World Facts

In Which Countries Can You "Buy" Citizenship?

Some countries across the world offer the opportunity of buying citizenships to those countries in exchange of hefty sums of money.

Becoming A Citizen Of A Different Country

People report lots of reasons for becoming citizens in a country other than where they were born. These range from escaping political instability to reuniting with family. Sometimes becoming a citizen of a different country involves living there for years because of a work assignment and during this time, the individual establishes their permanent life in the new place. Other times, making this decision is prompted by a business or investment opportunity. Generally speaking, being the citizen of a country makes entrepreneurial and investment endeavors easier to carry out. Some countries have relatively lenient citizenship requirements, while others are more difficult. Similarly, some citizenship paperwork comes with a significant cost, while in other countries, the cost is minimal.

Economic Citizenship Programs

As previously mentioned, one of the ways people can become citizens in a different country is for business or investment purposes. To respond to this demand, the immigration services of many countries offer investment, or economic, citizenship programs. These programs offer interested parties the option to make a pre-determined donation or investment in exchange for citizenship. Anybody with enough money is eligible for this type of naturalization program and may choose to pursue this investment in order to obtain a more powerful passport for traveling purposes, to increase business opportunities, or to avoid paying taxes. This pursuit of naturalization in a different country is particularly popular with Russian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese citizens. This article takes a closer look at the economic citizenship programs of some of the countries around the world.

Why Do Governments Offer Economic Citizenship?

The benefits of having a second passport or dual citizenship are clear, but why do governments offer economic citizenship programs in the first place? Providing a naturalization or citizenship option to investors and entrepreneurs increases investment activity within a country, which works to improve its economy. Additionally, these individuals often open businesses within their new country, which creates local jobs and helps to increase the employment rate of an area. When more people are employed, the average median household increases. This increase means that people have more money to spend in the local economy.

Research suggests that approximately $2 billion are spent around the world in investment opportunities every year. By providing residency and citizenship to investors, governments are able to capitalize on some of these investments, steering the money into the local economy. In some countries, the investments made by these individuals make up a significant percentage of the national gross domestic product (GDP). For example, the investments made in Saint Kitts and Nevis, an island nation in the Caribbean, made up roughly a quarter of the total 2013 GDP.

Least Expensive Citizenship

Dominica, a Caribbean island nation, has the least expensive economic citizenship program (without a qualifying period) in the world. For an investment of only $100,000, a face-to-face interview, and a waiting period of between 4 and 6 months, anybody can become a citizen of this country. Interviews here take place only once per month, however, which can slow down the process. Additionally, the passport of Dominica was recently updated to allow visa-free travel to the Schengen region of Europe, making this a valuable citizenship to hold for many people.

Most Expensive Citizenship

France, as a member of the European Union, is a very attractive country for investors looking to gain an additional passport or increase their access to business opportunities. Because of this value, France is also one of the most expensive places to buy citizenship. Additionally, it has one of the lengthiest processes. Applicants must make a nearly $11.65 million investment in a long-term commercial or industrial project in order to obtain a 10-year residency permit in this country. After 5 years of qualifying residency, individuals may apply for citizenship.

Countries That Offer Immediate Citizenship

In some countries, with the right amount of money, interested parties may be able to obtain citizenship immediately. Economic citizenship programs with this immediate citizenship opportunity (and the minimum investment requirement) include: St. Kitts and Nevis ($250,000), Grenada ($250,000), Dominica (previously discussed), Cyprus ($2.9 million), and Antigua and Barbuda ($250,000).

Of these countries, only Antigua and Barbuda has a residency requirement. In this Caribbean island nation, applicants must spend at least 5 days every 5 years on Antigua and Barbuda territory in order to maintain residency and at least 35 days of the first 5 years to meet citizenship requirements. Applicants have several options under this economic citizenship program, including: a $1.5 million business investment, a $400,000 real estate investment, or a $250,000 donation to the government. Another option is to hold a $400,000 share in a $5 million business investment. Citizenship here is particularly appealing to individuals who need to travel to Canada, as holding a passport from Antigua and Barbuda offers visa-free travel to this country.

Countries That Have a Citizenship Qualifying Period

In most countries, economic citizenship programs have a citizenship qualifying period that applicants must meet before being eligible for citizenship. This requirement generally means that residents must first hold a permanent residency for a certain amount of time before applying for citizenship. Countries with a citizenship qualifying period (and the minimum investment requirement) include: the US ($500,000), the UK ($1,3 million), Switzerland (between $170,000 and over $1 million), Spain ($582,375), Singapore ($1.83 million), Portugal ($582,375), New Zealand ($1.11 million), Malta ($1.34 million), Latvia ($40,766), Ireland ($582,375), Hungary ($291,187), Greece ($291,187), France ($11.65 million), Canada ($280,000 or $640,000 depending on the province), Bulgaria ($582,375), and Australia ($3.97 million).

Of these countries, Switzerland has the longest citizenship qualifying period at 12 years. This country is highly desired for its political stability, high standard of living, and developed status. Additionally, it is considered a top retirement destination by many. Applicants are suggested to have a minimum of $1 million available before applying and has 2 options: to start a company or to pay an annual residency tax. Depending on the area of residence within this country, the annual tax may range from $170,000 to just over $1 million. If residents choose this option, they are not required to declare their income or financial assets. This process usually takes between 3 to 4 months to complete.

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