If you are investigating the opportunities to acquire foreign citizenship, European immigration programs will probably be the first ones to attract your attention. This is perfectly understandable, since a European passport will make you extremely well protected and bring many other important benefits.
However, there are certain drawbacks associated with acquiring European citizenship, the most obvious of them being rather high investment threshold. At the same time, there are some alternative solutions that you can consider if you would like to obtain a foreign passport. In particular, you should give an eye to acquiring citizenship of a Caribbean country in exchange for a comparatively modest investment. Five countries in the region administer citizenship-by-investment programs and each of them offers some unique benefits.
Below we compare the opportunities of acquiring European and Caribbean citizenship. We argue that the latter option is preferable in many respects.
European citizenship by investment: What options are available?
Theoretically, Malta – an EU member state – has a citizenship-by-investment program. However, under pressure from the EU authorities, the Maltese Government has had to put the program ‘under revision’ and de facto suspend it. So the program is not fully functional at the moment but even if it becomes available again one day, the cost of acquiring Maltese citizenship is close to a million euros.
Montenegrin citizenship would come at a lower price but the national citizenship-by-investment program is going to close at the end of 2021. Besides, Montenegro has yet to become an EU member state.
Two more European Union countries offer residence-by-investment opportunities that are attractive in many respects. We are talking about the Greek and the Portuguese ‘golden visa’ programs. A ‘golden visa’ is a residence permit that you can acquire in exchange for an investment. After several years of holding the permit, you will be entitled to apply for citizenship of Greece or Portugal. The required investment amounts are more affordable in both countries if you compare them to what Malta charges for its citizenship.
The Greek immigration program was extremely popular before the pandemic. This is not surprising because an investment of 250,000 euros in real estate can make you qualified for a golden visa to the country. However, the Greek golden visa program almost came to a stall due to the lockdown. There was nobody you could submit an application for residence to! The offices were simply closed. Hopefully, the situation is going to improve soon but at the current moment, the Greek golden visa program is not fully available.
As far as Portugal is concerned, the minimum required investment amount is only a bit higher than that in Greece. You can invest 280,000 in real property in the country thus qualifying for a golden visa. However, you will have to buy a shabby piece of property if you want to invest as little as possible in a Portuguese golden visa: it has to be a building over 30 years old that needs repairs. If you would like to buy a livable piece of real property in a nice region of Portugal, you’ll have to bring 500,000 euros.
Portugal is a very nice country where you could live but we must note that purchasing real estate in Lisbon, Porto, or the coastal region of Algarve will not make you qualified for a residence permit beginning January 1, 2022. The country’s authorities want to redirect foreign investments to less developed and less prosperous regions of Portugal.
A few years ago there were also serious issues related to application processing in Portugal. Around 2014 and 2015, the immigration authorities were processing only two applications a day! The applications for residence were piling up and the foreign investors were really frustrated with the delays.
Things improved later on and the Portuguese immigration service deserves praise for handling the pandemic situation. They have digitized a large part of the application process and the coronavirus crisis has had little effect on the popularity of the Portuguese golden visa program.
After holding the golden visa (and keeping the Portuguese property in your possession) for five years, you may become qualified for citizenship of the country. The good news here is that you do not have to permanently reside in Portugal to keep your golden visa: stay in the country for 35 days in total over the five-year period and that will be enough to keep the visa. The not-so-good news is that you cannot apply for Portuguese citizenship before the five-year period elapses and you will also have to take a test in the Portuguese language.
Spain can be one more option to consider as this European country also has a residence-by-investment program. However, the absolutely minimum required investment amount is 500,000 euros and you can become a subject of the King of Spain only after then years.
Clearly, there are some immigration programs in Europe that are worth considering and the Greek and the Portuguese ones probably look most attractive. Below, however, we are going to compare these programs to the citizenship-by-investment opportunities available in the Caribbean basin. We will show that these opportunities are even more attractive at least in some respects.
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Caribbean citizenship by investment: What are the main advantages?
You cannot instantly become a full citizen of Greece, Portugal, or Spain by investing in any of the countries. You will have to wait for 5 to 10 years before you can apply for citizenship in any case. In the Caribbean basin, you can ‘purchase’ foreign citizenship. Of course, the application processing is going to take some time but we are not talking about years. Depending on the particular country, you can obtain a second passport within six weeks to six months. Saint Kitts and Nevis was the first Caribbean country to launch a citizenship-by-investment program back in 1984. Now five such programs are available in the region: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Lucia also grant their citizenship to foreign investors.
Here are three main reasons why you could prefer Caribbean citizenship to European citizenship:
It’s less expensive. The ‘price’ of a Caribbean passport starts at US$ 100,000. However, if you want to pay as little as possible for Caribbean citizenship, you will have to make a non-returnable donation.
But you do not have to kiss your money goodbye, actually. You can also make a returnable investment in real estate in one of the Caribbean countries just the way you can do in Greece or Portugal. You can acquire citizenship of St Lucia, for example, if you purchase real property that costs US$ 300,000. If you buy property in Dominica, an investment of US$ 200,000 will make you qualified for citizenship of the country. In both cases, you can sell your property back after three years and keep the foreign passport.
Caribbean passports are powerful travel documents. European passports are stronger without doubt. But the passport of any Caribbean state running a citizenship-by-investment program will give you visa-free access to the Schengen zone countries anyway. You can stay there for 90 days over any 180-day period without a visa with your Caribbean passport.
The islands in the Caribbean are often referred to as ‘paradise islands’. Even though you don’t have to live in the Caribbean to preserve the passport (as a matter of fact, you don’t even have to ever visit any of the countries to become a citizen with the exception of Antigua) but you can come and stay there until the end of your life! Close your eyes and picture the place: lush tropical forests, roaring waterfalls and whispering rivers, birds singing in a thousand voices, exotic animals crossing your path, lots of sunshine, white (or black) sand, warm water, enigmatic marine creatures… The Caribbean basin is not less popular with tourists than Portugal is and living in paradise is everybody’s dream.
It is true that a European passport will give you some unique bonuses. Portuguese citizens, for example, have visa free access to the USA and they can easily acquire an electronic visa to Australia. But a Caribbean passport can also bring you some unique benefits! Citizens of Grenada, for example, can enter China without visas. Please note that this is a rare opportunity: only nine national passports give visa-free access to China. Investing US$ 200,000 in Grenada real estate will suffice to qualify for citizenship of the country.
Yes, European passports are stronger travel documents but Caribbean passports also give visa-free access to a large number of countries (130 – 140 in the case of Antigua and Barbuda, for example). You arrive in a foreign country, show your Caribbean passport to the customs officer at the airport, get it stamped and off you go! Enjoy your stay!
Without doubt, both European and Caribbean residence- and citizenship-by-investment programs have their own advantages. Deciding where to acquire second citizenship is not going to be easy because there are many alluring options. You will have to carefully investigate all the opportunities that citizenship of a certain country can bring you and all the requirements that each national immigration program has.
International Wealth experts have vast experience in helping clients acquire foreign citizenship and we will be happy to provide a free consultation to you on the matter. Please request a consultation by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us in any other way that you prefer (click on the ‘Contact us’ icon at the top of the page). We always reply promptly!
What European countries grant citizenship to foreign investors?
Theoretically, you can acquire instant citizenship by investing in Malta or Montenegro. However, the Maltese economic citizenship program seems to have been put on hold and the Montenegrin program is closing soon. Alternatively, you can apply for residence-by-investment in Greece or Portugal. You cannot acquire citizenship of any of the countries instantly but you can with time.
In what respect is Caribbean citizenship preferable to European citizenship?
First of all, you can acquire Caribbean citizenship almost instantly, which is practically impossible in Europe. Second, it is less expensive to acquire citizenship by investment in the Caribbean than it is in Europe. Third, the climate in the Caribbean is better than it is in Europe. Fourth, Caribbean passports are only a bit less powerful than European passports are.
How much does the most affordable foreign citizenship cost?
Dominica and Saint Lucia in the Caribbean will issue their passports to foreign nationals in exchange for a US$100,000 donation to the corresponding state fund. You will also have to cover the administrative costs and pay the immigration agent’s fee (you can apply for economic citizenship only via an authorized immigration agent). Alternatively, you can make a returnable investment in real estate in a Caribbean country. Dominica charges less than any other country offering this opportunity: US$ 200,000. You have to invest in resort property.