Citizenship by Investment Programs

The SovSpot guide to Citizenship by Investment

Within the pages of this guide, we will provide you with advice and helpful tips on what elements to consider in choosing the country for your passport, making this the premier source for information about citizenship by investment (CBI).

This free guide also includes resources with links for your convenience, that will be invaluable in assisting you in your decision-making process.

Dominica Passport Cover

Citizenship by Investment Defined

Citizenship by investment (CBI) are investment programs that award investors with fast-track citizenship for investment in the target country, often within months.

Examples of the type of investments for citizenship programs include real estate investment, buying state debt, outright donation to the state, etc.

Established customer identification programs (CIP) require applicants (this includes family members) to pass thorough background checks, which may include anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) checks before passports are issued.

Each country has its own unique citizenship laws and regulations, and investment requirements. For example, certain countries have no requirement for an in-person visit, which can be an important consideration because many CBI aspirants live in diaspora and do not immigrate physically to the second country.

CBI programs are commonly known as economic citizenship in North and South America, Investor Citizenship in Europe, and, by extension, the European commission. News and media outlets frequently refer to passports obtained via CBI as Golden Passports because of the many high net worth individuals who have gained their passports by investing in a citizenship program.

How Large is the CBI Industry?

Industry experts estimate the current value of the citizenship by investment sector to be $5 billion, and they expect demand to double to $10 billion by 2025. Revenue in millions of Euros for 2020 can be found below (later data is not available yet). Keep in mind that Cyprus paused its very successful program in 2021:

CBI annual investments by country/region in millions of EUR.
Note: Several Caribbean countries do not publish their statistics.

Revenues from Citizenship by Investment (CBI)

Various news and financial reports that we have tracked in recent years, suggest that CBI revenues have reached the $19 billion, according to our calculations.

While Turkey and Saint Kitts and Nevis dominate CBI revenue generation, an overview of other players is essential.

CBI revenues are used by governments to reduce debt, as a sustainable growth fund, economic diversification fund, fund disaster recovery relief, hospitals, schools, public infrastructure, housing, and pensions for their respective populations.

 

CBI Programs—all-time total passports issued

In the graph below we show the latest data available for total passports issued by CBI program per country:

CBI Revenues in USD in 2018
Rounded Antigua and Barbuda Flag Icon Antigua & Barbuda $287,000,000.00
Rounded Dominica Flag Icon Dominica $675,000,000.00
Rounded Grenada Flag Icon Grenada $170,000,000.00
Rounded Saint Lucia Flag Icon Saint Lucia $37,200,000.00
Rounded Saint Kitts and Nevis Flag Icon St. Kitts Nevis $1,750,000,000.00
Rounded Turkey Flag Icon Turkey $2,700,000,000.00
Rounded Malta Flag Icon Malta $1,441,100,000.00
Rounded Cyprus Flag Icon Cyprus (discontinued) $11,528,900,000.00
Rounded Vanuatu Flag Icon Vanuatu $230,000,000.00
Rounded Montenegro Flag Icon Montenegro $210,162,000.00
Rounded Moldova Flag Icon Moldova (discontinued) $600,046.00

Economic Citizenship Programs—a Brief History

The popularity of citizenship programs grew in the 1980s, with a number of countries in the Caribbean and Pacific island region that began selling passports for $50,000. Most of these CBI schemes were abandoned after the terror attack on 9/11 because of security concerns.

Nearly a decade later, St. Kitts and Dominica introduced programs that gained immediate popularity, although the prices were extremely high. St. Kitts was selling a passport for $250,000 and the Dominica passport was $75,000 (before securing Schengen visa waiver). Now it is still one of the cheapest citizenship by investment options through the donation for the national development fund option.

Comoros briefly offered passport program requiring an investment of just $50,000, but its program closed about two-years ago.

Ireland sold passports for 1 million euros in the 1990s, but their citizenship by investment program ceased after joining European Union in 1999. Currently Malta is the only EU member country to offer citizenship by investment.

In 2007, Cyprus became the first country in the European Union to install a European citizenship scheme, followed by Bulgaria in 2010 and Malta in 2014.

The Cost of obtaining citizenship

The chart below lists the latest prices of citizenship and passport by investment (CPBI) schemes, but does not include any additional fees that may apply, such as agent fees, government fees and application fees.

Please note recent changes and additional information. 1) Montenegro’s investment has changed: Investment required is $300K + Donation $110K = $410K, and 2) Vanuatu has no real estate option for its citizenship program.

Why Are Second Passports So Popular?

Many high net worth individuals view a second passport as an integral part of their wealth management portfolio, an insurance policy for twenty-first century asset protection, and the gold standard of investment for future generations of the family. In short, investment passports have become the ultimate luxury item. Combining different passports is the best way to get as close as possible to “global citizenship”, meaning you will get access to almost any country without requiring a visa.

A recent Knight Frank wealth survey reports that two in three HNW individuals already have made the investment in a second passport, while the remaining one-third are considering a second citizenship.

Dual nationality through CBI is clearly an opportunity that many wealthy families have seized upon, allowing the carry of two or more passports, and opening up a world without borders. Many feel that they have a new life, new citizenship and identity as a citizen of the world!

The Benefits of a Second Passport

Call another country your second home and visit whenever you please

Enjoy better visa free travel and enhanced mobility

When there is crisis, you can opt to move to a second country

Choices regarding healthcare and education for your children

Enjoy international financial freedom

With a second passport, you have more retirement and pension options and investment in a second passport broadens inheritance choices for future generations

Live, work, study or do business practically anywhere you want

Opportunities to reduce taxes with because you have doubled your options

Roughly one-half the US population is worried that they or their family members may become a victim of terrorism, and the threat is real. The US State Department warns that terrorist attacks, political violence (including demonstrations), criminal activity, and other incidents can occur without warning. Consequently, U.S. citizens traveling abroad must be vigilant and keenly aware of their surroundings. What is to be done about it?

By legally acquiring a second passport through an investment program that offers an economic citizenship option, you can hide your US citizen status by showing the second passport instead of your US passport, which gives you full privacy with regard to your citizenship.

US taxes are a nightmare. Few countries in the world are so hungry for tax revenues. If you are a US citizen or resident alien, the rules for filing income tax, estate tax, gift taxes, and estimated taxes are similar, whether you are in the United States or abroad. Your income may be subject to US income tax, regardless of where you reside.

Yet another nightmare is FACTA, which is designed to identify and collect the appropriate taxes from US persons holding financial assets outside the borders of the United States. This is a significant headache for American ex-pats and accidental Americans (jus sanguinis).

Were you aware that the IRS has the power to cancel an American’s passport if they have delinquent tax obligations exceeding $50,000?

For these and other reasons, thousands of Americans have renounced their citizenship and sought a new life with an official citizenship that comes with real freedom.

Countries Offering Citizenship by Investment

We have compiled information on multiple countries that offer or have offered citizenship through CIB programs, spread across Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.

Country Price Status Investment Type Time (Months)
Rounded Austria Flag Icon Austria €10,000,000 Discontinued States Interest 12
Rounded Bulgaria Flag Icon Bulgaria €1,000,000 Discontinued Government Bonds 18
Rounded Antigua and Barbuda Flag Icon Antigua $100,000 Active Donation 3
Rounded Dominica Flag Icon Dominica $100,000 Active Donation 3
Rounded Grenada Flag Icon Grenada $150,000 Active Donation 4
Rounded Saint Lucia Flag Icon Saint Lucia $100,000 Active Donation 3
Rounded Saint Kitts and Nevis Flag Icon St. Kitts Nevis $150,000 Active Donation 3
Rounded Turkey Flag Icon Turkey $400,000 Active Real Estate 3
Rounded Malta Flag Icon Malta €750,000 Active Donation 12
Rounded Cyprus Flag Icon Cyprus €2,000,000 Discontinued Real Estate 7
Rounded Vanuatu Flag Icon Vanuatu $130,000 Active Donation 2
Rounded Montenegro Flag Icon Montenegro €350,000 Active Real Estate 3
Rounded Moldova Flag Icon Moldova €100,000 Discontinued Donation 3
Rounded Cambodia Flag Icon Cambodia $250,000 Unknown Donation 12
Rounded Samoa Flag Icon Samoa $1,200,000 Active Business 20
Rounded Egypt Flag Icon Egypt $250,000 Active Real Estate 3
Rounded Comoros Flag Icon Comoros $50,000 Closed Donation 2
Rounded Jordan Flag Icon Jordan $750,000 Active Business 12

You will need to decide whether you want simple resident status or a passport to work towards global citizenship. 

CIB Gives You Five Investment Options

Citizenship by investment programs provide five investment options that permit you to obtain citizenship.

Lump sum Donation

The first and most popular option is the A lump sum donation to the country’s treasury. Just over 80% of most CBI applicants choose this option for its simplicity and speed.

Real Estate

A real estate investment of $200K or greater is the second most popular choice, attracting HNW investors seeking profits from approved real estate projects. Many countries require you to hold the property for 3-5 years before selling it. After the sale, you still keep your citizenship and passport.

Government Debt

The third option is purchasing government debt, such as government bonds and treasury securities. Currently, seven countries have CBI programs based on the financed purchase of government bonds or securities in exchange for a passport.

Business Investment

Investing in a business is your last option, which is a terrific for those with a strong business background, and a track record as a successful entrepreneur capable of creating jobs.

Cash Desposit

Opening a bank account is another option, especially if you are risk averse. However, only three countries have this option, one of which is Turkey.

 

Saint Lucia and Antigua are Caribbean citizenship options for a minimum investment, as these countries award citizenship by investment, and Turkey requires you to have a business that creates 100 jobs.

Bulgaria paused its economic citizenship program in 2021, and obtaining Bulgarian citizenship is not possible anymore under an investment program. This makes Malta and Montenegro the only two European citizenship options under an investment program. Previously in Bulgaria you could finance the purchase of 1 million Euros worth of government bonds only for 250,000 Euros, with payments spread over five years at five percent interest. However, Turkey and Saint Lucia offer plans that are even more attractive.

Below, you will see our compilation of available citizenship by investment program options to assist you in determining which countries and in what amounts you may invest.

Country Donation Real Estate Gov Bonds Bank deposit Business
Rounded Antigua and Barbuda Flag Icon Antigua $100,000 $200,000 $1,500,000
Rounded Dominica Flag Icon Dominica $100,000 $200,000
Rounded Grenada Flag Icon Grenada $150,000 $220,000
Rounded Saint Lucia Flag Icon Saint Lucia $100,000 $300,000 $500,000 $1,500,000
Rounded Saint Kitts and Nevis Flag Icon St. Kitts Nevis $150,000 $200,000
Rounded Turkey Flag Icon Turkey $400,000 $500,000 $500,000 $500,000
Rounded Malta Flag Icon Malta €750,000 €150,000
Rounded Vanuatu Flag Icon Vanuatu $130,000
Rounded Montenegro Flag Icon Montenegro €350,000 €5,000,000
Rounded Samoa Flag Icon Samoa $1,200,000
Rounded Egypt Flag Icon Egypt $250,000 $500,000 $750,000 $250,000 $400,000
Rounded Jordan Flag Icon Jordan $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $750,000

Citizenship by Investment Benefits

You can obtain the following benefits as a CBI Investor:

Benefit Citizenship Residency
What you get? Passport Permanent Residency
Travel Worldwide Regional (Schengen area)
Price Cheap (starts @ $100K) Expensive (starts @ $250K)
Personal Visit NO YES
Citizenship Included Naturalization (slow)
Real Estate Ownership No restrictions Limited
Need to Rent a place? NO YES
Renewals 5-10 years 2-5 years
Must live NO NO (yes, if you want citizenship)
Education, Healthcare, Employment Equal rights Equal rights
Family members Immediate Immediate
Banking Access YES YES
Taxes* NO (unless you reside) YES
Rights* Full Citizen Rights Restricted (e.g. No right to vote)
Deportation NO YES
Embassy help YES Limited

*Please seek professional advice

Citizenship Is the Preferred Long-Term Option

Citizenship by investment is preferred over a permanent residency investment program for global citizens for a variety of reasons.

Don’t Confuse Citizenship with Golden Visas

Golden visa programs are limited to permanent residency (no citizenship). Greece and Portugal are popular choices among these immigration programs.

An economic citizenship program is frequently less costly than a golden visa. For example, Greece’s golden visas start at $300K for its most popular offering. Besides Greece, several countries listed below show typical Golden visa costs in US dollars:

1.     United States – $800,000

2.     Portugal –         $329,146

3.     Malta –             $293,880

4.     Canada –           $954,047

5.     Spain –              $587,760

Two investor types are attracted to the golden visa investment program:

1.     Those who are not interested in second citizenship or second passport.

2.     Foreign nationals from countries that restrict or forbid dual nationality, for example, India, and China.

So, if you don’t need or want a passport or economic citizenship, apply for residence through the country’s golden visa residency program or traditional immigration processes.

Remember, countries will only accept a passport for entry. Schengen residence permits are not passports and are only accepted in the Schengen area.

The Quebec immigrant investor program is a great option if you want to reside in Canada in exchange for foreign direct investment. However, you do have to reside permanently in Canada in order to qualify under the Quebec immigrant investor program, and after a period of 5 years you could apply for Canadian citizenship.

Portugal has fewer and less strict requirements, which makes it one of the best residence programs, and you can acquire EU Portuguese citizenship after 5 years without actually setting foot in Portugal. Spend just two weeks per year and achieve an A2 level of fluency.

We will not devote any further time here about golden visas.

What You Should Look for When Buying a Passport

Confusion is understandable, and with the multitude of citizenship by investment programs available, clients find it challenging to select the right passport option at the right price. No one wants to overspend and you pay for only what you need.

Here are some important tips. 

cbi-passport-strength

Top of mind for most clients is the cost. However, it would be a mistake to assume that the most expensive passport is your best option. Your top priority is finding the correct balance between the price you pay and the benefits the passport provides. Choosing only what is right and necessary for you and your family is the best way to avoid overpayment.

The graph below gives you a degree of perspective between the passport’s power and its price. Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria are the most expensive passports. If you look closely at the cluster of programs around Grenada, you can see that these passports are comparatively inexpensive yet powerful. Remember prices rise as you add family members.

Passport Power vs. Pricing 

 

Investors always want to know about which citizenship programs have a simple application process and rapid processing times. We always respond with the same answer—allow 3-4 months and apply as early as possible.

We see applications approved in as few as 80 days. For example, Vanuatu has a simple application process and rapid processing times, and we have seen letters of approval issued by the CIU in just 4 weeks. If ease of application and quick processing is your priority, we suggest Vanuatu. All Caribbean passport programs take a minimum of three months.

A passport’s strength is judged based on the number of countries that accept the passport for visa free access. Equally important is the passport’s access to the so-called big six, the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, EU Schengen, and Canada.

Visa-freeU. S.UKRussiaChinaEU SchengenCanada
Maltaˣˣ
Grenadaˣˣ
Antiguaˣˣˣ
Saint Kittsˣˣˣ
Saint Luciaˣˣˣˣ
Dominicaˣˣˣ
Vanuatuˣˣˣ
Montenegroˣˣˣˣ
Turkeyˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Note: The United States and Canada impose electronic travel authorization (ETA) on countries with visa waiver.

For a global citizen, it is important to select the proper passport, one that is a practical fit for your travel needs. Choose a passport that offers visa free access to frequently visited countries. For example, someone with family or business ties in Japan, would not benefit from a passport issued by Moldova or Montenegro.

CBI passport holders should be able to spot subtle differences in visa free access to other countries. For example, a Cyprus passport is a superb choice for travel to South Korea or Japan.

 South AfricaIsraelJapanSingaporeSouth Korea
Antigua and Barbuda
Bulgaria
Dominica
Grenada
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Cyprus
Turkey
Malta
Montenegro
Vanuatu
Jordan
Egypt

 

Key: e / eVisa –  √ / no visa required – x / visa required

 

Do CBI Passports Provide Access to Overseas Territories?

There are some 61 territories around the globe, governed by the UK, France, Netherlands, the United States, etc. Example include British colonies such as Bermuda, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands (BVI); U.S. territories such as U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI); and the Dutch territory of Curacao. These beautiful islands attract many HNWs who often travel to these idyllic locations for holiday vacations.

Note: The above is for informational purposes only. Visa requirements do change from time to time. Please double-check with your nearest embassy or consulate before traveling.

How long your passport will be valid is an important consideration when choosing to apply for a passport under an economic citizenship program. Countries typically issue passports that are valid for five to ten years. Obviously, passports with a ten-year validity offer greater convenience because they do not have to be renewed as often.

Note that Antigua, Saint Lucia, and Grenada currently have passport validity of 5 years. All other passports feature a ten-year validity. Antigua is unique in that after the first renewal, the passport’s validity switches to ten years.

CBI

Validity

Antigua

5 years

Saint Kitts

10 years

Dominica

10 years

Saint Lucia

5 years

Grenada

5 years

Vanuatu

10 years

Turkey

10 years

Malta

10 years

Montenegro

10 years

Economic citizenship can secure you access to the E-2 investor visa, an important benefit, because E-2 visas are a less costly alternative to the EB-5 visa. Citizens of countries that do not have an E-2 visa arrangement with the United States. such as Russia, China, Nigeria, Vietnam, and Russia, can take advantage of an investment program to facilitate entry to the United States. Remember, E-2 visas are non-immigrant visas, however, dependents may apply.

Below, we highlight the important difference between E-2 and EB-5 visas.

 E-2EB-5
Visa CategoryNon-immigrantImmigrant Visa
Minimum Investment$100,000 to $200,000$900,000 to $1.8 million
Visa validity2-5 yearsTemporary Green card (2 years)
Green cardNoYes
Job creation5 jobs10 jobs
Waiting time3 weeks2-15 years
CitizenshipNoYes
Residence conditionsNone

Must move and live in US.

Not absent for 6 months per year

QuotaNone10,000 annual limit
WorkingFull timeDirector
Work permitSpouse onlySpouse and children < 21
Application paperworkEasyComplicated / Strict rules
Who can apply?E-2 treaty countriesNo restrictions
Taxes on Worldwide income*MaybeYes
Visa fee$205$3,675 (I-526 petition)
Legal costs$10,000 to $20,000$50,000 to $100,000

*Note: Before immigrating to the U.S. seek professional tax advice.

Five CBI countries have signed E-2 treaty investor agreements with the United States. No other countries have citizenship by investment programs (CIP) that offer this benefit. They are:

  • Montenegro
  • Turkey
  • Grenada
  • Egypt
  • Jordan

The economic citizenship programs offered by Saint Kitts and Nevis; Antigua; and Vanuatu do not extend voting rights to those who acquired their citizenship through CBI programs.

All other CBI options do not only offer voting rights, but also permit you to hold public office and participate in politics.

Grenada and Saint Lucia offer the most inclusive economic citizenship program in the Caribbean for foreign investors and both of these options provide an excellent Caribbean citizenship option.

The CBI programs of the countries listed below allow transfer of full citizenship rights for up to three generations only.

  • Dominica
  • Saint Lucia
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • Vanuatu

The above four programs excepted, the CBI programs of all other countries offer full lifetime citizenship.

Global citizens regard economic citizenship programs that have no personal visitation requirements for passports to be the most attractive. For example, if you live in the UAE, travel to the Caribbean or Vanuatu is time consuming and expensive, not to mention unrealistic, in a world consumed by pandemic. 

Just five CBI programs have no requirement for a personal visit. In all other countries, at least one personal visit is mandatory. 

CBI

Validity

Antigua

5 years

Saint Kitts and Nevis

10 years

Dominica

10 years

Saint Lucia

5 years

Grenada

5 years

Vanuatu

10 years

Turkey

10 years

Malta

10 years

Montenegro

10 years

Clearly, economic citizenship programs that have no residency requirement are the most attractive.

With the exceptions of the Caribbean and Vanuatu, all countries issue residence permits prior to issuing a naturalization certificate under their CBI programs.

CBIResidence
Antigua5 days*
DominicaNone
GrenadaNone
Saint LuciaNone
St Kitts and NevisNone
TurkeyNone
VanuatuNone
Malta12 months
MontenegroNone
EgyptNone
JordanNone

 

*At the 5-year renewal of your passport, Antigua imposes 5-day residence requirement. If you’re not in-country for the required 5 days, they will invalidate your passport. Turkey, on the other hand, permits you to handle this by Power of Attorney.

European countries offer exceptional educational and healthcare opportunities, especially Malta. These countries also boast high safety rankings and low crime rates. Montenegro is progressing toward the broader European standards but still falls short.

Although Caribbean countries struggle with crime, they offer affordable healthcare. They also have excellent universities such as Saint George Medical University in Grenada and Antigua boasts the newly opened University of West Indies campus.

Of course, these are only considerations if you plan to live or work in these countries, and can otherwise be ignored.

Any economic citizenship program will have quotas, and when reached, they are shut down. Quotas mean you may miss the opportunity to gain citizenship through investments. Fortunately, Caribbean passport CBI programs currently have no limits.

Below are the limits currently imposed on selected CBI programs. 

Malta

Total quota 1500 (New)

Montenegro

Total quota 2000 (expires in 2022)

Vanuatu

No limits

Turkey

No limits

Jordan

500 per year

Caribbean

No limits

When considering the country to choose for your passport, its level of tourism can be a useful indicator to consider before applying for citizenship, because tourism plays an important role in driving revenues, economic growth, and prices in the real estate market. This data is indispensable if you are considering investment in hotels and resorts.

2018 Tourist Arrivals in CBI Countries

CBI

Tourist Arrivals (2018)

Malta

2,599,000

St. Kitts and Nevis

125,000

Antigua and Barbuda

269,000

Saint Lucia

395,000

Turkey

45,768,000

Grenada

185,000

Vanuatu

116,000

Egypt

11,196,000

Jordan

4,150,000

Dominica

63,000

Montenegro

2,077,000

Source: World Bank Data 2018

Citizenship by Investment FAQs

Below we’ve listed the most common questions and answers around Citizenship by Investment:
Increasingly, passports are becoming the less expensive option.

Most were operating normally. However, many golden visa programs were temporarily suspended because of COVID-19.

Definitely Vanuatu. The only downside is that the European Union suspended the Schengen access for Vanuatu passports until further notice.

From purely a cost standpoint, these are the least expensive passport programs for individuals and families.

Yes, CBI industry is a promising industry and more countries are expected to come on board.

We believe the following countries will probably open a citizenship by CBI programs in the future.

  • Albania
  • Croatia
  • Greece
  • Kazakhstan
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Solomon Islands

Yes, some CBI programs have quotas for applications.

  • Malta—1500 IIP applications (400 annually)
  • Montenegro—2000 applications (total)

Application takes the following course.

  1. Pay the initial deposit. (10% due diligence plus lawyer fee)
  2. The authorized agent will help you with all the know your customer forms and other documentation, and will file your application with the government.
  3. Upon passing all due diligence and background checks, the CIU will issue your approval letter, usually within 90 days.
  4. Pay the remainder of your donation or investment amount directly to the official government bank account. Obviously, if you are rejected, no payment is required.
  5. Take the Oath (if applicable)
  6. Collect your passport from your agent, the embassy or consulate.

Yes, most CBI programs permit an appeal to the CIU’s decision.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) passport is issued by its 15 member states. All CARICOM citizens enjoy freedom of movement within the borders of member states with just ID card or driver’s license. CARICOM passports are issued by all five CBI countries.

Yes, there are five pending. These countries are already incorporating EU legislation into national law.

  • Albania
  • Macedonia
  • Montenegro
  • Serbia
  • Turkey

Note: EU (European Union) is not the same as Europe. There are 27 countries in EU, whereas there are 44 countries in Europe.



Bulgaria, Cyprus, Moldova, and Montenegro are not in the Schengen area. Bulgaria and Cyprus will probably join in the future.

Note: European Union citizens (Bulgaria, Cyprus) have free movement in the Schengen area.

Nationality is something you are born with (ethnicity) and cannot be taken away from you, while citizenship only exists on paper. For example, you would address your nationality as American Indian, etc., while you would address your citizenship as US citizen, Chinese citizen, etc. It’s that simple.

CBIs are essentially expedited naturalization programs. They represent a legal process by which citizenship is gained by contributing economically to the state.

Revenues generated through CBI programs are used by small countries for housing, social welfare, public works, pensions, schools and hospitals, disaster relief and funding real estate developments such as hotels and resorts to expand tourism. For example, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Cyprus have benefited from CBI revenues.

Responsible CBI citizens should strengthen their ties to the country that offered them citizenship. This helps to make citizenship secure and hard to revoke. Genuine links are created by paying taxes, buying a real estate, a home, donating to charity and non-profits, learning the local culture and language. This fosters integration with the country.

A golden visa is permanent residency, granted to foreigners for buying real estate or creating jobs, and is roughly equivalent to a green card. Investors given permanent residence status may live in the country indefinitely with equal rights to employment, healthcare and social benefits. The phrase golden visa was coined by Portugal when it launched its program in 2012.

It is an attractive program for high net worth individuals and families for financial planning, and offers enhanced privacy and economic security across banking and investment portfolios.

The possibility of reduced personal and corporate tax exposure is the most significant benefit.

No, CBI citizens are exempt from service in the military.

Note: if you serve in military, you will automatically lose your nationality in some countries.

Saint Kitts and Nevis is the only country that does not require an Oath of Allegiance. All other programs require it, and in most cases there is a fee. Vanuatu allows the oath to be taken virtually by video conferencing because of COVID-19.

Yes, programs offered by Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Kitts and Nevis permit a name change if a deed poll expressing your active intention to change your name is submitted from your birth country with your citizenship application. Vanuatu also permits a name change after receiving citizenship through affidavit. No other countries permit a name change. There are fees for this added service.

In early 2021 you will need a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) authorization, which can be easily obtained online for about 7 Euros, to travel to Schengen states. The process is simple and you just carry the printout with your passport. It is required for all visa waiver countries which currently have agreements with the European Union. CBI citizens holding passports from these countries will need this electronic travel authorization.

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia

EU passports and visa/residence permit holders from Schengen states are exempted.

Details on rejected applicants are shared between countries, through official channels.

Stateless individuals are not restricted from participation in economic citizenship programs, however, current information suggests that just five CBI programs accept stateless people.

These are:

  1. Antigua & Barbuda

  2. Dominica

  3. Turkey

  4. Vanuatu

Twelve million stateless people have no official nationality and are denied basic human rights to education, freedom of movement, employment, and healthcare, because they lack papers and/or identity.

For those who can afford it, citizenship schemes provide stateless people an identity, healthcare and other benefits.

Statelessness is caused by failing states, ethnic/religious discrimination, shortfalls in nationality laws, etc. A pledge to end statelessness by 2024 has been issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Governments operating second citizenship programs issue agents two license types: 

1.    International Marketing Agents

2.    Authorized agents

Marketing agents market or promote the CBI programs of their sponsor country following all government rules. They also have agreements with authorized agents, who are responsible for filing the clients’ citizenship application with Citizenship by Investment Units (CIUs). To be an authorized agent for a CBI country, you must be a resident and citizen of that country. Occasionally, sub-agents work on a commission basis with authorized agents. We estimate that over 1000 agents serve the CBI industry.

Caribbean governments pay commissions for each case approved based on case volume and the family size of the main applicant. Commissions range from $10,000 to $15,000, while authorized agents from other CBI countries can earn from €50,000 to €60,000.

Agents also charge professional fees to their CBI clients that range from $15,000 to $20,000.

The governments of CBI countries, by regulation, have established Citizenship Investment Units (CIU) as separate agencies to oversee the seamless operation and proper functioning of CBI programs.

The role of CIUs’ include

  • Acceptance and approval of applications

  • Effecting policy changes and/or regulations to strengthen the programs

  • Real estate project approval

  • Perform due diligence on applicants

  • Approve authorized agents and marketing agents

  • Establish rules for marketing and promotion of each citizenship program

  • Make recommendations to the minister for citizenship approval

  • Notify the passport office to issue passports for approved investors

  • Organize conferences and events

  • Provide consultation and training for agents

  • Publish reports and maintain statistics pursuant to the country’s CBI regulations

The CIPA comprises the heads of the Caribbean’s five citizenship investment units.

  1. Antigua and Barbuda

  2. Commonwealth of Dominica

  3. Grenada

  4. Saint Kitts and Nevis

  5. Saint Lucia

Determining and promulgating best practices in CBI with participating Caribbean countries, is the mandate of the association. The goal of CIPA is to build a strong legislative and regulatory framework for foreign direct investment, share information, standardize due diligence processes, and guaranty the competitiveness and integrity of the industry.

Each year, a new chairperson is selected from one of the five participating CIUs.

Website information for the CIUs of CIPA’s Five Member States

Dominica

Website: www.cbiu.gov.dm

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Website: https://www.ciu.gov.kn

Antigua and Barbuda

Website: cip.gov.ag

Grenada

Website: cbi.gov.gd

Saint Lucia

Website: cipsaintlucia.com

What Is the Cost of a Passport?

Below, are estimates on passport costs using an economic citizenship program. In addition, expect accredited Agents to charge you fees of up to $20,000 per application. We do not reflect these agent fees in the compilation below. Clearly, costs depend on whether you are applying on your own as a global citizen, or as a family.
Country Single Applicant Main + Spouse + 1 Child < 18 Main + Spouse + 2 children < 18
Rounded Antigua and Barbuda Flag Icon Antigua & Barbuda $135,000 $130,000 $130,000
Rounded Dominica Flag Icon Dominica $109,950 $175,000 $200,000
Rounded Grenada Flag Icon Grenada $158,500 $220,000 $220,000
Rounded Saint Lucia Flag Icon Saint Lucia $109,500 $165,000 $190,000
Rounded Saint Kitts and Nevis Flag Icon St. Kitts Nevis $157,750 $195,000 $195,000
Rounded Turkey Flag Icon Turkey $470,000 $470,500 $472,000
Rounded Malta Flag Icon Malta €900,000 €975,200 €1,050,000
Rounded Vanuatu Flag Icon Vanuatu $130,000 $175,000 $190,000
Rounded Montenegro Flag Icon Montenegro €365,000 €385,000 €395,000
Note: 1) The prices shown above are based upon the least expensive investment programs and therefor represent the least amount you will pay, 2) Turkey and Montenegro offer a real estate option only, 3) Montenegro’s government requires an application fee of €100,000 (each application), 4) Caribbean countries off a real estate option, however, it is not the least costly option, which means it is not reflected in the above table

Adding Family Members Increases Passport Costs

The governments offering citizenship by investment passports do so under an established framework of citizenship by investment legislation. This necessarily increases the costs of passports as the number of dependents rise.

What Are the Costs When Donations Are Involved

Six of the most popular most popular low cost CBI donation programs are compared below. The graph is based on the assumption of an investor, spouse and children under 18 applying for economic citizenship through donation. The graph on the right shows numbers-based costs for family citizenship by donation.

What Are the Costs Using the Real Estate Option?

Our price estimates below were calculated based upon the number of family members. Assuming a husband, his spouse, the number of children under 18-years. These are rough estimates of minimum investment required. Estimated costs for CBI real estate investment by number of family members is shown on the side.
cbi-costs-with-additional-dependents
CBI Costs with additional dependents, per country
cbi-real-estate-costs-with-more-dependents
Estimated costs for CBI real estate investment by number of family members

The Importance of Visa Waivers 

Passports that allow visa-free access will always be in high demand. It is the principal factor attracting global citizens to apply for passports because a second powerful passport, permits you to visit 196 countries across the globe.

As the table below shows, which soft visas such as VOA, eVisa, ETA, and hard visas are required to visit 196 countries in the world for various CBI passports. Clearly, Malta is a frontrunner, and passports of Caribbean origin with an economic citizenship program do not lag far behind. 

Country Visa not required Visa required eVisa eTA Visa on arrival eVisa / Visa on arrival Total Access
Rounded Antigua and Barbuda Flag Icon Antigua 98 54 11 1 26 4 140
Rounded Dominica Flag Icon Dominica 87 61 14 1 27 5 134
Rounded Grenada Flag Icon Grenada 92 59 13 1 26 4 136
Rounded Saint Lucia Flag Icon Saint Lucia 90 60 12 2 27 4 135
Rounded Saint Kitts and Nevis Flag Icon St. Kitts 99 53 10 2 27 4 142
Rounded Turkey Flag Icon Turkey 65 79 9 2 22 16 114
Rounded Malta Flag Icon Malta 118 30 13 3 18 14 166
Rounded Vanuatu Flag Icon Vanuatu 80 67 13 0 29 5 127
Rounded Montenegro Flag Icon Montenegro 74 68 16 0 23 14 127
Rounded Egypt Flag Icon Egypt 16 132 16 0 21 10 63
Rounded Jordan Flag Icon Jordan 16 132 16 0 21 10 63
Source: Best Passport Rankings Study 2020

In late May 2015 the EU inked exemption of visa (short-term stay) agreements with Saint Lucia, Grenada, the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Grenadines, the Republic of Vanuatu, Saint Vincent, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the independent State of Samoa.

In the same year, Canada revoked short-term stay agreements for all Caribbean passports that can be obtained through investment citizenship programs, claiming that Canada’s borders were at grave risk because of economic citizenship programs.

After Canada revoked an Antiguan citizen’s visa waiver in 2017 and imposed a visa restriction, applications for CBI passports plunged to near record lows. This illustrates the importance of visa waivers in citizenship by investment programs.

Nevertheless, Caribbean countries have enjoyed success in growing the number of countries with whom they have agreements, and have increased their tourism and passport revenues.

CBI Citizens—Who Are They?

CBI citizens represent a class of the diaspora population made possible through economic citizenship by investment programs.

Although around 50,000 people are living in diaspora, less than 10,000 become CBI citizens annually, and they are small communities of wealthy individuals living in China, North and South America, Africa, Europe, and the United Arab Emirates.

A synopsis of the estimated approved main applicants for 2020 is shown on the right.

*Note: Approximate unofficial figures calculated based on passports/applications approved for investors.

Here’s what You Need to Know about EU Citizenship programs

At best, European Union citizenship is supplemental, conferred by member states, and does not replace national citizenship. It can be revoked by the member state at any time for just cause.

The Citizenship of the European Union is not a replacement for national citizenship and can be lost if revoked by the member state. Ordinary naturalization, integration, passing civic and language tests, and meeting conditions such as long term residency, are the typical means by which EU member nations grant citizenship.

EU citizens can also be dual citizens. Most EU states grant expedited citizenship based on investment through Malta.

Malta citizenship: €900,000 which includes a €650K donation, €150K in bonds, and a €100K processing fee.  

 

What Are Your Rights as an EU citizen?

What about Non-EU Nationals?

Citizens of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein and are not EU citizens because these countries are not part of the European Union. Even so, citizens of these countries can work in the EU on an equal footing with EU nationals by virtue of their country’s membership in the European Economic Area.

Swiss citizens are not EU citizens, but are free to live and work in the EU.

UK citizens remain EU citizens through 31 December 2020, after which their EU citizenship is forfeited due to Brexit.

schengen-and-eea-zone

Debunking CBI Myths

Citizenship by investment programs (CBI) are plagued with an abundance of common myths, which must be debunked.

Myth 1:
You can get a diplomatic passport through Citizenship by investment (CBI) programs.

Fact: Citizenship by investment programs have nothing to do with diplomatic passports. The Vienna Convention establishes the rules for diplomatic passports. Holding a diplomatic passport does not automatically confer diplomatic immunity.

Myth 2:

Only criminals seek CBI passports.

Fact: Applicants for CBI must pass due diligence checks before being issued passports. As a practical matter, criminal applicants would not pass these due diligence checks. Honest, hard-working families represent 99% of CBI applicants, and less than 1% of CBI applicants attempt to abuse citizenship by investment programs.

Myth 3:

No background check is required to secure a CBI passport.

Fact: Due diligence is the very core of CBI programs that are charged with the responsibility of protecting the integrity of citizenship. Ninety percent of the work on CBI applications is centered on vetting applicants. The minuscule level of abuse that exists does not warrant a negative reputation for CBI programs. While immigrant investor programs (including US EB-5) have issues, (no system is perfect), CBI administrators strive continually to improve.

Taxes and Citizenship by Investment

Taxes laws are complicated and extremely important for CBI dual citizens. Countries, for the most part, base taxable status on residency, which is defined as 183 days/year. Residency, not citizenship, determines whether you pay taxes.

Three countries, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Vanuatu, and Antigua, are the countries that have no personal income taxes on income, foreign or local. Passports from these countries are much sought after. All Caribbean CBI countries exempt non-resident citizens from personal income tax, however.

Below is a quick summary of tax rates in CBI countries.

Country Corp.Tax Personal Income Tax Wealth Tax Capital Gains Estate Tax Tax Treaties
Rounded Antigua and Barbuda Flag Icon Antigua 25% 0% 0 0 0 CARICOM, UK
Rounded Dominica Flag Icon Dominica 25% Residents only 0 0 0 CARICOM
Rounded Grenada Flag Icon Grenada 28% Resident/Non-residents income within Grenada (15%) 0 0 0 CARICOM, UK
Rounded Saint Lucia Flag Icon Saint Lucia 30% Residents only (up to 30%) 0 0 0 CARICOM, Switzerland
Rounded Saint Kitts and Nevis Flag Icon St. Kitts 33% 0 0 0% (< 1 year) 0 CARICOM, Monaco, Switzerland, UK
Rounded Turkey Flag Icon Turkey 22% 15-35% Yes 22.00% 1-30% 94 countries
Rounded Malta Flag Icon Malta 35% Up to 35% 0 12% 0 76 countries
Rounded Vanuatu Flag Icon Vanuatu 0% Up to 17% 0 0 0 19 countries
Rounded Montenegro Flag Icon Montenegro 9% 9-12% 0 9.00% 5.00% 42 countries
Rounded Egypt Flag Icon Egypt 22.5% Up to 22.5% 0 0 2.50% 50 countries
Rounded Jordan Flag Icon Jordan 20% Up to 14% 0 0 (except company share sale or depreciable assets) 0 32 countries
Source: Deloitte and other sources

Sixteen countries were listed by the OECD for failing to comply with CRS tax sharing rules in 2018. Among these countries were CBI/RBI programs in Europe and the Caribbean. If you are a global citizen, banks may request disclosure of your home country tax number. You should know the answers to the following:

  • Were your residence rights earned through a CBI/RBI program?
  • Do your residence rights extend to other jurisdiction (s)?
  • Did you spend over 90 days in another jurisdiction (s) during the previous year
  • In what jurisdiction (s) were your personal income tax returns filed during the previous year?

The Importance of Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship is highly debatable topic. In several developed Asian (India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore) and Middle-Eastern countries it is severely restricted, while North and South America, as well as Europe are very open to dual nationality.

dual-citizenship-allowed-not-allowed-map
Map Showing Dual nationality acceptance worldwide as of 2020

Dual nationality is important because it allows you to legally carry two or more passports while traveling. In many cases, dual citizens receive double benefits in terms of healthcare, education, etc.

Nationals in countries that prohibit dual nationality must be on guard. It is possible to lose your former citizenship automatically, when you take up your second citizenship. You are encouraged to seek legal counsel.

If you are involved, or suspected, of being involved in terrorism or other illegal activities, the law provides that you may be denaturalized or stripped of your economic citizenship. Revocation of citizenship has happened to CBI citizens in Caribbean countries. This is important to know, and it is important to understand the consequences. If you’ve renounced your previous citizenship and your current country revokes your citizenship, you become stateless.

Consular protection during emergencies may be limited for dual citizens. For example, as a Chinese / Canadian dual citizen, you have limited consular protection at a Canadian embassy.

How to Use Your Dual Passports When Traveling

So, you are a proud global citizen carrying more than one passport. Now what!

The Key Is to Use the Right Passport!

Each day, thousands of people travel with two passports. Not only is it perfectly legal, dual passports expand the number of destinations to which you can travel with visa free access. For example, one passport may offer visa free travel to Canada, and the other, a visa waiver for China. Visa free travel and visa waivers enhance your travel options and can make life much more convenient.

However, it is important to follow these critical rules.

  • Never reveal the fact that you carry two passports where dual nationality is prohibited. Instead, travel through a neutral visa-free country or show your residence card.

  • Always enter and exit the country with the same passport. If you enter a country in which you have citizenship, use that passport to enter and exit. For example, if you are U.S. citizen, you must use your U.S. passport to enter and exit United States.

Let’s look at two scenarios:

  1. Dual citizenship is accepted: If you’re departing from country (A), which allows dual nationality, you can fly directly from country (A) to country (B) with your country (B) passport. 

  2. Dual Citizenship not permitted: This is more complicated. If your departure country prohibits dual nationality, then carrying two passports is illegal. Never disclose two passports in such a situation.

Airlines only need to see your passport for the destination country. It is their obligation to determine your eligibility for entry. You must book the ticket with the correct passport number. The airline and immigration are separate entities with distinctly different responsibilities. 

Here’s another example of dual passport travel.

We will assume that you are US/UK dual citizen, your destination is United States. Following the rules outlined earlier, present the US passport to airline during check-in and show your British passport to exit United Kingdom. When arriving in the United States, show your U.S. passport to Customs and Border Patrol upon entry.

Benefits of Commonwealth Citizenship

Commonwealth citizenship as a supplemental citizenship is offered through 7 CBI programs (Malta, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Vanuatu). CBI citizens of these countries are also citizens of the Commonwealth.

Acquiring citizenship in a Commonwealth country has specific benefits.

Commonwealth citizens are entitled to help from British embassies and from consulates in countries that are not in the Commonwealth, which is a tremendous benefit.

As a Commonwealth citizen, you will not be treated as a foreign national. While the rights of Commonwealth citizens may vary, they are eligible, with the permission of their home government, to apply for a British emergency passport. Alternatively, they may be issued travel documents if they cannot present their national passport.

If you live in the United Kingdom, citizens of the Commonwealth may be employed in non-reserved Civil Service posts, are not required to register with the local police, and can serve in the British Armed Forces.

The Commonwealth of Nations comprises 53 member states, of which thirty-one are small states having roughly 1.5 million citizens in total. Almost all are former British colonies or dependencies, and all but a few have visa free travel to United Kingdom for business, tourism or family visitation. Commonwealth citizenship status is automatically lost if the member state leaves the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth_of_Nations

Preparation and Submission of Your Documentation

Documentation is a critical factor in the success of your citizenship application. Although potentially tedious and time-consuming, keep in mind that your agent is there to help you through the process. Any missing documentation will delay approval, so planning ahead is always recommended.

Documents issued by within EU states are accepted throughout the European Union and no further certifications are needed, which makes everything easier. For example, a document issued in Germany will be accepted in Cyprus.

However, document authentication can be an issue if the country you are applying with does not accept your country’s documents at face value. In such cases, you will need to have your documents authenticated to the satisfaction of that country’s Citizenship Investment Unit (CIU). One means of accomplishing this is with by apostille, which refers to a form of certification accepted by the 118 countries party to the Hague Convention of 1961. These countries accept apostilled documents between one another. 

 

These are the key documents commonly required for CBI programs. Those documents that may require certification by apostille are followed by an asterisk*. You may access a list of apostille providers in your country by clicking here

Abbreviations

  • CBI – Citizenship by Investment
  • CIP – Citizenship by Investment Program
  • RBI – Residence by Investment (RBI)
  • ECP – Economic Citizenship Program (ECP)
  • CBI/RBI – Citizenship by investment (CBI) and Residence by Investment (RBI)
  • CRBI – Citizenship and Residence by Investment
  • MCBI – Moldova Citizenship by Investment
  • DCBIP – Dominica Citizenship by Investment Program
  • IIP – Immigrant Investor Program
  • MIIP – Malta Individual Investor Program
  • CIP – Cyprus Investment Program
  • TCBI – Turkey Citizenship by Investment
  • CIU – Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU)
  • CBIU – Citizenship by Investment Unit
  • CBIC – Citizenship by Investment Committee (CBIC)