Governments need foreign direct investment to stimulate their economy – whether that be for their real estate market, local businesses and employment, or government bonds and development funds that will allow them to direct the money to more country-specific projects.

Depending on the country and its specific needs at the time, you will have various options to choose from that will qualify you for citizenship. Each option is laid out by the government and will differ according to amounts, types of investments, and required holding times.

Here are the most common types of investments that will qualify you for citizenship in another country:

1. Donation

The most conventional way to qualify for citizenship is to simply make a donation. Donation amounts start at $100,000 in several Caribbean countries and go all the way up to €650,000 for Malta.

You make the donation and they give you a passport.

You do not get that money back.

Your donation goes toward the local people in the country to meet different objectives. For example, St. Kitts and Nevis had a thriving sugar industry… until it didn’t. So, now, the government has created a sugar fund that you can donate to and qualify for St. Kitts’ citizenship.

Dominica, on the other hand, is focused on building low-income housing with the money they receive from investors. You donate the money and the government determines where to put it.

Even though it is essentially a sunk cost, the donation is usually the cheapest and most straightforward route to take because you don’t have to deal with selling an asset later.

And while you may think it’s a waste of money, if you can go out and save a million dollars in taxes by having that passport, then who cares that you wasted $100,000?

If you can travel to Russia with your new passport and expand your business there, consider that $100,000 as an investment in your business.

Or if you’re an Arab who can suddenly travel to Europe withing needing visas all the time and you can do an extra half-million dollars in business, who cares about the $100,000 you gave away to get it?

That’s the donation route.

2. Real Estate Investment

Almost all citizenship by investment programs – with the exception of Turkey – require you to buy real estate that has been pre-approved by the government.

That means it’s overpriced and a rip-off.

With most Caribbean programs, the real estate isn’t even yours. It’s a timeshare. And even if it is yours, you’ll end up paying a partial donation anyway thanks to government fees.

For example, you can invest $220,000 in real estate in Dominica instead of donating $100,000, but you still need to pay a government fee for the real estate. In Dominica, the fee is $35,000 and the amount only goes up from there in other countries.

So, you’re not saving the full amount of the donation.

And here’s the other issue: if you do decide to buy the real estate, what are you going to do with it? It’s on an island. Where’s the market to resell it? Your only opportunity to resell is probably to a new buyer who’s also doing the citizenship by investment program.

The one exception, as mentioned, is Turkey. You can buy almost any property in Turkey, and as long as you meet the investment amount, you can qualify for Turkish citizenship.

We have a full-time real estate person on our team who speaks Turkish and she finds the best deals on properties in the country that will qualify you for citizenship.

If you are interested, be sure to check out our article on how to buy real estate in Turkey, as well as our Turkish citizenship by investment guide.

Other than Turkey, we don’t recommend the real estate investment as it must be pre-approved by the government and, consequently, is overpriced.

3. Hybrid Model

Some countries like to complicate things and will require applicants to make several types of investments to qualify for citizenship. Most hybrid programs can be found in Europe.

Malta, for example, requires applicants to make a sizable donation, buy government bonds, purchase or rent a home, and live in the country for at least a year to establish a genuine link to the country.

This, of course, is because Malta is in the EU, which means that its passport is much more valuable but also subject to third-party oversight from the EU itself.

In St. Lucia, nobody cares that you have a genuine connection to the country. They’ll take your donation and you can be done with the process. Their passport is not as powerful, though, so there is a trade-off.

There’s always a trade-off.

Montenegro (the newcomer) is another hybrid model with both a donation and real estate requirement.

There are benefits to both programs, but you will be required to give more to get them.

4. Banks, Bonds, and Businesses

In recent years, governments have been coming up with more creative investment options for investors interested in citizenship.

In Turkey, for example, instead of investing $250,000 in real estate, you can put $500,000 in the bank for three years and still qualify for citizenship. Or, if you want to reduce how much money you need to put down, you can start a business and hire 50 people in Turkey and get citizenship that way too.

In both Antigua and St. Lucia, rather than start a business, you can invest in a local company and qualify. In Antigua, you’ll need to invest $400,000 plus fees (vs. the flat $100,000 donation) and in St. Lucia you’ll need to invest a whopping $3.5 million into a local enterprise project.

Finally, in both St. Lucia and Malta, you can buy non-interest-bearing government bonds and hold them for a given period of time to qualify for citizenship. In Malta, the bond investment is one requirement of many. In St. Lucia, it’s one of four different options. 

Economic

How the Application Process Works

On average, once you have submitted your application, you should expect to wait about six months before you can have your passport in hand. But what goes on during this time? And what is required from you besides the investment?

Although every country has a different list of requirements, they are all straightforward and there are many commonalities between them all. This is what you can expect from the application process in general:

Upon choosing the country you want to invest in, you will go through quite a bit of paperwork to present your entire case to the country.

These countries have strict due diligence procedures. Some are stricter than others, but all of them want to know who they are dealing with.

You’ll need to collect documents like a police or FBI report, show the legal source of your investment funds, receive a medical examination to prove good health, and collect all your school transcripts, even back to your elementary school in some cases.

You will also need to give them information on your business. Most programs want to know if you have ever been sued. Generally, people who have an extensive history of civil lawsuits will not be admitted.

If you had a small claims suit because some dope sued you, that’s usually fine. But serious civil litigation is usually an issue and reduces the number of programs willing to take you.

The same goes for a criminal record. If you had a misdemeanor for carrying a beer around town when you were 18, that’s probably not an issue. If you have been convicted of any kind of crime of moral turpitude, you’re going to be out.

Once you have gathered all the documents and submitted your application, the government will perform their due diligence process, which can take several months.

A lot of companies will tell you that it takes two or three months, but that is almost never the case. St. Kitts and Nevis has a rush program you can pay extra for that is supposed to take 60 days, but it doesn’t really work that way.

Which program is faster really depends on when you submit the application. Certain countries get a rush at different times of the year.

If some immigration agent in China sold 50 clients into Dominica at once, it’s going to be slow. So, there’s no citizenship program that’s going to be faster than another at any one time.

Vanuatu does tend to be faster than the Caribbean programs, but it’s not the most desirable program out there.

In most countries, you are required to make some or all of the investment upfront while in others you only have to deposit the funds once your application is approved.

Once you are approved and your investment goes through, you will be issued a certificate of naturalization which you can then use to apply for a passport.

In some countries, you will need to attend a swearing-in ceremony to receive your naturalization certificate. In others, you will need to meet a minimal residence requirement (usually five days within a five-year period) to be able to renew your passport at the end of your first five years of citizenship.

For more details about the specific requirements of each program, be sure to click on the “Learn More” buttons above to view our ultimate guides for each citizenship by investment country.

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