Portugal has proved to be the most popular destination in Europe for investors seeking a golden visa. Full residency is granted but there is no requirement to reside. Citizenship can be applied for after six years.
The Portuguese golden visa is a central feature of the government’s drive for international investment. With the country returning to growth the real estate market offers exciting prospects for the years ahead.
Cyprus offers citizenship for investment levels of €2.0 million in real estate which is one of the big attractions of this programme. A Cypriot passport allows freedom to travel, study, work or live throughout the European Union.
Cyprus also offers residency through investment of just €300,000 allowing full family qualification. The investor visa is flexible with no requirement to live in the country.
Spain is a firm favourite for many clients considering real estate investment to obtain a golden visa. One of the larger economies in Europe offering an investor visa programme.
Invest from €500,000 in real estate to gain the Spanish golden visa. This provides a flexible residency option. Permanent residency and citizenship can be applied for at a later stage subject to certain stipulations.
Greece offers a residency visa through property investment but eventual citizenship is not available to foreigners. Greece is a member of the EU Schengen visa zone and has no minimum stay requirement.
Prospective investors need to carefully consider the status of the economy in Greece, the real estate market and related property taxes. Greece offers a higher risk investment than other European nations.
Malta offers an Individual Investor Program which is appropriate for our very high net worth clients. In addition to committing to a residence in Malta for five years the scheme requires investment in government approved funds and instruments.
The Malta visa scheme leads to citizenship within one year for suitable applicants, a passport from an EU country and hence the freedom to live anywhere within the EU. The total investment required is typically in excess of €1.2 million.
The citizenship by investment programme for Grenada is one of the newest programmes available to investors. The Grenada passport offers visa-free travel to over 70 countries including the UK.
Grenada offers a low investment threshold. Applicants need invest just $250,000 in a government approved real estate project and maintain the investment for at least 4 years.
The citizenship by investment programme for Antigua and Barbuda provides a second passport to investors offering visa-free travel to over 100 countries including the UK, EU Schengen zone and Canada.
There are several options for investment to gaining citizenship in Antigua including real estate investment of a minimum $400,000.
The St. Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program is the oldest of its kind in the world. Established in 1984 the program grants citizenship through real estate investment to qualified applicants.
The government requires investment of $400,000 plus related government and due diligence fees. St Kitts offer visa free travel to over 120 countries. An ideal choice for a second passport.
The citizenship by investment programme in Cyprus is not only the quickest EU citizenship programme available today, it is also one of the most straight forward options. The programme is a firm favourite amongst high net worth investors looking for a quick solution to gaining a second passport in the European Union which in turn give them the ability to live and work in any EU country. Not to mention the freedom of movement to over 158 countries globally.
The process could not be simpler and is achievable in just 5 simple steps. La Vida’s expert consultant’s will be able to assist investors every step of the way, from the real estate purchase, to the legal work and application. The process is as follows:
Step 1: Engage and Invest
Once La Vida have been appointed and our client facilitator agreement has been signed, the first step is to visit Cyprus. We will tailor a visit to suit, provide an itinerary, arrange property viewings and a meeting with a legal representative. Investors will need to select real estate to meet the required investment of €2,000,000 and place a reservation deposit on the property to begin the purchase. If it is not possible for investors to visit at this stage, they can select and reserve a property remotely with the help from La Vida and our legal team.
Step 2: Application submission
Following the investment, our legal team will begin the application for the main investor and spouse, undertake due diligence and prepare all the supporting documentation. On submission of the citizenship application a permanent residency permit will also be applied for which will takes less than 2 weeks to obtain. Every adult applicant is required to be the holder of a PR card for a period of at least 6 months prior to collecting their passport/national ID.
Step 3: Biometrics
Biometric data will need to be submitted, this can either be done during a further visit to Cyprus or it is possible to visit certain Cypriot embassies to submit the data. Locations such as London, Moscow and Pretoria can provide this service. It is also possible at this stage for investors to collect their residency permit cards.
Step 4: Approval in Principle- 3 months
The time frame set by the Government for the examination of the citizenship application is 3 months from submission. At this stage you will receive an ‘in principal’ approval certificate.
Step 5: Collect Passport
Following the approval in principle, once investors have held their PR cards for a total period of six months their new Passports/ID’s can be collected in Cyprus or at a Cyprus embassy. The total process will only have taken just over 6 months. It’s at this stage that the main applicant’s dependents can then apply for citizenship.
The most recent RICs property price index report shows more promising signs of economic growth in Cyprus. With improved confidence in Cyprus’ banking system, resulting in higher transactions taking place in the final quarter of 2016, the Cypriot economy is once again looking up. Last year, the economy saw an overall GDP growth of 2.9%, which was a great example of how successful the Golden visa programme is proving for the country. According to the Minister of Finance– approximately two thousand golden visa were issued to non-EU citizens last year, equating to around 4 billion euros worth of investment, which in turn makes up around 25% of Cyprus total GDP.
Compared to Q4 of 2015, rental values have also noticeably increased by 6.6% for apartments, 8.7% for houses, making the average rental yield between 3-4% p.a.
The countries Citizenship by Investment programme still holds it’s place as Europe’s quickest CBI programme. Following an investment of €2,000,000 + costs, it is possible to obtain an EU passport within just 6 months which in turn allows one to live, work or study anywhere in the EU.
La Vida have a wide selection of real estate investments to offer in Cyprus, including the following brand new project which has just recently been launched in the popular area of Pafos. Citizenship investors could consider purchasing a number of properties in this particular development to total the required amount of €2,000,000. With prices starting from just €240,000, this project also offers excellent choices for Permanent Residency applicants too. The developers are also offering a guaranteed rental programme of 3% p.a for a three year period. An ideal option for those who are looking for a low maintenance investment which will generate a steady ROI.
According to the most recent RICS Property Price Index Report for Cyprus in 2016, there has been some promising signs of growth within the real estate market. Paphos was one of the strongest regions with an average price increase of 1.77% on residential houses. The prices of flats also rose steadily in Limassol at a rate of 1.4% on average; and there was an overall growth of 1.6% for holiday apartments throughout Cyprus.
Rental values have also increased across Cyprus by 0.7% for apartments and 3.3% for houses. The average ROI for rental property now stands between 3-4% per annum.
It seems that the economy and real estate market are finally stabilizing following the economic crisis back in 2013 and according to a recent report from KPMG this is primarily a result of the government’s Citizenship by Investment scheme. In the first two quarters of 2016, the total number of property deeds of sales increased by over 28% in comparison to 2015. Tourism, financial services and real estate account for nearly 80% of Cyprus’s GDP, so a rise in the property market will have a great effect on lifting the overall economy.
Now that the market seems to have bottomed out in most area’s, there has never been a better time to buy in Cyprus with great potential for future capital appreciation. We foresee further price rises in 2017, making it an excellent time to buy.
Cyprus remains the fastest Citizenship by Investment programme in Europe offering investors a second passport within just 6 months following a real estate investment at €2m. Dependent children up to the age of 28 years old can be included under a family application and grandparents can also be included for just an additional €500,000. The real estate investment must be held for 3 years, after which investors only need to retain a residential investment of just €500,000 for the future. As Cyprus is a full EU member a passport here will enable one to live, work and study in any EU country, currently still including the UK.
For more details on this scheme, please contact our specialist consultants today for further advice.
Venue: Conrad Hotel
Date: Week beginning February 27th 2017
Arrangement: By prior appointment only.
The investment required is €2.0 million. In addition Cyprus has a separate residency programme. Permanent residency can be gained through investment of €300,000 into real estate.
Both programmes are popular with Middle Eastern, African and Asian investors. In particular the family options are generous allowing the inclusion of up to three generations (parents with children and grandparents).
Not everbody wishes to travel to Cyprus to discuss such matters so we will be holding individual meetings throughout the week of 27th February at the Conrad Hotel in London.
We will have our Cypriot lawyers available for one to one meetings plus our usual advice and guidance from our real estate consultants on a wide range of property options from apartments through to villas and commercial property that qualifies for the scheme. Our lawyers will be able to give advice and guidance of all aspects of residency in Cyprus including programme requirements and initial tax advice.
Meetings are strictly by appointment and as with many of our location timetables with the free unconditional advice on offer, times and availability get booked out quickly.
Contact Edwina Keyser in our UK office on +44 207 060 1475 or complete this form for further details or to schedule an appointment.
The new golden visa programmes in Europe have made it possible to get residency and citizenship through investment in real estate. Countries such as Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Malta now offer this attractive benefit to high net worth invdividuals who invest in property in these countries.
We have highlighted below a brief description of the opportunity in each country along with the basic requirements such as how much to invest. However, for a full understanding of these options please contact one of our consultants.
Cyprus offers two programmes, one for permanent residency and one for citizenship. The residency programme requires an investment of €300,000 in real estate. For citizenship and an immediate second passport investment of €2 million is required. Both programmes are flexible for family qualification allowing parents, grand parents and children to qualify.
Portugal offers a residency scheme through investment of €500,000 into real estate. This programme grants temporary residence to the investor and their family providing the investment is maintained and renewed every two years. After five years applicants can then apply for permanent residence and after six years for citizenship and a passport.
The Spanish golden visa programme requires investment of €500,000 into property. Applications are processsed quickly and residency can be gained in a matter of months. For citizenship investors and their families need to live in Spain for a minimum of 10 years.
The cheapest residency investment programme currently available in Europe is that of Greece, requiring investment of just €250,000 in real estate. Flexible rules apply for full family qualification across three generations.
Malta is unique in requiring investment in property and further investment contribution in the form of a government donation. However citizenship and a second European passport is on offer to those investing and waiting the 12 months or so it takes to obtain full citizenship.
Other countries have residency and citizenship investment programmes that are not directly linked to real estate. Contact us for further details on how to apply for and buy permanent residency and citizenship through investment in the UK, USA, Bulgaria, Hungary, Dominica, St Kitts, Grenada, St Lucia and Antigua.
This year 2016 has proven to be a further step on the ever developing market for investor visa programmes. Demand is increasing for most schemes, many programmes have changed and further amendments are expected in 2017. With a Trump victory, Brexit and European immigration concerns we can expect major changes to continue into 2017 and 2018.
We have highlighted below some of the key developments in 2016 and expectations of change in the year ahead.
The delays in SEF in processing golden visa applications in mid 2015 led to a drop in numbers. However a new fast track procedure introduced earlier this year has put applications back on track. The number of approved applications in 2016 looks set to be the highest ever running at over 2000 investors per annum. The introduction of a €350,000 limit for renovation projects is taking time to produce the necessary supply. Such projects are complicated and need to be fully managed. La Vida has sourced some interesting options for clients and we will see more of these in 2017. The property market is gaining strength in Portugal with price rises over the last three years now fuelling growth and demand. Developers are reluctant to offer discounts and the best properties are sold long before completion.
There were some key changes introduced in 2016 to the Cyprus citizenship and residency programmes.
The qualifying real estate investment level for citizenship was reduced from €2.5 million to €2.0 million. The timescale for achieving the pasport increased to six months as it is now necessary to hold residency (but not necessary to live in Cyprus) before being issued a passport. It still remains the fastest route to EU citizenship.
The residency programme was amended to include parents. Three generations can now be included for an investment of just €300,000 in real estate. A key benefit is that this is for Permanent Residency (PR).
Changes for 2017 could see Cyprus becoming part of the EU Schengen zone. Anyone obtaining the Permanent Residency before that point will no doubt retain it should Cyprus enter Schengen. The EU has not allowed any Schengen country to issue Permanent Residency immediately on investment. Should Schengen happen then we can expect some changes to the programme. Investors may be wise to act sooner to grab the benefits on offer.
The economy in Cyprus may well see a further boost in 2017 with the discovery of huge natural gas resources off the coastline and the development of its first casino under the Hard Rock brand.
Political developments in Hungary could well see the end of the residency bond visa programme in 2017. It has been possible to obtain residency in Hungary through a €300,000 investment in government residency bonds. However Hungary’s nationalist opposition party Jobbik is seeking an end to the programme in return for its support on other matters. Parliament closes this week so unless change happens in the next few days we can expect no further developments until at least February 2017. Still time for any investor to get their application in ahead of any changes.
We can expect changes in 2017 to the recently launched citizenship programme in St. Lucia. The scheme has been in operation less than 12 months but there is a new government in place and new ideas and our conversations with those close to the programme suggest a more coordinated and consolidated programme will be launched in 2017.
The Spanish government made some changes to its golden visa programme in 2016 but nothing that enables it to seriously compete with some of the better schemes on the market.
The government is reaping the benefits of its $100,000 contribution limit. The caribbean countries are concerned that this is a race to the bottom in terms of sale of passports.
Expect changes to the St. Lucia citizenship by investment program in 2017. A change of government has already led to a $100,000 donation offer until 31 March 2017.
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.
On the 23 June 2016 the UK electorate voted to leave the EU. So how does this affect immigration investment programmes in Europe that can lead to residency in the United Kingdom?
European Union citizens are free to travel, work and live in any other EU country. This means for countries such as Cyprus and Malta who issue citizenship and second passports through investment, that any investor in these programmes who gains a passport of that country, is free to live anywhere in the EU, including the UK.
It is important to understand at this point that the UK has not left the EU. The UK population has voted 52% to 48% to leave. But the referendum result is not legally binding and it is now down to the UK Prime Minister to invoke Article 50 of the European Union. Once invoked this starts a two year process for the UK to leave the European Union. David Cameron the current UK Prime Minister has gracefully passed this task on to his successor, whoever that may be.
The degree of Euro sceptism among potential candidates for Prime Minister varies with talk of potentially re-negotiating Britain’s position within the EU or maintaining many of the benefits and restraints within a new deal. Writing this just a few days after the referendum there seem to be many ways this could now play out, and varying timescales as to when it will eventually be resolved.
But let’s for the moment assume that the UK does invoke Article 50 and the UK leaves the EU.
One of the key principles of the European Union is the free movement of people. And that is the key question that concerns us when it comes to residency or citizenship by investment in any of the other EU countries. All EU members have to abide by this. In addition other countries gaining access to the single market such as Norway are also required to comply.
Until Article 50 is invoked and for the two year period afterwards then the UK remains part of the EU. This means that for the next two years, nothing will change. Any EU citizen can live in the UK or anywhere else in the EU.
For those EU nationals already living in the UK at the time of the UK leaving the EU (2018 possibly 2019) we suspect the chances of being allowed to remain are very high.
There are 3 million EU nationals living in the UK currently and 1 million UK nationals living elsewhere in the European Union. We expect an undignified 3 for 1 swap across the English Channel is unlikely. We also believe that there will be no distinction between those who entered post referendum or even post Article 50.
The reason being that such residents entered the UK completely legally under rules and laws at the time. Not only would it be difficult for a government to send back or “deport” such residents we expect it would not be in the government’s interests to enter into any political row with it’s European neighbours.
Our advice to anyone seeking UK residency through investment in the EU is to act now. Gaining residency in the UK directly through investment under the Tier 1 programme is virtually impossible in the current climate. Residency through a EU passport, as explained above, is the only viable option and one that is likely to remain an option for the next two years. The only countries through which an EU passport can be gained by investment within this timescale are Malta and Cyprus.
The earlier such investment is made, the earlier UK residency can be undertaken and the more likely it is that such residency will not be affected upon the UK leaving the EU.
Despite popular belief there are very few European countries that offer residency through investment in real estate. These programmes guarantee the investor residency provided they meet some straightforward criteria. In some countries residency may progress to citizenship (Portugal, Spain, Greece) and in the case of Cyprus then citizenship by investment in real estate is immediate.
The countries offering this are Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece and to some extent Malta, although further conditions are attached in addition to the purchase of property.
European countries without such golden visa programme for real estate include Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
Many European governments do offer residency through investment but that investment tends to be aimed at entrepreneurs aiming to create business and jobs in the country. Often there is an application process involving interviews and a consideration of business plans. In this sense the outcome is not guaranteed.
Investors who invest in Cyprus real estate can gain residency or citizenship depending on the level of investment:
A key factor for many investors in addition to the residency visa and passport is the return on investment (ROI).
There are two factors affecting a property’s ROI and its profitability:
• Rental income
• Capital appreciation
They are two types of rental.
Long term rental – is for a period of one year and more. This rental is used by Cypriots and foreigners permanently working in Cyprus. Proximity to the sea for this type of lease – is not necessary. There are disadvantages of such proximity – high humidity, the tourist noise.
Short-term rental – is for the period from several days to several weeks. It is for holidaymakers and an alternative to accommodation in hotels. Property for such rental should be located close to the sea and have swimming pool.
Yields on long-term leases are around 4% per annum. Short-term rental yields are slightly more – about 5.0%-5.5%. However, in case of short-term lease some renovation should be made from time to time.
Capital appreciation on real estate is a factor that ultimately provides investors with greater profitability potential.
The prices in the Cyprus real estate market will grow in the medium and long-term perspective. Our optimism has solid foundation based on key economic factors. Briefly the drivers of market growth are:
1. The growth of the whole Cyprus economy. According to IMF forecasts, the Cyprus economy will grow in 2016 by 1.4%. The European Commission estimates the Cyprus GDP growth rate – 1.5% in this year and 2% in 2017.
2. Start of industrial extraction of natural gas in 2019. Large offshore gas deposits have recently been discovered in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus. The value amounts to 300%-3000% of GDP. Naturally, the gas production will boost the island’s economy. In addition, new industry will require relocating to Cyprus many foreign workers and that will push up property prices.
3. Construction of the first casino resort is set to increase the number of rich tourists up to 1.0 million a year. This will add to 2.6 million tourists currently visiting the island every year. The casino resort is planned to be the largest in Europe. The growth of tourism will increase demand for rental property and hence the price of that real estate.
4. Reduction of property taxes:
• Capital Gains Tax. Capital Gains Tax on property purchased during the period between July 16, 2015 and December 31, 2016 and sold anytime in future for a bigger price, will not be charged
• Transfer Fee. Transfer Fee for property subject to VAT payment is not charged. For a property that is VAT exempt and is purchased before 31 December 2016 Transfer Fee rate is reduced by 50%.
• VAT. When property is purchased, a reduced VAT rate amounting to 5% (subject to a number of simple conditions) will be charged instead of the current rate of 19%.
5. Non-domicile tax residents of Cyprus are exempt from paying taxes on dividends and interest on deposits, earned in Cyprus and around the world. This means that foreigners who have moved to Cyprus, do not pay taxes on the dividends earned somewhere else (the rule is valid for 17 years after the move). It is expected that many wealthy foreigners will take advantage of this opportunity. They will need premium class properties for living, rising demand and prices in this real estate segment.
The following are our recommendations and approach for finding properties for our clients with the greatest growth potential.
1. Property must be new, not resale. Real estate, which was built in Cyprus in large quantities, say, 10 years ago, was designed for the British – then the main buyers of Cyprus property. Unfortunately, their low requirements thoroughly spoiled that property. For a number of reasons (for example, due to the fact that houses/apartments were considered only as holidays homes), the British did not mind that properties had no heating systems and proper insulation, and the internal and external design was primitive. Currently, such Real estate is obsolete and is not in demand, despite of falling prices.
2. Property must have high specifications of construction and finishing. There must be high ceilings, efficient heating systems, expensive flooring, tiles, sanitary and kitchen ware. Real estate should look stylish and modern. Such property can be sold in future with good profit.
3. We recommend to buy in the premium segment of the market. Generally, the Cyprus property market is shifting towards more expensive housing. This is evidenced by the dynamics of sales. In recent years, sales of expensive property have been increased, while economy class property stagnates.
4. If an investor buys a property at the initial stage of construction, he/she can expect a good discount to the price. This provides a good capital appreciation.
5. Real estate on the first line to the beach in Limassol and other cities is characterized by permanently good demand. The demand is high while the supply is limited (only few plots of land on the first line in the cities are available). This pushes the prices on sea front properties up.
6. Properties in the tourist area of Limassol, located in walking distance to the sea, are very popular among foreign buyers. Their prices steadily grow. First of all, this applies to large 3 and 4 bedroom apartments.
7. There are several prestigious hills in the nearest suburbs of Limassol. Buying a luxury villa on one of these hills – is a good investment for an applicant for passport.
8. Properties on golf resorts have good prospects. Not any golf property, but having certain specific characteristics. For example, the panoramic unobstructed sea views. Such properties are often sold before their construction is even started.
9. The growth of the culture of the Cyprus construction industry, combined with the increased requirements of buyers have led to the emergence of properties with unique (for Cyprus) and advanced (for the world) architectural solutions. These properties will give a high profitability due to its fashionable image. And also due to the fact that the time of design, obtaining of all necessary permissions and construction of such properties is so long, that they will never be in excess.
Let’s now estimate the possible figures of ROI, which can be received from the Cyprus property recommended above. The total profitability is a sum of Rental income and Capital appreciation.
• The average annual rate of long-term rent in Cyprus is 4%.
• Property market value will grow (according to conservative estimates) by 30% over the next 5 years, an average of 6% pa.
Together combined this gives an average return of 10% per annum.
Our assessment of the Cypriot property market is very positive over the coming years. However investors should be aware that in any market, property prices can vary, they can fall and they may not achieve the predicted forecasts.
Please contact us on 0044 207 060 1475 for a personal assessment with one of our Cyprus real estate consultants.