Revealed – where are the best locations for Golden Visa investments?

4 September 2020 | Investment

New research has revealed the best nations to invest in for both citizenship and residency where the bonus of visa-free travel is concerned.  

UK citizenship will grant you visa-free access to 185 other countries, but it requires a minimum investment of £2 million, and you can only gain citizenship some five to six years after having residency status.

Nevertheless, some other nations can open investors up to a world of visa-free travel, by merely gaining residency by investment or moving straight to citizenship by investment.

Astons, experts in alternative residency and citizenship acquisition, found that Austria is the best investment option for the most abundant level of visa-free travel.

Although it can take two to three years to secure citizenship at a minimum investment of £2.7 million, investors aren’t required to hold residency before gaining citizenship. Once they do hold citizenship, they can access 187 other nations completely visa-free.

The findings also showed that Malta makes for one of the best investment options for visa-free travel, if not better than Austria. With a minimum investment of just over £1 million and investors able to gain citizenship through investment in only 14 months, the nation also provides visa-free travel to 184 other countries.  

Gaining citizenship with Cyprus (174 countries) and Bulgaria (171 countries) also opens up a great deal of visa-free travel, the research showed, while Saint Kitts and Nevis is the best Caribbean citizenship in this respect.

Citizenship for the Caribbean nation not only enables visa-free travel to 156 other countries, but it takes 53 days on average to secure and for a minimum investment of just £114,000. 

While nine other nations allow for direct citizenship through investment and access to between 51-151 additional nations visa-free, the alternative is to gain residency via investment in a nation that falls within the Schengen Area.  

The Schengen Area is a zone of 26 European nations that have abolished their internal borders with each other to allow for free and unrestricted movement. Even before Brexit, the UK was never part of the Schengen Area – it has an opt-out and never signed the Schengen Agreement, which was originally ratified in 1985 by only five members of what was then known as the European Economic Community.

By gaining residency via investment within one of the 26 nations included in Schengen (22 EU nations and four non-EU nations), it allows investors visa-free travel across 26 countries, except for Jersey (4) and Ireland (1).

Arthur Sarkisian, managing director of Astons, said: “There are numerous reasons that someone might look to gain citizenship through investment. However, the ability to travel to over 180 countries without requiring a visa is undoubtedly up there as one of the most attractive.”

He added: “We’ve seen this ability to travel unrestricted grow in popularity over recent months for those looking to escape life and the current restrictions imposed due to Covid-19.”

“Of course, in normal circumstances, the primary benefit is being able to travel for business without the need to deal with the red tape of visa requirements. Unfortunately, this activity has been dampened by the current landscape,” Sarkisian continued.

“Regardless, visa-free travel remains a strong pull for those looking to gain citizenship through investment and depending on individual requirements there are plenty of options that can provide this benefit at a range of investment levels and timeframes.”

The table at the bottom of this article outlines in full the various investment/residency options on offer from a host of EU and non-EU nations.

The most popular Golden Visa investment destinations for Brits

Golden Visas in some of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations such as Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain – which are open only to non-EU nationals – will soon be on offer to British investors once the transition period ends and Brits are no longer counted as EU citizens.

There’s been something of a grey area since the UK officially left the EU at the beginning of this year – and entered the 11 month-long transition period, during which the UK has no longer been a member but has remained bound to the EU’s rules, and part of both the EU customs union and the single market. During this time, with Brits technically no longer EU citizens but still effectively part of the club, have UK residents been eligible for Golden Visas?

It’s not been abundantly clear, but from January 1 2021 they definitely will be. The nuances and intricacies vary, but a Golden Visa is effectively a permanent residency visa issued to individuals who invest, often through the purchase of property, a certain sum of money into the issuing country.

Two of the most popular schemes are in Greece and Portugal, countries which used the initiative to encourage investment – and kickstart their economies – in light of the financial meltdowns they endured in the years after the global financial crisis.

Portugal’s Golden Visa programme, launched in 2012, has proven to be one of Europe’s most popular, with investors attracted to its flexibility and benefits.

The investor visa scheme, which has been actively promoted internationally by the Portuguese government, typically requires an investment of €500,000 (or €350,000 reduced option) in real estate in Portugal, which will gain a residency permit for a family including dependent children. The golden visa can be renewed every two years providing the applicant spends two weeks in the country every two years. You can find out more here.

In Greece, meanwhile, the Golden Visa programme launched in July 2013 and grants a five year residency visa in return for an investment in real estate. There is no minimum stay requirement and children up to the age of 21 are included in the family application.

The visa is granted for five years and renewed every five years if the property investment is retained, but it is not necessary to live in the country to retain and renew the investor visa. Citizenship, though, can only be granted after seven years of residency. More information can be found here.

Spain also launched its Golden Visa in 2013, with an investment of €500,000 in real estate gaining family residency. It can be renewed every two years and, after five years, it is possible to gain permanent residency. After ten years, citizenship is on offer. Investors are not required to reside in Spain in order to retain and renew the residency visa permit.

Lastly, Cyprus offers two Golden Visa schemes through real estate investment – one for permanent residency and one for citizenship. The two Cypriot immigration investment schemes are fast and efficient at granting a residency permit and second passport. You can discover more here.

Nation

Scheme

Type

Timeframe and info

Minimum investment (GBP)

Visa-free access number of countries

Austria

Citizenship by investment

European citizenship

2-3 years

£2,704,787

187

Malta

Citizenship by investment

European citizenship

14 months

£1,036,835

184

Cyprus

Citizenship by investment

European citizenship

6 months

£1,938,431

174

Bulgaria

Citizenship by investment

European citizenship

2 years

£461,617

171

Saint Kitts & Nevis

Citizenship by investment

Caribbean citizenship

45-60 days

£114,227

156

Antigua and Barbuda

Citizenship by investment

Caribbean citizenship

3-6 months

£76,152

151

Saint Lucia

Citizenship by investment

Caribbean citizenship

3-4 months

£76,152

146

Grenada

Citizenship by investment

Caribbean citizenship

3-4 months

£114,227

143

Dominica

Citizenship by investment

Caribbean citizenship

2-3 months

£76,152

140

Vanuatu

Citizenship by investment

Oceania / South Pacific citizenship

1 month

£98,997

130

Montenegro

Citizenship by investment

European citizenship

3 months

£315,558

124

Turkey

Citizenship by investment

Other citizenship

2 months

£190,379

111

Cambodia

Citizenship by investment

Other citizenship

3-6 months

£184,913

54

Jordan

Citizenship by investment

Other citizenship

2-3 months

£761,515

51

Latvia

Residency by investment

EU residency

3 months

£225,399

26

Italy

Residency by investment

EU residency

citizenship after 10 years of residency

£225,399

26

Austria

Residency by investment

EU residency

citizenship 6-10 years after residency

£36,064

26

Switzerland

Residency by investment

Residency

2-6 months

£167,173

26

Greece

Residency by investment

EU residency

2 months

£225,399

26

Portugal

Residency by investment

EU residency

3 months

£252,447

26

Malta

Residency by investment

EU residency

4 months

£297,526

26

Spain

Residency by investment

EU residency

2 months

£450,798

26

Monaco

Residency by investment

EU residency

2-6 months

£901,596

26

Jersey

Residency by investment

EU residency

2 months

£1,125,000

4

Ireland

Residency by investment

EU residency

2 months

£450,798

1

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–> This post has originally been featured in Property Investor Today.