What is happening with Golden visas and Citizenship by investment in 2020?.

CBI schemes offer fast track passports for investments, while golden visas offer residency for investments. The two sectors has created a new investment immigration industry worth $1 billion market annually in Americas, Caribbean and Europe.

CoronaVirus Update

CBI: All the Citizenship by Investment programs are running as normal, no disruptions yet caused by coronavirus (covid-19). Border lockdown controls are still in place (CBI citizens not affected, non-citizens are denied entry by many countries).

RBI: Immigration offices offering Golden visa program have been closed temporarily. Golden visa schemes are on hold suspended temporarily.

Impact: The CBI/RBI industry, like many other businesses and service, may likely face a slowdown as result of travel lockdown imposed on China and other countries due to coronavirus. Real estate sector, tourism, events conferences and business travel may see a major slowdown because of the travel and flight restrictions. Expect delays caused key essential services such as due diligence reports, passport services.  Governments and the industry must prepare adequately to handle the health crisis. Several countries have issued travel advisory limiting travel to Iran, Hong Kong, China, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, South Korea. Travelers from these countries, entry may be denied and citizens required to undergo quarantine. US have imposed temporary travel bans on schengen countries including UK/Ireland. Visitors who transited or traveled to Iran, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, France etc are barred entry by many countries due to COVID-19 outbreak.

Let us take a quick look into these schemes running in over 20 countries worldwide.

1. Dominica

Dominica remains the fastest growing economy in the Caribbean for 2020 driven by CBI revenues and tourism. New five star resort Kempinski opened in 2019 funded by CBI scheme. Dominica announced new changes accepting iranian clients and other restricted countries. As of 2020, only tho

Commonwealth of Dominica opened in New embassy opened in United Arab Emirates (UAE) to strengthen diplomatic relations and provide consular assistance to diaspora population and CBI citizens in UAE.

Dominica also made changes to CBI program in Feb 2020, by blacklisting Iran clients with exception that those who lived abroad more than 10 years and have no economic connections only can apply for Dominica citizen by investment program. Further nationals of Iran, North Korea and Sudan applying for CBI are subjected to additional Enhanced due diligence checks and they must pay additional fees for enhanced due diligence.

Dominica CBI scheme contributes to 52% of GDP of the island.

2. St Kitts and Nevis

St Kitts Government is spending more financial resources for due diligence of CBI citizens and to strengthen the integrity of citizenship by investment scheme. No changes announced by CIU so far regarding the pricing. The prices remain at $150,000 for SKN passport.

St Kitts has established a escrow legislation to protect property investors from fraudulent real estate schemes.

The St Kitts Govt has undertaken major initiative in signing more visa waivers to strengthen the travel freedom of SKN passport. St Kitts will also implementing mandatory biometrics for CBI applicants from 2020.

3. Antigua

Antigua permanently extended the limited time offer which comes with 50% discount for the NDF donation. Prices will not increase for Antigua passport in 2020.

CBI citizens have until Jun 30, 2020 to replace old machine readable Antiguan passports to new biometric e-passports to comply with the international travel requirements. They cannot carry more than one passport as per recent Govt announcement.

Antigua currently remains as cheapest citizenship by investment scheme for families, what differentiates from other schemes is a family of four (husband, spouse, 2 children under 18) can get passports by paying just $125,000 compared to other CBI schemes.

Antigua announces delays in due diligence checks due to the impact of Coronavirus.

Antigua has made important changes to CBI program from April 1, 2020.  Some of these changes include slight increase in processing fee for NDF and real estate investment becomes cheaper with processing fee cut by $20,000. Antigua is also easing country restrictions (eg. Iraq and other countries)

Antigua soon to accept stateless people amending its citizenship by investment 2013 legislation to allow wealthy stateless people born in these countries (UAE, Brunei, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia) to obtain passports.

4. Canada

The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program, which allows investors to obtain Canadian permanent residence with a $1.2 million investment, has been suspended until July 1, 2020 due to significant pending applications. This scheme is expected to reopen after this date.

Financing option for this schemes costs approx $250,000 but there are significant waiting times.

From now on, Quebec investor applicants has to undergo a civic test, according a new policy change. Effective January 1, 2020, a new selection condition regarding the learning of democratic values and the Québec values expressed by the Charter of human rights and freedoms applies to all new permanent selection applications submitted under one of the economic immigration programs.

5. Cyprus

Cyprus has announced it has already submitted application to join schengen and will also likely get a visa waiver to United States under Visa waiver Program (VWP).

More than 600 accredited agents compete for 700 client quota annually. Government bonds removed for passport investors.

Cyprus has tightened regulations for investor citizenship scheme subjecting all applicants and their family members to strict background and enhanced due diligence checks, after allegations of passports being issued for high risk clients reported by international media.

So far proceedings have been initiated on 26 persons to revoke citizenship,  obtained by investment.

The Ministry of Interior of Cyprus also announced significant measures on checks on passport investors, these include

  • Politically Exposed Persons Holding or Holding a Political Position for the Last 5 Years
  • Persons subjected to criminal investigation without charges being charged
  • Persons subject to criminal investigation
  • Persons sentenced to imprisonment for serious offenses (eg public servant bribery, tax evasion, etc.) and the penalty has been prescribed
  • Persons linked to legal entities subject to EU restrictive measures eg. share holders, senior executives of companies included in the list of sanctions
  • Persons affiliated with legal entities who have been restricted by the EU, but are no longer associated with eg. shareholders, senior executives of companies that were included in the list of sanctions, which were associated with those companies when the sanctions regime was imposed.
  • Persons Sanctioned by Third Countries (eg US, Ukraine, Russia)
  • Persons associated with legal entities subject to sanctions by third countries.
  • Persons being investigated / charged with criminal offenses and being sought across Europe by EUROPOL or internationally by INTERPOL.
  • Persons investigated / indicted for criminal offenses, are being sought across Europe by EUROPOL or internationally by INTERPOL and are no longer sought.
  • Persons subject to sanctions by the UN Security Council.

6. Malta

Malta Individual investor program (IIP) is quota has reached two-thirds of the limit of 1800 applicants the program is likely be extended post 2020 after reaching limits.

Despite investing $1 million, due to strict checks, the refusal rate for citizenship applications stands at 25% to 33% over the years.  Malta has so far revoked citizenship for one applicant. The interest in Maltese citizenship scheme has been on decline due to negative media publicity and names of citizens published every year to general public.

Malta’s golden visa scheme has grown into popularity, so far attracting 1500 families have acquired permanent residency paying $250K in buying stocks or bonds. The financing option remains popular.

Malta participates in US Visa waiver program (VWP). As a result of newly imposed travel ban by US government, nationals of these 15 countries not eligible apply for Malta individual investor program according to IIP agency.

  • Afghanistan
  • Chad
  • Eritrea
  • Iran
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Libya
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tanzania
  • Venezuela
  • Yemen

7. United Kingdom

The UK is one of the best countries in the world offering very high standards of living, world class educational institutions and healthcare system. The attractiveness of UK never ceased to abate with Brexit and has remained the ultimate immigration destination for rich HNW families.

The United Kingdom has the fastest golden visa programs in the world with most visa decisions are taken within 2-3 weeks.

The Tier1 I investor visa for £2 million offers a golden path to british citizenship after five years. New regulations introduced required investment must be maintained for 3 years to receive entry clearance for 40 months. The Govt bonds (Gilts) has been rescinded.

Education remains the top reason for high net worth individuals to consider UK as study destination. For those who look to study in UK, the education bonds is an attractive option to get tier1 investor visa for students without losing the main investment.

The application number soared for 2019 despite regulatory changes.

From 2021, UK Government to open tier1 investor and entrepreneur route to EU citizens post brexit. Latest figures shows a large number of St Kitts investors from the Caribbean applied for tier1 investor visas.

According to Home office statistics, a total of 360 UK tier1 investor visas have been issued. Interest have been low for innovator/startup visas, which remains unpopular.

Tier1IssuedRefused
2014117298
201519226
201621724
201735017
201837415
201936015
Total2665195

The UK passport remains fifth most powerful passport in the world.

UK nationals will cease becoming EU citizens after brexit transition period effective from Jan 1, 2021. The two words “European Union” will be removed from UK passports and the color passport turns to blue. From this date on, Britons will have to pass through passport control written  “OTHER” or ALL country nationals in airports.

8. Greece

The Golden visa (GV) scheme in Greece has become No.1 spot in Europe attracting property investors worldwide. The minimum property investment required 250,000 EUR is one of the lowest in Europe at a time Greece with low prevailing property prices among EU member states. Most importantly a permanent residence card valid for 5 years with unlimited extensions are issued for GV investors in Greece.

Greece announced in 2019 it is working on a new limited citizenship for investment scheme in 2020, but after few months the idea was abandoned, instead replaced passport scheme with tax residency scheme for HNW investors.

Chinese, Turks, and Arab investors are the biggest consumer market for Greek golden visas. The Government has announced a number of incentives for property including VAT and tax cuts to drive investments. The Golden visa scheme also allows more additional diversified options such as Government bonds, Bank deposits and investment funds

Citizenship in Greece is possible after 7 years of legally living in Greece.  Greek passport is also a very powerful european travel document in terms of travel freedom.

Greece explored opening a citizenship by investment program in 2019, but the plan was later abandoned and replaced with Tax residency scheme to attract HNW individuals.

Greece Golden visa scheme will be open for UK citizens (third country nationals) from 2021, once the UK leaves the European Union after the transition period.

Greece has temporarily closed all immigration offices, suspending golden visa applications, due to coronavirus outbreak (force majeure)

9. Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a unique citizenship by investment scheme, in the pacific. Vanuatu offers a commonwealth passport that have visa free travel benefits to EU/UK, Russia and over 120 countries.

Vanuatu has also fastest passport processing times for investment applicants. The decisions are taken within 3-6 weeks much faster than caribbean passport schemes. The application process of submitting documents is straightforward, less complicated.

New amendments to regulations established in 2019, set the minimum investment to $130,000 to Vanuatu DSP/VCP programs.  Vanuatu operates two different CBI programs with same minimum threshold, one difference is the VCP scheme has right to vote and the other doesnt.

Vanuatu now accepts taking oath of allegiance through video conferencing due to travel bans related to Corona virus outbreak. Previously taking oaths in front of passport officer in vanuatu or agents place only accepted.

Vanuatu Government is reviewing the citizenship by investment scheme seeking feedback from public and ministry, after concerns expressed by EU.

Vanuatu competes with Grenada, St Kitts to attract CIP clients for investments in $150K range and probably passport investors may find it very attractive. Note that Vanuatu has ONLY donation option and no real estate option for passports.

So far, Vanuatu has collected $230.6 million from citizenship by investment revenues in just four years of running the scheme, exceeding all expectations and breaking all records. For 2019, Vanuatu collected $104 million in passport sale revenues equivalent of 9.6% of 2019 GDP, according to new financial reports.

Vanuatu is conducting external review of the DSP/VCP passport schemes and new changes with various reforms, will be announced after elections.

10. Italy

Italy opened investor visa scheme in 2017, since then the investment scheme is still in infancy. Italy still offers residence visas for 500K in startups and 1M EUR in buying italian government debt.

One advantage of italian scheme is the special tax residency option offering a flat 100,000 EUR lump sum tax for millionaires or HNW individuals. Family members pay additional 25,000 EUR

The Italian investor residence scheme still remains unpopular and there is no record of any applications processed. Italy has the second most powerful passport in the world.

Italy offers a special tax regime to HNW investors who pay a flat tax.

11. Netherlands

The Netherlands is one of the best countries to live, work and do business for HNW persons. Netherlands offers residence by investment scheme to foreign investors who invest EUR 1,250,000 in startups or investment funds in dutch companies.

There are no additional requirements and the application process is quite simple.

This scheme never took off and very few investor applications processed as of today!

Netherlands citizenship after five years of legally living and remember Netherlands still has limitations on holding dual citizenship

12. Australia

Australia has attracted billionaires from Asia since the launch of significant investor visa (SIV) program in 2012 and the scheme has generated excess of $11 billion dollars in investment.

Very wealthy chinese have invested over A$5 million dollars in this scheme and so far close to

Australia over the years has emerged as prime investment and immigration destination for wealthy millionaires due to stable political climate, geographically not far away from mainland china, excellent education system with best universities in the world, highest standards of living and biggest property market.

13. Spain

The Golden visa program in spain remains popular with chinese and russians buying properties in spain above 500,000 EUR. Spain also golden visa for highly qualified professionals and intra-company transfer employees.

The visa decisions for residence permits are taken within 10 days also one of the fastest.

In 2019, more than 2000 investors were issued golden visas for real estate investment in Spain.

14. Portugal

Portugal has the most successful and well managed efficiently golden visa scheme in Europe. The program never stopped receiving billions in investments. Although the real estate option is 90% popular among chinese, russians and brazilians lately the capital transfer investments requiring only 250,000 EUR have picked up interest.

In Feb 2020, Portugal voted to end golden visas for real estate investments in Lisbon, Porto and Algarve. This applies ONLY for real estate. Other investment routes such as capital transfer, business remain unaffected. This new measure will not be implemented until 2021 according to latest reports.

The Government is expanding the scope of the scheme to rural areas of Portugal to drive economic investment.

The Portuguese passport is also the best travel documents in the world with visa free access to United States, Canada and over 160+ countries. We recently ranked No.4 passport in the world.

Portugal also offers a special non-habitual tax residency  scheme for golden visa investors.

Until now UK nationals wont be able to apply for Portuguese golden visa scheme. But from Jan 2021, this golden visa scheme will be open for UK nationals to apply.

15. United States

US has implemented new reforms for the old EB-5 immigrant investor program. As of Nov 22, 2019, the most important change was minimum prices have been doubled to $900,000 (from $500K).  Other problems with EB-5 include long waiting times especially for chinese and fraud.

Since then searches in google tends show reduced interest to EB-5 compared to CBI and golden visa schemes.

EB-5 processing of applications will become much faster from March, since USCIS will be changing its approach based on visa availability instead of first-in-first-out policy. US also implemented visa restrictions for 13 countries

The United States is still the most popular destination for wealthy immigrants to pursue business interests and investment.

16. Moldova

Moldova launched a new citizenship scheme for investors in 2019 and the scheme only ran for 6 months before it is suspended for applications. Currently the new government is reviewing whether to continue the scheme or not. This scheme is not closed yet only temporarily suspended for applications.

The Moratorium on the Moldova citizenship by investment scheme has been extended until 2021. So far only 5 applications have been accepted and granted citizenship. Application intake remains suspended as of 2020

Moldova citizens still do not visa waiver agreement with United Kingdom but can travel to schengen area for a limited time.

17. Montenegro

Montenegro citizen by investment scheme is currently open and accepting applications. The Government has announced only investing atleast 250,000 EUR in approved projects mostly hotels will qualify for citizenship under special citizenship program.  There is a 100,000 EUR fee per application.

Montenegro has expanded citizenship program for investments in agriculture, wood processing and fisheries for investments over 2-5 million EUR and creating 60 jobs.

Montenegro is currently candidate country for EU membership negotiations are on and the Government has announced intentions to join EU on or after 2025. The country will also join schengen area after this date. So investing in Montenegro citizenship is a great future investment.

First citizenship by investment case approved by Montenegro in just 3 months. We now know Montenegro passports for investments issued after 6 months (90 days after citizenship approval).

The property prices in Montenegro is lowest in Europe, makes it desirable and a perfect opportunity to invest.

18. Egypt

Egypt has opened a brand new citizenship for investment scheme in 2019. Foreigners donating to state $250,000 or buying a property for $500,000 will be given fast tracked citizenship.

Egypt directly competes with Turkey CBI for investments. Egypt despite having a weak passport power is attractive to many arab investors because it is a trillion dollar economy, have E-2 treaty with United States.

19. Turkey

The Turkish citizenship by investment (TCBI) scheme has surprisingly become the most popular and successful scheme in the world. Since the investment reduced to $250,000, the scheme raised $1.75 billion dollars in the property sector. By 2020, close to 7000 foreign investors mostly from the Arab world have purchased properties in Turkey for citizenship.

Despite having a weak passport, the TCBI scheme has been most appealing to arab investors because of proximity to the arab world, a trillion economy with the biggest real estate market. Turkish nationals also qualify for E-1/E-2 visas to enter United States, which is another major advantage.

According to one real estate developer, there is a possibility that Turkey may raise the real estate requirement to $500,000 (from $250K) due to the demand in the market.

As of latest figures released by Ministry of Interior, Turkey has become new haven for citizenship by investment, reaching new heights.

  • $2.7 billion invested
  • 5,111 citizenships granted
  • 9000 applications in processing

20. Grenada

Not long ago, we ranked Grenada as the No.1 citizenship by investment program in the world for its low pricing, passport power, and to pursue E-2 investment visa to the United States.  It is one of the best and exciting citizenship by investment schemes in the Caribbean.

Grenada has greatly simplified application requirements for the citizenship by investment scheme making it easier and faster for clients to apply.

Grenada has issued more than 3300 passports to families as of 2019. For the first time applications for real estate surpassed the donation option from investors applying for passports.

Grenada is basically family citizenship by investment program with interest originating mainly from Chinese families.

Grenada’s iconic six senses hotel broke ground in La Sagesse beach and the development is expected to be fully completed by November 2022. Investors can buy a share in this development for $220,000 and if they want passports for family, they can expect the total costs to reach $300,000

21. Bulgaria

Bulgaria still runs a citizenship for investment scheme and it is not closed yet.  Dont forget Bulgaria is a full EU member state and has visa free access to Canada. Bulgaria is a candidate country for joining schengen area and visa waiver program with US may happen in the future.

Bulgaria offers the cheapest citizenship by investment program in Europe. You can become full EU citizenship in two years by financing government bonds for $250,000. The problem is you have to maintain citizenship for 5 years and this includes two years after receiving your citizenship. If you dont maintain investments, citizenship would be stripped and several investors have been revoked of investment citizenship for not maintaining investments last year.

22. Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia passport program is getting more popular with americans, especially the caribbean country is renowned for exotic holidays and honeymoon destinations. More than a million tourists visit St Lucia.

Despite all this, the scheme for passport remains cheap for single persons just above $100,000

There is also one world class Canelles resort in development funded by citizenship by investment scheme. Those investing $300K or more in this development will receive passport for family.

23. Ireland

Ireland is set to make an external review of the immigrant investor scheme in 2020. This investment scheme regulations has been tightened recently for both 500,000 EUR endowment and 1 million EUR investment funds or business investments.

  • No loans allowed
  • Tax compliance with OECD/CRS
  • Investment transfers not allowed
  • Strict checks on source of funds

The Irish scheme receives small number of applications every year and still not as popular as other golden visa schemes in Europe.  Chinese are the biggest investors in this scheme.

Ireland offers 50,000 EUR education discount for children of immigrant investors under this scheme. Ireland has just 1 day residence requirement for stamp 4 permission

The demand for Irish passports have soared Ireland is a full EU member state but has opted out of schengen area.

24. Germany

Germany does not have a real golden visa scheme at the moment but it is possible to get residence permit in Germany by investing atleast 100,000 EUR in German businesses, startups and enterprises with intention to create positive impact on German economy and atleast five jobs.

Passive investments such as teal estate do not qualify for residence permits in Germany at the moment.

25. Austria

Austria offers residency to self employed professionals with minimal investment who are able to financially support themselves. Austria grants Red-white-red card to professionals investing atleast 50,000 EUR in startups and creating jobs. Family members also qualify along with the investors.

Note that one disadvantage with Austria is citizenship takes long time as 10 years of living is required and dual citizenship is prohibited.

26. Belgium

Belgium offers professional card to high economic value investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed persons.

Every foreigner who exercises self-employed professional activities in Belgium on a long-term basis, has to have a professional card. The validity of the professional card depends on the business investment

Citizenship after just five years of living.

27. Latvia

Latvia does have one of the oldest golden visa schemes actively running, quite popular with russian investors. The scheme has low investment conditions such as 50,000 EUR (business) or 250,000 (real estate) or bonds.

The scheme despite all this failed to become a popular golden visa scheme due to new strict regulations introduced in 2015 and high application costs close to 30,000 euros per application.

Latvia passport remains 19th powerful and strongest passport in the world, tied with Cyprus in our passport rankings for 2020

Naturalizing for citizenship takes lengthy 10 years and there is no chinese interest in latvian scheme.

28. Albania

Albania is exploring a brand new citizenship by investment program for $100,000 (donation) and also property buyers get fast tracked citizenship. The regulatory provisions is currently being examined by the Govt and Albania may likely to open a passport scheme in the future

29. British Overseas Territories

The British overseas territories also offer investor residence schemes in exchange for real estate investment with a path to BOT citizenship at later stages after legally living.

Cayman – $1M
Anguilla – $750K
Bahamas – $750K

These are some of the wealthiest british colonies in the Caribbean with highest prevailing property prices in the region.

A UK passport is superior compared to British overseas territory passport.

30. Asian Golden Visa schemes

Some of the the wealthiest countries in Asia also offer residence by investment schemes to attract investment

Singapore – S$ 2.5 million (Global investor immigration program)
Malaysia – $125,000  MM2H program
Thailand – $30,000 (Elite)
Hong Kong – Entrepreneur / Startup scheme

31. Russia

Russia to lift dual citizenship restrictions on naturalized citizens, which opens up Russia as great investment destination. Russia currently allows dual citizenship to its citizens but with prior permission.

Russia already has citizenship by investment program but one has to wait 3 years for citizenship.

32. Singapore

Singapore is expanding the Global investor program (GIP) rules. From March 2020, family offices, successful startups and companies can invest in Singapore and seek permanent residence by investing S$2.5m ($1.8m).

Singapore is No.1 country in the world for education, healthcare, ease of doing business and strong passport.

There are also disadvantages with Singapore golden visa program.

  • Singapore does not allow dual citizenship (requires you to renounce previous citizenship if you become singapore citizen)
  • Conscription/national service is required for permanent residents and citizens above 16.5 years and must be enrolled.

33. Bangladesh

Bangladesh is another asian country that woos foreign investors with citizenship by investment and permanent residency program. Foreign investors are required to invest $750,000 for citizenship by investment and just $75,000 to secure a permanent residency.

34. Samoa

The Samoan citizenship by investment program was launched in 2017 under the Citizenship Investment act 2016. The program is currently active remains open but received no significant interest from investors. The program is administered by Ministry of Commerce.

The Samoan citizenship investment program requires SAT 4 million (US$1.5 million) and also investors must have net worth of SAT 1.5 million (US$1 million). Citizenship is issued after permanent residency. Passports are issued valid for 5 years. Real estate, hotel developments, manufacturing and technology investments allowed under this scheme.

One of the greatest advantages of samoan program is very good passport with ability to travel visa fee to Canada, UK, Schengen area and other countries. Samoa program is not in the list of OECD blacklist of CBI/RBI schemes.

This program may be attractive to those who want a very good discrete and exclusive passport through investment.

Western Samoa should not be confused with American Samoa

35. Solomon Islands

Solomon islands announced this week, the government is considering a  new citizenship by investment program in the pacific region, similar to that of Vanuatu, to raise investment for the country.  The country has a powerful passport with visa free access to Canada, UK, EU schengen area and likely once the program opens, it is expected to become more popular