We had to postpone writing about the procedures of acquiring European citizenship because the situation was unclear and the requirements were constantly changing. We did not want to lead our readers astray by supplying information that might turn out false in a week’s time. At the moment, things have become quite clear and below we are going to discuss the opportunities to become a citizen of the European Union.
We regret to admit that ‘buying’ European citizenship is practically impossible at this moment in time. Anyone who asserts the opposite is an amateur or a liar. So the question is not ‘How can you acquire European citizenship?’ but rather ‘Can you acquire European citizenship at all?’
We have to be clear: the principle opportunity of obtaining European citizenship exists without any doubt. If you want it ‘right here and right now’, we will have to disappoint you and tell you that this is truly impossible. However, if you are prepared to make an investment, acquire a legal residence permit in a European country first, wait for a few years (three to six), and then file an application for European citizenship, you have several options to consider.
Below, we are discussing the status quo as far as European citizenship is concerned and inform you about the available options. Should you have any questions after reading the article, you are most welcome to contact us by email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will promptly reply to you.
Has the epoch of ‘golden passports’ ended?
Only a few months ago, this would be unthinkable. When the world faced the COVID-19 pandemic, the ‘golden passport’ (the opportunity to acquire European citizenship in exchange for an investment) seemed an optimal solution. People from other parts of the world needed a powerful travel document while the Governments of the European countries ‘selling’ their passports to foreigners were happy to use any opportunity to raise more funds needed to fight the consequences of the pandemic. The situation changed almost overnight though.
The Arab Al-Jazeera TV channel has to be ‘given credit’ for that. The journalists of the channel conducted an investigation that showed that Cyprus and Malta – the two EU member states that ‘sold’ their passports to foreigners – violated the European regulations. In particular, their citizenship-by-investment procedures allowed criminals from other parts of the world to obtain European citizenship for money. The official Brussels was alerted and pretending that it did not know anything about these violations, started its own investigation. The investigation confirmed the findings of Al-Jazeera journalists.
The Euro Commission gave Malta and Cyprus two months to eliminate the problems or file an appeal. The countries chose not to argue with Brussels (practice shows that this supranational structure is invincible). So Cyprus announced the closure of the citizenship-by-investment program beginning November 1, 2020 and Malta later followed suit, essentially.
What is more, the national Governments initiated the procedure of rechecking the legitimacy of the issuance of already granted passports. The Cypriot authorities, in particular, reported taking ‘golden passports’ away from a few people who appeared unable to prove the legality of their sources of income. Will the citizenship-by-investment programs be relaunched? It is hard to say. We expect that some tougher due diligence procedures will have to be put into place and this makes it very unlikely that the programs will be relaunched soon. Therefore, you cannot count on acquiring European citizenship fast now.
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European citizenship: myths and reality
Before we move on to describing the available legal residence options, we would like to clarify some issues related to European citizenship acquisition. Sometimes people’s beliefs prove false and there are certainly many widespread misconceptions related to European citizenship. Naturally, when looking for a way to become a European citizen, you have to base on reliable information rather than myths. Let us consider several assertions concerning European citizenship and the procedures of acquiring it.
A child born in an EU state automatically becomes a citizen of this state.
- Verdict: False for most EU countries.
- Explanation: It is true that some national states apply the jus soli (right of soil) principle and grant citizenship to anyone born on their territories. Most European countries, however, apply the jus sanguinis (right of blood) principle and grant citizenship to children of their citizens.
Pro forma marriage is a possible way to European citizenship.
- Verdict: false.
- Explanation: A fictitious marriage is an outdated method of acquiring foreign citizenship. Today, marriages with foreigners are monitored very closely. The fraud will be found out without doubt and you will not only lose your European citizenship but you will also be put on a black list and you will never be able to enter the EU again.
An EU passport can be bought
- Verdict: (currently) false.
- Explanation: Formally, European citizenship has never been ‘sold’ in the full sense of the word. Investment schemes simplified European citizenship acquisition and lessened the waiting period but now they are unavailable (see above). If you would like to legalize your presence in Europe, please discuss the opportunities of acquiring a legal residence permit in a European state with our experts.
A can acquire an EU passport by investing in any European country.
- Verdict: False.
- Explanation: Malta and Cyprus used to sell ‘golden passports’ but not any more. On the other hand, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Malta, Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium administer ‘golden visa’ programs. These programs allow foreign investors to obtain a legal residence permit in one of these countries, which will automatically become a legal residence permit in the EU. It has to be noted, however, that even though many of the ‘golden visa’ programs do lead to full citizenship of the country eventually, it takes quite some time anyway.
I will lose my money if my application for European citizenship/ residence by investment is rejected.
- Verdict: Partially true.
- Explanation: Wherever you apply for foreign residence or citizenship by investment, the required amount of money has to be invested AFTER the application has been approved. At the same time, you have to cover the application processing fee and the due diligence fee while these sums are non-returnable. But then again, the fees are not too large in comparison to the required investment amount.
European citizenship acquired by investment is defective.
- Verdict: False.
- Explanation: When you acquire European citizenship by investment, you thus acquire all the rights and privileges that native-born citizens have. At the same time, some countries put forward certain conditions that the new citizen has to meet to retain his/ her citizenship.
I will have to renounce my current citizenship when acquiring a second passport and pay taxes.
- Verdict: False in most cases.
- Explanation: All European countries that administer residence- or citizenship-by-investment programs allow dual citizenship. You may have to renounce your home country’s citizenship if the legislation of your home country does not allow dual citizenship. At the same time, the authorities of the European state where you acquire second citizenship are not going to inform the authorities of your home country about it. As far as tax residency is concerned, you do not become a tax resident of the European country whose citizenship you are acquiring by default. Normally, you become a tax resident of the country if you physically reside there during the best part of the year. Most (though not all) European countries will allow you to hold their passports while paying NO taxes to their national budgets.
I must permanently reside in the country of second citizenship or lose it otherwise.
- Verdict: False.
- Explanation: No such requirements apply to investment immigrants. On the other hand, you have to meet the physical presence requirements if you want to become a tax resident of a European country (which you do not, by the way).
My adult children will not qualify for European citizenship when I acquire it.
- Verdict: Partially true.
- Explanation: Most European countries accept family applications for residence/ citizenship from foreigners. However, only dependent family members can be added to the application. If your child is grown up but he/ she attends college/ university, they can be added to the family application. If your child is married, he or she cannot be added.
I cannot pass on my foreign citizenship to my children and grandchildren.
- Verdict: Partially true.
- Explanation: Different immigration programs will have different regulations concerning the inheritance of citizenship by the foreign investor’s children and grandchildren. That is why you should select the country and the investment program with care.
Here are the rights that you will acquire if (and when) you acquire European citizenship (and these are the rights that all Europeans enjoy, native born or naturalized):
- Unimpeded and visa-free movement across the European Union and the Schengen zone.
- Simple access to 180 countries of the world (visa-free, visa-on-arrival, low chance of visa application rejection).
- The right to choose the EU country where you want to live. You will have to register with the local immigration authorities though.
- The right to have employment and engage into business activities on the territory of the EU.
- The right to purchase and own real property in Europe and to sell it (If you acquire European citizenship by investment into real estate, there will be requirements related to the ownership period).
- Access to the European healthcare system.
- The right to pass on European citizenship to your children (with reservations).
- An opportunity to register a business company in Europe and open a personal/ corporate bank account there without much trouble.
- Protection of your interests on the part of the state (European countries have socially beneficial legislations).
If you would like to know how much European citizenship is going to cost exactly, please contact InternationalWealth experts and describe your goals.
Routes to European citizenship
As we have found out, it has become impossible to ‘buy’ a European passport. Cyprus has closed (suspended?) its citizenship-by-investment program in November 2020. Malta reached the quota of 1,800 foreign applicants for its citizenship by June 2020 and it has been silent about its citizenship-by-investment program ever since. It is unclear at the moment if the Maltese authorities will be able to ever relaunch the program. Other countries are taking a wait-and-see approach not wanting any trouble with the official Brussels. Does it mean you cannot legalize your prolonged stay in Europe even if you are prepared to make considerable investments? No, it does not.
Let us now discuss the available residence-by-investment programs. Such programs do not provide for an opportunity to instantly acquire European citizenship but many of them will pave the way to it. Yes, you will have to wait for a few years to become a European citizen but if you are prepared to wait, you may be interested in applying for legal residence in a European country. Legal residence-by-investment program are often referred to as ‘golden visa programs’ and we are going to use this term too.
Below please find a list of European countries that administer residence-by-investment programs and the information about the required investment amount for a single applicant (temporary residence permit/ permanent residence permit).
- Malta – from 125 thousand EUR / from 330 thousand EUR.
- Cyprus – from 160 thousand EUR / from 350 thousand EUR.
- Greece – from 275 thousand EUR / from 430 thousand EUR.
- Latvia – from 60 thousand EUR / from 282,5 thousand EUR / from 308 thousand EUR / from 325 thousand EUR.
- Portugal – from 300 thousand EUR / from 540 thousand EUR.
- Spain – from 540 thousand EUR.
Opportunities for acquiring legal residence for family members:
|Children below 18||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Adult children||Up to 25 yo||До 21 года||No||Yes (with reservations)||Full-time student||Full-time student|
|Dependent parents||65 yo||Yes||No||Yes||65 yo||Yes|
|Spouse’s parents||65 yo||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
The cost of European citizenship (depending on the investment object, minimum required investment amount in euros):
|Real estate||From 300 thousand||From 250 thousand||From 250 thousand||Option unavailable||From 280 thousand||From 500 thousand|
|Business||Option unavailable||From 400 thousand||From 500 thousand||Option unavailable||From 350 thousand||Option unavailable|
|Bonds||Option unavailable||From 400 thousand||From 250 thousand||From 250 thousand||Option unavailable||From 2 million|
|Bank deposit||Option unavailable||From 400 thousand||From 280 thousand||Option unavailable||From 1 million||From 1 million|
Temporary residence permit (TRP) / permanent residence permit (PRP): basic conditions
|Permit type||PRP||PRP for 5 years||TRP for 5 years||PRP||TRP for 1 year||Visa for 1 year|
|Prolongation||Not required||Every 5 years*||Every 5 years*||Not required||Every 2 years*||Every 2 years*|
|Upgrade to PRP||Not required||Not required||5 years**||Not required||5 years||5 years**|
|Upgrade to full citizenship||7 years**||7 years**||10 years**||18 years**||5 years||10 years**|
|Right for employment||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
* – on the condition that the investment object is preserved over the term indicated; ** – the required term of living in the country.
Ease of doing business (in comparison to Germany):
* – in comparison to other countries listed in the table.
Speed of legal residence acquisition and the toughness of the requirements:
|Speed (months)||Up to 4||Up to 3||3||Up to 9||6||4|
Life security levels:
Cost of living (euros per months) and living conditions:
|Cost of living**||2,510||2,150||2,000||2,700||2,000||2,300|
|Comfort of living, %||90||88||88||95||91||94|
|Healthcare efficiency, %||80||79||71||82||79||82|
* – Two-bedroom apartment in the capital, rent; ** – for a family of four with high living standards; *** – climate: ST – subtropics, MT – Mediterranean, C – continental.
Alternative methods of acquiring European citizenship
We have shown above how much it is going to cost you to acquire legal residence in Europe and then full European citizenship with time. Evidently, this route to European citizenship requires some serious investments even though it is a comparatively short one. If you are not prepared to invest so much in a European residence permit, there are some other options that are available too. These options are more affordable but some of them require satisfying some tough conditions while some others will take a lot of time. We will be happy to help you whichever option you choose.
European citizenship by birth
- If you or any of your ancestors were born in a European country, you may qualify for its citizenship.
- Application processing time – not more than 1 year.
- Costs – not more than 1,000 EUR.
- Minimal chance of rejection.
- Ancestry depth will depend on the particular country.
European citizenship by naturalization
- This route to European citizenship is long and administratively difficult.
- You will have to learn the country’s history, culture, and the language.
- You will not enjoy the same rights while living in the country as its citizens enjoy.
- The basic way to European citizenship by naturalization look as follows: temporary residence permit, permanent residence permit, full citizenship.
- Considerable chances of application rejection.
European citizenship by permanent employment
- Waiting time is 5 to 10 years.
- You will have to satisfy numerous requirements.
- You will have to find a company that will provide a job to you and sponsorship.
- You have to be a highly qualified specialist.
- You will have to pay taxes.
European citizenship by marriage
- Marrying a European citizen will make you a citizen too within a much shorter period in comparison to other methods of European citizenship acquisition.
- In most cases, you will be issued a residence permit first.
- In most cases, you will have to stay married for some time before you can apply for citizenship.
- Marriage fraud will inevitably be found out and instead of acquiring European citizenship, you will be deported from the country and forbidden to ever enter the EU again.
European citizenship by starting a business
- This option is available in Belgium, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Latvia.
- It is an expensive method of acquiring European citizenship.
- You will have to meet tough qualification requirements.
- Your company will have to pay corporate taxes and you will have to pay personal taxes too.
- Yours will have to be a working company, not a dummy one.
European citizenship by investment
- The most attractive option in many respects.
- Few requirements to satisfy apart from making the investment.
- European citizenship by investment will cost a considerable sum of money (less expensive options can be found in the Caribbean).
- The investment will simplify obtaining full European citizenship even though it is not going to come by default.
- The requirements of many national ‘golden visa’ programs are currently becoming stricter.
- It is impossible to ‘buy’ European citizenship today: the Cypriot program is closed and the situation with Malta remains unclear.
Expert support in acquiring European citizenship
So, how much does European citizenship cost? We cannot give a definite answer to this question. What is clear, however, is that European passports cannot be ‘bought’ at the moment. Will the Cypriot and the Maltese citizenship-by-investment program reopen in the future? It is hard to say. In any case, legal residence in Europe is still accessible through one of the ‘golden visa’ programs.
If you are interested in acquiring a legal residence permit in a European country and if you are prepared to make an investment that the ‘golden visa’ programs require, we will be happy to provide legal support to you in the process. Please contact InternationalWealth experts and request a free consultation on the matter. You will be able to discuss all the relevant issues with the expert and ask all the questions that come to your head. You are welcome to write to email@example.com, use a messenger or our life chat. We always reply promptly!