Citizenship By Investment Programs

These days just about anything is possible. And when it comes to citizenship, nowadays that’s never been truer. Long gone are the days when you have to either be born, get married, or have an ancestor to get a passport. But make no mistake purchasing citizenship is a fable. What is possible, however, is to acquire economic citizenship via a concept called citizenship by investment. Not only is it a viable, sure-proof way to get a second passport, but it also enables families to make a sound investment and even get a return on their investment. To date, a handful of countries around the world run their own versions of citizenship through investment, allowing investors to get acquire economic citizenship, obtain an ultimate backup plan, and diversify their assets.

In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about this concept called citizenship by investment, and more importantly, why you should consider applying.

Citizenship Planning

Let’s get one thing clear. Not everyone has the need nor the finances to seek economic citizenship and become global citizens. Citizenship planning costs time, money, resources, and effort. But the rewards far outweigh the challenges, particularly if you find yourself with a weak-ranking passport, are in immediate or imminent danger,  or simply would like to protect your wealth and safeguard your family members personal freedoms. In a globalized world, the importance of citizenship planning cannot be underestimated. Obtaining second citizenship can be extremely rewarding, but likewise, obtaining the wrong citizenship can cost you too. 

When planned well, passport by investment offers safety, unparalleled freedom, and infinite possibilities. 

Some key questions to ask yourself before you even consider pursuing second citizenship by investment:

  • What am I looking to get out of my investment?
  • How much money do I want to invest to acquire citizenship?
  • Do I want to include my whole family in the application?
  • Do I care more about obtaining a powerful passport, or am I ok with an ok-ranking passport that provides other perks?
  • Do I want to relocate to the country I invest in?
  • How much time can I set aside to dedicate to the application?
  • Do I want to do this on my own or enlist the help of a qualified professional?

These are just some of the questions you should be asking for well before choosing a country. Knowing these answers will ultimately help you decide on what citizenship by investment program to go for. If you feel confused or undecided about which country to opt for, take your time. Don’t rush, research all the possibilities, and if needed, ask for help from a qualified industry expert.

Citizenship by Investment Overview

Let’s backtrack here. What is citizenship even? In a nutshell, citizenship is a social contract between the individual and the state to work together to accomplish mutual benefits. In this symbiotic relationship, the citizen accepts legal responsibility, and in return, the state grants them rights to fully function and grow in society. 

Naturally, a passport is an extension of this, a stamp of sorts that allows the citizen to enter and leave the country freely and travel visa free to certain countries. While each passport varies in strength and desirability, the general idea is the same. A passport is evidence of an individual’s citizenship status and provides a myriad of opportunities for the person to travel and move around the globe somewhat freely. 

Now, what of citizenship by investment? Traditionally, citizenship has been granted through birth, naturalization, and marriage. But as mentioned, this is no longer exclusively the case. Now, there’s another path toward citizenship, which is called passport by investment or citizenship by investment. The main thing here is that the investor must invest a lump sum of money into a country’s economy, and in return, they’re rewarded with citizenship.  

These are called citizenship programs, which are specific criteria set forth by a government through which an individual can ‘apply’ for and in return obtain the nation’s citizenship via an investment. So it’s as simple as that: you make an investment, you get citizenship. Obviously, there are more nuances than this, but the gist of it is this. 

Considering not every citizenship by investment program is the same, there is often confusion about which programs legitimately provide direct citizenship versus residency by investment programs that allow citizenship by naturalization later down the line. 

Don’t worry, we cover the differences between residency and second citizenship here

second citizenship

What citizenship by investment is and isn’t

What it is:

  • Structured application process
  • 100% legal and backed by international law
  • Fastrack to citizenship

What it isn’t:

  • A scam
  • A way for investors to avoid tax responsibilities 
  • A way to ‘buy citizenships’

Why Citizenship by Investment? 

So, why consider second citizenship? Long story short, here are some of the top benefits of citizenship by investment:

  • Fast timeline to citizenship compared to a more traditional pathway
  • Optimized tax planning
  • Insurance in the form of a second passport
  • Enhanced travel freedoms with visa-free travel access to 100+ destinations worldwide
  • Family security
  • Business opportunities
  • Hassle-free application process
  • Opportunity to relocate
  • Invest and get some of your money back in return

Important Points To Consider

Whether you’re ready to pursue alternative citizenship or are still mulling it over, below we cover some key points to consider beforehand.

  • Do you have enough funds to invest in?
  • Are you eligible to apply? (some country programs have a ‘blacklist’, which excludes certain nationalities from applying)
  • Do you want citizenship or residence?
  • Do you want to pick a country that allows dual citizenship or are you ready to renounce your citizenship?

Good on this front? The next step is to pick the country that suits you best. To do this, here are some helpful pointers to consider when considering a certain country to invest in:

  • Political stability
  • Crime rates
  • Health of economy
  • State of healthcare
  • Educational opportunities
  • Ability to work in the respective country or not
  • Climate conditions (E.g. Does the country have a lot of natural disasters?)
  • Banking and financial freedom
  • Dual citizenship possibility
  • The state of the real estate market
  • Passport power
  • Expat-friendly or not
  • Embassy or consulate support
  • Freedom of expression and human rights
  • Geographical location
  • Language barrier (e.g. is English widely spoken?)

An Introduction to Citizenship by Investment 

Some of the most common ways citizenship is granted on the basis of investment are covered below.

DONATION

By far, the easiest, most hassle-free way of obtaining citizenship is to simply donate a lump sum of money to a government fund. For instance, to acquire Vanuatuan citizenship, investors must make a non-refundable contribution of at least $130,000 to the local development fund. Make no mistake. This is a donation, not an investment, so you don’t get any money back. Even though it’s a hefty amount, the donation is usually the cheapest and most simple route to take because you don’t have to deal with selling an asset later down the line. 

REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT

Another typical way to acquire citizenship is by investing in real estate. The real estate itself must usually be pre-approved by the government, with an option to sell the property after an investment lifecycle (three to five years usually). One of the key things to consider is what to do with the real estate if it’s on an island like Dominica, let’s say. Where’s the market to resell it? Another thing to consider is the hefty property tax and stamp duty you must usually pay when buying a property. On the flip side, owning a property can be incredibly rewarding, as not only is it yours, but there are options to rent it out and get some return on your investment. 

BONDS,  BANKS, AND BUSINESSES

Some countries offer a mixture of different investments to acquire a passport by investment, either as government bonds, a bank deposit, or starting a business. For example, St Lucia provides options for investors to buy non-interest government bonds and hold them for a set period of time to qualify for citizenship. Whereas, in Turkey, you can put $500K in the bank for three years to qualify for Turkish citizenship. Meanwhile, in Curaçao, you can obtain citizenship in three ways, with one of them being investing in a local business. 

Citizenship by investment options 

The good news, there are a lot of countries around the world that run citizenship by investment programs (also referred to as an immigrant investor program).  Some of these countries also offer powerful passports, making them particularly desirable among investors looking to enhance their personal and financial freedoms. If none of these options suit you, then check out our handy Global Passport Index that reveals the world’s most desirable passports for mobility, investment, and relocation purposes. 

Let’s take a look at some of these citizenship by investment programs (also referred to as CBI programs) below. For a more detailed overview, you can always consult our Comparison Guide here which gives a breakdown into the similarities and differences between citizenship by investment programs.

VANUATU

Time to Citizenship: 2 Months

Minimum Investment: $130,000

Investment Options: Donation

Visa-Free Access to 125+ Countries

Best Passport for Speed and Due Diligence

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GRENADA

Time to Citizenship: 3-4 Months

Minimum Investment: $150,000

Investment Options: Donation or Real Estate

Visa-Free Access to 140+ Countries

Best Passport for Visa-Free Access to China and E-2 Access to the United States

LEARN MORE

DOMINICA

Time to Grant Citizenship: 3-9 Months

Minimum Investment: $100,000

Investment Options: Donation or Real Estate

Visa-Free Access to 145 Countries

Best Passport for Single Applicants

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SAINT LUCIA

Time to Acquiring Citizenship: 3-6 Months

Minimum Investment: $100,000

Investment Options: Donation, Real Estate, Bonds, or Enterprise Project

Visa-Free Access to 145+ Countries

Best Passport for Single Applicants 

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ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA

Time to Citizenship: 3-6 Months

Minimum Investment: $130,000

Investment Options: Donation, Real Estate, or Business

Visa-Free Access to 145 Countries

Best Passport for a Family

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ST. KITTS AND NEVIS

Time to Citizenship: 3-6 Months

Minimum Investment: $150,000

Investment Options: Donation or Real Estate

Visa-Free Access to 150+ Countries

Best Passport for Access to the Americas

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UNITED STATES EB 5 VISA

Time to Acquiring Citizenship: 5 years

Minimum Investment: $500,000

Investment Options: invest capital in a business

Visa-Free Access to 180+ Countries

Best Passport For investment opportunities and living standards

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MALTA

Time to Acquiring Citizenship: 12 Months to 3 Years

Minimum Investment: €690,00

Investment Options: Hybrid Model Requiring  donations and Real Estate

Visa-Free Access to 180+ Countries

Best Passport For QUALITY OF LIFE

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TURKEY

Time to Acquiring Citizenship: 4 months

Minimum Investment: $250,000

Investment Options: Real Estate, Bank Deposit, Capital Investment, Create Jobs, Government Bonds

Visa-Free Access to 120+ Countries

Best Passport For Convenience and E2 Visa Access to the United States

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CURACAO

Time to Acquiring Citizenship: 5 Years

Minimum Investment: $280,000

Investment Options: Real Estate, Business, Capital Investment

Visa-Free Access to 170+ Countries

Best Passport For EU access

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Who are we & how can we help you? 

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique investment migration firm focused on finding the right residency or citizenship by investment program for individuals wishing to secure their future and become global citizens.

With offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Brazil, our multilingual team guides individuals and families from start to finish, providing expert advice considering freedom, mobility, taxation, and security.

Contact us today to learn more about how citizenship by investment works and what citizenship by investment programs we work with. 

Frequently Asked Questions About CBI Programs

Which countries give citizenship investment programs?

Some of the countries that run CBI programs include St Lucia, St Kitts, and Nevis, Dominica, Vanuatu, Curacao, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Turkey, and Malta.

What is the best citizenship by investment?

While there is no ‘one’ best program, because this of course depends on your unique situation, Dominica has been voted several times as the best CBI program, due to its fast timeline to citizenship, and cost-effective route to obtaining a Dominica passport.

What is the cheapest citizenship by investment?

By far, the cheapest citizenship by investment program is one of the Caribbean countries like St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica.

What is citizenship by investment?

Citizenship by investment is sort of an investment scheme, allowing qualifying applicants to obtain second citizenship in a nation, in exchange for making a respective investment in the nation.