What is a foreign citizenship by investment?

Most people become a citizen of a country by birth, because one of their parents is a citizen, through naturalization or by marrying a citizen. However, for a growing number of people, there is another route to citizenship. It’s foreign citizenship by investment. A growing number of countries allow people to become citizens if they make a certain size and type of investment. Currently there are several countries in Europe and the Caribbean with citizenship-by-investment programs.

Designed to attract foreign investment

Citizenship-by-investment programs are designed to attract foreign investment. The programs tend to be offered by countries that need help economically to meet their fiscal responsibilities. In the past, some governments granted citizenship to foreign nationals who made major contributions to the culture, society, economy and other state interests. But that type of citizenship was rarely given out.Modern citizenship-by-investment programs are open to anyone that makes an investment of a certain amount of money. Sometimes, that investment has to be in a specific industry that needs bolstering.

Almost anyone can participate

Almost anyone who has enough money to meet the requirements of the citizenship-by-investment programs can get citizenship in the countries with the programs. The countries do their due diligence to ensure their money was earned legally. That’s one of the programs’ few requirements. The investor can be from almost any country in the world. As long as they have enough money to meet the parameters of the program, they can become a citizen in as little as 3 to 4 months..

Who uses the programs?

About 5,000 people a year from all over the world participate in the citizenship-by-investment programs. The largest number of people who take advantage of the citizenship through economic investment programs tend to be from countries with emerging market economies. People from Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the Middle East, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam, are primarily the ones who are most active in the citizenship-by-investment programs. However, a growing number of people from the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries in the developed world have shown interest in the programs as well.

What countries offer economic citizenship programs?

There is a growing number of countries in Europe and the Caribbean that offer citizenship-by-investment programs. They include:

  1. Antigua and Barbuda
  2. Austria
  3. Cyprus
  4. Dominica
  5. Grenada
  6. Malta
  7. St. Kitts and Nevis

The size of the investment it takes to become a citizen of one of these countries starts from $100,000 (about Shs370m)and can go as high as $2.5million (about Shs9.2b). The money can be invested in a number of different ways. In some cases, it can simply be a non-refundable cash donation made to the government, an investment in government bonds, real estate or several other types of local business.

Buying a passport

Some call citizenship-by-investment programs “buying a passport”. That’s because in exchange for the money,people participating in the programs invest,  receive citizenship as well as a passport from the country. As long as they are able to pass meticulous criminal background checks and financial assessments, the investor can become a citizen of the county in between two months and just over one year. Many of the citizenship-by-investment program do not require the new citizen to take up residence in the country. In some cases, the new citizen never even visits the country of which they become a citizen.

Direct route to citizenship

Citizenship-by-Investment programs give people willing to make a large investment a direct route to legally getting a new citizenship and a second passport.  Usually a law firm can handle the process of delivering the investment money and getting the investor their new passport and citizenship papers.

Not a new process

The basic process of becoming a citizen of another country by simply making a significant financial investment is not a new concept. A number of countries have used it in the past as a way to attract well-heeled foreign investors. Some of the countries that ran then discontinued citizenship-by-investment programs include:

  1. Belize
  2. Cape Verde
  3. Comoros
  4. Ireland
  5. The Seychelles
  6. Slovakia

There are also a number of substandard and illegal citizenship-by-investment programs and a growing number of online scams. Programs that involve bribing corrupt officials or any other type of questionable activities are to be avoided.

Hybrid Programs

There are a number of programs promoted by countries around the world whose work is similar to citizenship-by-investment. They involve making some sort of investment and promise the investor they will be able to get citizenship in the country in return. However, these are typically not structured to enable the investor to gain their citizenship in a short period of time. While the investor may be able to buy real estate or get a second passport, the programs tends to be limited as to who can participate, highly subject to the whims of the political leadership and short lived.

These are not true citizenship-by-investment programs.

Residence by investment

There are also a number of Residency by Investment programs, but they are not the same thing as citizenship-by-investment programs. A number of governments grant residency to people who make financial investments in their country. However, these programs do not guarantee the investor will be able to obtain citizenship because of their investment. The investment simply grants the investor entrance into the country. Once the investor becomes a resident, they still have to wait several years to become naturalized before they can apply to become a citizen. The EB-5 program in the United States is an example of one of those programs that fast-track residency if a foreign entrepreneur makes certain types and sizes of investments, but it does not guarantee citizenship.

Benefits countries and foreign nationals

Governments around the world often seek reasoned advice from experienced law firms to create, design, implement and run citizenship-by-investment programs that make their countries more attractive to investors that can benefit their countries economically. People with the financial means from a wide variety of countries who want more freedom to travel internationally without having to apply for visas are always looking for help finding countries offering citizenship-by-investment programs in which they can participate. Even if you see citizenship-by-investment programs as buying passports, they have been very helpful to many countries and individuals involved in them.

This article is sponsored by Growth Box Ventures
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