There are a number of different immigration options available today, commonly referred to as Investor Visa’s, Golden Visas, Citizenship by Investment and various other terminology. Some of these programmes offer a residency visa whilst others come with residency which can later lead to citizenship, and many are direct citizenship programmes. If you are not familiar with the world of immigration, it can become confusing and often poses the question for investors  ”What really is the difference between residency and citizenship?”

The most obvious difference between Citizenship and Residency is that once you become a citizen of a country, you can then apply for a passport, whereas residency status is usually conditional and you can only apply for a travel document such as an ID card.  Residency in an EU country will enable you to travel more freely, a little like a Schengen visa, but  you only have the right to reside in that specific country. Citizenship in an EU country means you have the right to live, work and study in any other EU member country, which opens up access to 44 other EU countries. In short, Citizenship means more benefits and rights.

Portugal’s Golden Visa Programme is a popular option for many investors looking to be part of Europe. The programme offers a fairly low cost solution to residency (€350k) which can later be upgraded to citizenship, if the investor wishes. Many investors like this as they may be in no rush to gain full citizenship status, but they have the choice to later down the line.

Some of the lower cost European programmes, such as the Greek Residency programme, simply just offer a residency status which cannot be turned into citizenship. This works for those who have no intentions of ever becoming an EU passport holder and just want the ability to travel more freely to the EU Schengen zone, or perhaps those that wish to specifically live in Greece.

Direct Citizenship by Investment programmes come at a greater cost in Europe. Cyprus (€2.15 million) and Malta (€1.2 million) are the main options. These are quick options and the process takes just six months in Cyprus, and around a year in Malta. Many HNW investors choose Cyprus as they can gain an EU passport fast, which will then enable them to live or conduct business in any other EU member state with no restrictions, effectively becoming an EU Citizen.

The Caribbeans Citizenship by Investment programmes are the most cost effective options on the market. Single investors can expect to pay as little as $100,000 + costs to gain a passport in just three months. All the Caribbean islands offering these programmes, (St Kitts, Antigua, St Lucia, Grenada and Dominica) are commonwealth members.  Passport holders can travel visa free to over 100 + countries world wide, which includes the Shengen Zone, UK, Hong Kong and more. These low cost solutions are very popular amongst investors simply looking to widen their travel opportunities.

La Vida’s specialist consultants can advise you on which programme may suit your own personal requirements and provide a personalised quotation for you. To arrange a consultation, please contact us.  For a summary of the key difference between Citizenship and Residency, please see below.



  • The residency permit will be conditional and you must comply with the conditions in order to renew.
  • You will hold an international travel document from your country of residence, for example, an ID card.
  • You will be eligible to reside and study within the country or residency without restrictions (though conditions can vary depending on the country)
  • You may be eligible to work or conduct business in the country of residence
  • Most countries will require your biometric information
  • Many countries will have a minimum stay requirement
  • You must hold a clear criminal record
  • You must have your own private health insurance
  • You may be able to travel more freely to other countries in your nations state, e.g the EU Shengen zone.
  • Citizenship is for a lifetime
  • You will be issued a passport identifying you as a citizen of your country (renewable every 5-10 years)
  • You will have the freedom to travel, visa-free, to any nations with whom your country has a travel agreement with
  • Usually, Citizenship is passed onto your children
  • You will have all the rights and privileges defined by your country’s law, including the right to vote, work, access education, and obtain healthcare
  • In most cases there is no, or a very minimal minimum stay requirements
  • You can call upon your country for assistance and protection, and access any embassy, consulate, or other diplomatic establishment when travelling abroad
  • Have stability, certainty and a ”Plan B”.
  • Have the right not to be deprived of your nationality (according to Article 15 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Tags: citizenship by investment 2019, citizenship invest, immigration-by-investment


A selection of residency and citizenship investment programmes.