Today we are publishing our study on Best Golden visa programs for 2021. Previously we published the rankings in 2019, since then a lot has changed within those two years. The Covid pandemic, Brexit and other uncertainties has changed the landscape of investments.
Golden visa programs helps investors to acquire residency from day one with optional path to citizenship after some years
Our Points based score (PBS) model looks in to the merits and demerits of several Golden visa (GV) programs and assigns scores. This year we considered some of the important criteria preferred by clients/investors such as investment options, citizenship criteria, processing times, healthcare, free movement, education, passport power, type of residency and even prevailing property prices.
Here is our quick summary
- Portugal is the No.1 Golden Visa program.
- Ireland takes the second sport while Greece taking third place in GV rankings 2021
- Spain takes the fourth spot with Italy in fifth spot.
- Four countries share the sixth spot – Malta, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Luxembourg
- European countries dominate top spots in GV rankings for 2021
Portugal scored top marks in the rankings table for running the best golden visa program in the world and remains extremely popular due to wide range of investment options available, less strict residence and citizenship conditions, with free movement in the schengen area. Portugal is the 3rd peaceful nation in the world according to Global peace index 2020
Portugal, Ireland, Spain remain super attractive to many US and Latin american investors due to their geographic proximity to North and South America continent. Likewise Greece is much desirable to many middle east investors which is easily accessible and not far away.
Ireland moved up in rankings since last year, remains one of the best residency programs in the World. The demand for for Irish passports is at all time high post brexit and for having best educational institutions.
United Kingdom, Malta, Cyprus, Ireland are attractive to investors who seek settling in an english speaking country and drive on left system.
Green card programs in US and Canada scored low scores for long processing times, sometimes requiring years of wait. US,UK and Australia have fallen in rankings due to high investment thresholds, and strict residency conditions makes unaffordable to many clients.
Note: Canada golden visa program remains suspended until 2023
Golden Visa Rankings 2021
|Rank||Golden visa||PBS score|
- Minimum Investment – 10 points
- Investment options (Real Estate, Donation, Business, Bank deposit, Govt bonds etc..) – 25 points
- Processing times – 10 points
- Temporary or Permanent Residence Permit (TRP or PRP) – 10 points
- Citizenship time in years – 10 points
- Must live for Citizenship? – 10 points
- Citizenship test – 10 points
- Residency conditions – 10 points
- Free movement – 10 points
- Limited Quota – 10 points
- Education rank – 10 points
- Healthcare – 10 points
- HDI Rank – 10 points
- Passport power – 10 points
- Property prices m2 – 10 points
We will take look below in detail.
|United Kingdom||2,000,000£||Share Capital|
|Latvia||250,000€||Bonds / Real Estate|
|New Zealand||3,000,000 N$||Bonds|
|Cyprus||300,000 €||Real estate|
Real Estate Investment
While GV programs are centered around investing in property, it is important to note that Some GV programs do not allow investments in real estate market, Buyback shares in hotels are extremely popular as these are refundable investments fully paid back by the developers after 5-6 years
GV programs that offer RE investment option are assigned 5 points
|Golden visa||Real Estate|
Only two GV programs offer residency through donation to Government.
- Malta – 100K euro (98K euro Govt processing and admin fee plus 2K euro donation charity)
- Ireland – 400K euro (joint charity endowment)
GV schemes that offer this option are assigned 5 points
Among all Golden visa programs only Malta does not have business investment option. All other GV programs have this route to seek residency.
Only these GV programs have bank deposit option to acquire a golden visa. You have to deposit cash in banking institutions and can also profit from fixed interest rates.
|GV Program||Bank deposit|
These countries have been assigned 5 points for this perk
A limited number of GV schemes have legislations to allow buying treasury issued government bonds for golden visa purpose.
|GV Program||Govt bonds|
These countries have been assigned 5 points for this perk
The United Kingdom remains the fastest GV scheme in the world with visa decisions taken within 1-2 weeks. All the other programs takes months of time. European programs are faster with processing times taking between 3-6 months.
US and Canada programs take years of wait to get green card.
|Golden visa||Processing time|
|United Kingdom||2 weeks|
|United States||25 months|
|New Zealand||2 months|
What type of residence permit issued by GV programs? This is an important question clients ask and a hallmark of Golden visa programs. The answer to this depends on the GV programs. Sometimes only temporary residence permit (TRP) with unlimited extensions or a Permanent Residence Permit (PRP) from day one.
GV programs that offer PRP score maximum 10 points and for TRP only 5 points are assigned.
Malta, Greece, Ireland, US, Canada, Bulgaria, Cyprus grant immediate permanent residency for investments. In case of Portugal GV, a PRP is granted for excess of 500k euro investments and TRP for 280k euro investments.
Portugal is one exception. Portugal grants PRP for investments over 500k euros. TRP issued for 280k euros. For our rankings we only took into account TRP permit as most investors seek the minimum 280k euro investment which are quite affordable.
|Golden visa||Permit (TRP or PRP)|
TRP – Temporary residence permit
PRP – Permanent residence permit
The Passport power in terms of visa free destinations worldwide. European Golden visa passports tend to remain most powerful in the world as of 2021.
|Golden visa||Passport power|
Source: Henley Passport Index
Citizenship is an important component of GV schemes. Prospective clients who apply for Golden visa see this as a long term goal.
EU citizenship or Citizenship in US or Canada is well worth the wait and effort. These are the most coveted trophies. It is also important to remember GV programs do not provide expedited path to citizenship. There are no short cuts.
Some of the necessary conditions for granting citizenship are language proficiency, civic test, no criminal record and integration
Canada has the fastest time to naturalize, that in just three years you can become a citizen.
|Golden visa||Citizenship time in years|
Maximum points are assigned to GV countries that have lowest number of years.
Must Live for Citizenship?
Citizenship is not easy. In many countries, it is impossible to become citizen without compulsory living for a continuous period.
Portugal is the ONLY country among all GV programs that does not impose compulsory living conditions to apply for citizenship. All other countries require you to permanently move and live for a continuous period of time of atleast 5 years before launching citizenship application.
|Golden visa||Must live for Citizenship?|
Have you heard about citizenship tests? It is another layer of checks imposed by many nations for granting citizenship. These tests could check your understanding of civic, integration or cultural knowledge. If you hate tests, then perhaps you can pursue GV programs that dont have this test requirement.
If you look closely, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Cyprus do not have citizenship tests. These GV schemes are assigned maximum 10 points
All other nations have this as compulsory requirement.
|Golden visa||Citizenship test|
Visa Free movement at regional level is guaranteed by GV programs (for eg. The schengen area is composed of 26 states). Residence permits restrict free movement within certain region (unlike passports which can be used to cross all international borders)
It is important to note that Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus are non-schengen countries
|Golden visa||Free movement|
|New Zealand||New Zealand|
This is the minimum time (days/months) you have to visit/live to meet the GV condition. Those programs that impose zero residency conditions are assigned maximum points.
Ireland has just 1 day residence requirement, Portugal has just one to two weeks, while US/UK require you to spend minimum number of time, as your main home.
From what we have seen, investors prefer zero or no minimum residence conditions for the Golden visa schemes. This is because they not want to move or immigrate, spend as much time living at home closer to their family and business.
|Golden visa||Residency conditions|
|United Kingdom||9 months/yr|
|United States||6 months|
|New Zealand||145 days|
Education at world class institutions for children is carefully considered by wealthy families before applying for GV programs. These countries that offer GV provide world class educational opportunities.
The Education rankings provided by Education Database for 2020 which measures and rank the impact of each nation’s education system on its economic and social environment.
These are the top countries to pick when it comes to education. A number of EU countries also offer free education giving you much needed savings.
|Golden visa||Education rank|
GV programs that have limited quotas receive low scoring in our model.
|Golden Visa||Quota / year|
We have also integrated property prices in our rankings model. These are the average property prices per square metre to buy an apartment in the city center from Numbeo. Higher the property prices more the points are assigned.
As you can see Luxembourg, Australia and New Zealand tend to have the most expensive property market.
|Golden visa||Property prices m2|
|New Zealand||N$ 7029|
Covid has shown us the importance of healthcare systems. These GV nations have some of the best well built healthcare scores according to UN
These countries tend to score very high in human development according and assigned HDI rank. Higher the rank, more maximum points assigned in our PBS model.
Which country has the No.1 Golden visa program?
Portugal is the No.1 Golden visa program for 2021. Lower investment requirement, path to EU citizenship and low residence conditions makes Portugal very popular GV scheme. Portugal due to its proximity to US, Canada, UK and Latin America attracts large number of property buyers from these country.
What investment options available with Golden visa programs?
Golden visa programs offer variety of investing options such as real estate, bank deposit, business investment, and also possibility in Government bonds.
Can i get citizenship through Golden visa program?
Yes, golden visa programs offer path to naturalize for citizenship after some 5 years.
Can i invest in Hotels?
Yes, you can invest in refundable buyback shares in five star hotel projects. These shares are purchased by back by the same developer after 5-6 years. You will also benefit from 3-4% yields during your investment period.
Can i apply without a personal visit?
Yes, due to covid, it is possible to start the process remotely online. You only have to visit once after your application is approved and issued a visa, which takes about 4-6 months.
Sources / References
Education rank – https://worldtop20.org/education-database
WHO healthcare rankings
Henley Passport Index
Numbeo safety rankings
Numbeo Property prices 2019
Wikipedia and UN HDR for HDI rankings