Families and investors applying for citizenship by investment and golden visa schemes always on the lookout for cheapest option. Many shop around inquiring with various agents. Sometimes you get what you pay for. The cheapest option is not always the best option when it comes to immigration matters.
Do NOT make your full investment (donation or real estate) before receiving Letter of Approval from Citizenship Unit. This is No.#1 mistake many investors make before being conned. Trust No one!
We recommend some of the tips for clients to guard themselves from scams.
1. Official Authorized Agents
Deal with only official authorized agents/consultants and established companies. Check CIU websites for exact fees and investment amounts. There are currently only 11 official CBI schemes. These are the official websites of citizenship units. Please also note that some individual consultants also indirectly work with these approved firms. All the fees and required contributions and application steps are fully available from these official websites.
- St Kitts and Nevis – http://ciu.gov.kn
- Dominica – http://cbiu.gov.dm
- Antigua – https://cip.gov.ag
- St Lucia – http://cipsaintlucia.com
- Grenada – http://cbi.gov.gd
- Moldova – http://cbi.gov.md
- Malta – https://iip.gov.mt/agents-list/
- Cyprus – http://cipregistry.mof.gov.cy/en/
- Vanuatu – https://vancitizenship.gov.vu/
- Turkey – http://www.invest.gov.tr/en-US/infocenter/news/Pages/new-turkish-citizenship-rules-encourage-foreign-investment.aspx
- Montenegro – http://gov.me
2. Do your proper research.
There is no citizenship by investment program offering second passport below $100,000 (donation) and no real estate option below $200,000. Plus there are additional fees to government to be paid such as due diligence, processing fee, application etc. All in all the total fee is only above $100K, surely not less than that.
3. Real Estate Investment
When buying a real estate, always consult an international lawyer. First check if the real estate development is approved by Government before investing in CBI. If you have doubt, make a personal trip. Afterall you are investing $200,000 or more sometimes personal visit will clear everything. Some agents significantly inflate prices of property and are sold to foreigners, unknown to them for golden visas. Watch out. Check the average per square prices in the area and inquire with nearby development projects so that you are ripped off.
Do not pay the developer unless you receive letter of approval from CIU first.
4. CBI vs RBI
Make sure you understand the difference between Residence by investment (RBI) and Citizenship by investment schemes (CBI). With RBI schemes, check whether the scheme offers a path to citizenship legally.
5. Allow enough time
Getting a CBI passport takes around 3 months with Governments check for due diligence. If anybody says it is possible within a month, it is most likely a scam. Everything including paper work and missing documents takes a lot of time.
6. Fake Passports
Be wary of fake passport schemes which is promoted for $5000 to $10,000. They are illegal, dont engage such offers and stay away from making payments, especially through western union or bitcoin.
7. Approval Letter First
Governments offering CBI schemes will only take the full investment amount after issuing approval letter. You are only required to pay directly to Government. This way even if your application is refused, you need not pay. Do not pay the full investment sum to intermediaries.
8. EB-5 Fraud
EB-5 schemes in the US also have witnessed numerous frauds deceived many chinese. SEC has published list of guidelines here
9. Dual Citizenship
Before receiving a foreign passport, check the dual citizenship rules in your country. Many intermediaries wont advise this and you are responsible for this. If you come from a country that prohibits dual citizenship, it is better to apply for residence schemes, than applying for second citizenship. Chose wisely. Seek advice from immigration lawyer.
10. Application Refusals:
Be true with your application. If you already have a criminal background or visa denial from US/UK/Schengen, most likely CBI schemes will refuse your application. Concealment or false information may cause passport revoked in the future. Be true to your agent and tell the truth. This saves a lot of time and money for everybody.
11. Know your New Country
Learn something about the country, which gives you CBI passport or perhaps visit once to get to know more. It does not make sense to buy a passport from a country and you dont know where it exits on the map and you know nothing about it.
Bitcoin is only accepted by Antigua government for citizenship by investment, but this option still in the pipeline. No other country accepts it. The high volatility of bitcoin makes it difficult to use it as payment. Be prepared to lose your investment and high risks associated with it.
13. Residence requirements
Check if there are any residence requirements before or after receiving CBI passport. Dont forget, when you take Antigua passport, Antigua requires you to visit the country for 5 days, if you dont visit within the first five years, passport will be revoked.
14. Golden visa schemes
Golden visa schemes only provide temporary residency. It is not a citizenship or passport scheme. You have visit the migration office in person for fingerprinting when it expires or during extension. Only Malta and Greece offer immediate permanent residence under golden visa scheme for buying a property. Portugal and Spain offer only temporary residence permits with time limit. Hungary residency bond scheme is closed in 2016. Applications not possible anymore. Look for alternatives such as Malta or Latvia
15. Loans or Debts
Be cautious about taking a loan when applying for golden visa schemes. Recently Ireland announced they revoke all visas of investors funded by loans/debt. Governments often change their policies with immigration.
HNW must research and re-evaluate your tax consequences when becoming a resident or citizen of a new country.