Are you a non-European citizen looking to relocate to Europe and safeguard your wealth or enjoy a better quality of life? Or perhaps you want to acquire a second citizenship from a country in the European Union? If that is the case, you are probably contemplating different immigration options.
A Golden Visa is the ultimate residency by investment scheme, allowing foreign investors and their families to obtain a residence visa and permanent residence status in some of the world’s best countries. This guide will present you with all the information you need to pursue a Golden Visa.
European Golden Visa Explained
EU Golden Visas are immigration investment programs aimed at investors and those with the financial means to invest in the economy of countries in the European Union in exchange for residency. Most Golden Visa programs offer temporary residence permits, but some also offer permanent residency or citizenship. They’re issued to individuals and their families who make an investment in the country’s program. Investment options include making a substantial international real estate investment, investing in a business, or transferring capital to a national development fund.
Portugal, for example, has one of the world’s most successful investment programs to obtain a Golden Visa, with the Portugal Golden Visa statistics for beneficiaries skyrocketing in recent years. Since 2012, 12,396 investors and 20,000 family members have benefited from the country’s program.
The Malta Permanent Residency Program (MPRP) has also gained popularity with its required international investment and eligibility criteria leading directly to permanent residency in a safe and economically stable EU country.
These immigration investment programs are very successful and varied. They offer non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss nationals and their family members several investment routes to acquire a Golden Visa card at different minimum investment amounts. Whether you are looking to invest in real estate, a government development fund, a new business, private equity funds, or venture capital funds, there are plenty of options available for your budget and liking.
Benefits of Golden Visa Programs
- EU residency and then citizenship: Obtain EU residency and be on route to gaining EU citizenship by investing in the economy of an EU country
- Stability in a Schengen country: Live, work, and study in a safe and stable Schengen country
- High-quality public services: Access a high quality of life with excellent healthcare and education systems
- Various lucrative investments: Choose from several investment routes and benefit from incredible ROIs
- Borderless travel in the Schengen Area: Enjoy borderless travel across the Schengen Area without ever needing a Schengen visa
- Family reunification: Include your immediate family members in the investment visa application
Golden Visa Program Requirements
The requirements for these immigration programs in Europe vary from country to country. However, in most cases, to get a Golden Visa, applicants will need to:
- Be a third-country national (non-EU, non-EEA, or non-Swiss citizens)
- Make the required investment and maintain it for a specified period
- Have a clean criminal record
- Spend a minimum number of days in the country, as per its requirements
Golden Visa Investment Options
The investment options of countries that offer Golden Visas vary; however, some common Golden Visa investment options include:
- Real estate: This can be either purchasing a property or leasing one
- Government bonds: Purchasing government bonds, also known as dead securities
- Business investment: Foreign entrepreneurs and investors can establish or invest in existing businesses. This investment may involve creating new jobs.
- Bank deposit: Bank deposits to a national or local bank
- Startups and innovation: Startups are distinct investment routes from businesses as they require innovation, significant potential for growth, and ongoing job creation
- Investment funds: Capital transfer investments in national investment funds
- National development funds: Investments in national development funds require a non-refundable contribution
- Art and culture: In unique cases, donating to art and cultural renovation projects is recognized as a qualifying investment
Golden Visa Renewal Requirements
Given the diversity of Golden Visa programs, each offering unique benefits, such as long-term or permanent residency and even citizenship, the renewal requirements and the necessity of renewal itself can differ significantly from one country to another.
Given the inherent rights and freedoms associated with citizenship, there is no validity period or renewal requirements linked to it. Some Golden Visa countries in Europe, like Portugal and Spain, offer a Golden Visa valid for two years and renewable for three years before holders become eligible for permanent residency.
Golden Visa holders may be requested to present the following during a Golden Visa renewal process:
- Valid identity documents
- Compliance with the program (i.e., that the investment has been maintained)
- Proof of sufficient financial resources (if the visa doesn’t come with the right to work)
- A clean criminal record
- Application submission
Golden Visa Programs in Europe
Several European countries offer Golden Visas to third-country nationals, such as Spain, Greece, and Cyprus. Here is a breakdown of the Golden Visa programs for each country:
Famous for its high quality of life, stunning beaches, diverse cuisine, and sunny weather, Portugal was placed among the ten best countries to live in for expats in 2023, making its program one of the most sought-after across the EU.
The Golden Visa Portugal is a two-year residency by investment scheme that has offered third-country investors and their families Portuguese residency since its launch in 2012, all in exchange for a qualifying investment of as little as €250,000 for investments into the arts or reconstruction of national heritage. A lower minimum investment is applicable to cultural projects located in low-density areas of Portugal.
After maintaining a Golden Visa investment for at least five years, foreign investors and their families become eligible for permanent residency or Portuguese citizenship by naturalization, provided they pass a few tests assessing their basic language proficiency and knowledge about the country’s history and culture.
Portugal Golden Visa benefits
The Golden Visa has a straightforward application process, completed through Portugal’s border agency SEF. Applicants benefit from a low minimum stay requirement and have the option to become a non-habitual resident in Portugal and enjoy significant tax benefits for up to ten years.
Portugal Golden Visa investment options
Below are some of the most popular investment routes available to qualify for the Portuguese investment program:
- €500,000 investment in an existing Portuguese business or company incorporation. The investment must incorporate or increase the business’ share capital and create full-time permanent jobs for at least three years.
- €250,000 donation to art or the reconstruction of national heritage
- Establish a business that creates at least ten jobs for Portuguese citizens
- €500,000 to research activities by scientific research institutions integrated into the national scientific and technological system
For a full list of investment options, plus a complete step-by-step guide, you can consult our non-habitual resident in Portugal.
Gifted with a rich culture, diverse landscapes, and delicious cuisine, Spain is one of Europe’s best countries to live in. Following Portugal’s lead, it started its very own Spanish Golden Visa program in 2013.
Spanish residency is granted to investors and their families in exchange for a qualifying contribution to Spain’s economy worth at least €500,000. After acquiring the Spanish Golden Visa, an initial residency card will be issued to successful applicants, valid for one year or two years if they visit Spain. Once obtained, the residency permit can be renewed after two years for three years. After five years, investors can apply for permanent residence permits.
Spain Golden Visa benefits
Spain’s Golden Visa program does not impose a minimum period of residence in the country. Its processing time is fast, and the temporary residency permit is easy to renew. While the standard time frame for naturalization in Spain is ten years, foreign nationals from former Spanish colonies who acquire this Golden Visa may find that they can apply for Spanish citizenship in two short years compared to the lengthy ten-year rule for other non-EU/EEA applicants.
Spain Golden Visa investment options
There are a few investment routes available for applicants to qualify for the Spanish residency by investment program; these would be:
- Purchase real estate property with a minimum value of €500,000
- Issue a bank deposit of at least €1 million to Spanish financial institutions
- Invest a minimum of €1 million in shares of Spanish businesses
- Invest at least €2 million in Spanish government bonds, or public debt
Anyone who enjoys iconic and gorgeous beaches, Mediterranean cuisine, and endless sunshine might want to consider becoming a Greek resident. Greece’s Golden Visa program welcomes non-EU/EEA nationals who seek to invest in the nation and enables them to live the life they dream of. In exchange for a qualifying contribution to the Greek economy, investors get to enjoy EU residency, visa-free travel within the European Union, and prime living conditions, among other things.
Greece Golden Visa benefits
There’s a reason why foreign investors and third-country nationals are lining up to apply for the Golden Visa scheme in Greece. The country offers the cheapest Golden Visa in Europe, and the program has a fast application processing time of just two months and qualifies all holders of the Golden Visa for citizenship after seven years of residency, provided they meet the minimum stay requirements and pass the Greece’s Golden Visa program.
With no residency requirements, and the opportunity to include their whole family in the application, the Greek Golden Visa scheme offers investors the golden combo of living in a European country and benefiting from attractive investment opportunities.
Golden Visa Greece investment options
The most popular route to obtaining a Greek residence permit is purchasing a real estate property in Greece worth at least €250,000. However, note that the minimum qualifying investment for real estate purchases in northern and central provinces, the South Athens Attica region, and the municipalities of Thessaloniki, Mykonos, and Santorini is €500,000.
Aside from being the cheapest investment option available under the Greek Golden Visa scheme, most investors favor this investment route over others because it enables them to rent out their property and earn back some of their initial investment.
Additionally, Greece’s Golden Visa offers significant tax benefits. A Golden Visa holder who becomes a Greek tax resident can eliminate their obligation to pay taxes on income remitted to Greece by, instead, paying an annual tax fee through the Greece Non-Dom Tax regime.
Foreign investors can, alternatively, choose one of the following investment routes and still qualify for the Greek Golden Visa:
- Place an investment worth at least €400,000 in Greek government bonds
- Make a capital contribution of at least €400,000 in securities or a deposit in a Greek bank
- Make a capital contribution of at least €400,000 in bonds or shares of a venture capital fund, private equity fund, or a mutual fund based in Greece
- Invest €800,000 in shares, corporate bonds, or Greek Treasury bonds listed in trading facilities operating in Greece
While Malta doesn’t offer a Golden Visa program, the Malta Permanent Residence Program (MPRP) is one of the cheapest routes to permanent residency in the EU. It is the only predominantly English-speaking country offering permanent residency in the Schengen Area, which is why it is of particular interest to investors from the United States and other English-speaking countries.
Through leased real estate, investors can gain permanent residency from a minimum investment amount of just €110,000, with no renewal requirements, provided the investment is maintained.
The Malta Permanent Residence Program is an ideal choice for members of the LGBTQ community due to it topping the rankings of the ILGA-Europe report on LQBTQ rights. Additionally, with permanent residency, visa holders living long-term in Malta are eligible for Maltese citizenship after seven years and can acquire a passport with visa-free travel to more than 170 countries worldwide.
MPRP investment options
The Malta Permanent Residence Program offers two real estate investment options:
A real estate purchase of €350,000 (€300,000 in the south of Malta/Gozo)
A real estate lease agreement of €12,000 per annum (€10,000 in the south of Malta/Gozo)
Cyprus is known for its glorious gorges, delicious cuisine, and year-round warm weather. Ideally situated in the Mediterranean, it provides easy access to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. The island nation’s government allows expats and foreign investors to acquire a permanent residence permit in Cyprus in as little as three months in exchange for a small financial investment of €300,000 in the Cypriot economy.
The Cyprus residency by investment program is technically referred to as the Cyprus Permanent Residence Program. Unlike the Spanish residence by investment scheme, this program grants permanent residency in Cyprus, provided the investor meets and maintains the outlined requirements.
Cyprus Golden Visa benefits
The Cyprus permanent residency scheme provides one of the most generous European Golden Visa programs, allowing qualifying individuals to include their entire immediate family in their application.
This visa permit grants them access to the Republic’s outstanding education system and the freedom to enjoy borderless travel within Europe’s Schengen Area. Moreover, the country has a highly advantageous taxation system whereby residents and non-residents benefit from some of Europe’s most lenient tax exemptions and incentives.
Cyprus Golden Visa investment options
There are four investment routes under the Cyprus residency by investment scheme. Applicants can purchase real estate property or place the minimum required sum of €300,000 in alternative investment funds.
Below are the qualifying investment options for obtaining the Cyprus Golden Visa in full detail:
- Purchase a residential property worth at least €300,000
- Purchase a commercial property worth at least €300,000
- Place a minimum investment of €300,000 in the share capital of a Cypriot company
- Place a minimum investment of €300,000 in units of a Cyprus Collective Investment Organization (e.g., AIF, AIFLNP, RAIF)
The residency by investment program also demands that the applicant present an annual income of at least €30,000, covering the main applicant, their spouse, and children under 18.
Italy is your quintessential country, offering stunning countryside landscapes and optimal living standards at a reasonable cost.
As part of the European Union, the Italy Golden Visa enables applicants and their immediate family members to hold residency in an EU country, with visa-free travel access to the Schengen zone.
Italy Golden Visa benefits
Golden Visa holders gain residence in one of Europe’s most captivating and desirable nations. Italian cuisine needs no introduction, and new residents can opt for cities that seamlessly combine historic and modern elements, such as Milan, or choose from traditional Italian gems like Florence.
Italy Golden Visa investment options
Four investments starting from €250,000 are available under the Italy Golden Visa scheme, including:
- Investing at least €2 million in government bonds
- Purchasing €500,000 in corporate bonds or shares
- Investing €250,000 in an innovative startup
- Making a philanthropic donation of at least €1 million
The six cheapest Golden Visas in Europe:
- €70,000: Latvia Investor Visa via investment in a Latvian company
- €110,000: Malta Permanent Residency Program (MPRP) via leasing Maltese real estate
- €250,000: Portugal Cultural Golden Visa via a cultural production in a low-density zone
- €250,000: Golden Visa Greece real estate purchase
- €250,000: Italy Startup Visa via investment in a new or existing business in Italy
- €280,000: Portugal Golden Visa via real estate rehabilitation in a low-density zone
- €300,000: Cyprus Permanent Residence Program via real estate purchase
What other Golden Visas exist besides Golden Visas in Europe?
If you’re looking for a foreign country outside Europe, there are several options to acquire Golden Visas around the world, such as the Canada Start-Up Visa, and the Dubai or Abu Dhabi Investor Visas offering ten-year residency by investment in the UAE. Here are some other countries that offer residency or citizenship by investment:
The United States offers two investor visa programs for anyone seeking residence – the US-EB5 and E2 Visa. These two visa programs enable investors to receive legal residence status in the United States, provided they substantially contribute to the US economy. Both programs allow the main applicant’s immediate family to qualify for the same benefits they would reap, meaning they can all legally relocate to the United States.
United States EB5 and E2 benefits
There are many benefits to consider when it comes to investing in US EB5 and E2 Visa programs. Two of these are the possibility of acquiring a Green Card permit with full work privileges in the USA, in addition to accruing stable returns on the initial investment.
With the programs enabling qualifying individuals to include their entire family in their applications, investors can rest assured that their children can access the United States’ world-class Ivy League universities.
Also referred to as the Golden Visa USA, the EB5 Visa US Permanent Resident scheme provides a path to US citizenship for foreign investors seeking permanent migration. The main condition to be eligible for US citizenship is for the visa holder to reside in the nation for at least five years. On the other hand, the E2 Visa US is exclusively aimed at investors looking to expand or bring their businesses into the nation.
United States EB5 and E2 investment options
Applicants to these programs have a few investment options to choose from. They can either make a capital investment in a commercial enterprise, start a business and create at least ten full-time jobs, or place a substantial investment in a bona fide enterprise.
For the E2 Visa, the minimum qualifying investment generally starts at as little as $100,000, whereas the EB5 Visa begins with a higher minimum investment of at least $1.05 million [or $800,000 if investing in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA)].
Antigua and Barbuda
One of the most popular and cheapest Golden Visa countries in the Caribbean, the Antigua and Barbuda citizenship by investment program launched in 2012 and has since been offering investors and dependant family members the unique opportunity to apply for citizenship and Golden passports in three to six months in exchange for a qualifying contribution in its economy.
Applicants seeking to acquire permanent Antigua and Barbuda residency may choose one of the following investment options:
- Invest $100,000 in the Antigua National Development Fund. This investment sum extends the Golden Visa to a family of up to four members. In the case of a family of five or more, the minimum required sum would be $125,000.
- Purchase a real estate property valued at a minimum of $400,000 in a pre-approved real estate area in Antigua. Alternatively, the applicant can purchase shares or units in an approved property worth at least $200,000 or buy property worth at least $400,000 as part of a joint investment, with each partner investing a minimum of $200,000.
- The investment property must be kept for at least five years, and the property must be selected from the government’s approved development projects list. Property registration, processing fees, and taxes may be liable in addition to the initial investment sum.
- Establish an approved business worth at least $1.5 million. Two or more primary applicants may choose to make a joint business investment with a minimum individual investment of $400,000 and a total investment of at least $5 million. Applicants considering this investment route are advised to contact the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA) to discuss their business proposal.
- Make a donation of $150,000 or more to the University of the West Indies Fund. This investment option is available for families of six or more and is particularly favorable to applicants with children leaving high school or starting university, as it entitles one of the family members to a one-year tuition-only scholarship at the University of the West Indies.
The Dominica citizenship by investment program has become popular due to its fast processing time, flexible requirements, and many alluring benefits. In just three to six months, qualifying investors can obtain a Dominica passport, providing dual citizenship status, visa-free access to over 140 countries, and enticing tax exemptions, among other benefits.
The minimum required investment for a single applicant is $100,000, while the minimum for a family of four is about $200,000. The Dominica Citizenship by Investment program (sometimes referred to as the Dominica Golden Visa) provides applicants with two investment options:
- Donate the qualifying amount to the Economic Diversification Fund
- Invest in government-approved real estate
St Kitts and Nevis
The luxurious St Kitts and Nevis was one of the first countries to allow foreign nationals to apply for economic citizenship in 1984. The St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment program grants investors and their family members a St Kitts and Nevis passport in as little as four months in exchange for a qualifying contribution to the nation of a minimum value of $250,000.
Applicants to the program can either place the required investment of at least $250,000 in the Sustainable Island State Contribution (SISC) or place an investment worth at least $400,000 in shares of a real estate property in the dual-island nation.
Bear in mind that there are two stipulations for real estate investment:
- A minimum investment of $400,000 in approved properties, such as hotels, villas, and condominium units, would be resalable after seven years,
- A home purchase as a sole owner with a minimum value of $800,000 would be resalable after five years.
The St Lucia Citizenship by Investment program grants investors and their family members a St Lucia passport in exchange for an investment of as little as $100,000 in the nation’s economy. While that minimum investment value can only be placed in the National Economic Fund as per the program’s requirements, there are other investment options for applicants to choose from; these are:
- Real estate investment of at least $200,000 in pre-approved high-end hotels, resorts, or boutique property
- Investment of at least $3.5 million in an enterprise project in St Lucia
- Investment of at least $300,000 in National Action Government Bonds (NAB)
With a fast application processing time of three months and no residency requirements, this citizenship by investment program is one of the best Golden Visas offered across the Caribbean, and one of the most successful.
The Grenada citizenship by investment program was launched in 2013. It has since granted qualifying individuals and their family members the opportunity to apply for citizenship and a Grenadan passport in exchange for a credible investment in the island’s economy. The investment options that this Golden Visa scheme provides are:
- Investment of at least $150,000 in the National Transformation Fund
- Investment of at least $220,000 in pre-approved tourism accommodation
- Investment of at least $350,000 in a government-approved real estate project
The remote nation of Vanuatu has one of the most sought-after citizenship by investment programs.
The primary benefit of the program is that investors can obtain and a second passport in two months, the shortest processing time for citizenship by investment.
The program provides just one investment option of a financial contribution of $130,000 to the country’s national development fund.
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 Visas
What are Golden Visas?
A Golden Visa is an immigration by investment scheme that a select few countries provide, allowing qualifying investors and their family members to obtain residence permits, and sometimes even citizenship, provided they make a qualifying financial contribution to the economy.
What Golden Visas are available in Europe?
Some Golden Visas available in Europe are the Italy Investor Visa, the Cyprus Permanent Residence Program, the Greece Golden Visa, and the Spanish Golden Visa.
Are Golden Visas expensive?
The cost of a Golden Visa depends on the country it’s obtained. For example, the Golden Visa’s minimum investment threshold starts at €250,000 for the Portugal Golden Visa, whereas the Spanish Golden Visa starts at €500,000.
You can find out more about how these two Golden Visas stack up against each other in this article: Spain versus Portugal Golden Visa Comparison.
What is the best Golden Visa Program in Europe?
The best Golden Visa program in Europe is the Cyprus Golden Visa. Not only is Cyprus a fantastic place to live, but the program offers several affordable investment routes and rapidly grants Golden Visa holders permanent resident status. You can also qualify for Cypriot citizenship after seven years of maintaining your residency. You can travel visa-free to 170 countries around the world after acquiring a Cypriot passport.
What European countries offer Golden Visas?
There are plenty of EU countries with Golden Visas offered to eligible applicants who place a real estate investment in Europe. Some of these countries are Greece, Cyprus, Italy, and Spain.
What is the easiest country in Europe to get citizenship?
One of the easiest countries to get European citizenship is Malta. Qualifying applicants of the Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment program (CES) can acquire Maltese citizenship and Maltese passports in as little as 12 to 36 months, depending on their investment. Portugal Golden Visa holders with a valid residence permit can obtain Portuguese citizenship after five years, provided they fulfill the minimum residency requirements and other criteria for naturalization.
Which is the easiest country to get permanent residency in Europe?
The Golden Visa in Greece is one of Europe’s cheapest and easiest routes to obtaining permanent residency permits. There is a low investment requirement to submit a Golden Visa application. The program has a fast application processing time of two months, no residency requirements, and provides an opportunity to include the entire family in the application. All that is required for an individual to start living in Greece is to purchase a real estate property worth at least €250,000.
Who qualifies for Golden Visas in Portugal?
Anyone over 18 with a clean criminal record can qualify for the Portuguese Golden Visa program, provided they place an investment worth at least €250,000.
Does Italy have a Golden Visa?
Yes, Italy has a Golden Visa program that launched in late 2017. The technical name for the visa is the Italian Investor Visa, commonly referred to as La Dolce Visa.
What is the success rate of Golden Visa applications?
The success rate of Golden Visa applications will vary depending on several factors, including the specific program, the eligibility criteria, the applicant’s background, and the quality of the application. Generally, Golden Visa schemes tend to have higher approval rates compared to traditional visa programs due to their criteria being specially designed to attract foreign investors and individuals who meet the program’s investment requirements.
While it is challenging to provide an exact success rate for all Golden Visa programs globally due to the variations among different countries, some programs are known for being more accessible and straightforward, resulting in higher approval rates. These programs may have less stringent financial requirements or more straightforward application procedures.
Can I apply for a Golden Visa if I have been denied a visa in the past?
If you were previously denied a visa, it does not necessarily mean you are automatically ineligible to apply for a Golden Visa. However, your previous visa denial may be considered during the application process, and it could impact the assessment of your application.
Some Golden Visa programs may have strict requirements regarding the applicant’s immigration history, considering visa refusals or negative immigration records as a factor in their evaluation. Other programs may be more lenient and focus primarily on the applicant’s ability to meet the investment criteria.
Will obtaining a Golden Visa automatically grant me citizenship in that country?
Obtaining a Golden Visa does not automatically grant you citizenship in the country. A successful Golden Visa application typically provides temporary or permanent resident status, allowing you to live, work, and sometimes study in the country that issues it. To obtain citizenship as a Golden Visa holder and acquire rights such as voting in national elections and holding a country’s passport requires going through the citizenship by naturalization process.
Can I apply for a Golden Visa while I am in the country as a tourist?
In most cases, you cannot apply for a Golden Visa while in the country as a tourist. Golden Visa applications typically require applicants to be outside the country of application, meaning you would generally need to apply for a Golden Visa from your home country or another country where you have legal residency.