Obtaining second or dual citizenship from a country in Europe or North America is a dream for many expats. But the long waiting period, complex procedures, and excessive legal restrictions often make the dream seem unachievable. However, did you know there are golden passport countries where you get a permanent residence permit in the country if you meet specific prerequisites?
From Cyprus to Grenada, there are many countries where you can participate in specific citizenship by investment or Golden Visa schemes to work your way to starting a new life abroad.
With investment plans starting from approximately $100,000, you can get a resident permit and eventually a golden passport under the Golden Visa scheme in many of these countries without having birthright citizenship or spending years as a legal resident through employment or marriage.
What is a Golden Visa?
Golden Visa programs are unique investment programs through which individuals can acquire permanent resident status and, potentially, a second passport that ranks high on the Global Passport Index for themselves and their family members in another country. Depending on the Golden Visa country’s regulations, you can purchase a property or directly contribute to its economy by participating in its investment scheme.
If your application for a specific Golden Visa program is approved, you and your family can become legal residents of that country and eventually acquire passports. As a Golden Visa holder, you’ll have access to residency benefits, like free education or healthcare.
Investing in a country in exchange for permanent or long-term residence or citizenship has become hugely popular in recent years. In the next section, we’ll discuss the countries that offer a Golden Visa program. You’ll find a breakdown of what is required to acquire this visa in each country and the kind of travel access passport holders will have.
The Benefits of Golden Passports
Golden passport programs provide Golden Visa holders with passports that offer a range of benefits:
Streamlined border crossing
Travel mobility: First and foremost, adding a second passport to your passport portfolio opens up travel doors with expanded visa-free travel opportunities.
Streamlined border crossing: Golden passports, like an EU passport, provide easy access to the European Union and the Schengen Area through European citizenship.
A backup in crisis: Political stability, national emergencies, and global pandemics can potentially lead to troubling situations with substantial consequences. Golden passports provide an invaluable second option for assistance and refuge.
Personal safety: Golden passports are an added layer of protection concerning personal safety and security. This significantly benefits travelers from countries with limited diplomatic representation overseas.
Golden Passport Requirements
Golden passports obtainable through CBI programs generally have these common requirements that investors must fulfill:
- Be over 18
- No be from a prohibited country
- Make a minimum financial investment or contribution
- Have a clean criminal record
- Provide evidence of a legitimate source of funding
- Be in good health
- Pay the necessary application fees
Processing time for golden passports
The processing time for obtaining a golden passport varies significantly depending on the country offering the program and the complexity of the application. Each country sets its own processing timelines, and factors such as the applicant’s background, the number of applications being processed, and the efficiency of the immigration authorities can influence the processing time.
Generally, golden passports are issued within three to six months for most citizenship by investment programs. The fastest CBI program is Vanuatu’s, which processes citizenship applications within 60 days. The shortest processing time of CBI schemes in the Europe Union is 12 months.
Portugal: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
Portugal charms people worldwide with its year-round sunshine, engrossing Atlantic coastline, and stunning landscapes. The Portugal Golden Visa program is a five-year residency by investment opportunity for non-EU nationals. The intention is to attract foreign investment into the country.
With a Portuguese passport, you will access all 27 European Union nations and have visa-free and visa-on-arrival access to 174 countries worldwide, making it one of the world’s most powerful passports. The minimum investment requirement for the Portugal Golden Visa is €250,000, and there are various investment options, such as investing in real estate, scientific research, donating to the arts, and job creation. The real estate pathway has long been the most popular Golden Visa pathway, with more than 90 percent of investors opting for this route.
You can apply for permanent residency and a Portuguese passport by holding your investment for at least five years. Citizenship gives you the independence to work, study, and travel anywhere in the EU, and you can travel to 174 countries without a visa.
Please be aware that the program’s authorities are currently evaluating the eligibility of real estate as an investment option and considering its removal as one of the qualifying investment choices.
If you are interested in a step-by-step guide on acquiring the Portugal Golden Visa, click here.
Greece: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
The Greece Golden Visa is now ten years old, and in that time, it has allowed many expats from around the world to benefit from the fabulous Greek lifestyle. Although Greece doesn’t offer a citizenship by investment scheme, the Golden Visa will enable you to maintain residency long enough to qualify for EU citizenship.
Upon acquiring Greek citizenship after seven years of continuous residency, you’ll be eligible for one of the strongest passports in the world, providing visa-free and visa-on-arrival travel to over 170 countries worldwide.
Greece is unbeatable as a choice for US expats looking to relocate abroad. Whether you would like to establish a life in a historical city like Athens, or you’re drawn to the charm and island life of small Greek islands like Mykonos, you have many options open to you.
The Greek Golden Visa starts with a minimum investment of €250,000 through various investment options, such as real estate or a deposit in a Greek bank.
You can check out our detailed Greece Golden Visa Program guide for more information.
Spain: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
Spain has one of the most sought-after European Golden Visa programs for expats, and for good reason. The abundance of benefits it offers its residents is almost limitless. The Spain Golden Visa program is a residency by investment scheme allowing foreigners to enjoy legal residence in Spain in exchange for a qualifying investment.
Once residency has been maintained for ten years, foreigners are eligible for naturalization and a Spanish passport. The Spanish passport ranks in the top 20 on the Global Passport Index, allowing visa-free and visa-on-arrival access to 174 countries worldwide.
With some of the best cuisine in the world and every region having its own gastronomical identity, it’s the ideal destination for expats with a broad sense of taste when it comes to food.
You can obtain the Spain Golden Visa from investment options such as €500,000 in real estate or €1 million in shares or stock of a Spanish company.
Click here to find out more about the Spanish Golden Visa Program.
Cyprus: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
Cypriot lifestyle is a dream for thousands of people who decide to move abroad. The Cyprus Golden Visa is one of Europe’s most popular Golden Visa programs and has facilitated the growth of a large expat community.
It’s possible to obtain a residency by investment permit through the Cyprus Golden Visa program – more accurately referred to as a Cyprus Investor Immigration Program. A minimum investment of €300,000 in Cypriot real estate or another financial contribution to the nation is required to be eligible for the residency program.
An annual income of €30,000 is also required to apply for the Cyprus Golden Visa. This can be in various forms of income, such as wages, pensions, rental income, or dividends.
After seven years of holding the residency permit, you can apply for citizenship.
A Cypriot passport provides many benefits, including access to 170 countries without a prearranged visa. A Cyprus passport will also facilitate freedom of movement throughout the EU.
Check out this article on the Cyprus Golden Visa Program for more information.
Austria: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
Austria is one of the wealthiest European countries; consequently, its citizenship by investment program is quite costly. Apart from the multi-million dollar investment requirement, the program is very selective and can be complicated.
According to Austrian citizenship laws, the Austria Golden Visa is granted to wealthy foreigners who can show extraordinary capabilities to invest in the country’s economy and thus contribute to its financial, cultural, and social prosperity. You have to be able to create job prospects by setting up a business or by directly contributing to any national development fund.
The estimated investment ranges from €2 million for investments in government funds to €10 million for business investments.
Once you qualify for the Austria Golden Visa through investment, you can subsequently acquire one of the world’s most powerful passports and be assured permanent residence in the country. The Austrian passport ranks highly on the Global Passport Index, providing the liberty of visa-free and visa-on-arrival access to 174 countries worldwide, along with access to the United Kingdom and the United States.
Please note that Austria does not allow dual nationality for those who obtain citizenship, so if you’re interested in becoming an Austrian citizen, you must relinquish any passports you currently hold. Moreover, the entire citizenship by investment program is confidential, so you might need help determining whether or not you qualify for the scheme.
Check out our ultimate guide on Austrian Citizenship by Investment for further details.
Antigua and Barbuda: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
Antigua and Barbuda is a heavenly beach paradise in the Caribbean that provides powerful passport-related benefits to holders. Antigua and Barbuda passport holders enjoy visa-free and visa-on-arrival travel to 150 countries due to its high ranking on the Global Passport Index.
For the past decade, the Antigua and Barbuda Golden Visa initiative has been available to foreign nationals willing to contribute significantly to the country’s economy in one of four ways outlined below.
The country’s most economical investment plan is to make a $100,000 donation to the Antigua and Barbuda National Development Fund. This amount extends to a family of up to four people, which increases to $125,000 for a family of five or more.
The second option of the scheme is contributing $150,000 to the University of the West Indies Fund, which offers an opportunity for a one-year tuition-only scholarship at the University of West Indies to one of the family members. This option is great for families of six people or more. If you want to invest in real estate, you can contribute $200,000 to any government-authorized real estate project under the Golden Visa scheme.
The fourth and costliest investment option under which the Golden Visa can be acquired is contributing a minimum of $1.5 million to set up a new business venture. Two or more investors can jointly participate in the venture for a total investment of $5 million with a minimum contribution of $400,000 from each participant. The last two options come with a processing fee of $30,000.
Check out our ultimate guide on Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment for more details.
Dominica: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
Since 1993, the Caribbean island of Dominica has had a flexible and pocket-friendly investment scheme for foreign nationals, which can grant them Dominica citizenship and one of the Caribbean’s most powerful passports. This passport, which has a high visa-free score, will allow travel visa-free or visa-on-arrival to more than 140 countries worldwide.
Dominica is a fantastic choice for US expats looking for a stable life abroad. Their local currency is pegged to the US dollar, so foreign residents need not worry about erratic currency value fluctuations. It’s also ideal for expats who enjoy international yachting, as neighboring island nations like Guadeloupe and Martinique are just 50 to 60 miles from the north and south coasts.
There are also no prior visa requirements for inter-Caribbean travel. Caribbean passport holders can travel visa-free to any other Caribbean island.
The Dominica citizenship by investment program offers two options. You can donate $100,000 to the Economic Development Fund of the country. The second option is to purchase any approved real estate property worth $200,000 in addition to due diligence and administrative fees.
You can check out our detailed guide on Dominica Citizenship by Investment for more information.
Grenada: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
The Grenada citizenship by investment scheme allows investors to obtain second citizenship and Grenadian passports. Another of the most powerful passports in the Caribbean, Grenadian passport holders have access to visa-free and visa-on-arrival travel to more than 140 countries.
Additionally, Grenada is the only Caribbean country that allows you to acquire the USA E2 treaty visa through the Golden Visa program.
Grenada is also one of the safest and most naturally preserved island nations in the Caribbean. And travel to and from the US is straightforward, with plenty of options for daily direct flights.
One of the two investment pathways under the Grenada Golden Visa scheme is to donate $150,000 to the National Transformation Fund (NTF). The second way is to purchase a government-approved real estate property (i.e., hotels or spas) in the country with a value of at least $220,000. The purchase of real estate comes with the condition that you must maintain possession of the property for at least five years.
Check out our complete guide on the citizenship by investment scheme in Grenada for more details.
St. Kitts and Nevis: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
The St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment program is the oldest Golden Visa initiative in the world, providing a new home for many expats over the past decade and more. St. Kitts and Nevis has another of the Caribbean’s most powerful passports. Passport holders have access to over 150 countries visa-free. There are also a number of destinations in the Caribbean that are nearby.
Moreover, applying for this scheme does not require language proficiency or residence permit mandates, making it even more appealing for English-speaking overseas investors.
For those looking to move for tax purposes, St. Kitts and Nevis has tax saving incentives like no income tax, with just a small contribution required for the local Social Security Board (SSB).
There are two kinds of qualifying investment plans under the residency by investment scheme in this country. You can contribute $250,000 to the Sustainable Island State Contribution (SISC) or purchase shares of real estate property worth $400,000. These investments will entail specific due diligence and government processing fees.
Check out our ultimate guide on St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment for more details.
Jordan: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
A small country with great historical significance, Jordan is a nation that often goes unmentioned in talks of Golden Visa countries. It came second after Kuwait among Middle Eastern countries in the last Global Peace Index ranking, with low security issues and perceived criminality in the country.
Jordan doesn’t have a claim to the world’s most powerful passport or one on par with the United Arab Emirates passport. Still, Jordanian passport holders have access to visa waivers for a number of destinations in the Middle East and worldwide.
There are three separate investment plans that you can apply for to get a Jordan passport. The lowest option is worth $750,000, and you will need to invest in any project capable of creating at least ten local jobs outside the country’s capital. If you want to invest within the capital, this amount will increase to $1 million.
Another option is to deposit $1 million in the Central Bank of Jordan for three years or to buy treasury government bonds worth $1 million for six years. Otherwise, you can purchase shares worth $1.5 million in any Jordan-based company.
Malta: Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (CES) and Estimated Investment Requirement
Besides the perfect quality and pace of life, Malta is an exciting choice for wealthy foreigners looking for investment opportunities and a nation with one of the world’s most powerful passports. The country is a European Union member state and thus offers many benefits to foreign investors.
Maltese passports are highly ranked on the passport index and provide visa-free travel to the United Kingdom and access to many of the world’s top travel destinations.
Even though the granting of citizenship in Malta has become more selective and thorough due to government regulations, it is still preferred by many expats.
The only option to obtain citizenship by naturalization is through Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (CES).
Two options are available to acquire citizenship through CES:
- Citizenship in one year with an investment of at least €750,000 in the national development fund.
- Citizenship in three years with an investment of at least €600,000 in the national development fund.
For both the one-year and three years citizenship programs, you are required to reside in Malta for the duration of the program as well as invest in real estate. You can either purchase residential properties worth €700,000 or lease out a residential property in Malta for a minimum amount of €16,000 per year and maintain it for 12 to 36 months.
You must also make a philanthropic donation of €10,000 towards registered sports, culture, scientific research, the welfare of animals, or a Community Malta Agency (CMA) approved artistic non-governmental organization or society.
Check out our ultimate guide on Malta CES for more details.
The requirements to apply for permanent residence through the Malta Permanent Residence Program include:
- A minimum investment of €300,000 for a property purchase or a lease agreement for at least €10,000 ($10,800) per annum
- A government contribution of €28,000 (€58,000 for a lease agreement)
- A donation of €2,000 to an NGO registered in Malta
The property investment must be held for at least five years.
Unlike CES, you need not live in Malta to get permanent residence. Even though the permanent residence program will not be converted to citizenship, you can apply for Maltese citizenship after residing in the country for five years and meeting all the requirements.
Check out our ultimate guide on the Malta Permanent Residence Program for more information.
Moldova: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
Moldova is a charming and historical Balkan country on the border of Europe, with many villages containing medieval architecture and buildings that are well maintained and still in use. Retiring expats looking for real estate can get a lot for their money in the country. The average cost per square meter in a city center was $1,370, more than 340 percent cheaper than the states at $4,700. Moldova offers a single investment option of a non-refundable contribution of €100,000.
Please note that Moldova is still in the application phase of becoming a member of the European Union. Therefore the Moldovan passport doesn’t have the same level of access that comes with EU passports, such as visa-free access to the United Kingdom and the US.
Still, the Moldovan passport offers visa-free and visa-on-arrival access to 130 countries, including access to other countries with stringent visa restrictions like the United Arab Emirates.
North Macedonia: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
Another Balkan country that formed part of the former state of Yugoslavia, North Macedonia has seen a remarkable resurgence over the last 30 years. Its mountainous terrain and border on the Mediterranean mean that whether you prefer a cooler climate or warm Mediterranean weather, you have both to choose from.
The country has a number of English-speaking international schools, and high school students can attend numerous bilingual classes in languages such as Albanian, Turkish, and Serbian.
North Macedonia employs a highly controlled and restricted system for approving residency in the country. Only 1000 applicants can apply for residency through the investment scheme every year.
Although currently not a member state of the European Union, if you opt to apply for North Macedonia citizenship by investment program, you can acquire a North Macedonia passport and enjoy travel freedom with visa-free access and visa-on-arrival travel to over 130 countries around the world. You can also add your spouse and children under 18 years of age to your application.
This country provides the investment option of €200,000 in any of the country’s private funds. You can also invest €400,000 to set up a new venture and will be required to create at least ten local jobs.
Turkey: Golden Visa Program and Estimated Investment Requirement
Turkey is one of the most popular choices for foreign investors for several reasons. It has one of the cheapest costs of living available for countries that offer Golden Visas. The affordable cost of living doesn’t come at the sacrifice of quality of life either, with world-class healthcare, particularly in cosmetic surgery and dental care.
It also has a young and flourishing workforce and very competitive rates to employ highly skilled workers. International investors involved in fields such as the textile industry receive high-quality labor at a fraction of the cost compared to Western countries. Turkey is also the ideal geographical location for importing and exporting, being on the border of Asia to the east and Europe to the west.
Although not the most powerful passport in the world, the Turkish passport includes visa-free and visa-on-arrival access to 126 countries. Turkish citizenship by investment is diverse and provides expats with a number of ways to obtain it.
You can buy real estate properties in the country worth $400,000 in addition to the required government fees.
Other options in the citizenship by investment program include employing 50 Turkish citizens in any venture in Turkey’s commercial sector or making a contribution through capital transfer investments.
The investment criterion of the capital transfer option is set at $500,000. It can be made through donations to any Turkish bank, purchasing government bonds, or investing in any venture or capital share.
These investment options have to be in operation for at least three years. The best part about the Turkish Golden Visa is that it can lead you to obtain a USA residency permit through the E2 Treaty Investor Visa program.
You can check out our detailed guide on Turkey’s Citizenship by Investment program for more information.
How can Global Citizen Solutions Help You?
Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique migration consultancy firm with years of experience delivering bespoke residence and citizenship by investment solutions for international families. With offices worldwide and an experienced, hands-on team, we have helped hundreds of clients worldwide acquire citizenship, residence visas, or homes while diversifying their portfolios with robust investments.
We guide you from start to finish, taking you beyond your citizenship or residency by investment application.
Frequently Asked Questions about Golden Passport Countries
Which countries issue golden passports?
Many countries worldwide now offer some form of Golden Visa program or citizenship by investment scheme. Although not always directly, you can often obtain a golden passport by applying to such programs. Note that with residency by investment schemes, you will first get a residence permit and then need to wait before you can apply for citizenship through naturalization.
Countries with some form of citizenship or residency by investment program are EU countries like Austria, Portugal, and Spain, and others like Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Jordan, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Turkey.
What is a golden passport?
A golden passport is a passport you can obtain by investing in a country. Many countries provide a golden passport through Golden Visa and citizenship by investment programs. These countries are predominantly Caribbean and EU countries.
Golden passports are generally acquired through investment schemes, which can be an international real estate investment, the purchase of company shares, the purchase of government bonds, or through capital transfer. These passports rank high in passport indexes, providing visa-free travel to many countries worldwide.
Which EU country has the cheapest Golden Visa?
Several countries in the EU offer affordable Golden Visas. The cheapest is Portugal’s Golden Visa, which requires a minimum investment of €350,000 (although this program has now ended).
Malta doesn’t have a Golden Visa program, but through Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (CES) it’s possible to acquire citizenship within three years. You need to invest €600,000 in the national development fund, which is €750,000 to reduce the time frame to one year. Additionally, you are required to make a real estate investment of €700,000 and a philanthropic donation of €10,000.
Which country has the best Golden Visa?
Several countries offer Golden Visas, but Cyprus and Portugal’s Golden Visas are considered two of the best. The Portugal Golden Visa is the cheapest, with a minimum investment of €250,000.
Malta doesn’t offer a Golden Visa program, but it’s possible to be naturalized through Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment, which leads to a passport two countries shy of having the same level of visa-free access that the world’s most powerful passport offers. There is excellent travel freedom and access for passport holders, and the country is one of the safest in Europe as well as most politically stable.
The Malta CES also provides several benefits, including:
- No residency requirements to maintain permanent residency
- English-speaking international schools that teach British curriculum
- Profitable investment in a lucrative and stable real estate market
- Borderless travel throughout the Schengen Area
- Access to a special tax status
- The option for naturalization after a certain period of residence
Can I work in the country where I have a Golden passport?
You obtain a Golden passport when you gain citizenship, meaning you have all the rights and freedoms of citizens, including the right to work, reside, and vote in the country.
Can I travel freely within the EU with a Golden passport?
Whether or not you can travel freely within the EU with a Golden passport depends on which passport you obtained. Golden Visa schemes, such as those providing Caribbean passports like the St. Kitts and Nevis passport and Grenada passport, allow holders to travel freely within the EU without a visa.