Last updated: August 20, 2020
Dateline: Andorra la Vella, Andorra
Let’s get one thing clear from the very beginning: there is no #1 citizenship by investment (CBI) program.
It’s never that simple.
However, most people trying to sell you a passport will make it seem so. What they sell will always be ‘the best’ even though they know next to nothing about you and your individual needs.
When a client comes to us for help, that’s always where we start: their needs and wants. For example, where do you bank and hold your investments? What passports do you currently have and which ones would you like to have?
These, and many other, questions need to be fully taken into consideration to determine the best citizenship by investment program for you.
And, with a dozen citizenship programs currently available to investors, it can be a real headache to figure it out all by yourself.
What makes it an especially hard decision now is that you can buy many of those passports on sale. In the face of a global pandemic, CBI countries have lowered their prices or even launched special deals to claim the cheapest citizenship by investment program title.
In this article, we’ll walk you through each available citizenship by investment program in 2020 and look at how you can evaluate the relative quality and utility of each program and its accompanying passport.
We’ll address the following:
What Is Citizenship by Investment?
It would take you at least 20 years to get citizenship in a country like Andorra. Obtaining residency is relatively straightforward, but naturalization is extremely tough to come by.
In fact, it’s one of the longest naturalization timelines on earth.
Spain isn’t much better. The timeline on paper is ten years, but realistically, you’ll need to add four more for bureaucracy.
Long naturalization timelines, language tests, physical residence requirements, taxes, fickle governments, never-ending bureaucracy…
If you want to bypass all this and secure yourself a second passport in as little time as possible, you’ll need a citizenship by investment program.
What is citizenship by investment? The answer is in the name: citizenship you obtain by making an investment.
In more official terms, citizenship by investment is a process whereby wealthy individuals can obtain a second citizenship in a matter of months in exchange for an investment in or donation made to the country in question.
Unlike the other methods for obtaining citizenship – birth, naturalization, marriage, and descent – citizenship by investment operates like a business transaction.
You make the investment and they grant you citizenship.
Due to the purely economic nature of this transaction, you may have heard people refer to this as an ‘economic citizenship,’ or they simply throw around the idea of ‘buying a passport.’
That’s citizenship by investment.
If this all sounds like rocket science to you, check out our citizenship by investment page where we give you a beginner’s crash course on all things citizenship by investment.
But for an overview of all CBI programs, read on.
The 12 Citizenship by Investment Programs Available Now
You couldn’t always buy a passport. Before 1984 when St. Kitts and Nevis introduced its citizenship by investment program, economic citizenship did not exist.
But once the idea was out there, other countries followed suit with Dominica and Belize creating programs in the early 1990s and – for a brief time in the late 90s – Grenada, Peru, and Ireland too.
After 9/11, though, only Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis stuck around. Fast forward another decade, however, and things began to change once again. There was almost a new program every year – Cyprus, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, the programs began to roll out.
Since I first wrote this article, there has been a huge proliferation of citizenship by investment programs around the world and, in 2020, there are 12 programs currently available:
Shortcut: The Best Citizenship by Investment Program
If you don’t want to get into the full detail of each of these programs and want a little shortcut, we’ve got you covered.
Do note that this is generalized advice and might not necessarily fit your personal situation. For a bespoke plan, apply for a consultation.
Best EU Living & Working
What Makes a Citizenship ‘the Best’?
We won’t be giving you a ranking system that you can skim over and then pick the number one option merely because it’s at the top of the list.
That’s not a good way to pick anything in life – and especially not a second passport by investment.
It’s not the specifics of any one program that matter the most when determining whether it’s the best citizenship by investment program.
Remember what we said about individual needs and wants? Well, this is where it comes into play.
YOU are the most important piece of the ‘best citizenship by investment’ puzzle.
I am a practitioner, not a theorist. And as perhaps the only person who covers the second citizenship scene to have personally been through four citizenship by investment programs, I am uniquely qualified to speak on this subject.
And what I have learned from obtaining multiple citizenships by investment – for both myself and hundreds of clients – is that what is best for me will not necessarily be the best choice for someone else.
Here are just a few of the factors you should take into consideration:
• What are your needs and desires?
• Where do you bank?
• Where do you do business?
• Where are your investments?
• What are your lifestyle goals?
• Where do you want to travel?
• Where do you want to live?
• What passports do you currently have?
• What passports do you expect to get?
It is crucial that you ask yourself these questions and more because a passport is only one element of a holistic offshore plan.
Now, keeping your needs and wants in mind, let’s get into the detail of each of the dozen CBI programs.
Citizenship by Investment Case Studies
We recently had a client who was engaged in a civil lawsuit, making it less likely that a Caribbean country would accept him. So, we helped him apply in a country that was more open to someone in his situation.
Solution: CBI in Vanuatu
Citizenship by Investment Case Studies
A gentleman came to us and said his number one priority was to replace his passport with another Tier A passport before he renounced his US citizenship. He had over $100 million and was willing to pay $800,000 to get European citizenship immediately
Solution: Citizenship by investment in Malta
Citizenship by Investment Case Studies
A Russian couple applied for our help. They wanted visa-free access to several countries in Latin America.
Solution: Citizenship by investment in St. Lucia
Citizenship by Investment Countries
Each country that offers citizenship by investment has a clearly outlined program that has been authorized by its government.
These programs streamline the application process, provide a straightforward path to citizenship in a matter of months, and are open to (almost) anyone with a clean criminal record.
The requisites for each citizenship by investment program vary widely – you can spend $1 million or you can spend $100,000. Either way, you’ll receive a second passport out of the deal.
So, we’ve lumped the programs based on their geographic region. Let’s start with Europe.
European Citizenship by Investment Programs
There are three or four citizenship programs in Europe, depending on who you ask.
For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to consider three citizenship by investment programs to be European: Malta, Montenegro, and Turkey (Cyprus canceled its program on November 1, 2020).
For those who want the best of the best and are willing to do proper tax planning, Malta is located within the European Union, granting the added bonus of EU citizenship alongside the sovereign nation citizenship.
Montenegro is due to join the European Union soon, whereas a part of Turkey also has such plans, though they are much more distant than those of Montenegro.
Unlike Malta’s straightforward residence options (especially the Global Resident Programme), Malta’s citizenship by investment program is rather complex.
Despite this, Malta has the world’s most aspirational citizenship by investment program. It is the only program of its nature that grants access to both the European Union and the borderless Schengen Area.
It’s also the only passport that offers visa-free access to all six big English-speaking countries, including the United States.
Before Cypus’ program was shut down, Malta was still a better deal than Cyprus for many people because of this, particularly if they would rather donate a much lesser amount and invest the difference elsewhere.
Malta is the ultimate example of ‘you get what you pay for’ as it comes with a lot of great benefits. But it does not come cheap.
There are several different components to Maltese citizenship by investment. The first one is the classic donation, which is currently €650,000. Not exactly chump change.
From there, you can add on various dependents. Your spouse and children require an additional €25,000 donation per person. Adult children up to 25 years old and dependent parents may be added with a donation of €50,000 per person.
The government uses your donation to build up the country by investing the funds in various projects around Malta that help the citizenry, so you can feel good about your donation.
But that’s at least €650,000 that you’re not going to get back. So, make sure you’re willing to part with a high six-figure amount before applying for this program.
The second component is to make two separate investments. First, you’ll need to invest €150,000 in zero-coupon government bonds for five years. You will get the money back after those five years, so you’re not losing anything, but there’s certainly an opportunity cost involved.
Malta requires a second investment – a home – as proof of an established connection to Malta. To do this, you can either buy a property that is worth €350,000 or more (an actual investment) or enter a five-year lease that is worth at least €16,000 per year, bringing the total five-year amount to €80,000.
If you go the rental route, although it is a much lower amount, this is money you won’t be getting back.
The final component does not involve money as much as it involves time. Unlike the citizenship programs in Vanuatu and the Caribbean that don’t care if you ever show up, Malta needs you to put in time on the ground to show proof of connection to the country.
You’ll need to spend a good portion of your first twelve months of residence in Malta. Because of this residence requirement, it takes approximately 15 months to obtain citizenship by investment in the country, the longest timeline of any CBI program.
The long timeline and complex requirements reflect the fact that – thanks to benefits like EU membership, Schengen access, and US visa-waiver privileges – Malta has more organizations to appease. This, in turn, means you must prove a legitimate connection to the country.
Update September 2020: Malta’s program is reaching its cap of 1800 applicants, at which time the program will be renewed but with more stringent (and expensive) requirements. All applications submitted before September 30, 2020 will qualify for the prices listed above. All future applicants will be subject to new requirements.
While nothing is confirmed, the donation is expected to increase to at least €750,000, residence requirements will likely go up, there will be a new €10,000 contribution to charity, and the real estate investment is expected to double while the annual rental expense will only increase by €2,000 bringing the total five-year rental cost to €90,000.
VERDICT: Malta has a great passport and gives you a lot of privileges, but that also means there are more strings attached. If you can comfortably kiss €650,000 goodbye, this is a great program that covers all the bases. But if you are a six-, seven-, or eight-figure global citizen running a business, you might be better off going somewhere else, saving a lot of your money, and simply getting the few extra things that Malta could give you elsewhere.
Learn more about Malta’s citizenship by investment program here.
Update 2020 – Due to the questionable actions of certain government officials in Cyprus, the Cypriot citizenship by investment program has been shut down as of November 1, 2020.
Just last year, the tiny but beautiful European nation rolled out a new citizenship by investment program.
Montenegro had a short-lived CBI program in the early 2000s and the government deliberated a long time before they brought it back, but they finally put the program back on the map.
What does it involve?
Montenegro followed Malta’s example and created a hybrid system that requires a donation and an investment. After you make the donation of €100,000, you will need to make an investment in government-approved real estate in one of two tiers.
If you purchase real estate in the less-populated skiing and agricultural regions in the north, you must invest at least €250,000. If you purchase property in the more popular coastal area, the investment requirement goes up to €450,000.
Here at Nomad Capitalist, we’re always wary of government-approved real estate investments as they tend to be overpriced. The difference in Montenegro is that, unlike many of the Caribbean nations, it is not as costly to get building materials to the country.
Even so, you still have to buy what has been approved by the government; you can’t go out and find the real deals. We’ll have to see how this plays out as the program matures and more real estate developments are approved.
Now, considering the price tag, what are the benefits of Montenegrin citizenship?
The first is the prospect of EU ascension. Montenegro is at the top of the list of EU candidate countries. The less scrupulous people in the citizenship industry often say, “It’s imminent! It’s guaranteed! It’s just a matter of time!”
If you want an EU passport, you are taking a bet by choosing Montenegro over the programs that really are guaranteed, like Malta. If you’re willing to pay a higher price for an assumption, then by all means.
Quite frankly, we would prefer Montenegro never join the EU and remain an independent country. For one, Montenegro has very low tax rates – some of the lowest in Europe at just 9% – and we can only imagine that would come under some scrutiny if they were to join the EU.
Montenegro’s passport also brings several benefits to the table. It will give you access to all of Europe, as well as visa-free access to the difficult-to-obtain Macedonia, plus the UAE.
Additionally, Montenegro is also one of only five current CBI programs that offers visa-free access to Russia.
You won’t, however, get visa-free access to the UK, Ireland, the US and a few rather important countries. So, if traveling to those countries is important to you and you plan to make Montenegro your main passport, keep that in mind.
Overall, we like Montenegro… as a country. It is a tax-friendly place where it’s easy to do business and Andrew personally enjoys spending his summers there.
Yet, since it’s quite a new CBI program, it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.
VERDICT: If you’re looking to purchase real estate to use as a summer home, Montenegro could be a good alternative passport to pick up alongside your investment. That is, as long as you’re willing to pay a bit of a premium to buy the government-approved real estate and toss in a donation. It’s also a good option if you’re interested in doing business in the UAE or Russia.
Learn more about Montenegro’s citizenship by investment program here.
Ok, some might say that Turkey isn’t fully European, but we decided we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
It won’t give you the Schengen access or the right to live in the European Union, but it’s standard of living, especially in Istanbul, is similar to Europe.
In January 2017, Turkey introduced an economic citizenship program in an effort to prop up their beleaguered economy. This was shortly after the Turkish lira plunged to an all-time low against the US dollar and ongoing acts of terrorism had driven Istanbul real estate sales to fresh lows.
In an effort to woo investors again, Turkey’s government decided to offer citizenship to investors to the tune of $1 million.
However, it didn’t take long for Turkey to lower their requirements. Today, you can invest the Turkish lira equivalent of $250,000 into real estate – and hold it for three years – to become Turkish in a matter of months.
The process can be a bit complicated because all properties need to be purchased on the same day and titled in the same office, meaning you can’t score a cheap Istanbul apartment and tack on a beach house in Antalya to qualify.
You’re also at the mercy of the lira exchange rate on the day of the sale, as well as an appraisal that may not value cheap resale properties (the kind that make good investments) as highly as new construction.
While you can technically buy any real estate you want, you still need to have a plan.
If you prefer to deposit money in the bank instead, you may deposit $500,000 for three years in a bank. You can also invest the same $500,000 amount in a working company as venture funding or in bonds.
Or, if you would rather skip the investment amount altogether, you can also hire fifty Turkish citizens to qualify.
We were clear from the beginning that this program targeted mostly Arabs seeking an Islamic safe haven, but the price reduction has certainly made it interesting to more people.
While there is mandatory military service in Turkey, it won’t affect you unless you’re really young or plan to pass citizenship to your future children.
VERDICT: Turkey’s program is interesting in that you stand a decent chance to get your money back and even turn a profit on its economic citizenship offering. Its relatively low minimum investment, as well as easy access to the USA and the UK, make it a decent addition to a passport portfolio (something we help people create). Yet, we still think it’s not solid enough to stand on its own as a replacement for a Tier A passport.
Learn more about Turkey’s citizenship by investment program here.
Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Programs
Now, let’s move out of Europe and into the Americas, namely the Caribbean.
The Caribbean is home to five citizenship programs, including the oldest such program in the world. It is also the first thing people think about when they think “citizenship by investment”, since non-Caribbean options are all relatively new.
If you’re a western citizen, the deep discount of Caribbean programs over European Union citizenship programs can be quite appealing.
While many Chinese, Arabs, Russians, and Indians may prefer an EU passport, westerners realize that “Tier B” passports (with good, but not great, travel privileges) are the wave of the future and not only cost less but do not come without the baggage of a crumbling bloc of mostly socialist countries.
There has been immense competition among the Caribbean CBI programs this year, since the global COVID-19 epidemic grounded most of the world’s planes and left the tourism-dependent islands stranded and yearning for cash.
As a result, most of the Caribbean passports are now deeply discounted. Take your pick.
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts and Nevis runs the original economic passport program, in operation since 1984. Other Caribbean programs have copied it, and the program has enjoyed a lot of success up until now.
The two-island nation likes to refer to itself as the “platinum” citizenship program in the region.
The requirements have always been simple: you can donate money to a government development fund, or you can buy “approved” real estate. The donation is almost always the better option as the real estate is vastly overpriced and, as some of our clients have told me, not even nice.
Until recently, the donation option started at $250,000 and went up from there. Then hurricanes hit in 2017 and St. Kitts rolled out a controversial Hurricane Relief Fund which slashed the price to $150,000 for a single applicant.
The Hurricane Relief Fund is no longer available but the lower price remained.
And now that the coronavirus pandemic has taken over the world and impacted the economy of the island, St. Kitts has created a limited-time offer of $150,000 for a family of four. Each additional family member will cost you $10,000.
You have until the end of 2020 to apply. After that, the price for a family of four will revert to the original $195,000. The price of $150,000 for single applicants has remained the same.
Meanwhile, if you’d rather invest in real estate, the minimum investment sum is $200,000, and there are many providers ready to sell you everything from a shack to a timeshare in a five-star hotel. You can technically resell your investment in several years, but you likely won’t get your money back. Plus, the real estate option involves extra government fees.
St. Kitts has a few perks: it offers a rush option to get approval within 45 days if you have a valid reason to request such a thing, and as of recently it offers visa-free travel to Russia.
VERDICT: St. Kitts and Nevis used to be the only game in town, but it has lost its luster since losing visa-free access to Canada in 2014. They’ve taken efforts to correct their pricing due to recent price wars, but it’s still intentionally overpriced. That said, if you’re looking for the oldest-running program that has heritage and stability, this could be a good program to go for.
Learn more about St. Kitts and Nevis’ citizenship by investment here.
Dominica started its program back in the 1990s and has earned itself the title of offering the best value passport out there.
Dominica was the lowest-priced passport “for sale” on earth ever since Belize ended its $40,000 program years ago.
There isn’t much to the program, really. You make a donation (and now, more recently, you can also invest in real estate) and they’ll give you a passport in just 2-3 short months. Simple as that.
Coming in at $100,000, Dominica now has competition at this price point for solo applicants, but unlike other CBI programs, it does have a longer track record of being in operation to show for itself.
Plus, it is award-winning. The Dominica program was recognized as the best in the world by the Financial Times’ Professional Wealth Management magazine that regularly published a CBI index.
But don’t forget what we said in the beginning of this article – there is no universal “best citizenship by investment” program – only the one that is the best for YOU.
So, how could Dominica sway you in 2020?
Like its Caribbean counterparts, Dominica has announced a slew of post-covid changes that make it more appealing to foreign investors.
It will be especially interesting if you have a large and extended family that you might want to add to your citizenship application.
Here’s who is eligible to get a Dominican citizenship now:
• Adult siblings (biological or adopted; must be single and childless)
• Adult children (don’t need to be studying or living with parents)
• Financially dependent parents and grandparents of both the main applicant and spouse (don’t need to be living with main applicant)
• Children born and spouses married after the applicant has received citizenship
That’s a set of really flexible rules. Plus, Dominica has also lowered its prices for all family sizes:
• Single applicants will continue paying $100,000
• Married couples will pay $150,000 (down from $175,000)
• A family of 4 will pay $175,000 (down from $200,000)
• Additional dependents will still cost $25,000 per person, and adult siblings $50,000
Don’t forget that Dominica has additional fees that apply when one chooses the donation investment route.
VERDICT: If you’re seeking a “budget passport”, Dominica is one of the best value citizenship by investment options in the region. It’s definitely worth considering, even though it’s no longer the only game in town. One of its main pros is access to the UK and Ireland, which its historical ties to these islands grant it. This is a middle-of-the-road passport with decent travel privileges.
Learn more about Dominica’s citizenship by investment program here.
Grenada used to have a citizenship program but canceled it.
One unconfirmed report indicated that the government had to be bullied into re-issuing economic citizens’ passports after they expired five years later.
Now, Grenada is back.
Grenada’s most interesting features are visa-free access to Russia and China, as well as being the only Caribbean CBI to be part of the United States E-2 treaty program.
Basically, it offers a simplified procedure to live part-time in the US as a business owner, and that makes it rather attractive to many people.
Grenada allows you to make a (newly reduced) donation of $150,000 for a single person or $200,000 for a married couple in exchange for citizenship.
You can also buy $350,000 worth of approved real estate, of which there are actually a few interesting options that effectively serve as zero-coupon bonds.
When you buy a Grenadian passport, you’ll definitely be paying a premium.
All in all, Grenada isn’t the most affordable citizenship by investment program out there. It also won’t give you the best visa-free access out of all the CBIs in the Caribbean.
However, access to China, Russia, and the USA could make the higher price tag worth it depending on your needs. It’s also got a flawless reputation on the investment immigration scene and fully-digital processing of all paperwork, which is especially important when a global pandemic is going on.
VERDICT: Grenada does charge a premium, but you may find the extra investment worth it for access to China, Russia, and the United States. However, we would suggest that anyone getting an economic citizenship consider getting a “real” second passport as well, and that other passport might also offer those benefits, thus making Grenada redundant.
Learn more about Grenada’s citizenship by investment program here.
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua started its citizenship program in 2012 with a unique requirement: citizens must live there for 35 days out of the first five years.
That requirement isn’t exactly tough, as you could knock it out with a month-long vacation to celebrate your new passport, but it is a requirement nonetheless.
We do think this will be a trend among CBI countries, although it must be said that Antigua has since reduced the requirement to a mere five days.
Antigua’s investment options are pretty standard fare for Caribbean passports and range from a $100,000 donation to the government (including a University Fund), a $400,000 real estate investment, or a $400,000 business investment (if made with a group of other applicants investing at least $5 million collectively.)
The business investment isn’t a “come and run your own business” scenario. This is a “we have businesses run by locals, give them $400,000” type of investment. So, if you feel comfortable doing that, you can obtain your passport this way.
For a limited time, Antigua and Barbuda is running a special discounted offer for its passports, due to Covid-19, of course.
Until the 31st of October, 2020, you can:
• Add a child (0-5 years old) to your application for $10,000 (discounted from $25,000)
• Add a child (6-17 years old) to your application for $20,000 (discounted from $25,000)
It might not seem like it’s much, but more significant discounts are to be had if you invest in the University of the West Indies Fund and have a large family that you wish to get citizenship for too.
Pre-covid, your total outlay for a citizenship for six people would’ve been $185,000. Now, it’s $150,000. This was done by waiving the government processing fees for the University Fund option.
VERDICT: All in all, Antigua and Barbuda offers an interesting passport program (we’d give it a B+) with several investment options, but it has been leveled by also losing visa-free access to Canada (just as St. Kitts did earlier). Antigua is the only Caribbean CBI to offer visa-free travel to South Africa, but that’s about it. Sure, Antigua and Barbuda offers more options for investing, but it really depends on whether you’re single, married, or have a family to determine whether Antigua delivers the best value for you.
Learn more about Antigua and Barbuda’s citizenship by investment program here.
There is certainly something special about this place, which has given the world not one, but two Nobel prize winners.
St. Lucia is one of the newest citizenship programs in the Caribbean, launched in 2016.
In the beginning, their requirements were a bit more stringent. While St. Lucia originally required you to have a net worth of at least $3 million, they dropped that requirement in 2017.
They also dropped the required donation for citizenship significantly, with the donation option now costing a mere $100,000 – the same as Dominica.
It’s also got a solid reputation. Some might say it’s a more ‘western’ passport than the other Caribbean ones because the country hasn’t cozied up with Russia or China.
It has also not taken the neutral, middle-of-the-road approach to its partnerships nor to its applicants. It does reject applicants and it has proven that it’s capable of revoking citizenships (unlike Cyprus).
And that’s not something to be scared of. The St. Lucian government knows what it stands for and is unafraid to do so – that’s an admirable quality.
And as of 2020, St. Lucia launched special pricing to gather up the investment dollars to help the country recover post-pandemic.
St. Lucia took a different route than other Caribbean CBIs. Instead of lowering its already low price, it has reduced the prices of the government bonds investment option – a less risky investment in a risk-averse world.
So, its passport applicants can take advantage of the following prices:
• A solo applicant can invest $250,000 for 5 years (price reduced from $500,000).
• A couple can invest $250,000 for 6 years (price reduced from $535,000; duration increased by 1 year)
• A family of four can invest $300,000 for 5 years (price reduced from $550,000).
• A family of 4 can also invest just $250,000 for 7 years (price reduced from $550,000; duration increased by 2 years).
• Each additional dependent can be added for $15,000 (price reduced from $25,000).
VERDICT: Now that St. Lucia has reduced its donation to a mere $100,000 (and has launched special 2020 pricing for government bonds), it’s a worthy competitor to Dominica for value-conscious westerners who want a passport further off the radar for its economic citizenship program. If you have a (large) family, other countries will work better for you, but Saint Lucia is one of the best CBI programs for solo applicants. Definitely worth considering.
Learn more about St. Lucia’s citizenship by investment program here.
Other Citizenship Programs
Finally, there are three programs that offer a passport in exchange for investment. Not all three are worth it
In fact, only Vanuatu – a tiny island in the Pacific – is actually worthy of a mention.
Meanwhile, Egypt and Jordan, which technically have citizenship by investment programs, are never the options that we would recommend to our clients. There are simply better options for all case scenarios.
While there have been rumors of economic passport programs popping up in random Pacific islands over the years, there is currently only one offering passports by investment – Vanuatu.
It’s almost a shame to lump Vanuatu under ‘Other RBI programs, but it’s not just its location that makes it obscure. This program is quite complex and difficult to unravel, without an official website and government officials that sometimes say conflicting things.
There are various donation options and even the most seasoned of expats with their ear to the ground don’t really understand how they work.
Basically, you can expect to spend about $130,000 when you count the government donation and agent fees payable to a local in-Vanuatu.
Vanuatu’s passport is one of several economic citizenships that offer visa-free travel to Russia. It also offers the standard access to the United Kingdom, Ireland, and, more recently, Europe.
However, it is not good for travel to most of the Americas or even Australia in its own backyard.
The biggest challenge for Vanuatu is its ever-changing requirements and unclear policies on what is essentially an honorary citizenship.
Nonetheless, we’ve helped a handful of clients navigate its labyrinthine rules and obtain the passport. And they’ve loved the remoteness and the privacy that Vanuatu has been able to give them.
VERDICT: We like Vanuatu and see potential for tax-free residency seekers, but the passport program is overpriced and too confusing. It’s recently taken solid steps in straightening out the program and making it more understandable to foreign investors, so it might still appeal to certain investors. Actually, the lure of being isolated geographically and hence different from Caribbean programs could be a game-changer for some.
Learn more about Vanuatu’s citizenship by investment program here.
Who Might Need Citizenship by Investment?
These so-called economic citizenships are largely valuable to three types of people.
1. US Citizens
US citizens who wish to quickly renounce their citizenship may benefit from pursuing a second citizenship by investment.
Pragmatically, renunciation requires a second passport, and if you’re a high-earner, the cost of an economic citizenship might be far less than the tax and compliance costs of remaining American, particularly as tax laws have become even worse for foreign business owners under Trump Tax Reform.
In many cases, we’ll often tell our client to get a cheaper economic citizenship and pair it with a European Golden Visa. This would allow them to work toward a Tier A citizenship via naturalization in a few years while also having a desirable residence permit somewhere like the European Union.
2. Emerging World Citizens
If you’re a Tier B or Tier C passport holder, you’re losing opportunities every day. This is exactly the reason why Chinese and Arab citizens are the largest investors in citizenship by investment programs.
The wealthy in these and other countries can afford the cost in exchange for the greatly increased travel benefits.
3. Business Owners and Investors
Looking for a “Plan B”? While US citizens have the most urgent need for a second passport and can often earn an immediate ROI, citizens of other countries can also benefit from having another citizenship in their back pocket… just in case.
This is especially true for cryptocurrency investors who may need a second passport to continue their investments.
If you’re earning high six- or seven-figures, you may find buying citizenship easier and cheaper on a time-cost basis than the longer, more elusive naturalization route.
Alternatives to Citizenship by Investment
Unless you’re a US citizen in need of a second passport to reduce your tax obligations (these people don’t have any alternatives but to renounce), there are different ways to achieve the same things in the investment immigration world.
Is your goal to add travel benefits or improve your quality of life? For many western citizens, a second passport won’t even be necessary.
Is your goal an E-2 visa? There are other options that are easier, less expensive, and less bureaucratic than obtaining a second passport by investment.
Or do you simply want to work towards a passport in a cheaper way? Then citizenship by descent may do the trick.
And if you are in no particular rush, residence by investment could give you a solid path toward citizenship via naturalization after making an investment in exchange for residence in any number of countries.
To be clear, economic citizenship is for people with a pressing need to have another passport now, be it for tax reasons, business, or travel.
Residency by investment is not the same as citizenship by investment. Golden Visa programs like those in Portugal and Greece will eventually yield a second passport, but it will take at least five years or more.
The Best Passport vs. a Passport Portfolio
Ideally, a citizenship by investment should only be one of several passports you hold.
Here at Nomad Capitalist, we approach second citizenships from the mindset of an investor: you should never keep all your eggs in one basket.
Not even your citizenship.
That is why a second citizenship is so important, but it’s just the first step. You can achieve deeper diversification by creating a portfolio of passports.
A passport portfolio is a collection of several different passports that work together to expand your visa-free travel privileges, relieve your tax burdens, increase your privacy and freedom, help you gain access to investment opportunities, give you political diversification, and more.
Everyone’s passport portfolio will be different and can be filled with passports obtained in various ways. The key is to diversify across different country characteristics.
If you can add a Tier A citizenship to your passport portfolio through one of the other available methods – for instance, Italian or even Irish citizenship by descent – you won’t need to spend $1 million or more to add an EU passport like Malta to your portfolio.
You can learn more about how to create a passport portfolio here.
Citizenship by Investment FAQs
What’s the best citizenship by investment program?
If we ranked the twelve citizenship by investment programs based solely on travel privileges, Malta would come in at number one, followed by Cyprus. But be careful, as Malta may not fit into your holistic financial and personal plan.
What’s the cheapest citizenship by investment?
There are two countries tied for this title: Dominica and St. Lucia. A couple of others have similar prices (under $150,000) and, all fees considered, a handful of CBI programs have a very similar price.
How did Covid-19 affect the investment immigration world?
The CBI program popularity has never been higher. People all over the world have really taken notice of second passport programs, probably because they feel like they need a safe haven to escape to, a ‘Plan B’ so to speak. So, many countries that offer citizenship by investment have lowered their prices to try and lure investors in. You can expect deeply discounted prices and fully digital processes now.
Where can I get a citizenship by investment in the world?
Currently, there are 12 countries offering second passports via investment and donation: Malta, Cyprus, Montenegro, Turkey, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Grenada, and Vanuatu.
What are some of the other ways I can get a second passport?
Luckily, citizenship by investment isn’t the only way you can get a second passport. Citizenship by descent, marriage, and naturalization are also legitimate ways to get a citizenship abroad.
If a passport’s value were wholly defined by its travel privileges alone, the United States would have among the world’s best citizenships and no one would be calling us to ask for help renouncing their US citizenship.
The best citizenship by investment program doesn’t exist. The best citizenship by investment program for YOU does.
In our mind, the best citizenship by investment program is one that allows you to intelligently preserve your capital while accomplishing your goals.
And one of the main goals for Nomad Capitalist is to make sure that all of one’s bases are covered, from where you bank to where you hold passports without becoming obsessed with ‘shiny objects’ like Mediterranean villas.
Finally, while you’re on your quest for a second passport, it is important to note that the opportunities for citizenship by investment are constantly changing.
Several years ago, I became a citizen of the Comoros Islands via investment, but once a new government took over, they shut the program down. I can still use my passport – I am and will continue to be a Comorian citizen – but the program is no longer available to new applicants.
Similarly, Moldova came out with a program in November 2018, but its newly elected government suspended the program less than a year later. Currently, the fate of the scheme is set to be decided in September of 2020 and Moldova will not accept any new applications until September 2021, if they accept them at all.
Citizenship by investment programs are fickle; they come and go.
That is one of the great lessons of the offshore world: when you see a golden opportunity, take it. You don’t know how long it will be available for the taking.
And that will be the best citizenship by investment program – an opportunity that meets your needs and that’s actually taken.
If you are an entrepreneur or investor looking for other legal alternatives, feel free to go through my application process and see how we can help. Working with a team that has gone through the process – for themselves and hundreds of clients – will help you achieve the best results. We personally understand your ‘why.’