By Marco Gantenbein, a member of Henley & Partners’ Global Executive Committee and Managing Partner of Henley & Partners Dubai
People around the world are increasingly looking to the possibility of acquiring a second citizenship to protect their assets and, more importantly, to insulate themselves and their families from risk and uncertainty. Other motivations for seeking additional citizenship include expanded visa-free access to the world’s countries; increased access to global markets; travel convenience; and, finally, a means of physically relocating to a safe and stable country in the event that remaining in one’s first country of residence becomes untenable or dangerous.
A number of nations worldwide offer residence and citizenship in exchange for a minimum real estate investment or donation to the government. This article reveals the most compelling citizenship-by-investment programs that are generating the most interest among ultra-high-net-worth families around the world.
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda offer one of the most competitive citizenship programs in the Caribbean. Options start from USD 100,000 and citizens of Antigua and Barbuda have visa-free access to 149 destinations, including top business and lifestyle destinations.
Processing time: It is estimated that the process takes between three and four months from submission of the application to issuance of the passport, assuming there are no areas of concern with the application. Under the real estate option, the timeframe may vary depending upon the project.
Global ranking: Ranked 25th on the Henley Passport Index (as of September 2018).
Austria has one of the world’s strongest passports, providing its holders with visa-free access to 186 destinations worldwide, along with settlement rights in all EU member states. Options for obtaining Austrian citizenship start from EUR 8 million.
Processing time: The average time frame for an application is 24-36 months. Successful applicants receive full citizenship of the Republic of Austria and can apply for a passport immediately afterward. Passports are issued within a few days.
Global ranking: Ranked 4th in 2018 on the Henley Passport Index (as of September 2018).
Cyprus Citizenship-by-Investment Programme provides one of the fastest and most efficient gateways to the EU. The minimum financial requirement is EUR 2 million and the application process can be completed, with passports issued, in as little as six months.
Processing time: Following the submission of an application, the passport can be approved within six months. This process makes the Cyprus program one of the fastest options for obtaining a second citizenship.
Global ranking: Ranked 14th globally with visa-free access to 171 destinations on the Henley Passport Index. Cyprus was also ranked number 53 out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2018.
Grenada has the only Caribbean citizenship program that offers successful applicants visa-free access to China. With options starting from USD 150,000, the Grenadian Citizenship-by-Investment Program provides a great balance between the benefits it offers and the required financial contribution.
Processing time: The application process for Grenadian citizenship is efficient and uncomplicated, and the applicant is not required to visit Grenada to complete the process. Once an application is submitted, the government generally provides an answer within 90 days. Passports for successful applicants are issued within 10 working days. Applicants are not required to pick up their passports in person.
Global ranking: Ranked 31st globally with visa-free access to 141 destinations on the Henley Passport Index (as of September 2018).
The Malta Individual Investor Program is the world’s leading citizenship program. The minimum contribution for a Maltese passport is EUR 1 million, for which successful applicants receive the right to live, work, and study — not just in Malta, but in all EU member states.
Processing time: The program’s minimum capital requirement is EUR 1 million, which includes a contribution to the country’s development fund, a real estate purchase or lease, and an investment in government-approved financial instruments. In addition to the capital and due diligence requirements, applicants must hold a valid global health insurance policy and must be legal residents of Malta for one year before they can be issued their certificates of naturalization.
Global ranking: With visa-free access to 182 destinations, Malta is ranked 7th globally on the Henley Passport Index (as of September 2018).
The Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment Program is the latest and most competitively priced European program, it provides access to 121 destinations, including not only the countries of Europe’s Schengen Area but also Russia, making it the first and only program of its kind in this regard. The minimum contribution for a single applicant is EUR 100,000 and passports can be issued in as little as three months.
Processing time: The issuance of a certificate of naturalization under the MCBI program takes a maximum of three months from the date on which the complete application is submitted, provided that the due diligence processes are carried out without difficulties.
Global ranking: Ranked 44th on the Henley Passport Index (as of September 2018).
The Montenegro Citizenship-by-Investment Program offers visa-free access to 123 destinations, including the countries of Europe’s Schengen Area, Russia, and the UAE. The program is exclusively limited to 2,000 applicants and the minimum contribution for a single applicant is EUR 250,000.
Processing time: The Montenegro Citizenship-by-Investment Program is limited to just 2,000 applicants and will only be available for a three-year period. Since this is a brand-new program, the processing time is yet to be confirmed. More information will become available once applications are open.
Global ranking: Montenegro is ranked 42nd on the Henley Passport Index (as of September 2018).
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts and Nevis has one of the strongest passports among all the Caribbean countries. Options start from USD 150,000 and St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship-by-Investment Program provides visa-free access to 151 destinations.
Processing time: The Accelerated Application Process (AAP), approved by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis in October 2016, allows applications to be processed in a 60-day period. Persons applying through the AAP are still required to meet all mandatory criteria and submit the necessary supporting documents required for the citizenship-by-investment program.
Global ranking: Ranked 24th globally on the Henley Passport Index (as of September 2018).
The St. Lucia Citizenship-by-Investment Program offers increased global mobility and opportunities by providing visa-free access to 142 destinations around the world. Prices start from USD 100,000 and passports can be acquired in as little as four months.
Processing time: The application process should take no longer than three months from submission of the application to issuance of the passport, assuming there are no areas of concern with the application. Under the real estate option, the time frame may vary depending on the development in question.
Citizenship-by-investment programs allow individuals to drastically improve the strength of their passport and, in turn, their global access. By participating in these programs, individuals are also able to make an exceptional economic contribution to often smaller nations that require foreign direct investment in order to support their populations and remain globally competitive and sustainable in the long-term. It is, therefore, a mutually beneficial exchange, and very much in line with the direction the world is heading, as globalization becomes an undeniable feature of modern life, and people seek ever greater freedom to create the lives they dream of.