The citizenship by investment industry has rapidly been gaining more awareness. Political instability, Brexit, aggressive changes to taxation policies, and the election of new political leaders who are inclined towards restrictive immigration policies, have encouraged more and more people to seek for a second nationality to somehow protect themselves from these radical changes. In the search for freedom of movement and safety, more people are increasingly considering a second citizenship.
In the past couple of years several governments across the world have carefully restructured their citizenship by investment programmes allowing affluent investors to financially contribute to their country’s economy, obtaining residency status or a second nationality in return.
Increasingly more, governments started to carefully analyze the investors’ needs and are tailoring their citizenship programmes to fit those demands. This has significantly helped to attract more investors into these programmes and create more awareness towards the citizenship by investment industry.
Some of these countries grant instant citizenship while others require years later to show proof of residency to have the right to apply for their citizenship. Through ‘fast track’ programmes applicants seeking an alternative nationality can obtain it in only a few months depending on the country’s legislation.
Here we highlight some of the most recent changes to the citizenship by investment programmes.
The Cypriot Citizenship by Investment programme is currently the only European programme which allows an applicant to obtain citizenship in six months. The passport allows visa free travel to over 140 countries and most importantly the right to study, work, and live in any country which is part of the European Union.
Major changes within the Cypriot Citizenship by Investment programme have helped to attract a greater number of investors. In September 2016, the government reduced the price of the required real estate investment from EUR2.5 million to EUR2m.
Also, applicants can now include their parents in their application for an additional real estate investment of EUR500,000. Along with this change, the government has enhanced their due diligence process in light of the growing number of applicants.
In addition, the government will now in the first instance issue a residency card and six months later the citizenship. Such amendments have been reflected in an increased number of investors flocking to Cyprus to explore this opportunity.
‘Fast track’ citizenship programmes such as the Cypriot programme do not require the applicant to reside in the country, neither to prove residency, to obtain or maintain their new nationality.
The Caribbean citizenship by investment programmes have the same characteristics, hence their popularity. Some of these countries have also recently made changes to their citizenship legislation, adjusting to what has become a very competitive industry.
The Commonwealth of Dominica, which is one of the Caribbean countries with a buoyant citizenship programme, reduced their government application fees for the real estate investment option in December 1, 2016.
To apply for the citizenship of Dominica via real estate, a minimum investment of $200,000 is required in a Government approved project.
In addition to this investment the applicant is required to pay government application fees which have been recently reduced considerably. With the new amendments to the legislation, these fees for a family of four have now been decreased from $115,000 down to $75,000 and for a family of six from $155,000 down to $100,000. This change has increased investment in Dominica’s real estate sector.
Cabrits Resort Kempinksi; Tranquility Beach – CURIO – A Collection by Hilton; and Silver Beach Marriot are three of the top world-renowned hotel brands approved by the Dominica government for citizenship. These developments play a key role in supporting the country’s economy both within the real estate as well as the tourism sector.
The government has also introduced changes to the age of dependent children and parents. This gives applicants the possibility to include in their application children up to 28 years of age, instead of 25 years of age (previously); and parents over 55 years of age, instead of 65 years of age (previously).
Grenada’s citizenship programme has also proven to be a major player within the citizenship by investment industry in the Caribbean, ever since reopening the doors of their citizenship by investment programme in 2014. The country’s passport offers visa free access to over 120 countries including the UK, Schengen, and China.
Grenada is the only Caribbean country with a fast track citizenship programme which signed a Commerce and Navigation Treaty with the United States of America. In return, the USA allows Grenada’s citizens to fall under the E-2 non-immigrant classification. Therefore, a Grenada citizen can obtain U.S residency by making an investment of approximately $100,00 in a business in the U.S and employing a minimum of three people.
Saint Kitts & Nevis
Ever since the increase of the citizenship application costs passed in January 2012 by former Prime Minister of St. Kitts & Nevis, Denzil Douglas, the legislation has not undergone any further changes in its costs.
Antigua & Barbuda
On the other hand, with a similar required entry level to St Kitts & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda has slightly decreased their application costs. Announced back in June 2016, the government now allows two dependent children to be included under the National Development Fund option at no additional cost, for a total financial contribution of $300,000 for a family of four.
Saint Lucia, which is the last country to have launched its citizenship by investment programme on January 1st, 2016, also passed the latest significant amendments to their legislation only a few weeks ago.
On January 1, 2017, St Lucia aggressively decreased their costs becoming the most affordable citizenship programme in the industry. The Financial Contribution to the National Fund of St. Lucia came down from $200,000 to $100,000 for a single applicant and from $250,000 down $190,000 for a family of four.
The country offers a second citizenship in a period of three months and allows visa free access to over 120 countries including the UK and Schengen states. With this amendment, St. Lucia is set to experience a radical impact in the number of applications submitted during the course of 2017.
Although some prefer to go for faster citizenship programmes, others do not mind the wait and opt for longer term European residency programmes.
One of the most popular residency programmes is the Portuguese Golden Visa. Through a real estate investment of EUR500,000 the applicant obtains Portuguese residency status and 6 years later, if no amendments to the legislation take place, they have the right to apply for citizenship.
The programme is not only attractive due to the fact that Portugal’s passport is ranked highly and allows visa free access to over 150 countries but also because the investor could get a genuine return on their real estate investment as the property market is currently soaring and the property investment can be sold once citizenship is granted.
Furthermore, the applicant does not have to reside in the country at any point in time but must only make periodical short visits to the country.
Also within Europe, in July 2015, Greece introduced further amendments to their law whereby investors who purchase a property worth Euros 250,000 in Greece and reside in the country for seven consecutive years can apply for citizenship.
Although the Greek residency by investment programme was launched in April 18, 2013, before the recent change to its legislation, investors were not able to qualify for citizenship. Therefore, now not only this is a great opportunity to invest in the weakened Greek real estate market but also to obtain European citizenship whilst getting a good return.
Such adjustments to the regulations performed by the different countries with the aim to enhance their citizenship by investment programmes and make them more attractive, result in an significant increase of direct foreign investments into these nations.
Over the course of the year further citizenship by investment programmes are expected to be subject to amendments in the search for becoming more competitive. One thing is certain, the citizenship by investment industry is rapidly growing while gaining the attention of affluent investors who appreciate the multiple benefits of obtaining a second nationality.
(By Veronica Cotdemiey, CEO of Citizenship Invest)