You can buy anything these days — even residency or citizenship to some countries.
It’s not cheap, of course. An Austrian passport comes with a EUR 10 million price tag, for instance. But it’s big business: Two years ago, Christian Kalin, head of the residency and citizenship planning firm Henley & Partners, told the BBC that every year people from around the world spend US$2 billion adding to their passport collections.
Residency by Investment
A handful of EU countries have become magnets for these investments, granting investors residency if they invest a certain amount in real estate or country bonds, and a few of those countries have investment schemes that grant citizenship.
The benefit to foreign investors from non-EU countries — in addition to residency or citizenship — is that if the investment is made in a Schengen country (one of 26 European countries), the investor can travel throughout the entire area without visas or passports.
The so-called golden visas aren’t without controversy, writes Mark Scott of The New York Times. Economists wonder whether the schemes really are having a positive impact on local economies. Accusations of cheating arise, and one Portuguese politician says “golden visas are an insane program, because obviously they are conduits for importing organised crime into the European Union.”
On the other hand, governments from countries with struggling economies such as Greece, Cyprus and Portugal are delighted with the inflow of cash. And even big countries such as the US, Canada and the UK offer visas at a price.
The prime minister of the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis is on record about the success of its government-sponsored Citizen by Investment Program (CBI). He told Global Citizen magazine that the longest running and most established CBI program in the world “has allowed the government to attack growth from several directions.”
If you’re thinking about investing in a golden visa, we’ve compiled a list of 16 companies that specialise in residency and citizenship programs for you to consider. Because there are so many variables involved — the destination country, the minimum investment amount, the complexity of the program itself, and the length of time it actually takes to achieve citizenship or residency status — you’ll benefit from spending a little time upfront researching the firm you’ll ultimately rely on for guidance.
Companies to Help With Visa, Residency and Citizenship Programs
Located in Switzerland, the team at Best Citizenships advises on topics that include residency and citizenship programs in countries across North America, Europe and the Caribbean. The minimum investment amount required is US$300,000, and in-person meetings are arranged in Dubai, London or Zurich. The homepage has a helpful summary of requirements by country under both the Citizenship by Investment (CIP) and the Immigrant Investor (IIP) programs.
Headquartered in London, and with branch offices in Hong Kong and Dubai, La Vida is a real estate company that consults with international buyers interested in investment options for golden visa programs. Representing properties in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Malta and Cyprus, as well as in Dominica and St. Kitts, La Vida was founded by accountant Paul Williams more than a decade ago.
The largest real estate agency in Portugal, with offices throughout the country, including in Lisbon, the Silver Coast and the Algarve, Portugal Property has been helping clients obtain golden visas since the scheme began in 2012. There is a dedicated section on the site with information on all aspects of the process, and includes a general overview, FAQ page and downloadable brochure.
Established in 1995, Premiere Realty in Singapore offers services including local and overseas project management, expatriate relocation, and leasing and work related to investment properties. The website also has a section pertaining to how foreigners can obtain a golden visa in Portugal, with information on the buying process as well as the requirements for application.
Portugal Golden Visa
Composed of two teams (property and legal), Portugal Golden Visa in Albufeira helps clients both in finding a property in the Algarve and by providing legal advice. The real estate agency is partnered with the law firm of Fernandes, Chaves & Associates, which specialises in matters pertaining to non-residents and foreign clients; it is able to assist in the golden visa application process and property purchase.
Calling themselves your one-stop shop in Portugal, the team at Golden Visa helps foreigners make the appropriate investment decision, go through the process of obtaining a golden residence permit, and can also manage the property on your behalf. They have two offices in Portugal, both in Lisbon, and one in Germany.
Golden Visa Europe
As independent financial advisors in Spain, Golden Visa Europe provides information to those interested in obtaining an investor visa in Spain and other countries throughout Europe. The group has also partnered with property developers in St. Kitts and Nevis. However, they counsel, the investment does not have to be in real estate; funds can be invested in government bonds or a business.
Martinez-Echevarría, Pérez & Ferrero
This international law firm, headquartered in Málaga, on Spain’s Costa del Sol, has a total of 16 offices in four countries. In addition to assisting non-residents with taxation matters, VAT refunds, extradition and asylum, Martinez-Echevarría, Pérez & Ferrero also helps clients who wish to invest in Spain or Portugal in order to obtain golden visa residence permits.
Ideal Property Spain
Peter and Sharon Cossons are from the UK, but settled in Spain in 1999 and founded the real estate company Ideal Property Spain in 2007. Located in Málaga, their team know the Costa del Sol inland area very well, and can help foreigners relocate or invest in local property. There is solid information for investors about Spanish golden visas, credited to the law firm noted above, Martinez-Echevarría, Pérez & Ferrero.
Golden Visa Greece
Run by the investment and consulting company Energopiisi in Athens, Golden Visa Greece offers business proposals in a number of sectors in addition to real estate investors who wish to obtain either a golden residence permit or golden investor’s permit. Founded in 2012, it has to date handled more than EUR 190 million in investments, with more than 120 business visas issued in addition to residence permits and D-type investment visas.
ACROSS is a partnership between BWA, a real estate market projection and property management company, and ABBC, a company that provides legal counseling. BWA is owned by Imogalvão, a real estate company, and its CEO, Guilherme D’Orey, is the project leader of ACROSS, located in Lisbon. Clients who are considering investing in Portugal for the purpose of obtaining a permanent resident visa will have expert advice in both sectors, property and law.
The Swiss firm of Fiduciaire Bleich Sàrl offers legal, tax and immigration services, as well as services in Portugal under the name of Golden Visa. Its offices are in Geneva and Lisbon, and the firm has a team of lawyers in Portugal to advise on global citizenship, including relocating to or property investment in various countries around the world. In addition to Portugal, golden visas are available for Antigua and Barbuda, Cyprus, Dominica, Greece, Grenada, Hungary, Malta, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
Headquartered in the Netherlands, Walsh Worldwide is a group of companies made up of experts in economic citizenship and residency programs around the globe. Founded by tax planning professionals with decades of experience, Walsh Worldwide offers personalised solutions to wealthy individuals seeking a second or third passport, or visa-free status. The group has offices in most countries where it helps clients obtain golden visas; in those where only local consulting firms are allowed to offer citizenship or residency solutions, it works closely with partners there.
A global financial advisory firm with 15 offices worldwide, Arton Capital specialises in investor programs for residency and citizenship. To date, it has helped attract more than US$2.7 billion in foreign direct investment to countries around the globe, evaluating investment programs with each client in terms of the amount of investment required for citizenship or residence, the speed with which those goals can be attained, the number of visa-free countries in the program, and the simplicity of the program.
Monarch & Co
Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Monarch & Co facilitates residence, property and investment options in countries around the world. The company was started in Malta in 2007, and now consults on programs that include property in Antigua and Barbuda, Cyprus, Grenada, Malta, Mauritius, Portugal, St. Kitts and Nevis, the UK and the US, working closely with partner companies who have local knowledge.
Henley & Partners
The only EU-endorsed citizenship-by-investment program, the Malta Individual Investor Program, is handled by Henley & Partners, which designed and implemented it after being contracted by the government of Malta in 2014. The firm focuses solely on residence and citizenship planning worldwide and currently operates from more than 20 offices across the globe. Immigration and citizenship law specialist Christian H. Kalin, author of the Global Residence & Citizenship Handbook, leads Henley & Partners as Group Chairman.
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