Getting Citizenship in The EU Via Residency

2024-07-01
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EU citizenship is one of the most valuable global mobility assets the world has to offer. It opens the door to not just one, but 27 countries that offer a high standard of living, robust economies, excellent healthcare systems, and political stability.

However, the term "EU Citizenship" isn't technically correct. While EU members all share an open market and have a united commission, they maintain their sovereignty and citizenship. Getting one of those citizenships gives you complete access to the entire bloc, but you are still a citizen of one singular country.

The good news is, there are more residency by investment programs in the EU than ever. These programs, dubbed golden visas, allow high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) to obtain residency in EU countries that can lead to citizenship in many cases.

In this article, we will explore the options available, and what makes each one a good option for specific investors.

Malta MEIN

Malta's Exceptional Investor Naturalization Program (MEIN) provides HNWIs with one of - if not the -fastest ways to become an EU citizen.

The MEIN came to life after Malta suspended its prior citizenship by investment program (the IIP). Shortly after, the government introduced the MEIN, a citizenship by investment program that integrates the premise of creating genuine links.

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Under the MEIN, investors can obtain Maltese citizenship in one or three years, depending on the amount they invest. The program is simple, quick, and while naturalization takes one or three years, the investors do get access to Malta (and hence the EU) through Maltese residency.

Investors do not have to reside full-time for the duration of their residency to obtain citizenship, but they will have to travel to Malta to submit the application and give biometrics.

To qualify for Malta's MEIN, investors must have a clean criminal record and make a qualifying investment as follows:

Contribution:

  • One year till naturalization: €750,000, OR
  • Three years till naturalization:: €600,000

Real estate:

  • Purchasing real estate for the amount of €700,000, OR
  • Renting real estate for the annual amount of €16,000

Donation of €10,000 to a predetermined, approved NGO

Malta's MEIN is excellent for investors who are willing to invest a higher amount and need an EU citizenship quickly. It is also a great option for those who want to reside in countries of the EU that do not have simplified residency by investment programs.

Benefits

  • Fastest pathway to EU citizenship by investment
  • No physical residence requirement
  • Fast and easy process
  • Tax advantages are possible through Malta's non-dom tax program
  • Greatly enhanced global mobility. Malta's passport ranks 5th worldwide and provides visa-free access to 190 countries, including the USA, UK, and many more.
  • Gain full citizen rights in Malta, including the right to vote, run for office (as per laws), access to healthcare and education, and more.
  • The ability to reside in any EU country as a citizen of the union.

Malta MPRP

Malta's other program is the Maltese Permanent Residency Program (MPRP), which offers investors a route to obtain permanent residency through a simplified investment.

The MPRP is significantly more affordable than the MEIN, which makes it a popular choice in its own right, and it can lead to citizenship through the route of naturalization through residency.

To qualify for the MPRP, investors must have a clean criminal background and make an investment as follows:

Real estate investment:

  • An investment in real estate in the amount of €300,000 in the South of Malta/Gozo or €350,000 in the rest of Malta; OR

  • Renting a property for a minimum of €10,000 annually in the South of Malta/Gozo or €12,000 in the rest of Malta

  • A government contribution of €28,000 if purchasing a property or €58,000 Euro if leasing a property

  • An administrative fee of €40,000

  • A donation of €2,000 to an NGO

To naturalize through the MPRP, investors will need to first obtain a permanent residency permit. Then, they would need to reside for seven consecutive years in Malta as tax residents (six months a year).

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After they complete their physical residence requirement, they can apply for naturalization. To obtain citizenship, applicants will need to have adequate knowledge of Maltese or English, making the process even simpler.

It is worth noting that foreign nationals without family ties in Malta can become citizens if they have lived in the country for four cumulative years with a permanent residence and residence permit in the last six years.

The MPRP will take more than double the time of the MEIN for investors to qualify for citizenship, but its affordability means that it is an excellent option for investors who have a lower budget or those who want to reside in Malta.

Benefits:

  • Simple, quick procedure
  • Very economical choice; investors can qualify for as little as €110,000
  • Visa-free access to the Schengen Zone
  • Malta's non-dom tax regime

Portugal Golden Visa

Portugal's Golden Visa is one of the most popular residency by investment programs in the world. It is a simple program that rewards successful applicants with a two-year, renewable residency permit in exchange for an investment in one of the following:

  • €500,000 investment in funds
  • €500,000 (or €400,000) donation to research activities €250,000 (or €200,000) donation to artistic and cultural projects
  • €500,000 in a business and creating or maintaining a minimum of five permanent jobs for a period of three years.

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The Portuguese Golden Visa requires applicants to reside one week per year to maintain their status. The good news is that this extremely minimal residency requirement also leads to permanent residency and citizenship.

After five years, applicants can apply for citizenship if they spent at least a week per year in Portugal and prove an A2 level of proficiency in Portuguese.

A recent amendment to the naturalization law means that Golden Visa applicants can start counting down their time to naturalization from the date of their application. This is extremely important as Portugal continues to deal with a significant backlog of Golden Visa applications that has raised the processing times to about 18 months.

With this new law, the backlog won't matter much for investors whose end goal is obtaining Portuguese citizenship, which comes with the world's sixth most powerful passport that grants visa free access to 189 destinations worldwide.

Benefits

  • Simple program with interesting investment options
  • Minimal residency that leads to citizenship
  • Processing time counts as part of naturalization time
  • Powerful passport and a clear route to naturalization

Greece Golden Visa

The Greek Golden Visa has been a pillar of EU residency by investment since its introduction a decade ago. Greece’s Golden Visa will undergo investment option changes on September 1st, 2024, so investors now have a chance to choose between two frameworks.

The program is beautifully simple and requires applicants to invest in one of three highly interesting categories as follows:

Real estate investment (before September 1st):

  • €500,000 in the majority of districts in Athens, as well as Thessaloniki, Varo, Santorini, and Mykonos
  • €250,000 in the rest of Greece

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Real estate investment (after September 1st):

€800,000 in a single property (minimum 120m²) in:

  • Administrative Region of Attica
  • Regional Units of Thessaloniki, Mykonos, and Santorini
  • Islands with a population of over 3,100
  • €400,000 in a single property (minimum 120m²) in all other regions of Greece
  • €250,000 for properties converted from commercial to residential (any size or location)
  • Conversion must be completed before submitting the golden visa application
  • €250,000 for fully restored or reconstructed listed buildings (any size or location)
  • Renovation must be completed by the fifth year of residency for golden visa renewal

Financial Products:

  • Investors can qualify for the Golden Visa by making a deposit of €400,000. The deposit must be made in a certified, regulated Greek financial institution

Business Investment:

  • Investors can establish a business with a minimum capital of €250,000 to qualify for the Golden Visa. The investor can run the business themselves or delegate its operation

The Greek Golden Visa does not require investors to reside at all to maintain their residency status.

However, those who want to naturalize through residency must reside for seven years as tax residents (six months a year) in Greece. They will also have to pass a Greek language test (B1) and a cultural knowledge test.

The Greek Golden Visa is excellent for retirees, as the country itself is an outstanding place to live, and its long naturalization requirement means that HNWIs can spend that time in their golden years and eventually obtain citizenship.

Additionally, Greece has a non-dom taxation regime and a retiree tax regime that fixes income tax at just 7%, making it ideal for retired HNWIs.

Benefits

  • Fast, simple process
  • Visa-free access to the Schengen Zone
  • Greek's non-dom and retiree tax regimes
  • Low cost of living compared to other European countries
  • Rapidly developing economy
  • Real Estate Investment available

Latvia Golden Visa

Latvia's Golden Visa often goes unnoticed. The program is the most affordable in Europe, allowing investors to qualify for a €50,000 investment in Latvian company shares (with a €10,000 government fee).

However, that affordability hasn't been enough to bring Latvia on par with the rest of the Golden Visas in terms of application volume, primarily because Latvia's brand lacks behind those of Portugal and Greece. Another important factor may be that Latvia's Golden Visa is a one-year residence permit that needs to be renewed annually.

To qualify for the Latvian Golden Visa, applicants must have a clean criminal record and invest in one of the following:

  • €250,000 investment in real estate
  • €280,000 capital deposit in a Latvian bank for a period of five years, with a government fee of €25,000
  • €250,000 investment in special-purpose, interest-free bonds, along with a government fee of €38,000
  • €50,000 equity investment in a Latvian company that pays at least €40,000 in taxes annually, with a government fee of €10,000

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Latvia's Golden Visa is an excellent option for investors who want to get an EU residency through the most affordable route possible. Latvia's minimum pricing is nearly half of that of the MPRP, highlighting how economical it is.

However, naturalization under Latvian law is quite short compared to other EU countries, as HNWIs only need to reside for five consecutive years as tax residents to qualify for citizenship. They will need to take a language proficiency exam and a cultural knowledge test.

Benefits

  • Access to the Schengen Zone
  • Quick process, takes 2-3 months on average
  • Highly affordable
  • Real estate investment available

Hungary Guest Investor Program

Hungary recently launched its new Guest Investor Program (GIP), its own version of the Golden Visa. Under the GIP, successful applicants will gain a ten year, renewable residency permit in exchange for their investment.

To qualify for Hungary's GIP, investors must have a clean criminal record an invest in one of the following approved categories:

  • €250,000 in investment certificates issued by a real estate fund registered with the National Bank;
  • €500,000 directly in Hungarian residential real estate
  • Donate EUR 1 million to an institution of higher learning to support educational, scientific, artistic, or creative activities

To maintain their residency status, investors do not need to physically reside in Hungary. However, when it comes to naturalization, it is a completely different story.

The GIP itself does not lead to citizenship. However, those who do reside in Hungary can qualify for permanent residency after three years of continuous residence as tax residents.

To obtain a permanent residency permit, a person will need to pass a cultural exam (both language and knowledge), and after obtaining permanent residency they can qualify for naturalization after another eight years of residency, bringing the total up to 11 years.

Benefits

  • Quick, simple process
  • Real estate investment available

Spain

The Spanish Golden Visa is one of the oldest, on par with Portugal's and Greece's programs, and it is a similarly simple program that has a processing time of just around 6-9 months.

The Spanish Golden Visa follows the same premise of its EU counterparts, and those who want to qualify must have a clean criminal record and invest in one of the following approved categories:

  • €500,000 in real estate
  • €1 million in company shares
  • €1 million deposited with a Spanish bank
  • €2 million in government bonds

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The real estate option has been the most popular due to its lower price point and the fact that many investors prefer real estate investments over liquid ones.

While Spain's Golden Visa is very similar to others, the path to naturalization is long, as those who want to obtain Spanish citizenship through residing in Spain need to live for ten consecutive years as a tax resident and take a cultural and language test.

However, there is one very interesting aspect of Spanish naturalization law, which is the fast track available to nationals of countries that used to be former Spanish colonies.

Latin American nationals and Filipinos only need to reside in Spain for two years to qualify for citizenship, making the Spanish Golden Visa one of the fastest ways to obtain an EU citizenship, but only for select nationals.

Benefits

  • Nationality based fast track to citizenship
  • Real estate investment available
  • Massive economy
  • Quick process
  • Access to Shengen Zone
    -The Best Option For You

The best option always lies within the details. There is no one "best Golden Visa," but instead one that is perfect for you.

The optimal way of determining which Golden Visa is right for your specific case, needs, objectives, and budget, is to contact One World Migration today to book a comprehensive consultation with one of our experts.

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