Best citizenship by investment programs

Article Breakdown

The Fifteen Best CBI Programs

Find the pros and cons for each citizenship by investment program, and see which investment programs rank best. If you’re looking to obtain your second passport, this list is for you.

Grenada

Grenada Country Landscape Photo

Grenada’s CBI program is one of the best investment programs to obtain a second citizenship. Grenada CBI offers two avenues for its economic citizenship/passport.

  1. Donation—A one-time donation of $150,000.
  2. Real estate—A minimum $250,000 real estate investment (hotel / resort).

Pros 

  • Grenada is the number one choice for citizenship by investment programs in the world.
  • Grenada is the sole Caribbean country offering visa-free access to Russia, China, Schengen states, and the United Kingdom
  • E-2 investor visas, the least costly alternatives to EB-5, is available to Grenadian citizens. It is a non-immigrant visa, but permits travel to the United States
  • With regards to visa free travel, the Grenada citizenship program is the best Caribbean citizenship option.
  • Grenada has no requirement for in-person visits or residency.
  • Passports can be delivered by authorized agents.
  • A permanent residence card is available at additional cost.

 Cons

  • Although there are less costly alternatives, you get what you pay for in terms of the overall quality of passport.
  • Grenada reserves the right to refuse applicants previously rejected by the citizenship by investment programs of other countries.

Vanuatu

Vanuatu Country Landscape Photo

Vanuatu’s CBI program offers one avenue for citizenship/passport with two variants.

  1. Donation—Development Support Program || One-time donation of $130,000
  2. Donation—Vanuatu Contribution Program || One-time donation of $130,000

Pros 

  • Fast approval time of three weeks.
  • Process complete within two months including receipt of passport.
  • Simple application process requiring no personal visit.
  • Quality passport from a Pacific sovereign state offering visa-free access to Russia, the United Kingdom, Schengen, etc.
  • Vanuatu is non-FATCA country, which may be of particular interest to American expats.
  • Corporate income, wealth, or inheritance taxes do not exist, making Vanuatu a pure tax haven.
  • Full privacy for citizenship investors with no public disclosure.

 Cons 

  • Higher-priced when compared to Caribbean passport programs.
  • Visa requirement to visit Canada, Japan, Australia, South Africa, South Korea, etc.

Dominica

Dominica Country Landscape Photo

Dominica’s CBI program is one of the cheapest citizenship programs. The country offers two avenues for its economic citizenship program:

  1. Donation—A one-time donation of $100,000.
  2. Real estate—A minimum $200,000 real estate investment (hotel / resort).

 Pros

  • Least expensive citizenship by investment program for a single individual.
  • Rapid processing time of two to three months.
  • Visa free travel for the United Kingdom, the EU’s Schengen area, Russia, etc.
  • Stunning natural beauty with lush green flora, springs, and forests.

 Cons

  • Can prove expensive for families using the donation option.
  • Visa required to visit Canada, UAE, Japan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Mexico, etc.
  • CBI citizens’ names are published publicly in the Government Gazette twice annualy, which creates privacy issues

Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia Country Landscape Photo

Saint Lucia’s CBI program offers four avenues for its citizenship by investment program:

  1. Donation—A donation of $100,000.
  2. Real estate—A minimum $300,000 real estate investment.
  3. Government bonds—$250,000.
  4. Enterprise / Business—$3.5 million.

Pros

  • One of the most popular tourist and vacation destinations in the Caribbean.
  • Low-cost passport program for single individuals.
  • Citizenship program is quite popular with Americans.
  • Applications are processed in as little as 80 days.
  • Saint Lucia has no requirement for in-person visits or permanent residency.

 Cons

  • Can be expensive for families.
  • Higher real estate investment threshold compared to other Caribbean CBI programs
  • CBI citizens’ names are accessible to the public.
  • A government bond option is available at $500, 000, but there is no financing option.

Turkey 

Turkey Country Landscape Photo

Turkey’s CBI program offers four avenues for its citizenship program:

  1. Real estate—A minimum $400,000 real estate investment
  2. Bank deposit—$500,000
  3. Government bonds—$500,000
  4. Venture capital—$500,000

Pros

  • The largest and most popular CBI program in Eurasia, particularly with the Arab community.
  • The best real estate investment option.
  • Passport within four to six months.
  • Foreign property buyers are VAT exempted, making the program extremely attractive.
  • Potential membership in the EU, with the process of incorporating EU legislation into national law already underway.
  • Simple application process with no restrictions on who may apply.
  • Turkish citizens working legally in an EU country are entitled to working conditions equal to the citizens of that country.

 Cons

  • Lack of visa-free access to the EU Schengen area, Russia, or the United Kingdom weakens the passport.
  • Visa free travel for Turkish passport holders is available for Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia.
  • Applicants must apply for a residence card with permanent residency status prior to gaining citizenship.
  • Property prices are high compared to EU countries.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis Country Landscape Photo

Saint Kitts and Nevis’ CBI program offers two avenues for its citizenship by investment program:

  1. Donation—A onetime $150,000 contribution to the Sustainable Growth Fund
  2. Real estate—$200,000 with a requirement to hold on to the real estate for 7 years.

Pros

  • Rich Caribbean country renowned for tourism, scenic beauty, and as a vacation destination.
  • Trusted, thirty-five-year-old CBI program.
  • Powerful passport in the Caribbean.
  • Unique visa free travel to Israel, Ukraine, Turkey, South Korea, Russia, and Taiwan.
  • No physical visit or residency required.
  • No oaths required.
  • Straightforward application process.
  • Great choice for large families with several family members (dependents).
  • Low dollar investment requirement for real estate.
  • Fast-track passport processing (AAP) available for additional fee. Decisions on citizenship made in 45-days or fewer.
  • No personal income taxes make Saint Kitts and Nevis a pure tax haven.

 Cons

  • Somewhat expensive program.
  • Seven-year hold on resale of real estate.
  • The lack of an E-2 visa treaty with United States.
  • Visa required to visit Canada, Thailand, UAE and South Africa.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda Country Landscape Photo

Antigua and Barbuda’s CBI program offers four avenues for its citizenship by investment program:

  1. Donation—$100,000 donation to the National Development Fund (NDF)
  2. Donation—$150,000 donation to the University of West Indies Fund (Available only to families of 6 or more)
  3. Real Estate—$200,000
  4. Business investment—$1.5 million 

NOTE: Antigua and Barbuda made important changes in its citizenship by investment program, effective April 1, 2020. The processing fee for the NDF option has increased by $5000, from $25,000 to $30,0000. The processing fee for the real estate option has been reduced from $50,000 to $30,000, a $20,000 reduction. Restrictions on Iraqi citizens have been lifted and they are now eligible to take part in the country’s CBI program.

Pros

  • Least expensive option for families of 6 or more.
  • Fast growing Caribbean country, and a famous Caribbean holiday destination.
  • Powerful passport with visa-free access to Russia, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom and over 150 other destinations.
  • Special visa free travel arrangements with Qatar, Serbia, and South Africa.
  • Privacy is respected and citizenship is not publicly reported.
  • One of the most transparent citizenship programs in the Caribbean.
  • Highly popular with families from China, Russia, Libya and Bangladesh.
  • Pure tax haven, no personal income taxes.

Cons

  • Antigua imposes a 5-day residence condition upon the first renewal of an expired passport. This is a problem for many clients.
  • Initial passport validity is only for 5 years but increases to ten years after the first renewal.
  • Unable to vote or hold government office.
  • Visa required to enter Canada, Japan, UAE, Mexico, Israel, etc.
  • No name change permitted after acquiring citizenship.

Cyprus

Cyprus Country Landscape Photo

Note: The government of Cyprus suspended its citizenship by investment program on October 13, 2020, and, currently, it remains suspended.

Montenegro

Montenegro Country Landscape Photo

Together with Malta, Montenegro is the only European Citizenship by investment option. Montenegro’s CBI program offers two avenues for its citizenship by investment program:

  1. Real Estate North—€250,000 (Hotels only) (Application fee = €100,000)
  2. Real Estate South—€450,000 (Hotels only) (Application fee = €100,000)

Pros

  • Picturesque with heavy tourist traffic (2 million tourist arrivals).
  • The lowest property prices in Europe.
  • Rapid processing with passport and permanent residence completed in three months.
  • E-1 and E-2 treaty with United States
  • Visa free travel with Russia, South Korea, the Schengen area, Israel, Turkey, etc.

 Cons

  • Quota limiting the number of investors to 2000 until Dec 2021.
  • Lacks visa waiver agreements with Ireland, Canada and the UK. Canada making the passport weak.
  • Montenegro limits real estate investment to hotels only.
  • High application fees.

Malta

Malta Country Landscape Photo

Malta is the second European Citizenship by investment option, and the only country in the European Union currently offering a citizenship program. The country relaunched its New Direct Investment scheme in Nov 2020, under new regulations published in the Government Gazette of Malta No. 20,524– 20.11.2020

Legal Background

L.N 440 of 2020 – National Development and Social Fund (Establishment as an Agency) (Amendment) Order, 2020

L.N 439 of 2020 – Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency (Establishment) (Amendment) Order, 2020

L.N 438 of 2020 – Identity Malta Agency (Establishment) (Amendment) Order, 2020

L.N 437 of 2020 – Granting of citizenship for Exceptional Services Regulations, 2020

L.N 436 of 2020 – Community Malta Agency (Establishment) Order, 2020

L.N 435 of 2020 – Agents (Licenses) Regulations, 2020

L.N 434 of 2020 – Declaration of Intent Regulations, 2020 for Property Agents

Malta’s Direct Investment program offers one avenue for the Malta citizenship by investment program:

  1. Donation plus Real Estate (buy or rent)

Pros

  • Ideally suited for high net worth families.
  • Full European Union citizenship.
  • Popular with investors from Russia and the Middle East.
  • Very strong European passport with visa-free access to United States, United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Japan, Australia, etc.
  • Unmatched healthcare standards and an excellent educational system.

 Cons

  • Very costly program to obtain citizenship, unsuitable for middle class families.
  • High rejection rate (25-30%) owing to strict vetting standards.
  • No privacy for CBI participants, as names are published.
  • Residence requirement imposed for 12 months.
  • Takes fourteen to sixteen months for your passport.
  • High property prices make the program unpopular for property buyers.
  • No visa waivers for Russia or China.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria Country Landscape Photo

The Bulgarian citizenship by investment program was abolished by the Bulgarian government in 2022, making Malta the only European Union country still offering an EU citizenship by investment programs in exchange for obtaining citizenship. Montenegro is a candidate for the EU, but not yet a full member country.

Moldova

Moldova Country Landscape Photo

Note:  Moldova’s Citizenship by Investment program has been temporarily suspended by the government.

Austria

Austria Country Landscape Photo

Austria has no official citizenship by investment program. Instead, the country grants citizenship through a potential path to citizenship for entrepreneurial enterprise.

Note: Austrian citizenship by investment is NOT guaranteed by the Austrian government.

However, Austria is a highly rated country in terms of peace, freedom and living standards.

Austria is included here because in Article 10(6) of the Citizenship Act which does specify economic investment as a criterion for discretionary naturalization in the interest of the state, waiving all residence and language requirements.

Austria grants citizenship for extraordinary contributions in the interest of state in the fields of arts, music, research, science, sports and medicine, so there is no minimum investment tied to its program.

For those unable to meet these extraordinary requirements, the only other avenue available to gain Austrian citizenship is through their residence program. Foreign investors can apply for self-employment permit with a Red-White-Red card, which offers temporary residence.

After 10 short years as a legal Austrian resident, you can become an Austrian citizen. Since Austria does not permit dual citizenship, renouncing your previous citizenship is a prerequisite.

Is it worth it? Austria’s passport is among the strongest in the world.

Comoros

Comoros Country Landscape Photo

Note: Comoros’ citizenship by investment program was closed permanently in 2016, and Comoros does not grant citizenship in exchange for investments anymore.

Egypt

Egypt Country Landscape Photo

Egypt’s CBI program offers four avenues for its citizenship by investment program:

  1. Donation—$250,000 donation to the Egyptian Treasury
  2. Real Estate—$500,000 purchase of state-owned or private property
  3. Bank deposit—$750,000

Egypt’s parliament approved their Citizenship for Investment Law n June 2019, aimed at attracting foreign investors to take up residence in Egypt. Under the law, the Prime Minister is empowered to grant Egyptian citizenship to any foreign national who buys state-owned or private property as an investment project with foreign direct investment.

Amendments followed that reduced the investment amount and time frame for investment citizenship. Besides the $500,000 real estate investment, a $10,000 in government fees is assessed for each online application submitted to the government’s Special Citizenship by Investment Unit.

Pros

  • Egypt’s CBI program is new.
  • Access to a $1.3 trillion economy connecting Europe, Asia, North and South America, greater Africa, and the Middle East.
  • Rapid citizenship decisions (within 90 days for real estate investment).
  • E-2 visa treaty with United States
  • Egypt accepts dual citizenship status.

Cons 

  • Passport’s strength is weakened by visa-free travel to fewer than 50 countries.
  • Real estate and bank deposit investment floor is high.
  • Program has no track record.

Samoa

Samoa Country Landscape Photo

Samoa’s CBI program offers two avenues for citizenship/passport.

  1. Real Estate—$1.4 million (SAT* 4 million)
  2. Business investment—$1.4 million (SAT* 4 million)

*SAT is the abbreviation for Samoa’s currency, the Samoan tālā.

Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) launched their CBI program in 2017. The law, known as the Citizenship Investment Act and Regulations of 2016, requires foreign investors to pony up $2.4 million for citizenship.

Unsurprisingly, the program has not enjoyed much popularity and is largely unknown. The program is open to investors willing to invest in energy, real estate, IT, agricultural and fisheries manufactories, and communications. All applicants are subject to due diligence.

Administered by the Ministry of Commerce, the program received five applications according to their 2018 annual report.

Pros

  • Exclusive and unique citizenship by investment program.
  • Visa-free access to 130 countries, including Russia, the UK, Canada, and the EU Schengen area mark this passport as powerful.
  • High level of secrecy regarding financial matters (tax haven?).
  • Eighty-five percent of the investment can be withdrawn after permanent residency.

Cons

  • High investment requirement.
  • Residency requirement of 15-days.
  • Proof of a net worth greater than or equal to $1 million.
  • Lengthy wait for passport (2 years) and only issued only issued when you become a permanent resident.
  • Five-year passport validity.
  • Your application must be accompanied by an upfront payment equaling seventy percent of the investment.

Jordan

Jordan Country Landscape Photo

Jordan’s citizenship by investment program offers three avenues for citizenship/passport:

  1. Real Estate—$280,000
  2. Business investment—$750,000
  3. Bank deposit—$1 million

Jordan’s CBI program, the first in the Middle East, gained approval in 2018 and was reapproved in 2019 with reduced investment requirements.

Pros

  • Attractive citizenship option for Arab investors.
  • Strategic geographic location for trade and business
  • 10-year passport validity.
  • Visa-free access to 50 countries.
  • No restrictions on dual citizenship.

Cons

  • Relatively weak passport.
  • Citizenship can only be passed through the father (not the mother).
  • A quota limited to 500 investors annually.

What You Need to Know About Due Diligence

The beating heart of CBI, which earns more than $15 billion in investments for the countries running these programs, is due diligence.

Governments responsible for weeding out high-risk applicants, maintain high standards of due diligence necessary for the protection of the integrity of their CBI programs.

Initial background checks and due diligence begin with agents before they pass the files to governments and CIUs, who then do various profile checks for sanctions, verify sources of funds, and identify risks. This often takes two to three months.

Estimates are that ninety percent of the work involved in passport applications is risk screening. Politically exposed persons (PEPs) for example, are high-risk applicants and subject to enhanced due diligence (EDD).

We have compiled the below list of financial due diligence firms that offer background checks for the CBI industry. The list includes agents, risk and compliance analysts, and other trusted firms that provide these services.

  • Wealth-X
  • Exiger
  • Thomson Reuters
  • BDO, USA
  • Sterling Diligence
  • S-RM Intelligence and Risk Consulting
  • Refinitiv
  • Corporate Resolutions Inc.
  • Hilton Associates
  • Kroll

Applications for citizenship may be rejected for the following reasons:

  • Previous criminal record.
  • Failing the background check.
  • Persons on the wanted list of Interpol or other law enforcement agencies.
  • Visa rejections from visa waiver countries.
  • Applicants sanctioned countries such as Iran, Sudan, North Korea.
  • Unverifiable or unexplainable sources of income.
  • Individuals or entities subjected to sanctions.

Caribbean passport applicants undergo vetting by the Joint Regional Communication Centre (JRCC) in addition to enhanced due diligence (EDD) checks. JRCC is a subsidiary agency for CARICOM and the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).

The JRCC works with law enforcement personnel in the region to detect individuals traveling with stolen, lost, or fraudulent travel documents. Together, they identify and monitor persons of interest, including those posing a high security threat to the safety and security of the Region.

Authorities are empowered by The Legislation of Citizenship by Investment Act to revoke the citizenship of investment programs applicants at any time, including after citizenship has been granted under the following circumstance:

  • They engage in illegal activity that brings disrepute to the country.
  • They are found to be wanted or a subject of interest to law enforcement.
  • It is determined that they were imprisoned abroad for 12 months or longer.

Cyprus, Saint Lucia, Malta, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, and Bulgaria have revoked passports and stripped individuals of their citizenship for these violations.

Applicants subject to sanctions by the OFAC (US), EU or UK are not accepted to CBI programs by Malta.

Malta Saint Lucia St. Kitts & Nevis Grenada Dominica* Antigua* Vanuatu
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Note: Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Somalia’s nationals are restricted for some Caribbean CBI programs unless they have lived outside the borders of these countries for over 10 years and have no financial ties to these countries. In certain situations, applicants from high-risk countries may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

All countries with CBI programs have extradition treaties with commonwealth nations such as Australia, Canada, and India, as well as other countries, which makes it easier to extradite criminals and wanted persons attempting to abuse investment programs.

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