What is Citizenship by Investment?
There are many ways a foreign national can become a citizen of a country other than the national’s country of origin. First, a foreign national may receive an offer of permanent employment in a second country, which would qualify the national for citizenship as a foreign worker. Second, a foreign national could marry a citizen of the second country, which would qualify the national for citizenship as a foreign spouse. Third, a foreign national may flee to the second country due to terrible conditions in the national’s home country (such as civil war or a typhoon), which would qualify the national for citizenship as a refugee. Finally, a foreign national may establish a new commercial enterprise or invest into the second country, which would qualify the national for citizenship as a foreign investor.
Since many countries around the world have recognized the numerous and significant benefits that foreign investment offers a nation’s economy, these countries have enacted measures to encourage foreign nationals to invest into their respective economies. These measures include beneficial tax breaks, relaxed reporting requirements, and opportunities for the investor’s family to live, work, and study in the country as well.
In order to attract the most foreign investors possible, countries are now offering citizenship by investment programs that allow interested investors to contribute a specific sum of money to the nation’s economy in exchange for permanent residence and ultimately citizenship in that country.
It is important to emphasize that every country has established its own regulations and requirements which must be abided by in order to qualify for citizenship by investment. For instance, some countries require the foreign national to live in the country and oversee the investment whereas other countries do not have a residency requirement. However, there are general requirements that are common to many nations’ citizenship by investment programs which are listed below:
1. Minimum Required Investment Amount: In nearly every citizenship by investment program, the foreign national is required to invest (or promise to invest) a minimum amount into the country’s economy. The required amount varies from as low as $100,000USD (as established by Dominica’s program) or as much as $1,000,000USD (as required by one of the United States’ programs). Moreover, many countries also require that the investment be directed into one of the available government approved projects or industries. Two of the most popular industries for foreign investment are real estate development projects and hotel development projects. Of course, there are other countries that allow foreign investors to decide where they want to direct the investment.
2. Proof of the Lawful Source of the Investment Funds: The majority of countries also require that their foreign investors prove that they obtained their investment funds from a lawful source such as from the investor’s savings, employment salary, mortgage, sale or rent of real property, etc. This aspect of a foreign investment application must usually be very detailed and contain sufficient evidence to show the pathway of the investor’s funds. In fact, the majority of foreign nationals who are not approved for the United States investment-based immigration programs are not approved because they failed to convince the U.S. immigration authorities that their investment funds were indeed derived from a lawful source.
3. Evidence of the Foreign Investor’s Previous Business or Entrepreneurial Experience: Many nations qualify their investment-based immigration recipients as skilled immigrants or immigrants who present an economic benefit to the country. Due to these classifications, several countries require that their foreign investors possess previous experience in managing a commercial enterprise or in pursuing successful entrepreneurial projects. Moreover, a number of nations further require that the foreign investor have a managerial or executive role in the commercial enterprise.
Now, once the foreign investor’s application is approved by the country’s immigration authorities, in most cases the foreign investor will become a permanent resident of the country. After a specific period of time as a permanent resident, the foreign investor will be eligible to apply for citizenship through a legal process called naturalization. Upon receiving citizenship, the investor will immediately enjoy the unrestricted right to live, work, study, conduct business, and vote in the country and can also receive the country’s passport.
It is important to highlight that a number of countries do not recognize dual citizenship, meaning that they require foreign investors to renounce their previous nationality before they can be approved for citizenship in the second country.
Benefits of Citizenship by Investment
Citizenship by investment programs offer numerous benefits that have been attracting hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals to pursue second citizenships all around the world. For example, the acquisition of a second citizenship in and of itself is a tremendous asset that carries with it numerous other benefits that are addressed in separate pamphlets.
Additionally, all citizenship by investment programs permit the foreign investor to bring the investor’s spouse and children to the country as dependents. Moreover, most countries provide foreign investors with significant tax breaks such as exemption from income tax, property tax, gift tax, and inheritance tax.
Notably, a smaller number of countries also allow their foreign investors to completely bypass the normal requirement to become a permanent resident as a prerequisite to citizenship, which means that the investor and family would immediately becomes citizens as soon as the investment application is approved. Depending on the nation’s processing times for these applications, the investor and family could acquire their second citizenships in less than a year.
Disadvantages of Citizenship by Investment
There are potential disadvantages to all citizenship by investment programs that could lead a foreign national to choose one program over another, or even to forgo participating in any program altogether. For instance, some investment programs initially grant only temporary residence that may be revoked if the foreign investor does not meet certain requirements. For example, some programs require their investors to create and maintain new full-time job positions for the country’s citizens. If the investment fails to meet the job creation requirement, the foreign national cannot become a citizen and loses the investment funds.