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.
Golden Visas are the ultimate residency by investment schemes, allowing foreign investors and their families to obtain 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.
- What are Golden Visas?
- Golden Visa program benefits
- Golden Visa program requirements
- Golden Visas in Europe
- Other Golden Visas
What are EU Golden Visas?
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 a qualifying investment in the country’s program. Investment options include making a substantial international real estate investment, investing in a business, or through capital transfer to a national development fund.
Portugal, for example, has one of the world’s most successful Golden Visa schemes, with the Portugal Golden Visa statistics for beneficiaries skyrocketing in recent years. Since 2012, 11,758 investors and 19,171 family members have benefited from the country’s program.
The Malta Permanent Residency Program (MPRP) has also gained popularity with its required 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 residence permit at different prices. Whether you are looking to invest in real estate, a government development fund, a new business, or private equity funds, there are plenty of options available for your budget and liking.
Golden Visa Program Benefits
Golden Visa Program Requirements
The requirements for these immigration programs in Europe vary from country to country; however, in most cases, 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 of time
- Have a clean criminal record
- Spend a minimum number of days in the country, as per its requirements
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 Portuguese Golden Visa scheme is a five-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 €350,000 ($371,000) in real estate.
After maintaining a property investment for at least five years, foreign investors and their families become eligible for permanent residency in Portugal. They can later acquire 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:
- Residential or commercial real estate investment of €500,000 ($530,000) in Portugal Golden Visa eligible properties; if the property is located in a designated ‘low-density’ area, then a 20 percent discount applies.
- Residential or commercial real estate investment of €350,000 ($371,000) in a rehabilitation project; if the property is located in a designated ‘low-density’ area, then a 20 percent discount applies.
- €500,000 investment in an existing Portuguese business or company incorporation. The investment must incorporate or increase the business’ share capital and create at least ten full-time permanent jobs for at least three years.
For a full list of investment options, plus a complete step-by-step guide, you can consult our Portugal Golden Visa: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide 2023.
In February 2023 alone, a total of 130 Portuguese residence permits were rewarded to foreign investors and their family members. You can check out this article for more information on the end of the Portugal Golden Visa and to find alternative options to gain residency 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 ($530,000). 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 for a period of five years each time. By maintaining it, you can apply for permanent residency in Spain on the condition that you have resided in the country for at least five years.
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 have the privilege of applying 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:
- Purchasing real estate property with a minimum value of €500,000 ($530,000)
- Issuing a bank deposit of at least €1 million ($1.06 million)
- Investing a minimum of €1 million in shares of Spanish businesses
- Investing at least €2 million ($2.12 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 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 residence, provided they pass the Greek citizenship test.
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.
Greece Golden Visa investment options
The most popular route to obtaining a Greek residence permit is through purchasing a real estate property in Greece worth at least €250,000 ($265,000). Aside from it 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.
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 ($424,000) 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 ($848,000) in shares, corporate bonds, or Greek Treasury bonds listed in trading facilities operating in Greece
Ireland is a country of vast landscapes, excellent beer, world-leading educational institutions, and endless business opportunities. It is the only English-speaking country offering the Golden Visa in Europe, which is why investors from the United States and other English-speaking countries are particularly interested in the Irish residency by investment program.
The official name of the Ireland Golden visa is the Irish Immigrant Investor Program. Applicants are provided a residence permit within four months of their application in exchange for a minimum financial contribution of €500,000 ($530,000) to the Irish economy.
Ireland Golden Visa benefits
Ireland’s Golden Visa scheme is particularly popular among entrepreneurs and international investors seeking the perfect balance between business and pleasure. It allows qualifying individuals to include their entire immediate family in their application, which works out perfectly for those who wish to enroll their children in leading universities. To top it off, they all get to enjoy an excellent quality of life and eventually acquire an Irish passport, with powerful visa-free travel benefits that can be obtained in as little as six years.
Business-wise, there is a reason why Ireland is the European headquarters for many of the world’s largest companies. Corporate infrastructure and business-related policies are well managed, in addition to low corporation tax and tax incentives for foreign companies.
Businesses registered in Ireland are also in the advantageous position of having access to the EU trading bloc as well as a relaxed hard border between Ireland and the UK via the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border.
Ireland Golden Visa investment options
The Irish Golden Visa program provides its applicants with diverse investment options. Whether they choose to invest in an existing enterprise in Ireland, go for a low-risk option and invest in government-sanctioned funds, or make a charitable donation to an Irish cause, all routes qualify them for the scheme.
Below are the qualifying investment options for obtaining the Irish Golden Visa in full detail:
- Contribute a minimum investment of €1 million ($1.06 million) to an Irish enterprise or business
- Place a minimum investment of €1 million in approved funds
- Place a minimum investment of €2 million ($2.12 million) in an Irish Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)
- Donate €500,000 ($530,000) to a charitable project or cause in Ireland
Important note: Please be advised that the Irish government ended its residency by investment program in February 2023.
There are alternative options to obtain residency by investment in Ireland, such as the Start-up Entrepreneur Program (STEP), which you may be eligible for if you:
- Are a person of good character
- Have not been convicted of criminal offenses in any jurisdiction
- Have the required €50,000 ($53,000) funding available
- Have an innovative business proposal
Cyprus is a land known for its glorious gorges, delicious cuisine, and year-round warm weather. Being perfectly 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 ($318,000) 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 that 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 ($318,000) 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.
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
- €200,000: Portugal Cultural Golden Visa via a cultural production in a low-density zone
- €250,000: Greece Golden Visa real estate purchase
- €250,000: Italy Start-up 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
Other Golden Visas
If you’re looking for a foreign country outside Europe, there are several options to acquire Golden Visas around the world, such as the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program in Canada, 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 EB5 and E2 Visa. These two visa programs enable investors to receive legal residence status in the United States, provided they make a substantial contribution 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 will have access to the United States world-class Ivy League universities.
The EB5 Visa US Permanent Resident scheme acts as 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 a minimum of 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 investment threshold 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 Golden Visa countries in the Caribbean, the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment program launched in 2012 and has since been offering investors and their family members the unique opportunity to acquire 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 that provides them with 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 investment sum 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:
- Make a donation of the qualifying amount to the Economic Diversification Fund
- Make an investment 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 $150,000.
Applicants to the program can either place the required investment of at least $150,000 in the Sustainable Growth Fund or place an investment worth at least $200,000 in a qualifying real estate property in the dual-island nation. Until 30 June 2023, investors can take advantage of a limited-time offer: A $25,000 discount on the Sustainable Growth Fund option, reduced from $150,000 to $125,000 starting price.
Bear in mind that there are two stipulations for real estate investment:
- A minimum investment of $200,000 in approved properties, such as hotels, villas, and condominium units would be resalable after seven years,
- A home purchase with a minimum value of $400,000 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 and has since been granting qualifying individuals and their family members the opportunity to obtain 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
Frequently Asked Questions about Golden Visas
What are Golden Visas?
Golden Visas are immigration by investment schemes that a select few countries provide, allowing qualifying investors and their family members to obtain residency status, 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 Italy Investor Visa.
Are Golden Visas expensive?
The cost of a Golden Visa depends on the country it’s obtained from. In Portugal, for example, the Golden Visa’s minimum investment threshold starts at €200,000 ($368,000) for the Portugal Cultural Golden Visa, whereas the Spanish Golden Visa starts at €500,000 ($530,000).
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.
Be advised that the Portugal Golden visa is coming to an end. Click here for more information.
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 residency rights. You can also qualify for Cypriot citizenship after five years of maintaining your residency. You can travel visa-free to 168 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?
Qualifying applicants of the Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (CES) – can acquire Maltese citizenship and a Maltese passports in as little as 12 to 36 months, depending on their investment.
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. The program has a fast application processing time of two months, no residency requirements, and provides an opportunity of including 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 ($263,000); note that this will rise to €500,000 on 1 May 2023.
Who qualifies for Golden Visas in Portugal?
Anyone over the age of 18 with a clean criminal record can qualify for the Portuguese Golden Visa, provided they place an investment worth at least €350,000 ($368,000) in Portuguese real estate and maintain that investment for a period of five years.
Be advised that the Portugal Golden visa has now come to an end. Click here for more information and alternative visa options.
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.