Citizenship by investment: The most affordable countries

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business-immigration-programsCitizenship by Investment
There are plenty of countries offering to hand you a new citizenship, provided you invest a sufficient amount of money.What countries offer the most attractive residency or citizenship packages in return for investing in their economies? There is a growing number of countries competing to attract international investors, from Caribbean islands such as St Kitts – the initiator of the original citizenship investment programme 30 years ago, – and more recently Antigua and Barbuda, to European nations such as Spain, Portugal, Malta, Greece and Cyprus. In January, Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission, said in a speech: ‘Citizenship must not be up for sale.’ However, now half a dozen countries are offering a direct citizenship-by-investment route with no residency requirements.
Comparing Investment Programs
Let’s compare some of the programs to get a clear picture of which countries offer the most attractive conditions, but still have affordable deals. By far the cheapest deal for citizenship is on the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica. For an investment of $100,000 plus various fees, as well as an in-person interview on the island, citizenship can be acquired. However, experts caution that because the interview committee meets only once a month, actually getting a Dominican passport can take anywhere from five to 14 months. Since Dominica is a Commonwealth nation citizens get special privileges in the UK, and citizens can also travel to 50 countries, including Switzerland without a visa. One of the easiest in both process and universal practicality is the Eastern Caribbean locations of St. Kitts and Nevis. There are two methods to obtain citizenship, with the cheapest option being a $250,000 non-refundable donation to the St Kitts and Nevis Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, a public charity. A second option involves a minimum $400,000 investment in real estate in the country (only villas and condominiums qualify) and a registration fee of $50,000. And you get to travel to 131 countries visa-free, according to the Henley & Partners Visa Restriction Index 2013. In 2013 the Caribbean islnd of Antigua and Barbuda launched a ‘Citizenship by Investment Programme.’ A $400,000 real estate investment or a $200,000 donation to a charity helps you pass through the borders of 130 countries without a visa.
European Citizenship-by-Investment Programs
‘Citizenship-by-investment programmes are certainly on the rise, especially in Europe,’ says University of Toronto law professor Ayelet Shachar. Malta requires potential passport holders to reside in Malta for a year and raised the investment to 1.15m euros. Cyprus is the other EU nation to offer a direct citizenship-by-investment route. The cost of the programme was slashed to 2m euros in March, partially in an effort to placate mostly Russian investors who lost money when Cyprus was forced to accept a strict European Union bailout. The 2m euro figure applies when one invests as part of a larger group whose collective investments total more than 12.5m euros; an investment of 5m euros in real estate is still required for an individual. The desire for flexibility and mobility ‘to respond to the demands of globalisation’ is driving many investors into citizenship programmes, says Micha Emmett, managing director of CS Global Partners, a citizenship consultancy that has seen the number of ‘passport shoppers’ double in the past five years.