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Cyprus has reduced the investment level required to gain citizenship from €2.5 million to €2 million. The recent move means EU citizenship can now be obtained in just 3 months with a Cypriot passport being issued soon after the investment is made by the applicant in real estate in Cyprus.
The recent move approved by the Cypriot parliament has also introduce further positive measures for applicants. It is no longer necessary to be part of a collective of five investors to obtain the lower investment limit. Parents of the applicant can also now qualify for citizenship provided they make an investment of €500,000 into real estate. This extends the Cypriot citizenship to three generations which includes children up to the age of 28.
The benefit to Cypriot citizenship is that the country is a full member of the European Union. Anyone holding Cypriot citizenship is an EU citizen and has the right to work, live, travel or study anywhere in the European Union, including the UK.
La Vida has processed a number of property investments in Cyprus in the last two years and we expect a boost following the recent reduction in the investment limit. We have also seen a surge in interest following the announcement of the UK to leave the EU. We expect this to result in increased applicants for Cyprus citizenship in the coming months as investors rush to beat any deadline from the UK imposed on EU citizens looking to settle into the country.
Several countries in Europe offer residency through investment in real estate. Some of these country programs may lead to citizenship and a European passport.
The key to these schemes, unlike traditional immigration programs is that the investor gains the right to travel and reside in the country without the requirement to live there and become tax resident.
Check our summary below for details on the five main programs in Europe that will lead to residency through real estate investment and follow the links to more detailed guides on each program.
Invest €500,00 in real estate. This gains residency in Spain for 5 years with renewals:
Read More: Golden Visa Spain
Invest €500,00 in real estate. This gains residency in Portugal with the potential for citizenship and a second passport after six years, without the requirement to become resident.
Read More: Golden Visa Portugal
The ultimate program for those High Net Worth Individuals seeking quick citizenship and a European passport within three months.
Read More: Citizenship by Investment Cyprus
A lower cost option for citizenship in Europe for those prepared for a lengthier application process and willing to make a donation.
Read More: Citizenship by Investment Malta
The low cost option for residency in Europe. Invest just €250,000 in real estate. A Schengen country but future citizenship will only arise through 7 years of residency.
Read More: Investor Visa Greece
The investment immigration program in Cyprus has proven to be the most popular route for High Net Worth investors seeking a second passport in Europe. Since inception the investment programme has boosted the
economy by over €2 billion, according to Minister of Interior, Socrates Hasikos.
The Cyprus program offers full EU citizenship and a second passport to an investor and his or her family (including dependents up to age 28) within just 90 days and with no residency requirement currently. Although pressure from the EU may change this in the coming year. The scheme has a very high approval rate and the process and requirements are very straightforward. Unlike certain other programs in Europe such as Malta, the funds are invested, not donated, and Cyprus offers an exit strategy after just 3 years.
Cyprus Commerce Minister, Giorgos Lakkotrypis recently commented on the efficiency of the Cyprus citizenship program. “The process” he says. “Very simple.” Applicants fill out a three page form, invest €2.5 million in a villa, and pay €7,000 in fees. Then, as long as they’re able to produce a Certificate of Clean Criminal Record, “within 90 days, they can get their European passport.” “Within 90 days,” he repeats. “Lately, we even achieve 70 days. It’s a very fast and easy process and has very high approval rate.”
Rumours of changes to the program have circulated in recent months and change is expected in 2016 under pressure from the European Union for Cyprus to ensure applicants have greater ties with the island and potential residency requirements prior to approval of a passport. Such changes would not apply in retrospect to those investors who had already gained their passports.
A key objective for many of our clients is the gaining of a second passport and citizenship by investment of another country.
This is a step on from residency and the right to live in a country. It is often the next stage after a period of residency or through higher investment in a golden visa programme.
Below we list those countries in Europe and the Caribbean that offer second citizenship and a passport. Note that these are only countries offering such a facility through investment and without the requirement to live full time and become tax resident.
Portugal is one of the most popular programmes in Europe. Invest €500,000 in real estate plus related costs and taxes to gain residency. This gives freedom of travel throughout the EU Schengen visa zone. After six years applicants and their families can apply for citizenship and hence a second passport allowing you and your family to travel, work, live and study anywhere in Europe.
Spain offers similar costs and benefits to Portugal but with one major difference. It is not possible to get citizenship and a second passport unless you reside in Spain for 10 years full time. It is why Portugal is currently issuing 2,000 golden visas a year compared to less than 100 in Spain.
Greece is the most affordable scheme in Europe but clients must be careful of the additional costs and the economic situation. You can gain residency through investing €250,000 in real estate. Taxes and fees on property are high in Greece, as much as 27% on top of the property price. Also the programme in Greece is residency only and does not lead to citizenship and a second passport currently except for applicants of Greek origin.
Hungary is a very popular and affordable programme. Invest €300,000 in government bonds which is refunded after 5 years. Costs for the programme are €60,000 for a full family. This grants Permanent Residency in Hungary. Citizenship and a second passport in Hungary can be applied for after 8 years with a language test. Hungary is a member of the EU and Schengen zone which also means visa free travel to the USA and Canada. You gain visa free travel throughout the EU Schengen area and can apply for a European passport after 8 years. Hungary is a straightforward residency programme and in most cases will not require a visit to the country.
Bulgaria is the most affordable route to citizenship of the EU. You can gain a second passport in Hungary within 21 months allowing you and your family to live, work, travel and study anywhere in Europe. This can be done for a total investment of €1,024,000 in government bonds which are repaid in full after 5 years. But a big benefit is that these bonds can be financed for a total outlay of €280,000. Although there is no return of capital this significantly reduces the cash outlay and is a popular choice. Costs under either option amount to around €30,000 for a family of 4.
Malta has a citizenship programme leading to a second passport within a year. However there are a number of restrictions with Malta, in particular showing ties and commitment to the island, maintaining a property and screening interviews. For those willing to maintain such connections citizenship is available at a total cost of around €1.2 million. But note €650,000 of that figure is a “contribution” to the government. That money is not returned.
Cyprus is the ultimate choice for High Net Worth individuals seeking a second passport. Investment of €3 million in a real estate portfolio gains a Cypriot and hence European passport within 2-3 months. This investment can be reduced to €500,000 after 3 years. An interesting fact for Cyprus is that a single investor is normally €5 million under government rules. However La Vida has the access and ability to group submit a minimum five applications regularly. Under this arrangement the investment requirement reduces to €3 million.
There are currently four programmes in the Caribbean offering citizenship, a second passport and visa free travel to many countries worldwide.
St Kitts is the oldest second passport programme by investment. Applicants investing $400,000 in government approved real estate projects (plus costs) gain citizenship. This grants visa free access to over 100 countries including the UK and Schengen zone. It is also possible to make a government contribution of a reduced amount depending on family size. Processing is slow taking typically 9 months.
Antigua offers a similar second passport programme to St Kitts. An investment of $400,000 in government approved real estate projects plus costs gains citizenship. There is visa free travel to over 100 countries including the UK, Schengen zone and Canada. Processing is fast, typically 4 months.
Dominica has just amended its citizenship programme to include a real estate option. You can now invest just $200,000 in real estate to gain citizenship and a second passport. Although offering slightly less countries for visa free travel than St. Kitts or Antigua (over 70), Dominica is a much reduced investment option.
Grenada is a new second passport programme and is popular as it has no country restrictions for who it will issue passports to. There are of course strict due diligence checks on each applicant. Invest just $250,000 in real estate to gain visa free travel to over 70 countries including the UK and with the Schengen zone likely to be added soon (expected Q2 2015). Grenada is the only country offering citizenship to parents of any age as long as they are dependent. Processing is fast, within 4 months.
There are government fees and associated costs with each of the Caribbean programmes. As a guide these will range for a family of four from $130,000 up to $210,000. La Vida can give a more accurate assessment based on the make up of your family and the particular programme. Please complete your client details here if you require this.
Popular countries in Europe for second passports include the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Holland. However these countries do not offer second passports through investment alone but through other means such as creating and investing in a business. However it is important to note that citizenship and a passport from any EU country allows the holder to live and work anywhere in the European Union.
It is important for any prospective investors to take careful professional advice on the programmes available before committing to an investment. There are many programmes on the market from differing countries, but not all of these lead to citizenship through investment.
The likes of Hungary, Greece and Spain are difficult or unlikely, sometimes requiring residence in the country. Portugal is far easier and Cyprus can be gained immediately with the right investment.
So what is citizenship and what benefits does it bring? Citizenship of any particular country within the European Union means a passport and importantly citizenship of the EU. So for example, if you gain citizenship in Portugal through real estate investment then you become an EU citizen. Similarly if you gain citizenship in Bulgaria through investment in government bonds you can also gain citizenship of the EU even though Bulgaria is outside the Euro and Schengen visa zone.
Every person holding the nationality of an EU country is automatically a citizen of the EU. This allows that person to move freely within the EU. To work, study and live wherever they wish within the European Union countries.
It is important to draw the distinction between the EU countries (there are 28) and the Schengen visa countries (there are 26). There are 22 EU countries participating in the Schengen visa zone and there are an additional 4 countries not part of the EU.
Residency in the Schengen visa countries allows freedom of travel throughout the Schengen area. But citizenship of an EU country provides the right to live and work within the EU countries. For example the United Kingdom and Ireland are EU countries, but not part of the Schengen visa zone.
Whichever country an investor targets for citizenship, there are sometimes faster, cheaper and easier options to gain permanent residency allowing them to live, work and study in that country by gaining entry through an alternative EU country.
It is possible to achieve citizenship through investment in real estate in Spain but the investor will need to live in Spain for 10 years before applying.
Citizenship can be applied for in Portugal six years after investment of a minimum €500,000 in real estate.
Citizenship is available in Cyprus within 2 – 3 months on investing a minimum €2.5 million in real estate.
Malta has an investment visa programme with a comination of investment and contribution totalling around €1.2 million with citizenship taking approximately 12 months.
Citizenship in Greece through its real estate investment programme will be possible following changes to legislation (2015).
Changes to legislation in Hungary mean the investor visa bond programme could lead to citizenship after 5 years rather than the current 8 years. (2015)
The investment bond programme in Bulgaria can lead to fast track citizenship by doubling the bond investment from €512,000 to €1,024,000.
For reference the EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
The government of Dominica has introduced certain selected real estate investments as part of its citizenship investment programme. The Dominican citizenship programme running since 1991 originally only allowed investment through contributions. From this year investors can invest $200,000 in real estate plus fees to gain a second passport. Government and advisory fees for a family of four are in the region of $150,000. In total this still makes Dominica one of the most affordable citizenship programmes. The investment must be maintained for a minimum of 3 years. If maintained and sold after 5 years, it would qualify the next buyer for citizenship as well.
Portugal continues as the top choice for investors seeking residency visas in 2015. The Portuguese government has issued over 2,000 residency visas since the programme began two years ago. The flexibility of the programme means investors need spend an average of just one week each year in the country to renew the investor visa. Importantly applicants do not need to live in Portugal before applying for permanent residency and citizenship, making the programme the most attractive of the European schemes. The scheme has helped drive the property market in Portugal with prices of prime real estate in areas such as the capital Lisbon, now rising as the economy recovers.
La Vida specialises in real estate and offfers residency visa investments in the most popular countries, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Bulgaria, St. Kitts and Antigua. Despite competition from other European countries and the Caribbean, Portugal remains the clear favourite among investors offering visa free travel in the EU Schengen zone and the potential for permanent residency and citizenship in Europe.
Greece has been popular for enquiries because of its headline rate of just €250,000 real estate investment, suiting many investors with limited budgets. However citizenship is restrictive, requiring investors to live in Greece before applying. Doubts over the economy also weigh on the programme.
St. Kitts is popular for investors seeking a second passport and ease of access to many countries. But neighbouring Antigua has a limited time offer of no government fees for dependents (expected until 1 April 2015) and compares favourably with St. Kitts and now offers a lower investment option.
Cyprus remains the destination of choice for high net worth individuals. An investment of €2.5 million in real estate results in an EU passport within a few months. Investors and their family can live, work, study and travel anywhere within the European Union.
La Vida can offer a superb option for investment into St. Kitts to obtain a second passport and citizenship. Invest just $400,000 in order to gain St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship.
Koi Resort | Residences provides the optimal solution for wealthy individuals seeking dual citizenship or stunning vacation property. Koi is a title-deeded ownership residence that is currently in development on the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Located on 14-acres of beachfront property on Halfmoon Bay, the resort will feature a variety of luxury villas and suites with sweeping ocean views and the very best in amenities.
Koi Resort | Residences has been approved by the government of St. Kitts and Nevis as a Citizenship by Investment project, and has also been qualified as a National Development Project.
During the 5-year holding period, buyers that purchase before February 15, 2015 are entitled to receive:
• KRL Worry-Free Credit of the Regular Annual Assessments during the 5-Year Holding Period, as a draw against future Rental Revenues.
• Early Buyer Credit of $29,057 to cover Real Estate Closing Costs (see below)
Real Estate Closing Costs
• Stamp Duty(Gov’t tax 5%) USD $ 20,000.00
• Government Assurance Fund USD $ 800.00
• Registration & Non-National Fee USD $ 57.00
• Attorney Closing Fees 1% USD $ 4,000.00
• Escrow Fees 1% USD $ 4,000.00
• Courier Fees ($100 each x 2 max = $200) USD $ 200.00
• Total Real Estate Closing Costs $ 29,057.00
Each title-deeded interest owner is entitled to:
• 7 usage days during the high season (November 1 to May 14), AND
• 28 usage days during the low season (May 15 to October 31)
• Access to: housekeeping, concierge, gym, spa, pool, tennis courts, and other amenities
• Projected Rental Revenues of 2-5%
5-Star Management Company handles:
• hiring and maintaining operational and management staff
• maintenance work for interior of residences, common areas and landscaping
• utilities, security, and other services
• fully furnished residences, regularly maintained
Complimentary One-year Membership to Elite St. Kitts- which provides the following services:
• Obtaining Residency Requirements
• Obtaining Driver’s License and SKN Biometric Passport Renewal
• Company Formation
• Banking Relations
• Foreign Visa Travel Updates
The government in Greece is introducing changes to its golden visa programme. The new rules allow three generations of family members to benefit from the visa. An investment of just €250,000 in real estate will qualify the applicant, parents (of both investor and spouse) and children for a five year renewable residency visa. There is no minimum stay requirement for applicants. Greece is a member of the EU Schengen visa zone so a holder of the Greek residency permit is allowed freedom to travel throughout the European Union. The investor will be able to sell his/her property to another foreign citizen, and transfer the residency permit together with the property.
One aspect of the programme changes is that the path to citizenship has improved but remains difficult. Changes to citizenship rules mean investors will now be able to apply for citizenship after 7 years of residency. But that requires living in Greece for more than six months each year and passing a Greek language test. Countries such as Bulgaria and Portugal require higher investment levels but more assured routes to citizenship and ultimate freedom of Europe.
Property prices in Greece have dropped as much as 50% since the credit crisis and are now showing signs of stability. Many local developers we work through are confident as the market for more desirable properties such as villas with good rental prospects in prime vacation areas are in demand. La Vida offers a portfolio of property in Greece including Athens, the surrounding coastal area and the islands. Some of these properties offer guaranteed rental for investors. Contact us for full details.
Two countries in Europe, Bulgaria and Hungary offer residency visas through investment in government bonds. By investing in these bonds in either country investors are free to live in the countries with permanent residency.
The EU consists of 28 states and both Hungary and Bulgaria are full members of the European Union.
Hungary is a member of the Schengen visa zone of 26 countries in Europe that have opened their borders to passport free travel between their borders.
Investment in Hungarian bonds grants the freedom to live there but there is no requirement to reside. This is a key benefit for residency visa investors who want the freedom to travel and the security of a second home without the necessity to relocate family, become tax resident and potentially lose existing citizenship. With Hungary one of the key benefits is freedom of travel in the EU Schengen zone.
With Bulgaria the most attractive benefit is extending the investment in order to qualify for fast track citizenship and a second passport. Bulgaria is not a member of the Schengen area but is legally obliged and wishes to join at some future point.
However, as Bulgaria is a member of the EU, citizenship of Bulgaria means citizenship of the European Union. That then allows the freedom to live, work, travel or study anywhere within the EU. The EU includes countries such as the UK and Ireland that are not part of the Schengen visa zone.
Investment in the bonds in either country means zero interest return but the bonds can be realised for the full value at maturity. They are effectively an interest free loan to the government of the respective country. However with the costs and taxes associated with real estate investment these could be an alternative for many investors.
It is also possible to finance the bonds in both cases which means a far reduced cost with the same benefits of residency and citizenship. The bonds then have no redemption value but the investment is significantly reduced.
Requirements can change. Contact us for further details on these bond programmes.