Residence by investment programs, also known as golden visa programs, allow wealthy individuals to relocate to live, work, study, and even receive healthcare in a new country. Changing residencies to a new country or having multiple residences is a crucial aspect of international planning for their wealthy clientele. Many countries across the world offer these programs to attract wealthy foreign investors.
In this article, we will look at 27 countries across the world where wealthy foreigners can ‘buy citizenship’ through Citizenship By Investment programs.
Golden Visas vs Citizenship by Investment Programs
According to Henley and Partners, golden visas and citizenship by investment programmes are not equivalent. A golden visa only allows for temporary residency in another country, whereas citizenship by investment programmes provides applicants with the same benefits as natural-born citizens of the country.
Having said that, many residence-by-investment programmes allow for citizenship applications after a certain amount of time has passed.
Residence by Investment Programs
The list of 27 countries that offer Residence by Investment Programmes or Golden Visa Programmes is provided below, along with the requirements, processing times, and key benefits of the Visa or Residency programme.
Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and has an excellent reputation. It is a developed, multi-cultural country with an extremely high Human Development Index ranking and offers its people an excellent quality of life, economic freedom, and good protection of civil liberties and political rights.
- Investment: Minimum contribution of AUD 2.5 million under the Investor Stream
- Processing Time: 12 months
- Key Benefit: Approximately five years to citizenship
Austria is one of Europe’s wealthiest countries, offering a very high quality of life to its people. With awe-inspiring natural attractions and a well-developed and stable economy, Austria makes for an outstanding place of residence.
- Requirements: Minimum EUR 40,000 liquid funds, German language skills, permanent accommodation, and private healthcare insurance
- Processing Time: One–three months from submission of the application to approval
- Key Benefit: The right of free movement to Austria, the rest of the EU, and Europe’s Schengen Area
Canada is frequently voted one of the best countries in the world to live in. It is well known for its high standard of living, clean environment, low crime rate, and outstanding infrastructure.
- Investment: Innovative start-up business
- Processing Time: 12–31 months
- Key Benefit: Eligibility for citizenship after three years (or 1,095 days) of physical presence out of a five-year period.
With its beautiful beaches and tropical Mediterranean climate, Cyprus is considered an ideal destination for permanent residence for non-EU nationals.
- Investment: Minimum investment of EUR 300,000 under a Regulation 6(2) application
- Processing Time: Processing time of two months (or 18 months under a Category F application)
- Key Benefit: The right to live and study in Cyprus
As a member state of the EU, Greece offers its residents and citizens a number of reassuring benefits including high levels of safety and security, excellent education opportunities, robust healthcare options, and a dependable rule of law.
- Investment: Real estate investment of EUR 250,000
- Processing Time: One–two months from submission of the application to approval
- Key Benefit: The right of free movement to Greece and Europe’s Schengen Area
6. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a diverse, leading metropolis offering a unique blend of Eastern and Western traditions. It is one of the world’s most business-friendly cities and has a world-class infrastructure. Hong Kong enjoys an open economy with a free market and low taxation. It is an important international finance and trade centre.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) offers several residence programs for talented individuals seeking residence in this Asian metropolis.
- Investment: Applicants must complete a points-based test under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme
- Processing Time: Four–eight months
- Key Benefit: Eligible to apply for permanent residence after seven years
Located in Western Europe in a strategic position on major air and sea routes between North America and Northern Europe, Ireland is poetically named the ‘Emerald Isle’ for its lush landscapes and rich vegetation. The country ranks among the top five most developed nations on the UN’s Human Development Index, and its economy holds 3rd position on the 2022 Index of Economic Freedom.
The Ireland Residence by Investment Program was concluded on 15 February 2023.
- Investment: Minimum contribution of EUR 500,000
- Processing time: Nine–twelve months
- Key benefit: The right of free movement to Ireland and the Common Travel Area
Home to many great works of art and architecture, Italy’s strategic location in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea makes it an ideal place to live. Italy is a founding member of the EU and the third-largest economy in the eurozone. Italian residents enjoy high standards of living, education, and healthcare, and a unique quality of life.
The Italy Residence by Investment Program (also known as the Italy golden visa) is designed for foreign investors who are committed to making a significant contribution to the country’s economy, granting them Italian residence and visa-free access to Europe’s Schengen Area.
- Investment: Minimum investment from EUR 250,000 to EUR 2 million
- Processing time: Three–four months
- Key benefit: The right to live, work, and study in Italy
Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands. Situated between Britain and France, it provides a convenient location and a relaxed lifestyle. It has a stable economy, an attractive tax system, and is an idyllic place to raise a family. Its residents enjoy a high standard of living and there are excellent flight connections.
A modern airport and an advantageous location enable Jersey to benefit from frequent and regular air services to London, Paris, Zurich, and other airports in the United Kingdom, France, the other Channel Islands, and Ireland, with regular sea travel to England and France.
- Investment: Minimum real estate investment of GBP 1.25 million and annual taxes of GBP 145,000
- Processing time: Varying
- Key benefit: Well-regulated and mature finance and trust industry
Latvia is situated within Europe’s Schengen Area, on the Baltic coast. Riga, its capital, was founded in 1201 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Approximately half of Latvia’s territory is covered by forests, offering many nature trails and parks. Latvia offers excellent transport and cultural links with both Western Europe and Russia.
The Latvia Residence by Investment Program was launched on 1 July 2010 as an initiative to sustainably overcome the economic crisis of 2007– 2009. Foreign nationals may apply for a residence permit in Latvia through various options.
- Investment: Minimum investment of EUR 60,000
- Processing time: One–three months from submission of the application to approval
- Key benefit: The right to live, work, and study in Latvia
With one of the highest GDP per capita in the world and a AAA credit ranking, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is the ideal destination for investors and entrepreneurs seeking a rich business landscape and an attractive alternative location for private residences. The founding EU member state offers an excellent quality of life and advanced infrastructure.
The Luxembourg Residence by Investment Program allows foreign nationals to make an investment in the country and apply for a residence permit.
- Investment: Minimum contribution of EUR 500,000
- Processing time: Approximately six months
- Key benefit: Visa-free access to the EU and Europe’s Schengen Area
Malaysia is one of Asia’s most vibrant economies due to its continued industrial growth and political stability. After gaining independence, Malaysia joined the British Commonwealth. A member of the UN and APEC, it is also a founding member of ASEAN. Malaysia offers excellent beaches, breathtaking scenery, and dense rainforests.
Malaysia My Second Home Program and Premium Visa Program both allow foreign nationals who fulfil certain criteria to reside in Malaysia on a long-term multiple-entry visa.
- Investment: Minimum investment of MYR 1 million (approximately USD 230,000)
- Processing time: Three–six months
- Key benefit: A 10-year multiple-entry visa enabling the applicant and their family to live in Malaysia
Situated in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta enjoys an excellent reputation for its splendid climate, friendly people, low crime rate, and superb quality of life. An attractive place in which to live or own a second home, Malta also has excellent air links.
Malta has risen to be one of Europe’s leading investment locations, driven by its reputation for stability, predictability, and security. The Malta Permanent Residence Programme grants residence rights to foreign nationals seeking an alternative residence in Europe.
- Investment: Minimum contribution of EUR 175,000 mixed capital requirements
- Processing time: Processing time of four-six months from submission of the application to approval
- Key benefit: The right to freedom of movement in Malta
Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean that is attracting considerable foreign investment. Having experienced steady economic growth for decades, Mauritius is one of the most business-friendly countries in Africa. Residence brings many benefits including lifestyle advantages, with additional benefits for Southern African Development Community citizens.
Mauritius’ residence program allows foreign nationals to make a real estate investment in the country and apply for a residence permit. Successful applicants and their families are granted full residence rights including the right to live, work, and retire in Mauritius.
- Investment: Minimum real estate investment of USD 375,000
- Processing time: Six–eight months
- Key benefit: The right to live, work, and retire in Mauritius
Located on the Mediterranean Sea, with France as its only neighbour, the Principality of Monaco is the second smallest country in the world. Monaco offers a high standard of living, temperate weather, a high level of personal security, a modern and efficient infrastructure, and an absence of income or capital gains tax.
The requirements to become a resident in Monaco are not as strict as commonly thought, but it is nevertheless advisable to employ a consultant or lawyer to handle an application for residence on your behalf. To become a resident, you must be able to show sufficient means to be able to afford the lifestyle, in particular, the rent and prices for real estate, which are comparable to big capital cities.
Monaco offers many advantages, including:
- High confidentiality
- Multicultural society
- Attractive lifestyle and an ideal location at the border of the French and Italian Riviera
- Excellent access by road, sea, and air at the international airport of Nice
- A very stable real estate market that offers significant opportunities to investors as well as residential property dealers
- High-quality sports, cultural, and education facilities
- Secure environment
Situated on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe, Montenegro is known for its magnificent and unparalleled natural beauty. Emerging as a sovereign state in 2006, Montenegro is a member of NATO, uses the euro as its currency, and is an official candidate country for EU membership.
Montenegro is a safe and stable country that has become an economic hub for modern resorts and is working towards having a free-market economy. Montenegro Residence grants residence rights to foreign nationals seeking a diversified portfolio that comes with the benefit of alternative residence in Europe.
- Investment: No minimum investment
- Processing time: Approximately one month from submission of the application to approval
- Key benefit: The right to live, work, and study in Montenegro
Recognized for its highly stable political and economic environment, the southwest African country of Namibia is one of the continent’s prime tourist destinations, with abundant wildlife and some of the highest dunes in the world. Namibia is considered among the safest nations in Africa, with an impressive infrastructure and an excellent quality of life.
Namibia allows foreign nationals to make a real estate investment through a company in the modern and eco-friendly President’s Links Estate and gain a residence permit in return.
- Investment: Minimum investment of USD 365,000
- Processing time: Three months
- Key benefit: The right to live, work, and study in Namibia
18. New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the world’s most stable and well-governed nations and offers an attractive destination for investment, business, and raising a family. The country is consistently ranked in the top 10 in terms of protecting investors, starting a business, and ease of doing business.
New Zealand has an immigration and investment policy that provides the opportunity for foreign nationals to obtain permanent residence in New Zealand by making a substantial investment in the country.
- Investment: Minimum investment of NZD 5 million
- Processing time: Eight–nine months
- Key benefit: Eligibility for citizenship after five years of residence
Strategically positioned between Central and South America, Panama is a global centre for international banking. Significant seaborne trade — the result of the Panama Canal, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans — offers investors access to the global commercial goods markets, from the USA to East Asia, Europe, and Oceania.
The Panama Residence by Investment Program, also known as the Panama golden visa, allows foreign nationals to make an investment in the country and apply for a residence permit.
- Investment: Minimum investment of USD 100,000
- Processing time: 30 days under the Qualified Investor route, or four–six months under the Friendly Nations and Forestry Investor routes.
- Key benefit: The right of free movement to Panama
Portugal boasts an excellent reputation and is considered one of the world’s most globalized and peaceful nations, with a high quality of life and a very high Human Development Index ranking. It is among the oldest nations in Europe with a rich history, lively culture, exceptional cuisine, stunning beaches, and idyllic countryside.
The Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program, also known as a Portugal golden visa, is a five-year residence by investment program for non-EU nationals. Portugal is a full member of the EU. The residence permit allows visa-free access to Europe’s Schengen Area and requires an average stay of just seven days a year in Portugal over a five-year period.
- Investment: Minimum real estate investment of EUR 280,000
- Processing time: Over 18 months
- Key benefit: The right to live, work, and study in Portugal
Singapore is frequently voted the best Asian city in which to live due to its excellent infrastructure and public services. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and offers a high quality of life to its residents. Globally, it is rated one of the wealthiest countries when measured by GDP per capita.
Foreign nationals may apply for permanent residence status through the Singapore Global Investor Program. The program is aimed at entrepreneurs or investors who are interested in making substantial financial investments in Singapore and is designed to attract wealthy foreign nationals who wish to make Singapore their home.
- Investment: Minimum investment of SGD 10 million
- Processing time: Nine–twelve months
- Key benefit: Eligibility for citizenship after two years of permanent residence
Situated in Southwestern Europe, Spain is regarded as one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations. It is a vibrant country admired for its majestic landscapes and excellent quality of life and a nation with a rich history and unique culture and traditions. Spain has one of the most important economies in Europe. It is also a full member of the EU and the Eurozone.
Spain’s residence by investment program, also known as the Spain golden visa, allows foreign nationals to make a significant investment in the country and apply for an investor visa. Successful applicants and their families are granted visa-free access across Europe’s Schengen Area.
- Investment: Minimum investment of EUR 500,000
- Processing time: Approximately 20 days for the immigration procedure
- Key benefit: The right to live, work, and study in Spain, and free movement to the EU and Europe’s Schengen Area
Switzerland offers its residents an excellent quality of life and ranks among the top countries in which to live. It is home to many international organizations and is noted for its multicultural and plurilingual society and its politically and economically stable environment.
Financially independent individuals who are not gainfully employed in Switzerland but who agree to pay a certain minimum in net annual taxes can acquire a residence permit regardless of their age.
- Investment: Minimum annual taxes of CHF 250,000, dependent on the applicant and the canton of residence
- Processing time: Three–six months
- Key benefit: The right to live and study in Switzerland
Thailand is a sought-after destination in Southeast Asia. The country offers an affordable and high standard of living. Its attractions include spectacular ancient ruins, scuba-diving sites, tropical islands, exciting nightlife, palaces, Buddhist temples, and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Thailand Elite Residence Program offers applicants the right to live in the country for up to 20 years and access privileged services and benefits. To receive the Thailand Elite privilege entry visa, foreigners must join Thailand Elite, an exclusive program offered by the Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited (TPC).
- Investment: Minimum application fee of THB 600,000 (approximately USD 19,000)
- Processing time: Two-three months
- Key benefit: Long-term, the privileged multiple-entry permit as well as luxury, VIP treatment
25. United Arab Emirates
The UAE is a key country in the Arabian Gulf and offers modern infrastructure, transport, and communications systems. The country is an excellent place in which to conduct business, with easy global access. Dubai is the second largest of the seven emirates and ranks as the UAE’s most important international city and financial and commercial centre.
UAE Residence by Investment allows foreign nationals to make an investment in the country and apply for a residence permit, also known as a UAE golden visa.
- Investment: Minimum investment of AED 2 million (approximately USD 550,000)
- Processing time: Over eight weeks
- Key benefit: The right to live in any of the seven emirates of the UAE
26. United Kingdom
The UK has long been a significant world power, both economically and politically. London is the financial capital of the world, offering an international business environment. The UK is also renowned for having some of the best educational institutions in the world and an open, international culture.
The Innovator Visa is aimed at those who can demonstrate relevant experience in business and requires individuals to set up or run an existing business in the UK. To qualify, applicants must invest GBP 50,000 into a new business that has been endorsed and approved by the Home Office and produce a business plan.
- Investment: GBP 50,000
- Processing time: One–eight weeks from submission of the application to approval
- Key benefit: The right to live, work, and study anywhere in the United Kingdom
27. United States of America
The USA remains one of the most sought-after destinations for investors. The US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program offers an efficient route to permanent resident status (a green card) in a short period of time.
The US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program sets aside EB-5 visas for participants who invest in commercial enterprises associated with government-approved regional centres based on proposals for promoting economic growth.
- Investment: USD 800,000
- Processing Time: 30–36 months
- Key Benefit: Citizenship eligibility after five years of legal residence
Residence by Investment Programmes or Golden Visa Programmes allows wealthy individuals to obtain a second citizenship, allowing them to live, work, study, and receive healthcare in a new country. With these programmes available in 27 countries, investors have a variety of options to choose from based on their needs and preferences.
However, before making a decision, it is critical to carefully consider the requirements, processing times, and benefits of each programme.
(Disclaimer: The information presented in this article has been sourced from Henley & Partners, a global citizenship and residency advisory firm, and has been edited for clarity and brevity by our editorial team.)
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