Photograph of a London street with black cab

Wealth management, tax benefits, assets purchase, business options and opening up a world of travel opportunities are cited as the most popular reasons behind secondary residency and citizenship. London cab —Arvydas Venckus | Unsplash

A curated selection of countries — including Cyprus, Greece and the United Kingdom — with residency investment details and benefits

The advantages of acquiring a second residency and passport through investment have become highly desirable among high net-worth individuals (HNWs) and the elite. Indeed, people seek out a second — or even a third — visa or citizenship for several reasons. They include safeguarding personal wealth, enhanced personal status, the right to travel extensively, effective tax management and the opportunity to live long-term in another country. 

Some people go as far as to secure secondary residency as an insurance policy of sorts against perceived dangers and threats to their lifestyles. This notion has increased in popularity in the last few years. A recent survey by the marketing agency CS Global Partners of UK citizens revealed that 89 per cent of respondents would like to have a second citizenship. A further 58 per cent of participants attributed political reasons for their motivations to seek citizenship abroad.

Citizenship by Investment: the benefits

Several countries offer Citizenship by Investment (CIP) programmes whereby investment (typically) in property comes with a second passport. Secondary citizenship is valued highly and sought after. 15 per cent of participants in the CS Global Partners survey stated that they would willingly invest half of their annual salary in secondary citizenship, with 80 per cent feeling comfortable in handing over five per cent of their annual income in exchange for citizenship rights.

Nuri Katz, President of the boutique investment advisory firm Apex Capital Partners, highlighted the importance of CIPs. He explained that: “For a lot of wealthy people, having a second or third passport is important for the ability to travel. For some, it’s also a status symbol, like buying a fancy car to show your friends.”

Katz added that: “Second citizenship is becoming more than just getting a passport, however. There are certain advantages towards using secondary citizenship to create residence in countries where tax burdens would be lower than where you currently are.”

“Elite residency”: competitively-priced residency programmes

Among the programmes offered by certain countries are “elite residency” whereby governments offer an extended visa — often with added perks — in exchange for investments, most often property. It is important to be aware of the key differences between residency programmes and CIPs.

Discussing the main distinction between the two, Katz explains that: “Citizenship is forever. It cannot be taken away unless you received it under fraudulent circumstances. You also get a passport.” By contrast, residency visas can — in theory — be revoked as laws and circumstances change. They typically have a set start and end date as well, meaning that visa renewals are necessary to continue living abroad. Nevertheless, residency visas are by far the more cost-effective option of the two and they often bring with them extra benefits alongside just living in another country.

Residency programmes in Europe

There is a wide range of national programmes for investing in property and living long-term within Europe. Below are five of the most attractive European countries for secondary citizenship and residency. 

NB: this list was compiled from extensive research and data from several sources. They included the citizenship by investment ranking programme, CBI Index; the residence and citizenship planning firm, Henley and Partners; the global investment solutions company, Knightsbridge Capital Partners; and the worldwide residency and citizenship solutions firm, Astons.

Cyprus: fast and secure permanent residence and citizenship

Cyprus provides a rapid and secure route to European residency. When purchasing real estate, investors can apply for either the Cyprus Permanent Residence programme or the Cyprus Citizenship programme. Cypriot citizens benefit from instant access to European Union member nations as well as global freedom to travel and tax exemption. Gaining permanent residency is attractive to those wishing to live in Cyprus, as well as being a more affordable route to a second passport.

Photograph looking up at blue sky with Mediterranean apartments in foreground

Limassol, Cyprus — Mike Yukhtenko | Unsplash

The Cyprus Permanent Residence programme details:

  • €300,000 property investment
  • Only a new property purchased directly from the developer is allowed
  • Hold a three-year fixed deposit of €30,000 transferred in from abroad with a Cyprus bank
  • Two-month processing time

The Cyprus Citizenship programme details:

  • €2 million property investment or a €2.5m combined investment
  • A one-off non-refundable €150,000 government donation
  • Five-year investment term after which assets can be reduced to €500,000
  • Six-month processing time

Greece: a highly affordable residency route

Greece offers one of the most affordable (and quickest) routes residency in Europe. The Greece Residency by Investment Programme enables investors to acquire residency status with the option to apply for citizenship status after a set period has elapsed. The key benefits of Greek residency are visa-free travel within the Schengen Zone, entire family eligibility and a straightforward application process.

Photograph looking down at Santorini, Greece from the hill with town and the mediterranean sea in distance

Santorini, Greece — Davide Grieco | Unsplash

Greek Residency by Investment Programme details:

  • €250,000 real estate purchase in either one or several properties, or
  • €250,000 real estate lease or timeshare
  • Both routes grant residency for five years
  • 60-day application process
  • No residency requirements before or after residency has been granted

Portugal: one of the most successful immigration by investment programmes

Portugal has one of the most successful European immigration programmes. The Golden Residence Permit Program provides a wide range of investment options to gain residency in the country and access the benefits that the programme affords. All options have a 90-day application process and low stay requirements, with just seven days required in-country during the first year and 14 days in subsequent years. After completing your fifth year of residency you can apply for citizenship.

Photograph of colourful townhouses in jardim del torel lisbon portugal

Jardim do Torel Lisbon, Portugal — Hugo Sousa | Unsplash

The Golden Residence Permit Program options are:

Property acquisition

  • €500,000 residential or commercial property purchase
  • This amount is reduced to €350,000 where the property is over 30 years old and in need of renovations
  • A 20 per cent reduction is applied where real estate is purchased in low income or low population areas, totalling €400,000 for a property aged below 30 years, or €280,000 for an older property

Business investment

  • Invest €350,000 in a business and create five permanent jobs, or
  • Create ten new jobs

Capital transfer

  • €1,000,000 capital investment into a Portuguese bank account or an approved investment option

Malta: tax-free foreign income and citizenship options

Malta’s Residency by Investment Program offers a fast track to permanent residence with the right to reside and stay in the country indefinitely. Permanent residency can be acquired in three to four months and you can apply for naturalisation after one year. Once residency has been granted, there are no residence requirements. Perhaps the greatest advantage the island nation offers its foreign residents is its tax-free foreign income status and zero inheritance tax.

Photograph looking down a terraced street in valetta malta

Valetta, Malta — Zoltan Tasi | Unsplash

The Malta Residency by Investment Program has the following requirements:

  • €250,000 Maltese stocks and shares investment for five years
  • €30,000 non-refundable government contribution
  • A property acquisition of either €60,000 or €320,000:
    • A property lease of €12,000 a year for five years (€10,000 in Southern Malta or Gozo), or
    • A property purchase of €320,000 (€270,000 in Southern Malta or Gozo) for five years
  • A €1,500 to €2,000 five-year payment towards private health insurance

The requirements of the Maltese Citizenship Program are:

  • A €650,000 non-refundable contribution towards the government’s National Development and Social Fund
  • €150,000 government bonds or securities investment for five years
  • Property acquisition of either €80,000 or €350,000:
    • Lease a property for €16,000 a year for five years, or
    • Purchase a property for €350,000
  • €3,000 private health insurance policy for each individual for the duration of the five years

The United Kingdom: invest for residency, Indefinite Leave to Remain and citizenship

The UK Tier One (Investor) Visa is the most popular route to residency. This route opens the door to UK citizenship once residency has been acquired and candidates meet certain criteria. Although the price tag for UK residency is heftier than many other European nations, the processing time is exceptionally fast and the application process is straightforward. Application processing times are just three to four weeks and initial visas are granted for three years and four months (three years when processed in the UK). There are no non-refundable contribution requirements, no proof of individual maintenance while in residency, nor a minimum level of language required for a Tier One visa.

Residents who have spent a continuous period in the country (with no more than 180 days absence in each 12-month period) can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), subsequently followed by citizenship.

Photograph of an attractive Georgian townhouse in London, England UK

London suburb, England — Travel Cents | Unsplash

The Tier One (Investor) routes to residency and citizenship are:

  • Invest £2m in share or loan capital in active UK businesses
    • ILR after five years
    • Citizenship after six years
  • Invest £5m in share or loan capital in active UK businesses
    • ILR after three years
    • Citizenship after five years
  • Invest £10m in share or loan capital in active UK businesses
    • ILR after two years
    • Citizenship after five years

Acquiring a second passport is highly desirable for wealth management, purchasing assets, favourably structuring taxes, and business opportunities. That said, the CS Global Partners survey revealed that three out of four participants believed that a second residency or citizenship acts as a door to greater freedom to travel and explore the world, highlighting the experiential benefits that these programmes can offer to individuals.