Those who can apply for a Golden Visa can easily acquire a second passport, or at least residency in another country, for themselves and their family members.
In recent years, these types of visas have risen in popularity, especially those offered by European Union countries, where a passport or residence permit comes with a host of other benefits, such as freedom of movement in Schengen and access to the EU free market.
But what is a Golden Visa, and who can apply for one?
What Is a Golden Visa?
A Golden Visa refers to the immigration program which allows wealthy individuals to get a residence permit or even citizenship in another country simply by purchasing a house there or making a relatively large investment or donation.
Different countries have different investment options, which range from $250,000 to millions.
If you make the required investment and apply for a Golden Visa, you and your family members will become legal residents of that country. You can live there, go to school, and get access to healthcare.
Golden Visa Requirements
Residency by investment is a way many countries used to lure foreign investments usually in property or by creating a business that employs a set minimum number of locals.
Through residency-by-investment schemes, foreigners are enabled to obtain permanent residency in the country in which they are investing, bring their spouse and children to live with them, and study and work there.
Golden Visa eligibility requirements are:
- You must personally own the money you wish to invest.
- Maintain the investment, for at least a minimally-required amount of time.
- Be able to prove you have acquired the money legally.
- Have a clear criminal background.
- You must have enough financial resources to sustain yourself and any family members that are coming with you – even if you do not intend to live there.
Naturally, depending on which Golden Visa you will apply for, there will be additional specific requirements as well.
How to Apply for a Golden Visa?
To apply for a Golden Visa, you must purchase a property (real estate) in a foreign country. This is the most common route and is offered by most Golden Visa countries. The cost of the real estate ranges from $200,000 to over $2 million.
Other investment options include*:
- Make a capital investment in a company’s shares/stocks
- Make a capital investment in the country’s public debt or government bonds
- Create employment opportunities
- Contribute to a country’s scientific or technological innovation
*Note that these investment options are not available in all countries which offer Golden Visas.
After making your investment, you can apply for a Golden Visa either at the respective Embassy in your country or a relevant government body abroad. In any case, your first point of reference should be the Embassy.
Because of the large amount of money in question, many applicants choose to hire legal representatives to help with the application process.
List of Countries That Offer Golden Visas
Here is the list of countries that offer Golden Visas as residency through investment programs:
- New Zealand.
- United Kingdom.
- United States of America.
The world’s second-largest country by area and one of the best countries to live in, Canada, is known in particular for its polite citizens, relaxed lifestyle, stable political, justice, economic and social environment. Canada has an excellent educational and health system while being known for its tolerant society.
For quite a long time now, the country offers citizenship for those willing to invest a minimum of $200,000 CAD in an already existing business or by creating a new one worth the same amount, which investment would also create at least one full-time job for a permanent resident or citizen of Canada.
Those holding a Canada residence permit, spending at least 183 days each year within the country, are eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship after three years.
Malta offers rich people the opportunity to invest and get EU residence permits, as the island country is part of the European Union, as well as the Schengen Area. This means those with Maltese residency can travel throughout the whole Schengen territory visa-free.
However, to gain residency in Malta, a foreigner must invest in one of the following:
- An investment in government bonds of €250,000 to be retained for a minimum period of five years
- A non-refundable government contribution of €30,000 (€5,500 of which is an advance government administrative fee)
- Property purchase of €320,000 (EUR 270,000 in South Malta or Gozo), or a property lease of €12,000 per annum (EUR 10,000 in South Malta or Gozo)
Those making any of the investments above will gain a 5 year’ Maltese permanent residence, which is renewable indefinitely, while investment is required only for the first five years. The beneficiary can also get residence permits for his spouse and children, while residence in Malta is not mandatory.
Portugal has run its residence-by-investment scheme since 2012. The country has a rich history and ranks high in the Human Development Index Ranking. It is at the same time, one of the world’s most globalized and peaceful nations.
As Portugal is an EU and Schengen Area member, those holding Portuguese residency can travel throughout the whole Schengen territory visa-free, as well as bring their spouse and children to Portugal.
If you want to invest in real estate, the minimum you can invest is €350,000, but the property must be older than 30 years. The other option is to invest €500,000 in a real estate located wherever, or 1 million.
Whereas if you want to invest in a business, you can do so by creating a minimum of ten jobs, or investing €350,000 in capital research activity, €250,000 in the reconstruction of national heritage, or €500,000 in an investment fund or venture capital.
The residency holder is obliged to spend at least two weeks each year in Portugal, in order to be eligible to renew the residence permit after two years. After five years in Portugal, the resident will be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship while keeping their previous citizenship.
The Spanish Golden Visa is a residence by investment program. It enables foreigners who invest at least half a million euros in real estate, or one million in shares or bank deposits, or two million in public debt, to live in Spain for at least a year.
It is one of the easiest Spanish visas to get if you have the investment means. Its benefits are many, as the visa holder is not obliged to reside in Spain in order to be able to renew the residence permit.
The Golden Visa also enables its holder to travel throughout the whole Schengen territory and also get a job in Spain. It also can lead to Spanish temporary residency or even to Spanish citizenship after ten years, if one meets the conditions.
Home to a large number of international organizations, and continuously ranked as one of the best countries to live in, Switzerland has a bit of a different residency-by-investment scheme compared to other countries.
Those wishing to get residency in Switzerland can do so by paying annual taxation typically between CHF 150,000 and CHF 1 million depending on the chosen canton.
Those holding Switzerland residence can travel visa-free to the whole Schengen Area, 22 of which are EU member countries.
In recent years, Cyprus has become a favorite destination for those that have to continuously travel between Europe and Asia, which has made applications for Cyprus’ residency scheme boom.
In order for a foreigner to gain residency in Cyprus, they must meet several requirements. The applicant must first purchase new immovable property of a total market value of at least €300,000 plus VAT.
He/she shall then deposit a minimum capital of €30,000 from abroad in a Cyprus bank, and lock in it for three years. As a last requirement, the applicant must also have a secured annual income of at least €30,000 deriving from abroad. An income of an extra €5,000 is required for the spouse and each child. An additional €8,000 is required for each dependent parent.
The Greek residency-by-investment scheme requires an investment of €250,000 euro in a property in Greece, which makes it the cheapest in Europe.
The benefits of holding a Greek Golden Visa are many. A Greek Golden Visa holder automatically becomes an EU resident since Greece is a member of the European Union. The holder is also allowed to move freely since the country is part of the Schengen Zone of Europe. The spouse, minor and dependent children up to 21 of the Property Investors also are granted with a five years residence permit, and all of the benefits as the latter.
The fact that one is not required to live in Greece prior to or during the application, or even after residency has been granted, makes the Greek residency-by-investment scheme very practical.
New Zealand is also a good choice for those wishing to gain residency in another country by investing. It offers a great work-life balance, excellent education and health system.
Foreigners can gain residency in New Zealand through the Investor 1 and Investor 2 visa programs, which permit the applicant and their spouse and children under 24 to reside with them, work, and study in New Zealand.
To get the Investor 1 resident visa in New Zealand one must invest NZS 10 million over a three-year period. There is no other requirement as age limit, language knowledge or business experience.
Whereas, for the Investor 2 resident visa which requires a minimum of NZS 3 million in available funds or assets, to be held for four years, applicants are required to have an English-speaking background.
Singapore has also made a lot of efforts in particular in the recent years to attract global investors, in what it has succeeded to lure many due to its strong corporate governance and the stability in its economy.
Those wishing to get Singaporean residency must invest at least 2.5 million SGD. There are a bit more requirements for investors in Singapore than in other countries. The applicant must provide a significant three-year business and entrepreneurial track record by providing his company’s audited accounts for the last 3 years. He/she has also to prove that the company turnover was at least 50 million SGD in the last year before application, or have an average of the same amount in the last three years.
Those that gain residency in Singapore through investment are eligible to bring their spouse and unmarried children younger than 21 with them. Later on, they can also bring parents to Singapore through the Long-Term Visit Pass.
Those wishing to gain residency in the United Kingdom can do so by investing in the UK at least £2,000,000 through the UK Tier 1 Investor Visa. In order for an investor to be able to get an Investor Visa in the UK he or she must be over the age of 18 and prove that the money belongs to him/her, their spouse or same-sex partner. In addition, a fee of £1,623 must be paid for the application.
The visa is valid for a period of 3 years and 4 months, extendable for another 2 years.
United States of America
A foreigner can gain residence through investment in the United States of America by applying for an EB-5 visa. The EB-5 visa allows a foreign citizen to obtain a US Green Card through investing and creating jobs in the US economy.
The investment must be between $900,000 and $1.8 million and create at least 10 jobs for US citizens or foreign immigrants. It makes a distinction between the general US economy and target areas which are rural places where there is high unemployment in the US.
Once you have your approved EB-5 visa, your family can also join you. The US considers family to be your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old, so they are the only ones allowed to apply.
Citizenship by Investment
Although a Golden Visa automatically comes with a residence permit, there is usually a longer path to getting a passport. Yes, a Golden Visa can eventually lead to citizenship, but you will be required to live in that country for a few years beforehand.
For example, if you apply for a Spanish Golden Visa, you will receive a residence permit even if you do not intend to live in Spain at all. But you can only apply for citizenship after ten years of continuous residence and “ties” to Spain, such as language proficiency.
Quickest Way to Citizenship by Golden Visa
One of the countries offering the quickest citizenship route via Golden Visa is Cyprus. You can become a Cypriot citizen after only six months, if you make an investment of at least $2 million.
Another European country that does not require continuous residence to apply for citizenship is Portugal. You become eligible for Portuguese citizenship after five years, regardless of whether you lived in the country or not.
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is among some of the world countries that offer to investors the privilege of getting a passport in exchange for a significant economic contribution in the country.
Those wishing to benefit from this opportunity, which among others grants the passport holder with the opportunity to travel visa free to about 150 world destinations, have three options of investment:
- Buying real estate worth minimal USD 400,000 from an approved real estate project. The main rule is that the real estate cannot be disposed of within the five-year period.
- Buying an eligible business for a minimum of USD 1.5 million.
- Contributing to the National Development Fund (NDF) of a minimum non-refundable amount of USD 100,000.
Among the privileges that a passport of Antigua and Barbuda bring to its holder is that the full citizenship with passports is granted to the applicant alongside with his/her family.
Austria has one of the world’s strongest passports providing its holders with visa-free access to over 180 destinations worldwide, along with settlement rights in all EU member states.
Foreign applicants invest actively in the Austrian economy, as Austria does not offer citizenship for passive investment.
The investment must be significant, contribute to the economy and create jobs. The investment is typically a minimum of €10 million if injected directly into a business or €3 million as a contribution to the government development fund.
Another European Union Member Country, Cyprus, offers citizenship to those willing to invest a significant amount of money in the island country.
The minimum financial requirement is EUR 2 million and successful applicants can travel visa-free to 173 destinations worldwide. The requirements listed below must also be met:
- Residential or other property with a minimum market value of €300,000 plus VAT, purchased in Cyprus.
- A secured annual income of a minimum of €30,000 from abroad and from sources other than employment in Cyprus.
- Funds of a minimum of €30,000 transferred from abroad and deposited into a Cyprus bank in a three-year fixed deposit account.
The Government of Malta has created the so-called Malta Individual Investor Program, through which foreigners can gain citizenship if they meet the investment minimal threshold and other requirements.
There are three ways to get Maltese citizenship through investment:
- Contribution to the development of Malta.
- Purchase in sticks or bonds.
- Property transactions.
In general, the combined financial requirement, including government fees and citizenship application costs is just under 900,000, which may increase depending on the size of the investor’s family.
The benefits of Maltese citizenship are many. Maltese citizenship comes automatically with EU citizenship, the right to travel visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival to over 180 world destinations, and the right to live, work and study in any of the 28 EU Member countries.
The Moldovan Citizenship-by-Investment (MCBI) program has been launched in 2018 and offers to those receiving citizenship through the scheme the benefit of traveling visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival to about 120 world countries, including to the Schengen Area, Russia, and Turkey.
In order to get citizenship through the scheme, a minimum non-refundable contribution to the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of €100,000 for a single applicant is required. The applicant must be over 18 and Post-approval government service provider fees of €35,000 per application are mandatory.
Moreover, applicants are required to pay government fees of €5,000 for themselves, €2,500 for a spouse, €1,000 for a child aged 0 to 15 years, €2,500 for a dependent child aged 16 to 29 years, and €5,000 for a dependent parent — of the main applicant or of the spouse — who is 55 years of age or older.
The recently launched Montenegro Citizenship-by-Investment Program comes with a lot of benefits for those granted with it. Among others, citizenship of aa country that is an official EU candidate country and a member of the OSCE, the NATO Alliance and the European Monetary Union. In addition, a passport holder of Montenegro has visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to over 120 destinations.
The program is exclusively limited to 2,000 applicants, all of whom will be granted citizenship within 3 years. The minimum contribution for a single applicant is €350,000.
St. Kitts and Nevis
The St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship-by-Investment Program grants with citizenship foreigners who can invest in the country through one of the four options listed below:
- A minimal non-refundable contribution of USD 150,000 to the Sustainable Growth Fund (SGF)
- A minimal non-refundable contribution of USD 250,000 to the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund (SIDF)
- Real purchase estate worth a minimum USD 200,000 from an approved real estate development. The property cannot be resold within a five-year period.
- Real purchase estate worth a minimum USD 400,000 from an approved real estate development. The property cannot be resold within a seven-year period.
The passport of St. Kitts and Nevis is one of the strongest among all the Caribbean citizenship programs as it offers visa-free access to over 150 destinations.
Those wishing to gain St. Lucia Citizenship through its investment program, can do so through one of the options given below:
- Buying real estate that is at least worth 30,000 from an approved real estate development. The property cannot be resold in the following five years at least.
- Participating in an approved enterprise project creating at least three jobs with a minimum contribution of USD 3.5 million.
- A non-refundable contribution to the National Economic Fund (NEF) of USD 100,000 (for a single applicant)
- Investment of at least USD 500,000 in non-interest-bearing government bonds, which must be held for five years.
A passport granted by St. Lucia provides visa-free access to over 140 destinations around the world.
One can get Turkish citizenship by investing a minimal amount of USD 250,000 in the country, and thus getting access to over 110 world destinations visa-free or with only a visa-on-arrival.
The program offers applicants the chance to select among a different number of economic contributions to Turkish society, which would contribute to the development of the country’s economy.
Since the UK investor visa makes way for settlement in the UK, it is also known as UK Citizenship by Investment.
To get a UK Citizenship by Investment you first need to get a settlement permit in the UK, You can do so after a particular period in the UK with an Investor visa. This period depends on the amount of money that you invest, as follows:
- You can apply to settle in the UK after 2 years if you invest £10 million.
- You can apply to settle in the UK after 3 years if you invest £5 million.
- You can apply to settle in the UK after 5 years if you invest £2 million.
After 12 months in the UK with a settlement permit, you are eligible to apply for UK Citizenship by Investment. You will need to pay a fee of £1,330 in order to apply.
How Long Is a Golden Visa Valid?
The validity of a Golden Visa depends on the country which issues it. You are usually looking at 1-2 years validity, with the possibility to renew indefinitely.
If you live in the country which issued the Visa, you eventually become eligible for permanent residence and citizenship, after 5-10 years.
Can Family Be Included in the Golden Visa Application?
Yes, if you apply for a Golden Visa, your dependent family members can apply with you. This includes the spouse, dependent children, and dependent parents. Everyone included on the Golden Visa application enjoys the same rights as the main applicant, such as residency, freedom of movement, etc.
Do You Have to Live in the Property You Got for Golden Visa?
No, there are usually no residency requirements for Golden Visa applicants. You can continue to renew the visa indefinitely as long as you maintain the investment (i.e. you do not sell the house). Additionally, some countries, such as Greece and Cyprus, allow you to rent out the property while you are away.
Can I Get a Golden Visa If I Buy A House By Mortgage?
No, you cannot apply for a Golden Visa if you purchased a house using financial aid. You must own all the money you invest.
However, you may be allowed to use financing to pay for the amount of money exceeding the required minimum. For example, if you purchase a property worth $500,000, but the requirement for a Golden Visa is $300,000, you can pay the 300k in full and then use financing for the remaining $200,000.
Similarly, if you decide to make a joint investment, all participants have to invest the minimum required amount. You cannot split it between yourselves.