These days, more and more sovereign countries are offering citizenship by investment programs to those seeking a second passport. The process is simple: for example, you can invest a six-figure sum in one of a number of Caribbean nations, and you can become a bona fide citizen there in anywhere from three to twelve months.
The long-running St. Kitts and Nevis program, in existence since 1984, and the tiny island nation of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) offer cheap economic citizenship plans, while Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda have also added programs of their own.
Some have complained that the majority of easy second citizenship options only exist in the Caribbean and South America. Beyond the economic citizenship options, countries like Paraguay and Mexico offer second residency programs that allow for naturalization in only a few years.
Quite simply, countries in Europe have been hesitant to offer their citizenship easily. And why should they? Much of the world is clamoring for a European Union passport, much more so than they are for a United States passport.
In fact, many European countries are making it harder to get residency, especially in central Europe. There is one alleged citizenship-by-investment program right here in Europe. It’s so secretive that some experts claim it doesn’t exist.
That program is citizenship by investment in Austria.
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Austria Citizenship by Investment
Long before Malta was exchanging citizenship in their slice of the EU for hundreds of thousands of euros, Austria has held claim to a mysterious passport program for the ultra-wealthy.
Does this program exist? The simple answer is “yes,” but not in the same sense as other economic citizenship programs.
For one, Austrian citizenship by investment isn’t just open to anyone. Even if you meet the financial qualifications, you have to be deemed worthy by officials in the Austrian government. You have to be “Austrian” enough.
That’s the nationalistic governments of Europe at work. Obviously, the European Union doesn’t want just anyone to be able to get its much sought-after passports, or else they’d be overrun.
However, Austria has always been a bit more nationalistic. People here are fiercely proud of their heritage and “Austrian-ness” and determined to protect it.
It is more difficult to make contacts there, and the capital, Vienna, has a notoriously hard social circle to crack.
That’s just how Austrians – and the Austrian government – want it.
So, while you can invest your way to Austrian citizenship, don’t expect to fly in from some country deemed “unworthy” by the locals and buy your way in.
How Does The Austrian Citizenship Program Work?
Again, there really isn’t a formal “program” the way countries like St. Kitts and Nevis offer. There is no law that suggests step-by-step instructions that must be followed in each and every case. In Austria, the procedure is much more individualized.
In the absence of specific citizenship by investment law, Austria uses Article 10, Section 6 of its Citizenship Act to allow the government to reward foreigners contributing “extraordinary merit.”
In this case, such merit involves an investor putting their money directly into the Austrian economy to create jobs and drive taxable sales. That means an investment in an active business or businesses that generate real employment. Real estate investments, bank deposits, or government bond purchases don’t count.
Above just having a clean criminal record and excellent personal references, applicants must fund their business ventures to the tune of roughly €10 million.
If you don’t want to invest in an actively running business, you can make a donation to a social project in the arts, education, or sports. While the €10 million mark is an investment that you can expect to recoup and earn income from, the donation is just that: money you’ll never see again.
Donations should be at least €2- €3 million to qualify, and the Austrian government must like your chosen charitable project.
Of course, Austria is one of the world’s most valuable passports, granting access to live and work anywhere in the European Union, as well as visa-free travel privileges to virtually every civilized country on earth. As a general rule, Austria does not allow dual citizenship, which means you may be forced to relinquish your existing citizenship to get an Austrian passport.
If you have several million euros burning a hole in your pocket, are dying to obtain European citizenship, and can’t find a European ancestor in your family tree to get your citizenship for free, try Malta first.
Do you need a European Union passport? There may be better options even if you are an ultra-high net worth individual.
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