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If your home country allows dual citizenship, it may be possible to obtain a second citizenship without renouncing the former. Many people are seeing the tremendous benefits that having a second passport can provide. This is partly due to the impact of globalisation and the desire to live and move freely around the world.
In the past, the traditional ways to acquire second citizenship in a country where one was not born were through ancestral ties, naturalisation and/or marriage. However, recent decades have seen the introduction and subsequent expansion of “Citizenship by Investment” programs.
Citizenship by investment began with the first program in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts & Nevis back in 1984. Since then, many other nations have introduced their own citizenship by investment programs and the list continues to grow. The most popular and affordable programs are still found in the Caribbean.
There are numerous advantages to having a second citizenship and being the owner of the second passport which comes with it. These include:
Not all passports are created equal. Many of the nations which offer the possibility of second citizenship have top tier passports. These stronger passports allow extensive visa-free travel around the world.
If your home country has a particularly weak passport, or it is missing visa-free access to some key countries for your needs, then this alone might be a good enough reason to obtain a stronger second passport.
Many people seek second citizenship to minimise their tax burden. This is because most developed Western countries have extremely high tax rates, whereas the countries which offer citizenship by investment mostly have very friendly tax laws.
Some of these countries are genuine tax havens where you can expect to pay zero tax, while others simply offer much lower tax rates than your home nation does.
Having dual citizenship inevitably creates new trade and business opportunities. These opportunities could be both in the country where second citizenship is obtained, as well as in the countries where you have increased access due to having a stronger passport.
In recent times there have been increasing instances of political upheavals, economic meltdowns, natural disasters, pandemics, and other unexpected risks. A second passport is the ultimate safety net in the event of anything going wrong in your home country.
For some, the allure of acquiring second citizenship is simply to provide themselves and their family members access to a country that promises a higher standard of living. Your second citizenship could be found in a country with better quality education, health care, and social security. You can also find many places which are more affordable, have better climates and are all round friendlier and more pleasant to live in.
Citizenship by investment refers to one specific way of obtaining second citizenship. Namely, the applicant qualifies for citizenship by investing a specific amount of capital in the host country.
This ‘investment’ can be in the form of a donation, a real estate investment, a government bond, or other approved options, depending upon the specific country’s requirements. The minimum investment amount also varies, with the cheapest options being available in the Caribbean nations starting at USD 100,000.
The specific requirements for qualifying for citizenship by investment vary depending on the program. Some may include health examinations, background checks and other administrative procedures. Some programs require you to own or rent property in the country.
Each program also has a different minimum investment requirement. The types of approved investments also vary, with some being in the form of a straight donation to a national economic fund, while others allow for real estate and/or government bond investments.
The fundamental requirements which are common to all programs include:
Getting a second citizenship gives you the right to live in a country and are granted to same rights as a normal citizen.
Investing in a second citizenship is an investment in your freedom. Freedom from a single state actor. Having a second citizenship can help to ensure your safety, increase your global mobility as well as offering flexibility in lifestyle choices.
Getting a second passport has numerous benefits that will allow you
While there are usually several different ways to get a second citizenship, usually through
Unfortunately, without being born into such a situation, a second citizenship is hard to come by.
The usual route is through naturalization, whereby you immigrate and after a period of time are naturalized as a citizen after having fulfilled the state's requirements (which can be proof of putting roots down, learning the language etc); or through some form of economic investment in the form of a cash donation or a purchase of real-estate.
Investing upwards of 5 years in a country is not something that everyone is willing to do. The alternative is to make a donation to the country's development fund which can be anywhere from 100,000USD - 1 mil and you can have a second passport and be a permanent citizen in a second country in anywhere from 1-4 months.
Here is a list of the top 5 countries that have the best citizenship by investment opportunities in the world.
The two-island Caribbean nation of Nevis and St Kitts offers the original and oldest citizenship by investment program, which began back in 1984.
They are often referred to as the “platinum” citizenship program in the region. Obtaining citizenship will give you a good second passport with visa-free access to 131 countries including the UK, EU and Russia, although they unfortunately lost visa-free access to Canada in 2014.
The program also offers a fast-track option to be approved within 60 days if one has a valid reason, so if you are under time pressure, this program is a good option for you to consider.
Qualifying for economic citizenship through the Nevis and St Kitts program are relatively straightforward: either you need to donate money to a government development fund or purchase approved real estate.
The donation now starts at as little as USD 150,000 for a single applicant (the total amount including costs will come to approximately USD 157,850 for an individual and USD 207,700 for a family of 4).
This amount was reduced from $250 000 in 2017 as a result of the hurricane.
The real estate option involves purchasing a minimum USD 200,000 in government-approved real estate (total including fees comes to $242 800 for individual and USD 287,900 for a family of 4).
Reports seem to indicate that the real estate is overpriced and one is unlikely to get a return on the investment, meaning that the donation route is the simpler and preferred option for many.
The Nevis and St Kitts program has always been one of the most popular and reliable ones on offer.
Whether or not it is really still the best value program is now debatable, as many new very competitive options have arisen in recent years, but it certainly ticks many of the boxes, and the program has stood the test of time. It is simple, trustworthy, and an all-round worthwhile option for many.
You are unlikely to be disappointed if you decide to go the Nevis and St Kitts route.
Another popular option in the Caribbean region, Dominica’s citizenship by investment program is known to be one of the most affordable options on the market. It offers many of the benefits of the more prestigious programs for a much lower cost, as well as some unique advantages of its own.
While the Dominican passport is not as sought after as that of its nearby brother, Nevis and St. Kitts, it is still very decent.
It provides visa free access to 122 countries including the Schengen area, the UK and Russia.
Dominica offers two ways to qualify for economic citizenship; either through an investment in real estate or with their donation option.
Out of all the different real estate investment options out there, Dominica’s is clearly the best value, with a minimum investment requirement of just $200 000 for a single applicant (including fees, the total comes to $233 500 for a single applicant and just $247 500 for a family of 4).
The donation option is also one of the most affordable around, requiring a total of $109 600 (single applicant including fees) to be donated to Dominica’s Economic Diversification Fund (EDF).
Dominica’s citizenship by investment program is one of the better “budget options”. In addition, the passport will fulfil the basic requirements that most are looking for.
If you specifically prefer to obtain your economic citizenship through a real estate investment (as opposed to a straight donation), then Dominica is definitely recommended. However, if this is not of primary concern, then there may be other better options around at a similar price.
One such option is that of the lesser-known yet very very reputable program of St. Lucia…
St. Lucia’s citizenship by investment program began very recently in 2016. It is still not as widely known as it’s two sibling Caribbean programs; Nevis & St. Kitts and Dominica, but it is now considered by many as one of the best value economic citizenships on the market.
The St. Lucia passport is also a very worthwhile addition to your portfolio. It gives you visa-free access to 123 countries, including the Schengen area and the UK, which makes it on par with the Dominica passport. However, it does not include Russia.
The most affordable option for obtaining economic citizenship in St. Lucia is through donation to their National Economic Fund (NEF). The donation amount for a single applicant was reduced to a mere $100 000 ($109 600 including fees) in 2018, making it on par with Dominica in terms of affordability.
The other options are to invest in real estate or government bonds, but these routes are much costlier and so donation is recommended.
At a similar price to the well-known budget program of Dominica, St. Lucia may be the preferred option for those who are looking for a passport in this price range. There are concerns over the reputation of Dominica’s program, whereas many have praised the St. Lucia program for being very transparent and simple, and its clean reputation should help to maintain the prestige of the St. Lucia passport for the years to come.
This makes it the most ideal choice for many.
Vanuatu, a small archipelago situated about 1000 miles East of Australia, offers a nice alternative option to the more popular and well-known Caribbean programs.
Vanuatu's citizenship by investment program is supposed to be the fastest one available, taking only 45 days. Once the process is complete, you will receive a Vanuata passport giving you visa-free access to 116 countries, including some important ones for business such as the UK, all of Europe, Russia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The requirements are simple in theory: total costs for a family of four is a donation of $180 000 to Vanuata’s Development Support Program. However, in practice, it seems that the actual process can be a bit more unclear and confusing.
The requirements are constantly changing and no one seems completely clear about what they are at any given time. It is possible that you may need to spend more when you include agent fees and depending on the fluctuation policies at the time of investment.
Vanuatu can be a good option for some, especially those who are in a rush to receive their new citizenship. It is also good for those who require frequent travel to Russia and Europe, but not to most of the Americas. It offers good potential as a tax-free residency option.
However, it’s a somewhat confusing process, and higher cost compared to the best value Caribbean programs makes it a less attractive option for most investors.
Malta was the first approved citizenship by investment program in the European union, and by all accounts is still the best value. It gives many of the same advantages of the prestigious (and very expensive) Cyprus program, for about half the total cost.
With Malta citizenship, you will have a very strong passport providing visa-free access to 183 countries including all 6 major English-speaking nations (even the USA is included).
The requirements for qualification are:
The passport will take about 15 months to issue, and you need to spend some time in Malta during this period.
If it is a high-quality European passport and citizenship you are after, and are able to fork out a larger sum compared to the more affordable Caribbean options mentioned above, then Malta is undoubtedly your best option.
There are significant benefits to acquiring citizenship by investment compared to the other more conventional routes. The two biggest advantageous factors are time and convenience. It is almost always substantially faster to obtain citizenship by investment than by other means. Where acquiring citizenship would usually be a 5 – 10 year process if you are lucky, this can be reduced to a mere few months by going the investment route.
Furthermore, it is far more convenient. The fact that you are potentially providing the host country with a substantial investment means that it is in their best interest to make the process as smooth and simple as possible. This means less arduous paperwork and fewer obstacles to climb over. With many citizenship by investment programs, you do not even need to set foot in the country before citizenship is granted.
The only real downside with citizenship by investment is the substantial costs involved. This only makes it suitable for high net worth applicants. If you are a six- or seven-figure individual though, it makes sense to choose this path to second citizenship. After all, your time itself is extremely valuable, so the opportunity costs of a slow and tedious means to second citizenship are high for you. If your purpose for obtaining second citizenship is for financial benefits (e.g. tax reduction, business opportunities etc.) then significantly reducing the wait period is important.