the best possible solution that will fit all your personal needs and requirements. Please write to us to [email protected] and sign up for a personal talk on the matter. You can also contact us via Whatsapp or the live chat.  

How can I ‘buy’ citizenship of Turkey without spending too much money?

You can do it by putting five hundred thousand US dollars (or the equivalent in Turkish liras) into a three-year fixed-term deposit. You will qualify for Turkish citizenship if the money remains intact during the specified period. Interest will be added to the deposit while the money remains with the bank.

How can I ‘buy’ citizenship of Saint Lucia without spending too much money?

Currently, there is a possibility to invest at least US$ 250,000 into redeemable coronabonds and keep them in possession for five to seven years in order to qualify for St Lucian citizenship. The exact period of holding the coronabonds will depend upon the number of people included in the application for citizenship and the amount of the actual investment into the bonds.

How can I ‘buy’ citizenship of Portugal without spending too much money?

To begin with, you have to make a million euro deposit with a Portuguese bank thus obtaining a ‘golden visa’, which is effectively an EU residence permit. After five years, you are free to withdraw the money and apply for full citizenship of Portugal. Officially, you will be applying for citizenship by naturalization. At the same time, you only have to spend one week in the country each year during the five-year period. You will have to take a test in the Portuguese language before you are granted citizenship of the country.