Which Citizenship By Investment / Investor Visa Program Is Best For Me?

The reasons why a high net worth individual acquires second citizenship or residency to another country will often differ substantially from one person to another, depending on several factors including their starting location. They might be an entrepreneur from Eritrea, a corporation head from California or an investor from Iraq, the bottom line is they all have the same question; “Which program works best for me?”

After much internal debating, you have finally decided that the way forward for you in your professional (and possibly your personal life also) is to obtain citizenship by investment (CBI) or a foreign investor visa. Now it’s simply a case of finding out which option will work best for you. Costs will vary slightly from program to program, but in this article rather than price, Passport Reviewer will attempt to help you make the correct choice by taking into consideration your basic needs, your location, and what you are looking to get out of a program.

The EU, The Caribbean and The Rest Of The World

There are three main areas for CBI/investor visa programs; Europe, the Caribbean, and the Rest of the World. Only three EU countries offer CBI (Austria, Cyprus and Malta) so investors who target Europe do so with a view possibly to live there for several years as a resident and eventually gain EU citizenship. Those that target the Caribbean do so more for financial factors, as that area is synonymous with offshore banking and tax shelters.

The Rest of the World includes the USA, Canada, Singapore, Brazil and New Zealand. As with Europe, these countries all offer investor visa programs, and in order to eventually gain that nation’s citizenship, one would have to physically live there for a specific length of time.

1) The European Union

Almost every country in Europe, West, Central and East, has either a CBI program (as previously stated, only Austria, Malta and Cyprus have this option at the moment) or an investor visa program. An EU passport is considered the Blue Ribbon document of the citizenship industry, and to become a passport holder and citizen of a European Union country would be a dream come true for the vast majority of people that desire second citizenship.

The reasons why are simple: Even with the imminent departure of the UK, the European Union still represents the greatest concentration of wealthy, highly productive and democratic countries anywhere on earth. There hasn’t been a war in Western Europe since 1945, and the European Union, like North America and Australasia, is one of the few areas in the world that can be considered consistently law abiding, safe and free, with a high standard of living plus excellent education and healthcare.

From an ambitious foreign investor’s viewpoint, the real beauty of EU citizenship is the visa-free access of its passport, which is on average approximately 170 countries, and the fact that a European Union citizen is free to live and work without restriction and with the same rights as locals in any other EU country. For example, if you were to acquire Maltese citizenship but think that sooner or later you might find living on that small island a little like Groundhog Day, you can live, work, raise a family and run your own business in Germany, France, Italy or Spain for as long as you like.

Gaining an EU passport would be a game-changer, particularly if you are used to an average African, Middle Eastern or Asian passport with access to around 60 countries visa-free, and are accustomed to applying for visas every time you wish to travel anywhere for business, you will suddenly go from feeling like a third-world citizen to feeling like royalty.

Aside from Austria, Cyprus and Malta, to gain citizenship to an EU nation like France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Portugal or Hungary, aside from the initial investment of a real estate or government bonds purchase, an investor would need to spend a period of residency of at least five years on average in that country. The actual physical period of residency required differs from country to country. Check out the EU program reviews featured on Passport Reviewer for more information.

Countries and Global Areas Whose Investors Favor The EU For Second Citizenship/Residency

The Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan etc), China, Russia, Asia (India, Pakistan)

2) The Caribbean

Since the late 1970s, the Caribbean has been known as a tax haven, but since 1984 when St. Kitts and Nevis launched the world’s first citizenship by investment program, the Caribbean has also been synonymous with second passports. Currently there are five West Indian islands offering CBI programs: the aforementioned St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia and Grenada.

While some investors choose to remain in the Caribbean, either to retire or even as a base from which to run their business, the majority choose to return to their native country, and visit the island whenever they need to use its banks, or even to enjoy a holiday. Thanks to CARICOM (the Caribbean Community) owning citizenship to one country entitles the holder to be able to live and work without restriction in any other CARICOM member in much the same way as the EU operates.

While the Caribbean passport is not quite as powerful as that of the European Union, it is still a significant upgrade on most passports issued in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The strongest Caribbean passport is that of Antigua and Barbuda which has visa free access to 134 countries.

Wealthy businesspeople from every corner of the globe including Europe, the US, Russia, China and the Middle East come to the Caribbean to benefit from its offshore status. St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda are increasingly making strong inroads into the wealthiest parts of the Middle East. In 2016, St. Kitts Prime minister Dr. Timothy Harris visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi where he made three separate keynote addresses, and claimed afterward the result was a strengthening of the St. Kitts and Nevis brand in those wealthy, highly influential nations.

Also in 2016, Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne stated his intention of turning his country into “the Dubai of the Caribbean”, with 10,000 new hotel rooms and a direct flight from the Middle-East to the West Indies.

Countries and Global Areas Whose Investors Favor The Caribbean For Second Citizenship/Residency

The US, China, Russia, the EU (UK, Germany, France, Monaco, Switzerland), the Middle East (UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia), Africa (South Africa, Angola, Nigeria)

3) The Rest of the World (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia etc)

Investor visa programs are not solely the domain of the European Union; they can also be found in countries as far afield as the US and Canada, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. While the majority of investors that target the EU and the Caribbean herald from Asia and the Middle East, when it come to the Rest of the World the investors are far more diverse, with large numbers of British businesspeople targeting the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, while some Americans have recently chosen Japan and Brazil as countries to relocate.

Some investor visa programs are virtually citizenship by investment programs in that they are clearly designed to entice foreign investors to lay down roots and make that country their permanent base (Brazil and Russia spring to mind).

Other countries make it almost impossible for the investor to become a citizen by making the process extremely long and complex and placing lots of demands on them (the Cayman Islands, for example.)

North America is one of the largest foreign investor visa markets in the world. The USA grants 10,000 EB5 investor visas each year. Canada has become hugely popular with Chinese investors, and no less than 100,000 Chinese millionaires have bought property in Vancouver in recent years, establishing their very own community, complete with TV show (pictured).

Globally, it is Chinese foreign investors that are powering the market right now, contributing the largest number of visa applicants across the EU but also in North America, Australasia, as well as desirable Asian locations like Malaysia and Singapore. Russia introduced their own investor visa program in 2015, and by far the most interest has once again come from Chinese investors.

Two of the very best value investor visa programs come from Latin America. The Guatemala Investment Visa Program is the best value in the world at just $50,000, while the Brazilian Foreign Investor Visa Program is equally economical, allows for citizenship to be gained after four years, and the Brazilian passport packs a hefty wallop with visa-free access to 153 countries, which places it just outside the world’s Top-20 passports.

Countries and Global Areas Whose Investors Favor The Rest of the World For Second Citizenship/Residency

China, the USA, the UK, the Middle East, Spain, Italy

Summary

Hopefully this article will have given you a clearer perspective of which part of the world is best for you. Ultimately, it’s your choice, and only you know the real reasons why you need second citizenship, and how much obtaining it will affect your life. Take your time, make the right decision. It’s a big, exciting, vibrant world out there, with many countries beckoning you, but one is calling you more than the others – be sure to hear it!