Dateline: Wroclaw, Poland
Ever since our Nomad Passport Index was featured on media outlets like Bloomberg, I’ve been getting an increasing number of calls from people looking to obtain citizenship by investment.
Each year, I not only update our list of the world’s best passports, but also a list of the best economic citizenships: second passports you can essentially purchase by making a donation to a small country, usually in the Caribbean but increasingly here in Europe, too.
There is a lot of passport news happening right now and there have been some interesting developments recently with regards to passports and economic citizenship. This is of particular interest to western citizens.
So what is economic citizenship?
Fundamentally, economy citizenship is a concept through which you can get a second passport very quickly in exchange for things like financial investment or a donation to a country. We have an entire blog series as well as videos available about economic citizenship, so if you would like to find out more details, start here.
New economic citizenship programs
Recently, it was announced that Turkey has launched its own citizenship by investment program. This is proof that the trend for so-called “economic citizenship” has moved beyond a few Caribbean islands and into both Europe with Malta and Cyprus, and now the rest of the world.
In Turkey, the entry requirement involves the purchase of $1,000,000 worth of real estate. Personally, I think that this program was largely set up to appeal to existing Turkish real estate investors who were skittish on the economy. Turkey has been in the news a lot lately, and it has shaken investor confidence from the Arab region.
You see, historically Arab investors viewed Turkey as a safe haven that offered close proximity to home in case they needed to make a quick exit, but also offered the comfort of Islam. Now, people are investing elsewhere, including Georgia, as the Turkish lira and Turkey experience challenges.
I say that because $1 million is a high price tag for a passport that doesn’t even offer visa-free travel to Europe. The Schengen Area is pretty liberal, allowing everyone from Peruvians to Vanuatuans to visit, but Turkey – which is at Europe’s door as it shares a border with Bulgaria – is not on the list.
There are rumors that countries like Montenegro and Armenia will (re-)introduce economic citizenship, and some of these rumored programs may be good options if and when they are launched.
Meanwhile, there are several illegitimate programs being touted in Serbia and Albania. The list of scammy and gray market passport programs continues to grow, with everywhere from Mexico to Venezuela to Bulgaria having been wrongly offered up as a place to get citizenship quickly.
A better, cheaper economic citizenship
Let’s talk about something that I think is much better news for westerners, especially US citizens looking for a Plan B for tax planning or other reasons.
This new option has been improved for 2017 by a country that realized that citizenship by investment programs had gone overboard with endless forms and difficulty.
For years, I’ve always maintained that if you’re looking for the best value for money economic citizenship program, the answer is Dominica. This isn’t to say that there may not be a better option for a small number of people, but for the majority of western citizens, I don’t see the value in paying more for the other Caribbean programs as they offer little additional value.
(That’s not to say that western citizens wouldn’t be better served by a fast, non-economic citizenship program, but that’s another story that can be discussed if you seek out my help.)
Outside of the Caribbean, jumping from Dominica’s $100,000 price point to the high six-figure and even seven-figure price points required by Cyprus and Malta just didn’t make sense to me for the average westerner.
Dominica was absolutely the one to go to as the second cheapest and best value program out there.
Citizenship by investment in St. Lucia
However, there is a new option: St. Lucia. Effective this year, the Caribbean island – which offers a better standard of living than Dominica by all accounts – decided to remove its net worth requirement that eliminated anyone who wasn’t a multimillionaire from contention.
Starting in 2017, they removed that requirement and anyone can apply so long as they can pay the fee. St. Lucia also lowered the price, which had been more in line with the higher-end Caribbean programs. Interestingly, they lowered it to match the price for Dominica: a $100,000 donation for a single applicant.
This now means that you can pay St Lucia $100,000, as well as some government fees and due diligence fees, and you can be a citizen there within a matter of four months.
Because St. Lucia has more of a Cayman Islands feel as opposed to Dominica’s Belize vibe, lawyer fees there are a bit more expensive than in Dominica. However, a St. Lucia passport offers visa-free travel to all of Central America, whereas a Dominica passport does not.
This is a very interesting development because it means that you now have the option of two passports that you can “buy” within a matter of months for an investment of just $100,000. While the passports and the price points are relatively similar, there are now two options worthy of consideration for anyone seeking a cheap economic citizenship.
As stated, St. Lucia has also said they will be making the process easier.
Cheap citizenship in Dominica didn’t work for me
A year ago, I began to work through the Dominica process, fully intending to complete it for myself. However, as a nomad on the go, traveling around the world and often outside of my home country, I found I had a really hard time getting all the documents together that Dominica wanted.
I eventually bailed on the program because I couldn’t be in one place to assemble everything; it was just too stressful. I ultimately ended up going with a different second passport option.
The fact that St Lucia is making their program easier could definitely make it more attractive for those who value efficiency as much as I do. I do not know all of the details and honestly, I don’t work a lot with economic citizenship precisely because most of the westerners that I deal with are not in the grave need of getting a second passport within the time frame of just four months.
There are, however, some westerners who are in that grave need and if you want to find out more about that, I’d be happy to help you determine which second passport option is best for you, be it one that requires a donation or a more traditional option.
The fact that St Lucia has lowered the price makes it very attractive. As a high achieving entrepreneur, investor or high earning employee, $100,000 is not a fortune to pay for a solid backup plan that gets you access to a lot of different countries with a new passport.
That St Lucia is going to make their program easier as well as cheaper is, to me, a great signal. Going where you’re treated best means reducing unnecessary nonsense and paperwork, and St. Lucia’s acknowledgment of that is a great sign.