EU Citizenship by Investment – the choices

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Bulgarian passport - EU map and flags

What is CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT?

Investment citizenship, or citizenship by investment, is NOT “citizenship for sale“. At least not in the “well established” countries. Many people tend to think that investment citizenship is the way people can “buy” another passport. This is not really the case.

Citizenship by investment is a procedure that enables the applicant to obtain citizenship of another country via an expedited procedure (usually between 6 months and 2 years) in return for an investment in the economy of the host country.

Another country (or the host country) is the country, whose passport (citizenship) provides much wider range of liberties and opportunities. Such are for instance visa-free travel to more countries worldwide or unrestricted living rights in more “preferable” regions of the world (ie the EU citizenship).

“Well established” countries

European countries

By “well established”, we broadly mean the countries with old democratic systems. These countries value (in general at least) the rule of law and the democracy as their core principles. Such countries are considered to be the European Union member states, some other European countries, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, etc.

In no way we are trying to undermine the “value” of the other countries, who we don’t believe to fit into this category. Neither we try to justify some of the (mainly foreign) policies of the “well established” countries, as in some areas, these may be quite controversial.

Basically, the main advantages of holding citizenship of “well established country” are: recognition, prestige, sustainability of their visa-free privileges and right of full residency in respected jurisdictions (ie USA, EU).

The “other” countries

island countries and Ukraine

The countries who we don’t consider as fit for the previous category are in general small island countries, who rely mainly on tourism to fill in their budgets. Those countries are also trying to attract fresh capitals through other venues. Such venue is undoubtedly the “investment citizenship”. The citizenship legislation in these countries has some similarities with a “passport for sale” scheme. This is harshly criticized on international level (the “well established” countries investment citizenship is also criticized). This may lead to introducing visa regime by the other countries, ie. USA, EU, which will totally ruin the value of these passports. In the category of “other” countries we would firstly put the small tropical islands, such as Vanuatu, many Caribbean states, as well as some “new” European (non-EU) countries, such as Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, Montenegro, Turkey, etc.

What are the available citizenship by investment programs in the EU?

chameleon
Citizenship is for life, while residency is a temporary status with very limited rights.

The “Golden visa” mimicry

Citizenship agents from around the world have done a lot of work trying to disguise different residency schemes and to present them as investment citizenship programs.

The term “Golden visa” was born in countries like Portugal, Greece, Spain, Hungary, etc. But golden visa residency is not the real thing. The only life-changing status is – full citizenship! You can read more about the differences between residency at citizenship.

The ONLY citizenship by investment programs in the EU – Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta

That’s it – no other EU citizenship by investment programs exist (as per August 4th, 2020). Only Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta have functioning CBI programs. All the rest you may have heard of are only residency programs. What you have been told, that these “golden visa” programs lead to citizenship is of course right. But you will need to wait 5, 10, 15 years to be able to apply. And then another few years to eventually be approved. At the same time, life is short, too short to spend it in the wrong country. Too short to travel with visa restrictions every time.

Citizenship by investment is a different cup of tea. No residency program, golden visa, call it as you like, can match the real citizenship by investment program. Here are the main characteristic of the only three available EU programs:

Bulgaria

Bulgarian flag

Requires an investment of roughly one million Euro in Eurobonds or company shares. These are held at the applicant’s bank account and are 100% safe and guaranteed (Eurobonds are much safer than bank accounts). Therefore many believe that the Bulgarian CIP should be called a “net-worth” program. This is indeed so as the conditions of the program actually require the applicant to have certain “net worth” rather than to make a risky “investment”.

For more information, please visit – the Bulgarian CBI program in detail.

Cyprus

flag of Cyprus

The applicant has to invest 2 to 3 million Euro in real estate on the island. The property purchases are usually loaded with heavy commissions and VAT. On top of that, the applicants need to make an irrevocable donation of 150 000 EUR, which in addition to the costs for the real estate purchase, make the program very expensive. Still, the Cypriot program is being marketed professionally and aggressively and has as result became probably the most popular EU CIP.

You can read more about Bulgaria vs Cyprus citizenship by investment.

Malta

Maltese flag

If you thought Cyprus is expensive, try Malta and think again. The Maltese program requires the applicant to make different irrevocable payments that hike the total cost of the program (including legal and other fees) to an unprecedented level of 1 million Euro. Please take note of the difference – the Bulgarian program requires from the applicant to possess (to have) this amount, while the Maltese CIP is simply charging this money to the candidate (irrevocably).

Read more about the Maltese program and how it fares against the Bulgarian CBI program.

Visa-free travel to the USA

From the 3 EU investment citizenship programs, all provide equal living rights and visa-free travel. The only little exception is the Maltese passport. It provides visa-free travel to the USA, unlike the passports of Bulgaria and Cyprus. This inequality is likely to be changed soon however and it is expected USA to grant visa-free travel to Bulgarian and Cypriot citizens, as the problem is escalated on the highest EU level – https://europost.eu/en/a/view/libe-lawmakers-urge-for-full-visa-reciprocity-with-the-us-30067.

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