Apr 15, 2020

Your naturalization plans have fallen to the ground? Obtain foreign citizenship by investment remotely!

The current coronavirus crisis has clearly shown how important it is to have multiple citizenship. Those who do have dual or triple citizenship can count on the support of more than one national government during the hard times. Foreign citizenship can be acquired in several different ways. Probably the most affordable of them is becoming a citizen of a foreign country via naturalization after residing there for several years. The COVID-19 pandemic shows, however, that those who were counting on acquiring citizenship of their country of residence can face serious problems with that. The granting of citizenship is now postponed in several countries of the world. It follows that investing a certain sum of money into obtaining a second passport makes very good sense indeed. What adds to the attractiveness of this option is that it is possible to do it within a few months and without leaving home.

The current pandemic has affected negatively various spheres of life. Sometimes its effects are really quite unexpected. For instance, a number of countries have put on hold issuance of passports to foreigners who have been waiting for this moment for years and years residing on the territory of these countries and hoping to ‘naturalize’ soon.

Their examples show that the decision to obtain citizenship of a foreign country via naturalization may fail to bring the desired result even after many years. The problem could have been avoided if these people applied for citizenship by investment that can be granted remotely. In other words, there are countries whose passports can be obtained without ever paying a visit there.

Citizenship by investment vs. citizenship via naturalization: the example of Denmark

The coronavirus has forced national governments to close down schools, to cancel sports competitions, to limit the freedom of travel, and to make billions of people stay at home. In Denmark, these measures have led to the situation when hundreds of people who have been residing in this country long enough to become its citizens cannot obtain their passport. Now they have to wait until handshakes become safe again.

The Danish mayors have been asked to suspend the naturalization ceremonies that require a mandatory handshake since the relevant amendment to the country’s immigration legislation was passed in 2018. Now the Danish healthcare authorities recommend that people abstain from handshakes in order to help keep the virus proliferation in rein.

The new requirement mentioned above was severely criticized by the opponents of the Danish conservatives and the populistic People’s Party that proposed the amendment. The critics claim that this is an anti-immigration measure aimed at those who might have to refuse to shake hands with a person of the opposite sex. For example, religious views in some Muslim communities prohibit doing this.

However, Denmark is not the only European country that imposes this rule. In 2018, a French court of law ruled that the refusal to shake hands with the male government official at the naturalization ceremony was to be regarded as sufficient grounds to deny French citizenship to a woman from Algeria.

The Danish law of 2018 also excludes the possibility to shake hands with the mayor while wearing gloves. When the number of infected people grew dramatically in Europe, the Danish authorities considered the opportunity to lift these limitations while the pandemic continues. Unfortunately for the prospective citizens of Denmark, the requirement to shake hands with the mayor when being granted citizenship remained in place.

Many people thought that this decision on the part of the country’s authorities was absurd. The delay in the naturalization process may deprive some immigrants of the opportunity to become full citizenship of Denmark in the near future. For instance, the children of prospective citizens can acquire Danish citizenship together with their parents who have lived in the country for nine years, as required by the immigration laws. But if the child turns eighteen while waiting for the pandemic to end, he or she may have to start the naturalization process all over again as children over this age limit do not qualify for Danish citizenship automatically when their parents acquire it.

Before the current crisis broke out, the local officials used to have at least two naturalization ceremonies per year. These ceremonies marked the end of the waiting period for the foreigners who had lived in Denmark for nine years, who had passed the Danish language and history tests, and who had been able to confirm their financial self-reliance.

Citizenship by investment vs. citizenship via naturalization: the example of Australia

The Covid-19 pandemic has also resulted in the suspension of granting citizenship to thousands of Australian residents. Australia too has introduced serious limitations that are aimed at stopping the coronavirus proliferation.

As of the beginning of 2020, the Australian Ministry of the Interior reported that 120,000 applications for citizenship were being processed. Moreover, 16,000 new applications were filed in February alone.

127,674 people became new citizens of Australia in 2018-19 financial year, which amounts to approximately 2.5 thousand new citizens a week. Before the crisis occurred, the waiting period was up to two years for 90% of the applicants for citizenship. With the current anti-coronavirus measures, it is reasonable to expect that the waiting period will become longer and the applicants’ number will become larger.

Over 7.3 million immigrants live in Australia. Earlier this year, the Government of the country announced the closure of borders to foreigners. Any citizen of Australia arriving there has to remain in self-isolation for fourteen days.

Citizenship by investment vs. citizenship via naturalization: the example of Greece

While people cannot complete the naturalization process in Denmark and Australia after waiting for a long time for their new passports, those who would like to become citizens of Greece cannot even start this process at the moment. The immigration offices are closed.

Greece offers one of the most affordable ‘golden visa’ programs in Europe. A foreign national can acquire a legal residence permit in exchange for a 250,000 EUR investment and become a full citizen of Greece after seven years of permanently living in the country.

Nevertheless, you simply cannot file an application for Greek citizenship as things stand for now. The relevant offices are closed and the officials are working remotely. It was expected that the immigration offices would resume operations in the middle of April but seeing how things progress, it seems very unlikely that they will.

Citizenship by investment vs. citizenship via naturalization: the example of Portugal

Greek officials have suspended accepting applications for ‘golden visas’ and their Portuguese counterparts have followed their example. The opportunity is going to be unavailable until July 1, 2020. However, the Portuguese authorities have undertaken to grant the migrants who are currently residing on the territory of the country full citizens’ rights while the COVID-19 epidemic continues.

The measure has been taken in order to give access to medical aid to all people in the country including non-citizens. The coronavirus outbreak is becoming more and more widespread in Portugal and the country authorities understand the importance of doing everything that is possible to minimize the risk of the infection proliferation.

Portugal declared the state of emergency on March 18 this year and the decree went into effect on the same day. Initially, the state of emergency was to be in force for fifteen days. In addition to that, Portugal has toughened the control of its border with Spain limiting travel between the two countries. Entry to the country is prohibited to all non-EEA citizens as well as those who cannot provide a legitimate goal of visiting Portugal.

Citizenship by investment vs. citizenship via naturalization: it is time to make a choice and start acting!

What do you have to do when you are hoping to acquire citizenship by naturalization in the times when a ritual as mundane as a handshake has become illegal? There is a way out of this situation. Instead of sitting around and waiting, you can look for alternative solutions. There are, in fact, several very interesting immigration routes.

While Denmark, Australia, and other countries cancel the citizenship acquisition ceremonies in the fear of COVID-19 proliferation, five Caribbean states allow applying for their citizenship remotely.

These countries use their citizenship-by-investment programs as sources of considerable income to the state budgets. The economies of St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St Lucia depend on the money that foreign investors bring in exchange for their passports to a large extent. This is why the last thing they want to happen is suspend their immigration programs.

At the same time, the coronavirus is spreading further and further around the globe and the instruments that were effective enough before cannot by relied on any longer. This requires some new measures to be taken and the Caribbean countries adjust their methods of application processing thus adapting to the new reality.

Over the recent weeks, the Caribbean countries that grant citizenship to investors into their economies have been doing their best to improve the level of the application processing digitalization and automation. Their immigration officers are now actively working with various online systems that applications that allow decreasing the amount of ‘physical’ information carriers involved in the process of applying for a second passport. At the same time, officials of all the five countries mentioned above stress that these adaptations do not make the due diligence requirements any weaker or less stringent. All candidates for their countries’ citizenship still have to undergo serious security checks. The difference is that at this moment much of the checking is performed on the remote basis.

The changes that are currently being introduced are absolutely necessary in the quarantine and the lockdown period as the Caribbean states have to keep attracting foreign capital in order to survive and prosper. However, the digitalization of the application processing that is currently going on has the potential of revolutionizing the whole business. It is likely that these changes will lead to simpler and faster foreign citizenship acquisition for those who apply for it in the future. 

The current pandemic has made everybody realize how vulnerable we are to the forces of nature. At the same time, we are not helpless! What is important is to look ahead and prepare a ‘plan B’ that you can resort to in case something similar to the present-day crisis happens. It seems as clear as day now: if you can afford spreading a safety net for yourself and your family, you must do it.

Are you one of those who wants to diversify risks and protect your loved ones via acquiring second passports for all of them? It is quite possible to file a family application for citizenship while following the recommendation to stay home.

Offshore Pro Group is a company of experienced experts who will be happy to assist you in acquiring citizenship of a foreign country and a second passport. Please write to us to [email protected] and we will help you make the best choice of the citizenship-by-investment national program of which there are over a dozen in the modern world. Contact us right now and enhance the level of your security in 2020!

What countries have citizenship-by-investment programs?

You can obtain the passport of one of the following fourteen countries through investment: St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, Malta, Cyprus, Montenegro, Austria, Bulgaria, Moldova, Turkey, Jordan, and Vanuatu.

What is the cost of acquitting citizenship through investment?

The costs differ across the countries. The lowest prices are to be found in the Caribbean basin (Dominica, for example, offers citizenship to foreign nationals who make a US$ 100,000 donation to the state fund) and the highest prices are to be found in Europe (it cost over 2,000,000 euros to become a citizen of Cyprus, for example).

Can I acquire citizenship of a foreign country without ever visiting it?

It is possible with some countries that run citizenship-by-investment programs but not all of them. Most Caribbean states allow for this opportunity with the exception of Antigua and Barbuda. Vanuatu in the South Pacific also make it possible but you will have to visit all other countries at least once to acquire their citizenship.