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Best Citizenship by Investment Programs : The Cheapest Places To Buy Citizenship

Best Citizenship by Investment Programs : The Cheapest Places To Buy Citizenship

Unbeknownst to some people, it is possible these days to buy citizenship in certain countries.

It is not as seedy or underhand as it first appears, some countries are crying out for investors, and offering citizenship in return for an investment and/or a donation is both legitimate and legal. Here are a few places where you may legitimately and legally buy an official passport. It will cost you less than if you try to buy your way into another country (such as Austria, Malta, Bulgaria and other 1st world EU countries that offer an economic citizenship through investment scheme), but it will still cost you a pretty penny to ‘buy’ your citizenship from these countries.

One thing you should be aware of first. Countries that offer ‘cheaper’ CIP (citizenship investment programs) can quickly find that 1st world countries re-impose the ‘visa’ clause due to security risks or abuse. On that note, while you may save money buying a passport from some of the island countries, you might want to look at a less obvious country that does the same thing, rather than one of the ‘go to’ Caribbean countries such as St Kitts or Dominica.

The risk is that the EU may decide to impose visa restrictions again, rendering a lot less value to these citizenship than they have currently with open access to the EU. Also note that most of the 3rd world countries will still need visas to Canada, the US, and Australia, even if the EU waives visa requirements.

Dominica

There is a tiny island called Dominica, and there are fewer than 100,000 people on the island that are passport-holding citizens. At the moment, it is the one of the cheapest places to buy citizenship legitimately. If you have a passport from Dominica, you will be able to travel to 91 countries without needing a visa.

You will have to fill out a quit a few forms, and sit through an invasive admission interview. It is a commonwealth country, which means you may have special privileges with the UK, and there are quite a few countries where you may visit with a Dominica passport without needing a visa.

If you have a family of four with you, your spouse and two children under the age of eighteen, then citizenship for all of you will cost around $250,000. If you have any other children under the age of twenty-five, then it will cost you an extra $25,000 per child. You will also have to pay extra passport fees, which will bump the price of your passport up to around $350,000.

However, Dominica is garnering a bad rep with their passport selling scheme. As a result, some of the countries may, in the future, remove the no-visa clause (especially the EU). Keep this in mind.

St. Kitts and Nevis

Since 1984, St. Kitts and Nevis has been offering a cash-for-citizenship program, which makes it the longest running cash-for-citizenship program in the world. St. Kitts and Nevis are one of the few Caribbean islands that has successfully run a CIP (Citizenship-For-Investment Program) and maintained a reasonably good economy. A Caribbean location is ideal for global citizens as an interim passport, and it allows you to visit 132 countries without a visa which includes going to the EU without a visa.

If you wish to become a citizen, there are two different ways; the first is to invest $400,000 in the island’s real estate. The second method is to donate $250,000 to the charity called St. Kitts and Nevis Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation. Your donation is not refundable and the only people that are unable to get a passport via the investment/donation method are Iranian people.

Just like the Antigua and Barbuda CIP program (below), the St. Kitts program seems to have fluctuating prices. Some people report that they only made a $250,000 donation where others claim they made a $295,000 donation. There are also some people that claimed they needed to make a $500,000 investment in real estate before they were accepted.

You might think, ‘hey, why should I donate 250k when I can just invest in property, get my citizenship papers, then sell my property to recoup the investment.

Ah, the powers to be at St. Kitts are way ahead of you here.

Real estate in St. Kitts is very overvalued, which means an investment of $400,000 in real estate may not be feasible. You may be forced to spend between $800,000 and $1 million to buy a family home. So you may have problems finding something for 400k. And, once you buy your property, you are not allowed to sell it to OTHER citizens by investment. That means your only chance is to a) sell it to a foreigner (good luck), b) sell it to a local (you’ll need even more luck).

If you decide to go the condo-timeshare route, you will have a problem recouping your money. If you take a visit to St. Kitts and Nevis, you will notice lots of empty timeshare condominiums.

Of course, if you fully intend to live there or you want a vacation home, this is not an issue. But keep this in mind – you won’t be able to get your ‘investment’ back out.  It may be ‘cheaper’ to just donate rather than invest.

Antigua and Barbuda

CIP was introduced in 2013 because of how well the program has done in St. Kitts, which is probably why the program in Antigua and Barbuda is so similar to the CIP program in St. Kitts.

There are two different ways to become a citizen, the first is to invest $400,000 in the island’s real estate, and the second is to make a charitable donation of $250,000 into a local charity.

The program is not an invitation for anybody and everyone to come and join the country. The reason the set up the program is because traditional methods of finance had dried up. That may be why the price of an Antiguan passport seems to fluctuate. For example, some people report having to pay as much as a $275,000 donation and/or make a $500,000 investment in real estate.

In addition, no matter how much they make you pay, (which one assumes varies according to your status); you will also have to pay fees that usually run up to around $60,000. With your Antigua and Barbuda passport, you will be able to travel to 132 countries without needing a visa including the EU countries.

If you are making a donation in order to get a passport, then consider Antigua and Barbuda before St. Kitts because it will save you around $50,000. On the other hand, if you are making a real estate investment, then St. Kitts narrowly wins Antigua and Barbuda in terms of value for money. In addition, an Antiguan passport will allow you to travel to Canada without a visa where a St. Kitts passport will not.

Malta

People are not supposed to be able to buy their way into a European Country, which is why Malta has come under fire for allowing people to purchase a passport for as little as 650,000 Euros, without having to live in the country (without residency). The European Union forced Malta to insist that its new passport applicants spend at least one and a half years in Malta and invest a whopping 1.15m Euros.

So it’s not longer possible to buy a cheap EU citizenship.

If you become citizen of Malta, you will enjoy all of benefits of being a member of the EU, which means you may move and work within the member states without restriction and without a visa. It also means you are entitled to all the protection that the EU gives while you are living in one of the EU countries.

You may be able to enter the US with a Maltese passport because of the unique US and Malta Visa Waiver program. When you gain a second passport with Malta, it is understood that in the future you will spend at six months per year in the country, at least for the first few years of your citizenship. In addition, the country has been limited to only accepting 1800 passport applications per year, so it may take a little longer than you expected to get your passport.

So if you don’t plan to reside in Malta — at least for a few years — this may not be the best second citizenship for you.

Cyprus

If you want a passport with all the perks and protection that the EU offers, then you could try Cyprus. They also offer a citizenship-by-investment plan, and they are part of the EU. Cyprus hasn’t been doing too well recently because they suffer from the same cultural problems that Greece has, in that the overly leftist government has created a generation of people on benefits with very few working skills and bigger businesses avoid the country due to the overtaxing of the rich. However, Cyprus has what the Greeks used to have, which is a booming tourist trade, which is partially helping to prop up their economy after the EU bailout.

To become a member, you must invest as a single person or as a group. If you wish to invest as a single person, you must invest five million Euros into real estate or into Cyprus banks. If you wish, you may join a group that invests over 12.5 million Euros, in which case, you only have to invest 2 million of your own money into the group.

Bulgaria

If you want to spend a little less than 2 million Euros, you could try Bulgaria or St. Lucia. With Bulgaria, it will only cost you 1.2 million Euros. Bulgaria is a little different to the others on this list because with Bulgaria, you are likely to see most of your money again once you have your passport.

 

You may buy citizenship as a private investor if you are willing to invest 512,000 Euros in government bonds in order to gain residency, and then a further 512,000 the year after to gain residency. During this two-year period, you must visit the country at least twice.

When you invest in government bonds, you must invest for five years, and you will not be paid any interest for your investment. To gain residency, you do need to clear all their checks and have a clean background check. After the five-year period, your money will have depreciated a little, but you will get your investment back.

If you have a Bulgarian passport, you will be able to travel visa-free to 153 countries, and you will be able to work and live in any country in the EU without having a visa.

Bulgaria is the best citizenship by investment of 2016

Very important to note is tht Bulgaria has qualified to join the EU’s Schengen, meaning visa-free travel to all the EU countries. It hasn’t happened yet, but things are moving in that direction and you might see Bulgaria join as a full EU member in the next year or two. Which at that point, expect the price of Bulgarian citizenship to drastically rise.

So if you want cheap access to the EU, Bulgaria is the best deal right now. Even more.

Why is Bulgaria ‘the best economic citizenship’ right now (especially as of 2016). Because it’s one of the only citizen investments where you can put down your money as an investment, sit on it for 5 years, and get your money BACK.

Many of the other citizenship investment programs force you to buy a business (which means you need to live there and run the said business, taking all the usual risks involved) or buy properties which won’t likely see a return. Bulgaria, you can invest in government bonds with the money returned to you after the 5 year period.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia has modeled its CIP program on the Bulgarian one.

You may buy a citizenship with St. Lucia if you invest between $500,000 and $550,000 in government bonds for a period of five years. If you want a quicker way, you may invest a non-refundable amount between $200,000 and $250,000 and buy your passport that way.

Why is this better than Bulgaria? At the moment, it is not. It looks like better value, and it looks like you will get your investment back if you invest in government bonds, but the country is still turning down quite a few people despite their willingness to invest. They appear to be limiting the number of applications they review.

If you get a St. Lucia passport, you are able to travel to 121 countries without a visa, and you may spend up to 180-days in the part of the EU that is called the Schengen area. Just like with Bulgaria, your money will depreciate while it is in the interest-free government bonds, but you get your investment back. A second passport in St. Lucia is desirable, but one in Bulgaria is a little more desirable because you are an EU citizen.

Austria

If you have a lot of money, then consider Austria. This is the best passport you can ‘buy’ hands down, giving you visa-free  access to most countries in the world, including the hard ones like Canada and the US.

The cost is literally the cost.

You need to Invest 10 million Euros into an approved business and you may gain your second passport. If you do not have ten million to invest, then you may make a non-refundable donation of between two and four million Euros. The fees for your passport are also going to run to up to half a million Euros too.

Also note that Austria does not allow dual citizenship. So to become an Austrian, you’ll have to give up your birth citizenship.

Austria is part of the EU since they joined in 1995, which means you may work and live in any EU country if you have an Austrian passport. You also get visa-free travel to 171 countries. Austria has the highest obesity rate in the European Union, which may be why the Austrian funeral industry is the largest per capita in Europe. However, Austria was the birthplace of Arnold Schwarzenegger, so it is pretty cool.

Russia

The Russians have had a CIP (Citizenship By Investment Program) since 2014, but they will not release official figures on how many passports they have issued as a result of the CIP program. It is also unclear as to if you have to renounce all your other passports and take up permanent residence as a Russian citizen.

With as little as $165,000, you may set up a business and employ people. You will have to generate taxable revenue while employing people full-time, and if you can do that for a suitable (undisclosed) amount of time, then you are granted a Russian passport.

It is unclear how many countries you may visit without a visa if you flash a Russian passport. The Russian’s aggressive invasion of other countries, along with their support of the Syrian government, is causing customs enforcers, officials and government bodies to look twice at how many Ruskies they want coming into their country. As of late 2016, there are a now fewer than 100 countries that will allow Russians to travel into their country without a visa.

Grenada

Including Russia and Grenada is a little unfair because either Granada is failing to report the passports it has given out due to its CIP program, or it has only given out a tiny amount of passports because of it. Their CIP program restarted in 2014 after it was suspended for 12 years.

So far, some of the people that invested in the Mount Cinnamon Resort and Beach Club were given passports under the new CIP scheme. No other passports have been reported to be issued because of the CIP scheme. You get visa free access to 110 countries if you are lucky enough to get a passport via the CIP scheme.

About The Author

Ben Todd

Ben was a seriously broke graduate student with bad credit who after finding himself rejected for any sort of credit card or loan for most of his adult life, finally decided to get his financial life in order. ' He spent several years reading as many financial advice books and blogs as he could. And suprisingly, Ben found he actually LIKED the topic of personal finance; after fixing his own finances, starting his own successful work at home website business, and using his earnings to get out of debt, created echeck.org to help others do likewise!

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