The Economic Citizenship programs have been so popular lately among a number of wealthy families and billionaires who chose to acquire a second nationality for wealth protection and free movement. Infact these so called economic citizenship schemes or ECPs run by small island countries though have been around since forty years, only became popular after 2010. Today this market has grown to become $10 billion annual market attracting investors from all over the globe, projected to grow by another 25%.

Political instability, wars, visa restrictions with long waiting times, rising inflation, currency devaluation, covid pandemic has catapulted the global demand for demand for acquiring new citizenships abroad. It appears there is a trend post covid, that people like to move from one country to another and dont want to be stuck at one place seeking travel freedom without applying for visas.

The World has become a playground for rich people. The pandemic has made the rich only more wealthy. Collecting passports have become a hobby for many wealthy millionaires besides paintings, artefact and exotic cars. Some of the well known russian, chinese and american billionaires are known to have a second passport in their wealth portfolio to hedge risks. Recently ex google boss Eric Schmidt and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel have applied for economic citizenship programs in Europe.

ECPs are also known by other names – “Investment citizenship”, “citizenship for sale”, “golden passport”, “citizenship by investment”, “investment passport” etc. There are also short acronyms used frequently “CBI”, “CIP”, “ECP” to refer citizenship investment program.

Small microstates operate ECP have raked up billions of investment dollars and have already spent that money in schools, hospitals, paying debt and infrastructure developments creating jobs for the locals. Since citizenship is attached to property purchase, real estate market have received uplift with new upcoming hotel developments, higher rental yields and increased property registrations.

A passport that comes along with new citizenship known to have has extensive benefits, for example, buy a home, lower taxes, bank accounts, driving license and university education for children abroad. More the passports, more the merry as it opens up access to other countries to live, travel, work, study and do business abroad.  Another plus is, you can even apply for 10 year US visa or even take advantage of  E-2 treaty visa (instead of EB-5).

ECPs Opened Investment (US$) Time Visa free power
1. Malta 2014 €600,000 12-15 months 185
2. Turkey 2017 $400,000 3 months 110
3. St Kitts & Nevis 1984 $150,000 3 months 157
4. Antigua & Barbuda 2013 $100,000 3 months 151
5. Montenegro 2018 €250,000 3 months 124
6. Saint Lucia 2015 $100,000 3 months 147
7. Grenada 2013 $150,000 3 months 146
8. Dominica 1994 $100,000 3 months 145
9. North Macedonia 2018 €200,000 3 months 125
10. Vanuatu 2015 $130,000 3 months 98

Here we list the top 10 economic citizenship programs legally run by government authorities in these countries.

1.Malta

  • Visa free countries – 185
  • Passport rank – 8

Malta is the only last remaining investment citizenship program in the EU. Though the direct citizenship program launched in 2013, only limited people can acquire Maltese direct citizenship by investing and are subjected to highest scrutiny.

Direct Naturalization

  • One year –  €600,000
  • Two year – €750,000

Remember you have to pay this to donation to malta government fund. Plus you have to rent or buy a property on top of this. There are several other processing and service costs apply.

Citizenship in Malta is not immediate only possible after one or two years, despite making the investment. Yes, maltese passport is strongest passport in the world, yes once you become maltese national, you will have full EU citizenship rights such as to live, travel, work all over EU. Plus you are eligible visa waiver to US, Canada, UK (no other investment passport can offer you this unique benefit.

2.Turkey

  • Visa free countries – 110
  • Passport rank –  45

Turkey is one of the biggest countries in the world to offer an instant economic citizenship for investments. The Turkish CBI is very popular among Arab families in the middle east thanks to Turkey’s strategic location in Eurasia and excellent flight connections and good quality life. This goes on to show passport power is not everything. All you have to do is buy a property for citizenship. Recently the authorities increased the minimum to USD 400,000 making it more expensive. There are other options such as cash deposit or bonds. The application process takes 3-6 months.

  • Real Estate: Buy real estate atleast $400,000 not sold for 3 years
  • Bank Deposit: Deposit atleast $500,000 in Turkish banks
  • Government bonds or securities: Buy $500,000 Turkish government bonds locked for 3 years
  • Venture capital funds: Buy $500,000 worth of VC fund share
  • Job creation: Employ atleast 50 people

3. St.Kitts and Nevis

  • Visa free countries – 157
  • Passport rank – 24

St.Kitts and Nevis (SKN) one of the richest caribbean island runs the oldest and most popular caribbean CBI programme in the world and the government has modernized the scheme making it platinum standard. The application process is pretty straight forward if you have all documents prepared in advance. As with the investment you donate once to government development fund or buy a private home (only SKN allows this all other caribbean countries will disallow you buying a home want you invest in a five star hotel as a share.) The SKN passport is a very good passport perhaps the strongest in the OECS region.  The country has good list of embassies worldwide to provide consular assistance to economic citizens living abroad.

  • Sustainable Fund Donation – $150,000
  • Real Estate – $200,000 (share) or $400,000 (villa/home)
  • Alternative fund – $175,000 (per share)

4. Antigua and Barbuda

  • Visa free countries – 151
  • Passport rank – 30

Antigua and Barbuda is one of the most beautiful caribbean islands known for exotic white beaches and turquoise waters attracting many famous celebrities calling this island home. Antigua offers four investment routes for citizenship catering mainly to families seeking another citizenship in the caribbean particularly attracts clients from US, Nigeria and Chinese. Antigua also has one of the powerful passports in terms of visa free power.

  • Sustainable Fund Donation – $150,000
  • Real Estate – $200,000 (share) or $400,000 (villa/home)
  • University of West Indies (UWI) fund – $150,000
  • Business Investment – $1.5 million

5. Montenegro

  • Visa free countries – 124
  • Passport rank – 46

Montenegro launched a limited capacity investor citizenship scheme for only 2000 investors running until end of 2022.  This stunning european country is pursuing its EU acquis ambitions in few years with negotiating chapters still on. It can be a bit expensive CIP for some investors as you have do both donation and property investment (only hotel or resort investments list approved by government will qualify).  Montenegro is a low tax european country with lowest prevailing property prices.

  • Real Estate – €250,000 (Northern Montenegro)
  • Real Estate – €400,000 (Southern Montenegro)

6. Saint Lucia

  • Visa free countries – 147
  • Passport rank – 32

St Lucia is a gem in the caribbean known for its mountains, waterfalls and beaches. This Youngest and No.1 CIP in the Caribbean recently gained more notoriety among many investors because of its affordable pricing. Thousands of americans visit St Lucia very year  in cruise ships to see this country, enjoy holidays and some even chose to retire here to live along with nature. The ECP/CIP program makes it easy to become citizen without additional conditions. The Commonwealth citizenship acquired under investment has full citizenship rights including free movement in Caricom states.

  • Government Fund Donation – $150,000
  • Real Estate – $300,000 (share) or $400,000 (villa/home)
  • Government bonds – U$250,000 or $500,000
  • Business Investment – $1.5 million

7. North Macedonia

  • Visa free countries – 45
  • Passport rank – 125

The Government of North Macedonia officially opened a brand new investor citizenship program with a limited quota to attract Foreign direct investment in 2019. This program is not well known to foreign investors as it is kept low profile and not marketed extensively. North Macedonia’s EU accession bid was approved on 24 March 2020. It is also a low tax european country with cheap property costs. This small country also has E-1/E-2 visa eligibility with US. To become a citizen all you need to do is invest a lump sum in a government fund and withdraw it back after two years.

  • North Macedonia Economic Development  – €200,000 euro invested for a period of 2 years
  • North Macedonia Industrial Innovation Fund –  €200,000 euro invested for a period of 2 years
  • Direct investment Fund– €5,000,000 euro attracting atleast 20 foreigners

8. Grenada

  • Visa free countries – 146
  • Passport rank – 33

Grenada’s economic citizenship program is particularly popular among those countries (eg India, China) who cannot apply for E-2 visas because it is the only caribbean passport to have this benefit for the right price. Many prefer to apply for Grenadian passport along with US E-2 visa package done thorough a US immigration lawyer. But first you must become a citizen of Grenada and later apply for E-2 visa at US embassy where you live. You dont need to come to Grenada explicitly for this. One other benefit is if you visit China frequently on business trips you dont need a chinese visa.

  • Government Fund Donation – $150,000
  • Real Estate – $200,000 (hotel share) or $400,000 (five star resort)

9. Dominica

  • Visa free countries – 145
  • Passport rank – 34

The Commonwealth of Dominica is a natural wonder with abundant forests, waterfalls and mountains.  It is economic citizenship program perhaps second oldest in the world operational since 1994, touted as No.1 CBI program in the world amongst the investment immigration firms for the right price. Applicants have to go through a selective process and scrutiny. You have to pick one among the two investment routes and lately the CBI unit made changes admitting siblings and grand-parents making the scheme more family friendly.

  • Government Fund Donation – $150,000
  • Real Estate – $200,000 (hotel share) or $400,000 (five star resort)

10.Vanuatu

  • Visa free countries – 98
  • Passport rank – 58

Vanuatu is the only south pacific nation to offer economic citizenship for investments. It is a low tax country and particularly attractive for chinese and aussies looking to explore alternative citizenship setup. The application process is pretty straightforward with fast approvals but the process is tightened by citizenship commission after complaints that vetting is not properly done. Once you are approved you can receive a Vanuatu passport. Vanuatu’s CBI popularity is at all time low, after European commission recently imposed a visa requirement citing abuse of the citizenship scheme. Few real estate projects are approved for citizenship under REO program.

  • Government Fund Donation – $130,000
  • Real Estate – $200,000 (full or half share)

Note: We did not include Jordan, Egypt in this list of top 10. (Cyprus, Moldova have closed their ECPs and no longer operational. )