Financial Times, 15 February 2018

Citizenship by investment

with IR Global

My husband and I are looking to buy property abroad and have been considering a number of locations. However, I have heard that there are certain jurisdictions where if you invest in property you can get residency or citizenship. This is a very attractive prospect given that this would give us the chance to live long-term abroad later on in life. Is this correct and if so what are our options?

Yes, your information is indeed correct, although it will depend on how much you are able to spend and, in some cases, your available wealth.

Dealing with citizenship first. Most countries place significant value on their citizenship and won’t give it away in exchange for a simple investment; there are, however, a number of smaller jurisdictions who do offer full citizenship to investors.

The islands of St Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean offer citizenship in exchange for an investment of USD300,000 and USD400,000 respectively in an approved real estate project. The property must be held for five years.

The kicker here is government processing and due diligence fees of USD100,500 per couple in St Lucia and USD65,600 per couple in Antigua and Barbuda. Both territories recognise dual citizenship.

Closer to home the citizenship programmes of Malta and Cyprus are attractive options. The cost is eye-watering, but it may be worth it, particularly if you are interested in remaining an EU citizen post-Brexit and passing that on to future generations by descent.

Taking Malta’s citizenship-by-investment programme as an example. It requires an investment in the Maltese National Development and Social Fund of EUR650,000 for the main applicant and EUR25,000 for a spouse. There will also be application and due diligence fees of EUR13,700 per couple and the requirement to purchase a property with a minimum value of EUR350,000. The final hurdle is an investment of EUR150,000 in financial instruments approved by the Maltese Government, to be held for a minimum of five years.

Permanent residency is a more attainable goal and there are also more options. Portugal’s Golden Residence Permit Program stands out as attractive for non-EU citizens. It requires a real estate investment of at least EUR500,000; or EUR350,000 in a property constructed more than 30 years ago, or located in an area of urban regeneration. The threshold does include refurbishment costs.

There is a minimum residency requirement of seven days in the first year of residence, and 14 days in two subsequent two year periods. Citizenship can be applied for after six years of legal residence in Portugal.

It should be mentioned that both Cyprus and Malta also have similarly accessible residency programmes that provide the possibility of acquiring an EU residence card.

For something slightly different, you might consider Thailand’s Elite Residence Program, which gives foreigners the right to live in the country for up to 20 years.

The special 20-year visa is issued by a subsidiary of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for a one off fee of USD60,000 per person and an annual fee of USD600. It includes complimentary privileges such as VIP assistance through immigration and passport control and unlimited short-haul airport transfers for international flights.

They also throw in 24 hospitality packages per year (e.g. golf breaks or spa treatments) and one annual health check at a local private hospital. There are no restrictions on property investment.


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