There are two exciting immigration opportunities that may be of interest to well-to-do individuals. ‘Citizenship-by-investment’ is an opportunity to become a citizen of a foreign country within a few months by investing in its economy. ‘Golden passport’ is an opportunity to acquire a legal residence permit in a foreign country that can turn into a full-fledged passport after a few years. If acquiring second citizenship has been on your mind, you may benefit from learning about the most recent tendencies in the market. We discuss them below and offer some professional advice.
Choosing the country of your second citizenship is already a challenging task because quite a number of options are available. Things become even more complicated when it comes to applying for a foreign passport. The requirements for candidates, the financial conditions, and the advantages that you can find by becoming a foreign citizen vary from one country to another. Whatever country you choose, however, you will have to hire a licensed immigration agent because the laws prohibit direct contact with immigration authorities in any country that administers a citizenship-by-investment or a golden passport program. Our experts will be happy to provide a free consultation on the matter to you and help you make the best choice. Please supply your email address below and we will get back to you promptly.
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on economic citizenship programs,
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on economic citizenship programs, how to choose a jurisdiction and get a foreign passport.
Economic citizenship/ golden passport programs allow wealthy law-abiding individuals from foreign countries to acquire second citizenship in exchange for investments. Several national states administer such programs and their popularity has been growing. Let’s consider the main trends in the second citizenship market and analyze the opportunities of acquiring the passport of a foreign country.
- Increase in the number of programs. The number of countries offering citizenship-by-investment opportunities has been steadily increasing. A growing number of national governments have come to realize that foreign direct investments can be attracted to their countries if affluent foreigners can find certain benefits by acquiring citizenship or legal residence there. As a result, more and more citizenship- and residence-by-investment programs appear.
- Diversity of citizenship/ residence-by-investment opportunities. Economic citizenship schemes can be rather diverse. Some countries offer full citizenship to any foreign investor who manages to pass through the due diligence checks. Other countries will limit the rights of the economic citizen: for example, he or she may be unable to vote in the national elections and run for a public office. Besides, different countries have different requirements as to the amounts of investment; they have different requirements as to the personal presence of the prospective citizen on the territory of the host country; they offer different benefits to new citizens, and so on. Besides, some countries will allow remote second citizenship acquisition while some others do not. Finally, different foreign passports will give you visa free access to a different number of destinations.
- Flexible investment opportunities. Most countries offer several financial routes to their citizenship. These include non-returnable donations, purchase of real property in the country (Government-approved property or any property to your liking), purchase of government bonds or shares of local companies, establishment of a business venture, a contribution to a local investment fund, a deposit in a local bank, or creation of new jobs in the country.
- Liberalization of requirements. Foreign investors and members of their families are normally not required to live in the foreign country before applying for its citizenship (Malta is an exception from this rule). Besides, no language tests nor local history tests are usually required. The foreign investor doesn’t have to join the armed forces either (there are no armed forces at all in some countries such as Grenada, for example). On average, it takes the immigration authorities of the host countries about six months to process the applications for citizenship from foreign nationals. The processes are constantly improving and the efficiency of administrative procedures is increasing. For example, today you can submit electronic versions of the application documents for provisional approval. Only when your application for second citizenship is provisionally approved, do you have to supply document originals.
- Size of the countries issuing second passports. For obvious reasons, countries with small territories and lack of natural resources are especially interested in offering economic citizenship opportunities to potential foreign investors. They use the money that the corresponding programs generate to finance top-priority national projects such as the construction of schools and hospitals, for example. The money is also used for reducing the risks of natural disasters, combating the climatic changes, constructing social housing facilities, raising the pensions, improving welfare programs, and repaying public debts. Even though most countries granting citizenship to foreign investors are small island states, not all of them are. Three large countries with comparatively strong economies – Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan – also administer citizenship- or residence-by-investment programs. Any country is happy to attract foreign direct investments no matter what its size is.
- Global competition. As the number of players in the ‘golden passport’ market increases, the competition grows tougher. Countries with ‘old’ citizenship-by-investment schemes are improving their mechanisms all the time trying to win the foreign investors’ attention. The toughening competition makes governments decrease the ‘price’ of national passports, shorten the application processing time, relax the requirements for prospective new citizens, and so on. All in all, the increased competition is playing into the hands of prospective second passport holders.
- Enhanced due diligence checks. Keeping untrustworthy foreign applicants away is one of the central goals that the immigration authorities in the host countries pursue. The amount of money that a national citizenship-by-investment program can bring is directly related to the reputation of the program as well as the reputation of the country with the international community in general. All countries issuing passports to foreigners do their best to ward off criminals, tax evaders, and other undesirable foreigners.
- Extension of the list of benefits that foreign investors can find. Some countries running citizenship-by-investment programs offer special advantages to foreign investors that go beyond visa-free travel opportunities. Antigua, for example, allows one member of the investor’s family to attend the local University without paying the tuition for one year. Vanuatu, Antigua, and St Kitts do not charge any taxes on the foreign investors’ global incomes after the investors have lived in the respective countries over extended periods.
- Investments in sustainable development. Citizenship-by-investment program administrators have recently started paying more attention to attracting investments to new sectors of their economies. Some countries support investments in renewable energy, for instance (Dominica intends to use the money that foreign applicants for citizenship bring to build a geothermal power station). Some other countries (St Kitts, for instance) invest the money in social housing construction. Turkey supports investors who contribute to infrastructural projects or create jobs in the country. This shows that Governments of the countries that administer citizenship-by-investment programs use the foreign money wisely and promote sustainable development in their countries.
- Regional cooperation between countries issuing ‘golden passports’. Five CARICOM countries have citizenship-by-investment programs but they do not only compete in the market but also coordinate their efforts to achieve common goals. Recently, the Caribbean countries have started to exchange information about rejected applications. This sort of cooperation between countries allows them to minimize reputational risks and save on the administrative costs: if an application for citizenship has been rejected in one Caribbean state, it will be automatically rejected in the other four (in most cases).
- Improvement of program transparency and regulation. Countries that issue passports to foreign investors are under pressure from international organizations such as the EU or the OECD, for example. The global regulators do not want to see second passports issued to criminals, corrupt politicians, and tax evaders. For this reason, the countries that administer citizenship- and residence-by-investment programs have been toughening their due diligence procedures. Their programs can remain afloat only if they are secure enough, in the eyes of the international community.
- Possible decline in the number of via-free destinations. Especially if the foreign investor holds a ‘toxic’ passport, he or she is very much interested in obtaining a second passport that allows visiting an increased number of countries without visas. However, the EU, Great Britain, and Canada have been denouncing their visa-free travel agreements with some countries that administer citizenship-by-investment programs. They pretend that second passports have been issued to ‘questionable’ individuals without proper security checks. In particular, Canada has stopped allowing visa-free visits to citizens of St Kitts and Nevis since 2014. Since 2017, citizens of Antigua and Barbuda have been facing the same problem. In 2022, the visa-free travel agreement between the EU and Vanuatu was suspended. The justification was the lack of proper due diligence checks on the part of Vanuatu immigration authorities.
- Citizenship-by-investment programs come and go. According to the experts’ estimates, the turnover in the economic citizenship market exceeds 10 billion US dollars per year. The figure has been growing year after year. At the same time, some citizenship-by-investment programs are short-lived. In particular, Montenegro, Moldova, Bulgaria, Comoros, and Cyprus have stopped granting their citizenship to foreign investors. We must admit that pressure on other countries running citizenship-by-investment programs is tightening and it’s hard to say how long they are going to last. The European Commission has made it one of its goals to get rid of all citizenship-by-investment programs on the continent by 2025. ‘Better safe than sorry’ seems to be their motto.
Professional assistance in applying for a second passport
As you can see, the tendencies diverge. On the one hand, the popularity of second citizenship programs has been growing as the financial indicators show. On the other hand, the political pressure on the countries issuing passports to foreign investors has been increasing too. Therefore, it would be a good idea to carefully appraise the position of any country that you are considering if second citizenship is on your mind.
You’d have to invest more than a few dollars if you would like to become a citizen of a foreign country in a fast manner. You have to make certain that your second passport is not going to be worthless and your money is not going to be wasted. International Wealth immigration experts know all the ins and outs of the industry. We will gladly help you make the best choice and put you through to the most reliable licensed immigration agent in the country that appeals to you most of all. You are welcome to request a free consultation with us on acquiring second citizenship/ foreign residence.
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