To many high net-worth individuals operating in today’s business markets but hailing from countries outside of Western Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore, second citizenship and an EU passport are more coveted than a mansion or a yacht. Having European status opens doors that were previously shut, and gets one into every country worth entering – visa-free. But how easy is it to get EU citizenship and that all-important passport?

If money is no object, then everything is easy, figuratively. If you are a multimillionaire or better, spending several million euros of your fortune to procure the citizenship and passport of an EU country via a Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program will present few problems, unless of course you have a criminal record, which, no matter how rich you might be, presents a very big problem!

The concept of CBI was born in the Caribbean, years before the region became globally synonymous with discreet banking and tax sheltering. St. Kitts and Nevis introduced the very first program in 1984, and four of its neighbors have followed suit over the years – Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia and Dominica. These five Caribbean nations, along with the European Union countries of Austria, Cyprus and Malta represent the sum total of nations offering CBI programs globally – just eight.

In the Caribbean, CBI programs are far cheaper than they are in Europe, with the Dominican program costing a mere $100,000, less than a tenth of the cheapest EU CBI program. All CBI programs are completed quickly once the specified investment has been made, averaging between 6-9 months. By comparison, almost every residency by investment program will take a total of six years to complete.

 

CBI vs Residency by Investment

You may be very wealthy, a millionaire even, yet spending a minimum of  €1.2 million on the most basic CBI program represents just too much of a dent in your assets. For you, the more economically sound option is a Residency by Investment program.  For a refundable investment of around €250,000, you can begin the six-year process of going from temporary resident to permanent resident, then finally, full citizenship.

Below are six of the easiest options to gain second citizenship in the EU. Naturally, three of the options are taken up by the EU’s three CBI program holders – Austria, Cyprus and Malta – because no other form of citizenship program can compare to CBI for speed. While virtually every European Union country offers some form of investor visa program, those of Hungary, Bulgaria and Portugal are among the most popular and easiest with which to acquire full citizenship.

Here in no specific order are the six easiest EU Countries To Get Second Citizenship right now:

 

Austria  (Citizenship by Investment Program)

Got €10 million to spend and no skeletons in your closet? Austrian citizenship can be yours in a matter of months via a €10 million business-based investment. Or, if you don’t mind spending a couple of million, you can make a charitable, non-refundable €2-3 million donation to the Austrian government.

The Austrian CBI program is rated as the “crème de la crème”, the best, and most respected on the market. It is fast, highly professional, and each successful applicant has their citizenship officially endorsed by every member of the Austrian parliament. From a commercial standpoint, Austria benefits from a perennially strong economy, has a perfect location in central Europe, and its closest neighbor and longtime business partner just happens to be Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy.

Austria benefits from one of the highest standards of living in the EU, with excellent healthcare and education. It is also the only country on the European mainland to offer a CBI program. Austrian citizenship and passport will be granted within 3-6 months of completion of investment.

The Austrian passport has visa-free access to 173 countries.

 

Hungary (Residency Bond Program)

The “Hungarian Residency Bond Program” has proved extremely popular since its inauguration in 2013. Figures show that in little more than three years, more than 30,000 people have successfully applied for the Hungarian residency program, many of them Chinese investors. As of the summer of 2016, more than 3,650 residency programs had been completed, earning the Hungarian government around €1.1 billion in revenue, with clearly much more still to come.

The bonds mentioned in the program title are Hungarian Government Bonds. An investor will need to purchase €300,000 worth of these bonds to gain Hungarian residency and retain them for a minimum of five years in order to maintain their residency. Upon competition of those five years, the investor can apply for full Hungarian citizenship.

One of the great benefits of the Hungarian residency permit is that it allows its holder the right to live and work within the Schengen Zone for 90 days at a time. Also, there is no initial temporary residency period, so an investor can apply for citizenship after five years instead of six.

The Hungarian passport has visa-free access to 167 countries.

 

Cyprus (Citizenship by Investment Program)

Cyprus is one of only three EU countries offering Citizenship by Investment, the others being fellow Mediterranean island Malta and Austria. The Cyprus CBI program sits in between the programs of Austria and Malta in terms of financial outlay. The Cyprus CBI program requires a €2 million investment, in the form of a real estate project, a business venture or an investment into Cyprus based companies. The figure of €2 million was only reached in September 2016, after the Cyprus government made significant amendments to its citizenship by investment program, most dramatic being the reduction of the overall cost from €5 million to €2 million, a substantial and significant drop of €3 million, bringing into line with the program of Malta and making it more appealing to foreign investors.

Like all EU citizenship programs, the Cyprus program benefits from the fact that as an EU citizen, an individual is free to live and work without restriction in any other EU country. Cyprus is a truly beautiful Mediterranean island and has long been a highly desirable touristic and holiday location. However, some investors may wish to use their Cyprus citizenship and passports to live in a more business orientated country like Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium or France, and as an EU passport holder they will be perfectly entitled to do that.

The Cyprus passport has visa-free access to 159 countries.

 

Bulgaria (Immigrant Investor Program)

Like neighbors Hungary, Bulgaria does not have a CBI program, but what it does have is in it extremely competent “Immigrant Investor Program” which gives foreign investors from outside the EU the option of permanent Bulgarian residence, and the full EU citizenship after five years.

An investor is required to purchase €512,000 (BGN 1 million) in Bulgarian Government bonds, which must be retained for a period of five years in order to maintain the investor’s Bulgarian residency. After the completion of five years, the value of the bonds will be returned to the investor with 0% added interest, but the investor is then eligible to apply for full Bulgarian citizenship.

As with the Hungarian residency program, the Bulgarian Immigrant Investor program is one year faster than the majority of EU investor visa programs.

The Bulgarian passport has visa-free access to 153 countries.

 

Malta (Citizenship by Investment Program)

Some experts rate Malta’s CBI program as quite simply the best citizenship/residency package on the market, even above Austria. At an overall cost of €1.2 million, it is certainly not the cheapest but the fact that it grants EU citizenship and passport in a matter of months for what is to many high net worth individuals  an affordable – and refundable – amount makes it extremely worthwhile.

Officially known as both the Malta Individual Investor Program (IIP) and as the Malta Golden Passport, the program was established in 2014 and has proved to be a great success. Figures show that Malta’s CBI program brings more money to the country annually than is granted by the EU, and thanks to the amount of resulting property purchases, the Maltese construction industry is booming.

Foreign investors looking to partake in Malta’s CBI program must purchase real estate in Malta worth at least €350,000, make a financial contribution of €650,000 to the Maltese National Development and Social Fund, and make a €150,000 investment in Maltese bonds and stocks, and these must be held for a minimum of five years.  With additional costs the total outlay will be around €1.2 million. Citizenship is granted within twelve months of the investor being accepted onto the program.

An investor can include their spouse and family members on their application without extra charge. As well as being free to live and work without time restrictions in any EU country thanks to their European Union membership, Maltese citizens are also members of the British Commonwealth, which could prove crucial when wishing to enter a post Brexit UK.

The Maltese passport has visa-free access to 168 countries worldwide.

 

Portugal (Golden Visa Residency Permit Program)

Since its inauguration in 2012, the Portuguese Golden Visa program has been the most successful citizenship/residency program in Europe, with tens of thousands of applicants, and more than 4,500 programs sold. Interestingly at a time when China are investing massively in Portugal and indeed pumping more billions into that nation’s infrastructure than they are any other country in the world, almost 80% of Portuguese Golden visa programs have been purchased by Chinese investors.

Clearly the Chinese have fallen in love with Portugal, and it’s not hard to see why. This beautiful country enjoys more hours of sunshine than any of the European nation, while crucially its Atlantic coastline guarantees that it doesn’t suffer from the same unbearably hot summers that neighbors Spain do.

Foreign investors looking to partake in Portugal’s Golden Visa program will need to invest €500,000 into a Portuguese real estate development. After five years of residency, an investor can apply to become a permanent resident, and from that position move for full Portuguese citizenship. In marked contrast, Iberian neighbors Spain require ten years of residency and do not accept dual nationality.

The Portuguese passport has visa free access to 172 countries worldwide.

 

2ndPassports.com

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