The number of foreigners who want to obtain a second passport keeps increasing. Commonly they opt for a European country. Here one can find high living standards, economic stability and security ensured by the law. And visa-free access to a good number of countries is an added bonus.
We asked experts at the Imperial & Legal company specialising in immigration whether it is possible to get European citizenship quickly.
“The easiest way is to invest. The immigration laws tend to be favourably disposed towards those who are willing to invest in the local economy. However, even under these circumstances do not expect to acquire citizenship the day after you have signed all the papers.”
The majority of the European countries are willing to grant a residence permit to investors. It allows staying in the country and enjoying all the benefits, for example, travelling visa-free around the Schengen area. But it is more difficult to get a passport. It usually takes 5-6 years to get. The two exceptions are Cyprus and Malta. You can be granted a passport there in 6 months or in a year” says Vasily Kluev, the Chief Customer Officer at Imperial & Legal.
We will elaborate on citizenship by investment programs in these countries.
Cyprus citizenship by investment
Cyprus is a Mediterranean country which enjoys mild climate, brilliant resorts, good infrastructure and high-quality services. The official languages are Greek and Turkish. The currency is euro. Cyprus is an EU member state, but is not a part of the Schengen zone. However the Cypriot passport gives you visa-free access to 165 countries.
The minimum investment to get Cyprus citizenship is €2,000,000. There are several investment options: real estate, business or financial assets. Different options can be combined.
- Investment in real estate. One of the requirements to obtain citizenship is to have a permanent real estate ownership which must be to the value of €500,000 per person at least and retained for life. If your family members are applying for the passport too, you will need to multiply the figure by the number of them. This investment is non-refundable, but in return you will get a comfortable accommodation in Cyprus. You can also purchase commercial property or invest in land development (but only as an addition to the purchase of a residential unit).
- Investment in business. If you want to establish your own company in Cyprus, you will need to create at least 5 jobs. You can employ either Cypriot or EU nationals, who have legally resided in the country for 5 years. Your company must be physically present and active in Cyprus. The touristic sector including hotels, restaurants, shops, entertainment centres leads in popularity.
- Investment in financial assets. This includes government bonds, promissory notes, local companies’ shares, units of investment funds. However, you can’t invest in government bonds more than €500,000. There is no limit for other categories of assets. You must hold the assets for at least 3 years, and then you can sell them and get your money back.
As soon as you invest, you will get a residence permit. And in 6 months’ time you may apply for citizenship. There is no need for you to stay in Cyprus during the 6 months. It will be enough to visit Cyprus just once to sign the necessary papers. As soon as all the relevant procedures are complete, you will become a citizen of the country.
Unfortunately, Cyprus citizenship by investment programme stopped accepting new applications from 1 November 2020, but there are a lot of alternatives, including Caribbean citizenship by investment programs, which are much more affordable – the required investment starts from $100,000. If you are interested in second citizenship by investment we suggest that you have a look at the routes to obtain a Caribbean passport; just like a European one, it gives you a visa-free access to countries across the globe and allows you to enjoy reduced taxes, but you will not be able to live in Europe permanently.
Malta citizenship by investment
Malta is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea. There is no tax on property, and the country enjoys favourable business environment. The official languages are Maltese and English. The country is a member of both the EU and the Schengen Area. Malta citizenship gives you a visa-free access to 170 countries, including the USA.
Not just the applicant, but also their whole family can get a Maltese passport:
- Minor children
- Grown-up children under 26 (provided they are not married and do not have any stable income)
- Parents and grandparents (over 55, financially dependent on and staying with the applicant)
The minimum investment required for naturalisation is €1,150,000. It consists of three compulsory parts:
Government contribution. It is a non-refundable €650,000 contribution to the national budget. If you want to get citizenship for the whole family, you need to add €50,000 for each adult and €25,000 for each minor.
Investment in real estate. Unlike most countries, here you can not only purchase a property, but also take it on lease (the minimum period is 5 years). The minimum threshold for purchasing is €350,000, for renting – €16,000 per year. You can’t lease it out or sublet it.
Investment in securities. There is a list of governmentally approved financial assets for this program. The list includes government bonds, debt securities, stocks and shares of Maltese companies, investment units. The minimum investment here is €150,000. Such investments must be retained for at least 5 years.
As soon as all the accounting and legal documents are prepared, you will get the Maltese residence permit. In a year’s time you will be able to apply for the citizenship. It is not necessary to stay permanently in the country. But it would be a good idea to visit it a couple of times and show your interest in the local culture. After all the diligence and background checks, your naturalisation will be permitted by the relevant bodies.
“Currently Cypriot and Maltese investment programs are not the cheapest, but the easiest ones from the perspective of obtaining a citizenship. These countries have minimum requirements for the applicants and the passport can be given in a relatively short time. However immigration laws do change over time. And they tend to become stricter. I recommend to those who really considers applying for European citizenship to do it without a delay,” says Vasily Kluev.
When you invest in European citizenship, you do not only invest in business, but also in the future of your family.
Do I have to stay in the country permanently
There is one more important criterion. If you want to obtain ILR and citizenship, often you will have to stay in the country during a certain amount of days every year. For example, the UK is really strict about this. And for the final step – the country’s citizenship – the requirements tend to be even stricter. However, when it comes to Malta or the Caribbean island states, you do not need to live there to get a passport and citizenship.
According to the experts at Imperial & Legal, who shared all this information with us, there are a lot of nuances of that kind. In order to choose the best European country for you to immigrate to, it is wise to consult experts. They will help you to compare different investment programs and to carry out what you have planned to do.