Three key factors to consider when choosing a citizenship-by-investment programme

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There are plenty of factors in deciding which citizenship-by-investment programme is right for you. This can often be overwhelming. These are the key attributes you should consider when comparing the various countries and their programmes.

Citizenship timeline

Citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programmes are a direct route to citizenship that exempts you and your family from having to live in a country for a long period of time in order to qualify. Each programme has its own timeline dependent on numerous factors.

Here are the average processing times of some of the most popular CBI programmes, as well as how long a residency programme will take to secure your citizenship.

The Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda is your fastest route to obtain citizenship compared to other CBI programmes. From the date of your application, you can receive your passport in as quickly as three to four months.

Grenada and Cyprus also make their way onto the list of quickest processing times. Once you’ve submitted your application, you can be approved for Grenadian citizenship in as little as four to six months.

With a slightly longer average processing time, Cyprus citizenship can be obtained in just six to nine months.

Certain countries have mandatory physical presence requirements which do increase the timelines. In Malta, for example, you can receive your residence permit within 60 days of approval but to get Maltese citizenship, you’re required to hold a legal residence in Malta to complete the 12-month residence requirements. Despite a longer timeline, this is one of the most sought-after programmes because of its access to one of the world’s strongest passports.

Montenegro is another nation that employs a lengthy residency requirement before granting citizenship. You can gain your residency permit in as short as six months from the date of your application, but you must live in Montenegro for 10 years before becoming eligible for citizenship.

An incredibly popular route to dual citizenship which we have seen a lot of success with is our Golden Visa Portugal programme. Residency can be granted in eight to 12 months, with Portuguese citizenship possible after five years of legal residency.

If you want the fastest way to a green card for you and your family, the EB-5 US investment visa is the best route to permanent residency in the USA. Investors can apply for citizenship after only five years.

Minimum investment amount

The best and cheapest CBI route is currently Antigua and Barbuda – there’s a 50% discount offer which ends October 2019. To enter this programme the minimum investment is $125,000, but this is due to increase once the discount expires.

The most expensive investment route on our list will give you access to a passport from Cyprus. The required qualifying investment for a Cypriot passport is an investment amount which starts from €2,000,000.

Grenada and Montenegro offer far more competitive citizenship investment outlays. The Grenadian citizenship programme involves a minimum investment starting from $150,000 and to gain access to the Montenegro CBI programme applicants must make a minimum property purchase of €250,000.

To become a Maltese citizen there are multiple investment requirements you must fulfil. To start, you are required to make a non-refundable contribution to the National Development and Social Fund. This is a starting amount of €650,000 for the main applicant. In addition, you are required to invest €150,000 into Malta government bonds, for at least five years, and hold a legal residence in Malta. 

USA EB-5 investments start from $500,000 while Golden Visa Portugal qualifying criteria starts from €350,000. If you’re fine with a longer timeline then a residency-by-investment solution like Portugal and the USA might be well worth considering. 

For all CBI programmes there are due diligence, application and professional fees.

Mandatory travel and residence requirements

Some countries impose mandatory travel and residence conditions, which may include travel for the purpose of attending an interview, swearing an oath of allegiance, or giving biometric information.

Unlike many other CBI programmes, Grenada is an exciting choice as there are no minimum stay or travel requirements imposed on investors. Other states such as Antigua and Barbuda impose minimal presence requirements which are still easy for applicants to satisfy – you’re only required to be in the country for at least five days within the first five years of gaining citizenship.

Malta’s requirements are lengthier but still reasonable. The main applicant must be a legal resident of Malta one year before the Certificate of Naturalisation is issued. Portugal also has a considerably low physical presence requirement of only seven days in the first year and no less than 14 days in each subsequent two-year period.

In other cases, for example in Cyprus, you’re not required to take tests or sit formal interviews but travelling to declare your “Oath of Faith to the Republic” and to collect your passport and ID is compulsory.

Freedom of movement

If travelling is an integral part of your business, ask yourself which citizenship-by-investment programme will give you the strongest passport.

The most coveted and highest-ranking CBI passport is Malta’s. If you hold a Maltese passport you can travel freely to over 182 countries including the USA, Canada, the UK and Hong Kong. You’ll also have the right to move freely and reside in all other EU countries and travel throughout the 26 European Schengen Area member states.

Although not yet a member of the European Union, Montenegro is due to be integrated into the legislation by 2025. Citizens can currently enjoy visa-free travel to 125 countries and this freedom of movement will expand once part of the EU.

The most valuable Caribbean CBI passport is the Grenadian passport. With it, 143 countries can be enjoyed visa-free, including the USA, UK and China. A 30-day stay visa exemption in the People’s Republic of China, one of the world’s largest business hubs, is what gives Grenada and investors a serious leg-up.

Another Caribbean citizenship route that offers a strong passport is the Antigua and Barbuda CBI programme. With this passport you can enjoy visa-free travel to over 150 countries, including all countries of the European Schengen Area, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong.

CBI programmes compared

Country Time to citizenship Minimum investment amount Mandatory physical presence Visa-free travel (countries)
Antigua and Barbuda 3-4 months $125,000 Minimal 150
Grenada 4-6 months $150,000 No 143
Cyprus 6-9 months €2,000,000 No 173
Malta 12 months+ €150,000 Yes 182
USA 5 years $500,000 Yes 116
Portugal 5 years €500,000 Minimal 184
Montenegro 10 years €350,000 No 125

Which programme is best for you?

The CBI programme you choose depends on your financial situation, the country and passport you prefer, your financial goals and family situation.

There’s a lot to consider so we recommend speaking to an expert before you dive in.

Our expert consultants can help you determine which programme is best suited to your needs and can assist you with the application process. Send an email to cbi@sableinternational.comor call +27 (0) 21 657 1584.