CEOs: How to Pick your Second Passport?

The number of countries offering citizenship by investment programmes has been growing at a fast pace in the past few years. This has to do with many nations looking at foreign investors to help them recover from the recession, but also with the demand for second citizenship coming from said investors.

Business traveller holding passport

If you are looking to acquire a second citizenship, you’ll know this can help expand your business by allowing you to travel visa-free to many countries, or to benefit from their financial policies.

Deciding which programme would be the wisest investment is, however, not a straightforward process: before you make your investment in the country of your choice, consider these points and make sure your choice is the best fit for you.

Consider the value for money of each citizenship by investment programme

It is true, in general, that the required investment for this type of programme should be a guiding factor in your choice. Of course this refers to what you can afford, but also to what you get for your money – for example the likely return on your investment or the perks you’ll receive in visa-free travel.

One of the most cost-effective programmes is Dominica’s citizenship by investment programme, which requires a USD 100,000 donation to a government fund or a real estate investment of USD 200,000. Apart from allowing applicants to invest in real estate, it grants visa-free access to 115 countries.

The most expensive programme is Austria’s rather unofficial and secretive investment programme to citizenship. While it is often considered valuable thanks to its huge visa-free travel potential and position in the EU, applicants must make an investment or donation to a social project, for a minimum of EUR 10 million. After that, you have to hope to be rewarded with citizenship for “extraordinary merit.”

Think about how quickly you will get your citizenship

Not all programmes offer immediate citizenship following the investment. If you plan on making a long-term investment, or moving to a foreign country as well as becoming a citizen, you might find that some programmes fit your needs better than others.

Portugal asks for an upfront investment of EUR 500,000 to get temporary residence, and an applicant can request permanent residence after five years and citizenship after six if you speak Portuguese.

On the other hand, many Caribbean islands offer you citizenship as soon as your application is accepted. You can become a citizen of Grenada with a USD 200,000 contribution to the National Transformation Fund or a USD 350,000 real estate investment.

Visa-free travel has a huge value for business

Countries have different agreements regarding travel. The quality of a citizenship investment depends greatly on what international doors it will open.

The debate is currently ongoing as to whether it is best to obtain visa-free travel to Europe and the Americas, or to emerging markets, such as those of Asia.

Depending on your business, you might prefer a document that gives you easier access to, for example, Russia, who introduced a citizenship by investment programme in 2014.

You have to consider that some countries do not allow their citizens to have dual nationality, so you might lose the perks of one passport to have those of another.

Some citizenship by investment programmes give you a financial return

While it is more than likely that having a second citizenship will expand your business opportunities, some citizenship by investment programmes can themselves bring significant returns.

Several programmes ask for a donation in exchange for your new citizenship: an example of this is the St Kitts and Nevis programme, which requires a non-refundable donation to the St Kitts and Nevis Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation. While this option does not yield a personal return, it can significantly boost the local economy, resulting in an indirect benefit to the investor.

Another way to capitalize on your new citizenship is to choose a real estate investment: this is available in most Caribbean islands, and you will get a holiday home (and a possible retirement plan) together with your citizenship perks. The Caribbean islands require investors to hold the real estate for 3 or 5 years- a much more flexible rule than that of certain European jurisdictions. For example, Cyprus requires applicants to hold real estate indefinitely.

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