Obtaining second or dual citizenship from a country in Europe or North America is a dream for many expats. However, 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 citizenship and powerful golden passports in exchange for investing in their economy?
From St Kitts and Nevis to Vanuatu, there are many countries where you can participate in specific citizenship by investment or Golden Visa schemes and achieve your goal of a new life abroad.
Keep reading as we look into the growing popularity of the Golden passport and why a wide demographic of individuals, from wealthy people to aspiring global citizens, is increasingly drawn to its benefits.
What is a Golden Passport?
Golden passports are issued through unique investment programs that allow individuals to make direct investments in a country and receive citizenship and a second passport in return. The term “Golden passport” essentially refers to the privileges expats gain when they receive one, which include:
- Enhanced mobility through additional visa free travel options
- A backup plan in the event of economic crisis or political turmoil
- Increased safety through expanded diplomatic protection and rights
- Asset protection in a politically neutral country with stringent economic regulations
In most Golden passport countries, you can participate in citizenship schemes through investments such as purchasing a property, establishing a local business, or directly contributing to a national development fund.
If your application for a specific Golden passport program is approved, you and your family members can become citizens of that country and acquire passports. As a Golden passport holder, you’ll have access to the privileges that come with citizenship, like residency benefits, free education, or healthcare.
Benefits of a Golden Passport
Golden passport programs provide Golden Visa holders with passports that offer a range of benefits:
Travel mobility: Adding a second passport to your passport portfolio opens up travel doors with expanded visa free travel opportunities that your primary passport might not provide. Enhanced global mobility is beneficial for various reasons, from tourism to business travel.
Streamlined border crossing: Golden passports, like an EU passport, provide easy access to the European Union and the Schengen Area through EU citizenship. Additionally, such schemes approved by the European parliament include free movement, granting Golden passport holders the right to settle in any EU member state.
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.
Asset protection: Holding a second passport can serve as a form of asset protection, offering an alternative in times of political or economic uncertainty in the home country through protection in second citizenship countries ranking low on corruption perception index studies by Transparency International.
Tax optimization: Golden passport programs in low-tax countries offer favorable tax regimes, allowing individuals to optimize their tax liabilities and potentially reduce the overall tax burden.
Golden Passport Countries
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a heavenly beach paradise in the Caribbean that provides powerful passport-related benefits to holders. The Antigua and Barbuda citizenship by investment program offers a Golden passport providing 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, which allows investors to include four family members in the same application.
Austria is one of the wealthiest European countries; consequently, the Austria citizenship by investment program is quite costly. Apart from the multi-million dollar investment requirement, the citizenship scheme is very selective and can be complicated.
According to Austrian citizenship laws, the Austria Golden passport 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 must 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.
Note that although the European Commission allows Austria to grant Golden passports, Austria does not allow dual nationality for those who gain citizenship, so if you’re interested in becoming an Austrian citizen, you must relinquish any passports you currently hold.
Since 1993, the Caribbean island of Dominica has had a flexible investment scheme for foreign nationals interested in obtaining Dominica citizenship by investment and one of the Caribbean’s most powerful passports.
A Dominican Golden passport 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.
Dominica’s Golden passport benefits from no prior visa requirements for inter-Caribbean travel. Caribbean citizens can travel visa free to all other nations in the Caribbean.
The citizenship scheme starts with a donation of $100,000 to the country’s Economic Development Fund. The second option is to purchase any approved real estate property worth $200,000 in addition to due diligence and administrative fees.
The Grenada citizenship by investment scheme allows investors to obtain second citizenship and Grenadian passports. Grenadian passport holders have access to visa free and visa on arrival travel to more than 140 countries.
Grenada is the only country in the West Indies that allows you to acquire the USA E2 treaty visa through the Golden Visa program.
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.
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 Golden passport holders have access to visa waivers for several 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 must 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.
Maltese passports are highly ranked on the passport index and provide visa free entry to the United Kingdom and access to many of the world’s top travel destinations.
Even though the granting of a Golden passport in Malta has become more selective and thorough due to the popularity of the program in recent years and pressure from the European Commission, 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.
You must also purchase real estate for €700,000 or sign a lease agreement worth €16,000 annually and 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.
Foreign investors have the sole option of a non-refundable contribution of €100,000 to obtain a Golden passport in Malta.
Please note that Moldova is still in the application phase for membership in the European Union. Therefore, the Moldovan passport doesn’t have the same level of access available with EU passports, such as visa free entry 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.
Another Balkan country that formed part of the former state of Yugoslavia, North Macedonia, has seen a remarkable resurgence over the last 30 years. 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 worldwide. You can also add your spouse and children under 18 to your Golden passport application.
This country provides the investment option of €200,000 in any of its private funds. You can also buy citizenship by investing €400,000 to set up a new venture, which will require creating at least ten local jobs.
St Kitts and Nevis
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. Several destinations in the Caribbean 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.
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 several ways to obtain it.
To obtain Turkish citizenship and a Golden passport, you can buy real estate properties in the country worth $400,000. Other qualifying investments in the citizenship by investment program include employing 50 Turkish citizens in any venture in Turkey’s commercial sector or contributing through capital transfer investments.
These investment options have to be held for at least three years. The best part about the Turkish Golden Visa is that it can help you obtain a USA residency permit through the E2 Treaty Investor Visa program.
Obtaining a Vanuatu Golden passport is an increasingly popular choice among foreign investors. The primary benefit of the Vanuatu citizenship by investment program is that investors can obtain and a second passport within two months of making the required investment.
Obtaining citizenship is possible through just one investment of a financial contribution worth $130,000 to the country’s government fund.
Golden Visa Countries
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 qualifying investment of €300,000 in Cypriot commercial or residential property 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.
You can apply for citizenship after seven years of holding the residency permit.
The Greece Golden Visa has allowed many expats worldwide 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 granted by the European parliament.
The Greek Golden Visa starts with a minimum investment of €250,000 through a real estate purchase. It provides several alternative investments, such as purchasing government bonds or depositing into a Greek bank account.
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.
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 scientific research, donating to the arts, and creating jobs.
You can apply for a permanent residence permit or citizenship 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.
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.
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.
You are eligible for naturalization and a Golden passport if you have enough money to support yourself and maintain residency for ten years. 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.
How to Get a Golden Passport
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 applications
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.
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 country has a golden passport?
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 does a golden passport do?
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.
How long does a golden passport last?
With a Golden passport in 2024, you secure citizenship and the privilege of holding a passport for life. The term ‘Golden passport’ metaphorically refers to a high-ranking passport acquired through citizenship by investment or Golden Visa programs, and its validity varies based on the passport regulations specific to each country.
Can I get an EU Golden passport?
Malta and Austria offer EU investment migration schemes approved by the European Commission, allowing foreign investors to obtain EU Golden passports in exchange for investing in their economies.