Citizenship by investment: a dozen tips on avoiding fraudsters

If an agent claims that a person with a criminal past can acquire foreign citizenship by investment, this is a sure sign of fraud!

Are you thinking of acquiring foreign citizenship by investment? If so, you have to be careful not to fall prey to swindlers! Especially if you are a beginner collector of foreign passports, you should not trust anybody. Below please find a dozen useful tips and hints on how you can avoid mistakes that are likely to cost you dearly.

Many investors will want to economize on foreign citizenship acquisition and look for cheapest options. Various kinds of fraudsters are well aware of this tendency and they will offer you foreign citizenship at a ‘reduced’ price. Watch out for cheap offers!

Citizenship

Another trap many investors fall into is paying the required investment amount in full BEFORE their application for foreign citizenship has been approved by the authorities of the host country. If an agent tells you that it is fine to do so, it is a sure sign of fraud.

Below please find several recommendations on avoiding deception when applying to one of the national citizenship-by-investment programs. If you would like to clarify some aspects, please contact InternationalWealth experts without hesitation.

1. Use the services of authorized agents only

When applying for foreign citizenship, you always have to use the services of a licensed immigration agent. Besides, you need consultation services from a trustworthy consulting company. Instead of relying on pure trust, you had better examine the official website of the national organization in charge of dealing with foreign investors. In English-speaking countries, such organizations are usually called Citizenship By Investment Units (CIU). You can find all the official information concerning the required investment amounts and additional charges if you check the website.  

Countries granting citizenship to foreign investorsOfficial website of the corresponding Government unit
Saint Kittsciu.gov.kn
Dominicacbiu.gov.dm
Antiguacip.gov.ag
Saint Luciacipsaintlucia.com
Grenadabi.gov.gd
MoldovaProgram suspended
MaltaProgram suspended
Vanuatuvancitizenship.gov.vu
Turkeyinvest.gov.tr
Montenegrogov.me
Jordanmoi.gov.jo

Please note that two economic citizenship programs are currently unavailable. In addition to the required investment amounts and additional fees, the websites listed above contain information about the application stages and procedures.

2. Minimum cost of foreign citizenship

There is no national immigration program that allows acquiring a second passport by investment that requires less than US$ 100,000 as a non-returnable donation or less than US$ 200,000 as a returnable investment. In addition to these investment amounts, you will have to pay the agent’s fee and the state duties.

3. Investments into real estate

If you are acquiring foreign citizenship by investment into real estate, please use international lawyers’ advice. In Particular, please make sure that the property you are putting your money in has been approved by the local Government for immigration purposes. Most countries running citizenship-by-investment programs issue passports only to those foreigners who have purchased property in Government-approved development projects (such as resort complexes, for example). The only exception from this rule is Turkey: you can invest in any piece of property in the country.

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If you have any doubts, you should consider visiting your potential second home country and see the development site with your own eyes. It is true that you do not have to visit many of the countries offering citizenship-by-investment opportunities in order to obtain the passport. However, since you are investing US$ 200,000 +, you had better see the investment object yourself.

Please also mind that the developers will often want to charge you more than the market price for the house or the apartment that you are buying. It is going to be easier for them to rip you off in case you are far away. When in the country, you can compare the asking price with the prices for nearby property thus determining if you are being charged a fair price.

Do not pay the developer before receiving the Letter of Approval from the CIU!

Please also beware of the fraudulent schemes that some developers may use. Here is how one of such schemes works. The developer may offer you a loan of half the price of the house/ apartment and tell you that you can pay it back in five years.

You have to realize, however, that such low-interest loans are used as a tool to attract more investors. If you invest a smaller sum that is required by the Government of the host country, you will not qualify for citizenship!

Make sure that you check the official website for the minimum required investment amount. If the developer offers you to pay a smaller price, decline the offer without hesitation. If you do not, you risk losing your money and never obtaining a second passport.

If the main applicant’s passport is annulled, the passports of all his/ her family members will be automatically annulled.

It is possible to use a bank loan to acquire a legal residence permit in a foreign country when investing into real estate. You have to realize, however, that some risk can be involved if you use a loan. The Government of Ireland, for example, has recently announced that the residence permits issued to foreign investors using bank loans will be revoked.

This fact may be annoying but national Governments often change their immigration policies. The best advice would be to keep to a risk-free path when applying for a legal residence permit or full citizenship of a foreign country.

4. Citizenship by investment vs. golden visa

You have to be sure that you understand the difference between a golden visa program and a citizenship-by-investment program. In the first instance, you obtain a temporary residence permit in the foreign country, while in the second one, you obtain the passport of the country. Please contact InternationalWealth experts for more detailed information about the difference between the two economic immigration programs.

Some golden visa opportunities are quite attractive, as a matter of fact. For example, if you acquire a golden visa to Portugal, you will qualify for full citizenship of the country in five years (of course, there will be some additional requirements). At the same time, golden visas to some other countries do not lead to citizenship. Thus, you have to find out about this opportunity in each particular case.

Many countries administer golden visa programs rather than citizenship-by-investment programs. In Europe, for instance, you can become a full citizen by investment in Malta and Montenegro only. At the same time, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Italy, Montenegro, and some other European states offer residence permits (golden visas) to foreign investors.

A golden visa is a temporary residence permit that can normally be extended. However, you have to pay a personal visit to the immigration office in all instances when your golden visa expires.

Some countries that used to have golden visa programs do not have them any longer. The Hungarian program, for example, was closed in 2016. If an agent suggests that he or she can acquire a golden visa for you even though the corresponding program has been closed (he’s got connections in the Government), and he/ she promises a quick citizenship in addition to that, you can be sure that you are talking to a fraudster.

5. Acquiring foreign citizenship takes time

Acquiring foreign citizenship takes between six weeks and six months. The period can be even longer if the immigration authorities of the host country are overloaded with applications. It can also be extended if some additional documents are requested from the applicant in the course of the due diligence checks. If anybody tells you that you can acquire foreign citizenship in a month only, once again, you are talking to a con artist. Prepare to spend a considerable amount of time when applying for a second passport.

6. Forged passports

Hardcore fraudsters sell forged passports of different national states at US$ 5,000 to US$ 10,000. Needless to say, this is illegal. A forged foreign passport is certainly NOT what you want.

7. Letter of Approval

If you are applying for full citizenship of a foreign country, you have to submit a large number of application documents that undergo the due diligence procedures. If and only if you pass all the checks successfully, your application for citizenship will be approved and then you will be asked to make the donation or the investment in the required amount. No national Government requires that you pay the full sum before your application for citizenship is approved.

This said, however, you may be asked to pay the application processing fee that will not be returned to you if your application is rejected. In any case, if an agent tells you that you have to make the investment in full prior to receiving the Letter of Approval, he/ she is not being honest with you.

Things work a bit differently when applying for a golden visa. Normally, you have to make the purchase agreement before filing the application documents. Please consult InternationalWealth experts on the matter.

8. Dual citizenship

Before applying for a second passport, you have to find out how your home country treats dual citizenship. Some intermediaries will not mention this issue when talking you into acquiring foreign citizenship thus shrugging off the responsibility for possible negative consequences.

If you come from a country that disallows dual citizenship, a wiser choice for you would probably be acquiring a legal residence permit in a foreign country in exchange for an investment rather than applying for a second passport. We will be happy to consult you on this matter in detail.

9. Reasons for application rejection

You have to be honest when filling out the application forms. If you have a criminal past, if you have been denied a visa to the USA, Great Britain, or a Schengen zone country, your application for foreign citizenship is going to be rejected in all likelihood.

If you conceal some important data or if you supply false information, your passport may well be annulled in the future. If you provide only truthful information, if you are honest with the immigration authorities of the host country, you will be able to save a lot of time and money.

Some agents will claim that they can help with obtaining foreign citizenship even if the client has a criminal conviction. Such agents are whether incompetent or they are a bunch of frauds.

Remember: only people with clean criminal records can acquire foreign citizenship by investment. If anyone suggests otherwise, he/ she is a fraudster.

10. Unwillingness to share information about the host country with the client

You will be well advised to learn as much as you can about the prospective country of your second citizenship. If you can, you should visit the country at least once before applying for citizenship. If you don’t even know where the country is located in the world map, you may be asking for trouble.

Imagine, for example, that you are using your second passport when crossing a national border and the customs officer asks you something about the country whose passports you are handing in. He/ she is certainly going to grow suspicious if you cannot answer a simple question about the country of your citizenship.

Please keep away from intermediaries who are reluctant to share general information about the country that you are interested in. This attitude is certainly a sign of incompetence at best or fraudulence at worst.

11. Foreign citizenship for bitcoins

No country administering a citizenship-by-investment program accepts payments in bitcoins. In some countries and in Vanuatu in particular, you can pay the immigration agent in bitcoins. The agent will then convert the bitcoins into fiduciary money and transfer it to the state fund on your behalf.

Some countries including Antigua, for example, are considering the possibility to accept payments for citizenship in cryptocurrencies. The decision has not been finalized yet, however. The high volatility of digital currencies makes it hard to accept them as a reliable payment instrument.

Currently, not a single country accepts payments for citizenship in cryptocurrencies. If anyone claims otherwise, you are probably talking to a swindler.

12. Personal visit and residence requirements

You have to find out about the requirements to foreign investors regarding their personal visit to the country as well as the residence requirements. It is true that many countries granting citizenship to foreign investors allow going through the procedures without leaving the comfort of your home.

However, Montenegro, Malta, and Turkey will want you to pay a visit there and acquire a legal residence permit before you can become eligible for full citizenship there. Antigua, in its turn, requires that you spend at least five days in the country during the first five years of holding the passport.

If the agent that you are talking to fails to give you this information, it should put you on the alert.

Consultations for those wishing to acquire foreign citizenship by investment

In many countries, it is illegal to provide consultations on immigration-related matters if you do not hold a special license or permit. Please do your best to avoid unqualified consultants!

Instead, please contact InternationalWealth experts and apply for a free consultation on acquiring foreign citizenship by investment. You are welcome to contact us by email, telephone, or live chat. We give personal consultations and we guarantee their confidentiality.

When is citizenship by investment suspiciously cheap?

The required donation amount starts at US$ 100,000. It can be higher but it cannot be lower. The required investment amount starts at US$ 200,000. Besides, there will be additional payments involved that include the due diligence fee, the application processing fee, the passport issuance fee, etc. You will also have to cover the costs of the immigration agent’s services, as you cannot file an application for foreign citizenship by yourself: you can only do it via a licensed agent. Therefore, you will have to pay more than a hundred thousand US dollars to acquire foreign citizenship in any case.

When is acquiring foreign citizenship a bad idea?

Citizens of some national states may have problems if they acquire a second passport. Even though most countries allow dual citizenship, some of them do not. If you come from a country that prohibits dual citizenship, you should probably look into the opportunity to acquire a legal residence permit in a foreign country rather than its passport.

How is my taxpayer’s status going to be affected if I acquire foreign citizenship by investment?

This is a very important issue to consider BEFORE applying for citizenship of a foreign country. Legal residence and tax residence are distinct concepts and each country will naturally have unique tax regulations for new citizens. Tax issues are not less important for those applying for a legal residence permit in a foreign country.

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