Obtaining a second passport could be one of the best investments you’ll ever make. It offers the lifelong benefit of having more options for living, traveling, doing business, investing, and potentially even saving you a fortune in taxes.
And buying a passport through a legitimate Citizenship By Investment program is one of the quickest ways to get one.
But beware, not all economic citizenship programs are created equal, and the internet is full of charlatans promising the impossible.
After reading this article you’ll know whether purchasing a passport is right for you, which program is best for your personal situation, and how to ensure that you don’t get scammed.
You’ll find everything you need to know in this article — whether you are looking for the best, the cheapest, a European or a Caribbean citizenship and passport.
In this In-Depth Article...
All currently available citizenship-by-investment programs
There are more than a dozen citizenship-by-investment programs in the world today – 5 in the Caribbean, 5 in Europe, 2 in Asia and 1 in the Pacific.
We’ll present you each option assuming the total cost, including government fees, for a family of four — with two children younger than 12 years old.
Keep in mind, however, that on top of the donation/investment amount and the government fees, you’ll have to pay a commission to an agent who will lodge your citizenship application with the government.
You can choose to work with a world-famous service provider and pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees, or with a much smaller firm and pay a fraction of that amount. The end result, however, will generally be the same – second citizenship and a passport.
However you choose to go about it, budget $10,000 or more in additional fees for the service provider doing the work.
|CBI PROGRAM||Minimum Capital Outlay||Investment Options||Application Timeline||Sovereign Passport Ranking||Visa-free Countries||Schengen Visa-free Travel||Program Status|
|Antigua and Barbuda CBI||$100,000||Government Donation, Real Estate||5-6 months||B||128||Yes||Open|
|Dominica CBI||$100,000||Government Donation, Real Estate||5-6 months||B||122||Yes||Open|
|Grenada CBI||$150,000||Government Donation, Real Estate||5-6 months||B||121||Yes||Open|
|St Lucia CBI||$100,000||Government Donation, Real Estate||5-6 months||B-||122||Yes||Open|
|St Kitts and Nevis CBI||$125,000||Government Donation, Real Estate||5-6 months||B||135||Yes||Open|
|Turkey CBI||$400,000||Government Donation, Real Estate||5-6 months||C||108||No||Open|
|Vanuatu CBI||$130,000||Government Donation||1-2 months||D+||83||No||Open|
If you’re looking for…
With many Citizenship By Investment programs, passing your citizenship down to a future generation is not easy.
A second passport is a valuable asset that you want to pass down to your kids.
If you obtain a passport through naturalization, say, in Chile, or through ancestry, say, in Ireland, then your future kids (and their kids, and kids of their kids…) are entitled to Chilean or Irish passports, as they are your direct descendants.
There is usually just a trivial fee of around $100 involved for applying for a passport booklet.
But with citizenship by investment programs, passing down your citizenship is not automatic.
Most programs in the Caribbean do allow your direct descendants to obtain a passport, but usually only after they pay a hefty fee.
In St. Lucia, for example, you used to have to pay an extra $25,000 to obtain citizenship for your newborn child, even if you became a citizen a while ago. Thankfully, that fee was just reduced to $500.
But none of the programs in the Caribbean (except Grenada) currently allow citizenship to be awarded to a third generation – so your children won’t be able to pass their St. Lucian citizenship to their kids. That is unfortunate.
The good news is that this seems to be the case only in the Caribbean and Vanuatu, as all other countries do allow the passing down of citizenship indefinitely.
Where do you buy a passport?
The Caribbean countries are at the forefront of the citizenship-for-sale scene. They offer the best bang for your buck. (The EU countries like Malta and Bulgaria have better passports, but theirs are MUCH more expensive.)
And for the time being, Caribbean passports are on sale in a big way.
They first dropped in price after the 2017 hurricanes badly damaged a lot of the islands. Many countries in the Caribbean realized they needed a lot of money for rebuilding broken infrastructure.
They decided that the way to attract more capital was to slash the prices of their citizenship by investment programs.
St. Kitts introduced a new discounted donation option that saves single applicants $100,000 and families of four just over $100,000. Grenada reduced its donation option from $200,000 to $150,000 (plus fees) for a single applicant.
St. Lucia reduced its price for a single applicant to $100,000 (plus fees) and is now, in our opinion, the best value out there (for single applicants).
(Members of Total Access, our highest level of membership, can get passports from all five Caribbean CBI programs EVEN cheaper today. Click here if you’re interested in learning more).
Antigua and Barbuda slashed its donation minimum in half, making it by far the cheapest solution for a family of four.
But now, thanks to the virus and the economic collapse around it, countries are starting to slash prices even further.
St. Lucia now gives Antigua and Barbuda a run for its money when it comes to family applications: All total, government fees included, a family of four will pay a total of $167,500 for St. Lucian passports. (Antigua and Barbuda charge about $145,000.)
Both countries offer deep discounts for even larger families.
In other words, anyone shopping for an economic citizenship can save a lot of money now.
Here’s a rundown of where to purchase a passport in the Caribbean:
(Best-Value Donation Option for Single Applicants)
NOW ON SALE
At Sovereign Research, our opinion is that St. Lucia offers the best value Citizenship By Investment program in the world today for single applicants, and, thanks to its Covid-19 sale, one of the best deals for families.
It’s not only the cheapest for single people, but also offers decent visa-free travel and a transparent application process.
Determining The Best Passport Value
To determine the best citizenship by investment value, we first reviewed each country’s lowest-cost investment option (donation), then divided this cost by the number of visa-free countries its passport allows.
And since it’s possible to generate rental income, we also reviewed each country’s real estate investment option and, again, divided this cost by the number of visa-free countries its passport allows.
Launched in 2016, Saint Lucia offers several options for applicants to their Citizenship By Investment program (visa-free access to 123 countries, including the Schengen area and the UK).
It ranks as number 82 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
Let’s start with their cheapest option, a donation to their National Economic Fund (NEF). A single applicant will spend $109,500 all-in for this second passport route.
A family of four will now spend, thanks to the pandemic passport sale, $167,500 all-in (down about $40,000), making St. Lucia’s program much more competitive with Antigua and Barbuda’s for families (which charges about $145,000 for a family of four).
Instead of a donation, you can also choose to invest either in real estate or government bonds.
Real estate requires a $300,000 minimum investment and is limited to high-end branded hotels and resorts and high-end boutique properties. All-in costs with fees is now $372,500 for a family of four.
The traditional government bond option requires investors to keep bonds for at least five years. These bonds don’t pay any interest and are expensive – $500,000 for a family of four (and $567,000 in all-in costs).
But the government now offers inexpensive “Covid-19 Relief Bonds” as part of its Citizenship By Investment program. The offer is valid until the end of 2022.
A single applicant will pay $287,500 and hold the bonds for five years. A family of four will pay $292,500 and hold them for seven years. That means there’s a possibility to recoup some of the money (minus fees) after the holding period is over.
All-in-all, St. Lucia remains the best deal for single applicants and is a STRONG competitor for families, thanks to its Covid-19 sale.
You can get more details on Saint Lucia’s official Citizenship By Investment website.
(Cheapest Overall Option For Families, Especially Larger Ones With Six Members)
Antigua and Barbuda ranks as number 76 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
The donation to the National Development Fund (NDF) is the cheapest passport option in Antigua and Barbuda.
In exchange for a $100,000 donation (with another $37,500 in fees for individual applicants and $45,000 for a family of four), you get a second passport good for visa-free travel to 129 countries, including the EU’s Schengen area, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
Recently, the country made it even cheaper for larger families to qualify for passports.
Again, traditionally, a family of four (with kids younger than 12) needed to pay about $145,000 between the donation amount and all government fees. (Kids older than 12 require paying an additional due diligence fee.)
However, the price went up quickly for larger families. A family of six had to pay close to $200,000.
But now, any family with at least six members can make a donation into a fund dedicated to the expansion of the University of the West Indies.
The donation amount is just $150,000, and it increases by an additional $15,000 for each additional family member past the sixth one.
After we include all applicable government fees, then the entire cost for a family of six (with kids younger than 12) should come in at around $165,000.
One additional benefit is that this family option comes with one year of free tuition for a member of the family at the University of the West Indies.
Although St. Lucia is now a close second,Antigua and Barbuda’s passport is still the best value for families compared to all other options.
Aside from donating to the government fund, the country also offers investments in real estate and local businesses.
For a $200,000 minimum (plus fees of $45,000 for a family of four), you can purchase a government-approved real estate property.
Exchanging this property for another government-approved property is possible, but you first must hold your initial property for five years.
Then there’s the business investment option, which requires $1.5M before fees (or $400,000 per person if the investment is made as a group).
We don’t find this option to be especially compelling. Still, if you’re interested in it, we’ve included a link to Antigua and Barbuda’s list of approved business projects.
You can get more details on Antigua and Barbuda’s official Citizenship By Investment website.
At $1,979 per visa-free country, Dominica’s Citizenship By Investment program is the best value real estate option out there today.
Despite the attractive price, we currently recommend you skip the Dominican passport option.
Many industry players we respect consider the reputation of the Dominica CBI Program to be subpar. Dominica has been known to accept clients with less-than-pristine reputations, people whom other countries refuse to work with.
They might have fixed the problem already, but to be on the safe side, we encourage you to consider other options instead.
Dominica’s real estate citizenship by investment option requires investors to purchase a $200,000 property. Government, processing and due diligence fees bring the total for a single applicant to $233,500 and for a family of four to $247,500.
Dominica also offers a donation option, through their Economic Diversification Fund (EDF). A family of four will donate $200,000 to the EDF, plus $12,500 in fees.
A single applicant will donate just a total of $108,500 – but for the same price, we encourage you to first consider St. Lucia.
In exchange for the real estate investment or donation, investors receive a second passport that allows visa-free travel to 122 countries, including the Schengen area, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
And it ranks as number 79 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
According to Dominica’s official government website, “In order to qualify for citizenship, you must hold authorized real estate for 3 years from the grant[ing] of citizenship.
Furthermore, you may only resell that real estate under the Citizenship by Investment Programme after 5 years of receiving citizenship.”
You can get more details on Dominica’s official citizenship by investment website.
(The Most Famous Option)
After a 35 year-long history of leading the field of economic citizenships, St. Kitts’ program has earned a stellar reputation.
St. Kitts and Nevis currently offers two options to buy a second passport through a CIP program.
First, you could donate to the country’s Sustainable Growth Fund.
Prior to Covid, this fund required a contribution of US$150,000 from a single applicant, plus the government fee of $7,500.
But in 2021, families of up to four could get St. Kitts and Nevis passports for the entire family, for the same price: $150,000 plus $11,500 in fees (if your children were younger than 16), instead of the usual $195,000 for a family of four).
This discount of $45,000 expired on December 31, 2021, and the minimum “standard” SGF contribution for up to a family of four is now once again set at $195,000.
As of January 2022, however, a new donation-based option was launched at price point of $175,000 excluding service fees. The donation is good for singles, married couples, and families of four, making it a far better deal for families than solo applicants..
While exact details around the new program’s specifics are yet to be issued, it is being described as a “New Alternative Investment Option (AIO)”.
According to the CEO of St Kitts’ Citizenship By Investment Unit, the new program investment option will have two categories, namely for privately-funded and privately-owned, and privately-funded and state-owned projects.
We’ll update this content once more official content becomes available.
The other option is to buy an approved piece of real estate. St. Kitts sets the minimum investment in real estate at $200,000 plus an additional $24,050 in government fees for the main applicant, and additional dependents no older than 16.
This property must be selected from a list of approved real estate provided by the government, and it can be sold after seven years.
Up until recently, St. Kitts real estate citizenship required an investment of $400,000.
You can still go this route, the benefit being that you are allowed to sell the property after five years instead of seven.
In each case, there will be additional costs, including paying a commission to a local agent that will submit your citizenship application to the government, as well as covering due diligence and processing fees.
In both cases – donation or real estate investment – you’ll receive a passport that has visa-free access to 131 countries.
And it ranks as number 71 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
St. Kitts boasts the highest number of visa-free countries of all the Caribbean options. It offers 8 more destinations than our best-value pick, Saint Lucia. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the better passport for you…
Download our Citizenship By Investment Comparison Sheet to see all the visa-free countries each passport offers and how they differ. This will help you decide whether the extra cost for a certain passport is worth it for you.
You can get more details on St. Kitts & Nevis’ official citizenship by investment website.
Although Grenada’s citizenship by investment program only started in 2013, it has quickly established itself as a serious player in the field.
Investors have a choice between donating to the National Transformation Fund (NTF) or buying real estate.
A family of four (with minor children) will contribute $200,000 to the NTF. With fees, the total is $220,000.
And the NTF price for single applicants is $150,000 (plus fees of $8,000.)
Or, a $350,000 real estate investment (plus $58,000 in government, application, processing and due diligence fees) qualifies a single applicant for a second passport.
Adding a spouse is only another $8,000 in fees. And adding additional dependents under 17 is an additional $2,000 per person in fees.
Applicants must keep the property for at least three years.
Grenada’s passport offers visa-free travel to 122 countries. Besides the Schengen area, the UK, and Brazil, it allows its citizens visa-free access to China, making it the only Caribbean country to do so.
And back in 1989, Grenada signed an agreement with the United States allowing Grenadians to work and live in the US under the E-2 Investor visa treaty.
Overall it ranks as number 61 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
You can get more details on Grenada’s official citizenship by investment website.
Here are the European countries selling citizenship:
Curious about other ways you can get a European passport? Check out our article on the 3 ways to get European citizenship – an excellent second passport article.
But before we get to the actual options, here’s a quick overview of the difference between the European Union, the Schengen Area and the Eurozone.
The European Union vs Schengen area vs the Eurozone
The European Union (EU), the Schengen Area, and the Eurozone are three different concepts within the same continent (though most European countries are in all three).
The European Union is a political and economic union of 27 European states (after discounting the UK) with a single market allowing for the free movement of people, goods, services, and money. Citizens of one EU country are free to study, work, live, and retire in any other EU country.
The Schengen area comprises 26 European states (not all of them are in the EU) that have officially abolished passports and all other types of border control at their borders, so traveling among them is akin to traveling from California to Texas, or from Quebec to Alberta.
Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus are set to join the area in the future (see the yellow countries on the Schengen map).
And finally, the Eurozone is another union you need to know about. It consists of 19 countries (all of them are in the EU) that have adopted the euro as their sole currencies.
Additionally, while not officially members of the Eurozone (or the EU), Montenegro and Kosovo also chose to use the euro as legal tender (yellow on the Eurozone map).
It’s important to note that although Montenegro is listed in this section, its passport doesn’t actually give you the right to live and work in the European Union (EU).
(Best Value in Europe)
Malta was home to the first European Union-approved citizenship by investment program. The program has been undergoing a rehaul in late 2020.
Pending formal regulations being passed, applicants can expect the following requirements when applying in 2022:
Going forward, applicants will need to be granted residence in Malta before being granted citizenship.
While this may seem very similar to the program’s current regulations, we are expecting more stringent due diligence checks and background verifications at the residency stage.
In addition, the new program will feature two ddonation options:
All-in, your total will be around €1,200,000 (plus government fees).
You’ll secure Maltese residency first.
Then, within 12 months (or 36 months) of maintaining Maltese residency, you’ll obtain citizenship and a passport for visa-free travel to 158 countries.
This is still a very competitive price tag for EU citizenship and the best value in
The Maltese passport is also by far the best passport of all the available options (short of Austria, which does not have a real, explicit citizenship-by-investment program).
In our passport ranking it ranks 24th out of 198 passports. It’s without a doubt a fantastic passport.
You can get more details on Malta’s official citizenship by investment website.
The main reason why we remind our readers about certain residency or citizenship programs is that it’s always possible that such programs may become more expensive, be suspended, or even disappear altogether.
The Cyprus CBI program was abruptly terminated on October 13, with the effective program closure date set for November 1, 2020.
In their recent so-called “Cyprus Papers”, Al Jazeera alleged that the Cypriot citizenship program was being used by criminals to escape justice in their home countries.
Furthermore, the reports suggested that the Cypriot government was knowingly enabling bad actors to obtain second citizenship under the program.
Cypriot authorities were swift to deny these allegations, claiming that previously lacking due diligence issues had been addressed.
Yet a follow-up undercover investigation led to the publication of video footage strongly suggesting that the program’s due diligence was not up to scratch.
The shuttering of the program was followed swiftly by a European Commission announcement that it would be launching infringement procedures against both Cyprus and Malta over their programs.
While Cyprus’ investment citizenship program has been suspended, its residency by investment program, or “Golden Visa”, remains intact.
While still operational, the citizenship by investment program in Cyprus gave you several investment options… but at €2,150,000 (plus V.A.T), it comes at a heftier price than Malta’s.
You could invest in real estate, a Cypriot business that employs five local citizens, bonds or securities of a Cypriot business licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, or a combination of these choices.
Regardless of your choice, you had to purchase a residence valued at €500,000.
For applicants who chose to buy real estate, this residence could be included in the €2,000,000 (plus fees) overall investment.
For investors who chose to invest in other Crypriot assets, the real estate purchase of €500,000 was added to their €2,000,000 investment.
After six months of an obligatory residency period, you could then have obtain the passport.
A Cypriot passport grants visa-free access to 152 countries and ranks as number 82 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
Cyprus is not part of the Schengen Area, but it doesn’t matter
Cyprus and Bulgaria (which we will cover further) are members of the European Union but not of the Schengen area.
This means that whenever you decide to travel from Cyprus to Greece (or to any other Schengen country), you will have to go through border controls. But that’s where the inconvenience ends.
Cypriots are EU citizens, and have the right to live, work, and study in any country in the European Union, so the fact that Cyprus is not part of the Schengen Area should not affect your decision to become a citizen there.
In any case, all current members of the EU that are not yet part of the Schengen are legally obliged to join the area in the future, so the membership is just a matter of time. (Only Ireland and the UK – so long as it’s still part of the EU — are eligible for an opt-out.)
Like Malta and Cyprus, Bulgaria’s citizenship by investment program begins with residency.
Non-EU citizens first deposit 1,000,000 Bulgarian lev (about $560,000) into a government bond portfolio. (This money is held for five years, then returned to investors without interest.)
Upon approval and receipt of the investment, Bulgaria issues the investor permanent residency.
And after one year of permanent residency (which doesn’t require any minimum time in the country), you, the investor, can pursue the fast track citizenship path.
You’ll then need to invest an additional 1,000,000 Bulgarian lev into government bonds or into a Bulgarian company that’s carrying out a priority investment project, as defined in Bulgaria’s Investment Promotion Act.
Bulgaria’s citizenship by investment program is the world’s slowest, as it takes more than two years to obtain the passport.
Interestingly, Bulgaria allows applicants to finance their investment amount through a loan from a European bank.
In that case, you’ll pay roughly $330,000 to receive $1.1M from the bank – in which case your investment will turn into a one-time $330,000 donation.
Bulgaria’s passport allows visa-free travel to 150 countries, including Australia, several countries in Southeast Asia, Japan, most of South America and Canada… but not the US.
It ranks as number 48 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
You can get more details on Bulgaria’s official citizenship by investment page.
Montenegro is home to a brand-new CBI program. The program formally launched in November 2019, but shortly after was put on a four-month hold.
The hold period ended in early 2020, but the government of Montenegro confirmed that the program will be extended through the end of 2021. So if you’re considering applying, you have one year to take advantage of the program.
To be eligible for citizenship by investment, you will be required to donate €200,000 to a government fund. In addition, you will need to purchase real estate, for which you have two options:
Similar to the Caribbean, you will need to invest in government-approved real estate projects. Currently, there are several approved projects, and we expect the government to keep adding more options.
As of now, Montenegro offers a decent passport a steep price (cheaper than Malta’s, but more expensive than those in the Caribbean, which offer similar – or better – passports).
However, if Montenegro joins the European Union (as it’s expected to in 2025), a Montenegrin passport could become substantially more valuable.
For now, the passport gives you access to 111 visa-free countries, including the European Union (but not to the UK, US, China, Canada or Japan).
It ranks as number 83 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
(The Best Passport Option)
The final European program is the Austrian citizenship by investment program, which is the most restrictive of all.
The program’s rules are vague, and in addition to the large contribution (around €10 million), you need to secure the patronage of a high-ranking local politician who will petition for you before the government.
If you want to go this route, the passport payoff is certainly there.
An Austrian passport grants visa-free travel to 177 countries, ranking at number 17 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
Unlike most programs, Austria’s is not codified in law. Instead, it takes advantage of Article 10 (6) of the Austrian Citizenship Act, which states that the government can reward foreign persons with citizenship in the event of extraordinary merit.
Because of the large cost and the complicated process, you may want to consider Malta instead, which is our European best value pick.
And here are the options outside of the Caribbean and Europe:
The Turkish Citizenship By Investment Program was introduced in 2017. In return for a $1,000,000 investment into any local real estate, you could get a Turkish passport.
In 2018, after lack of any substantial interest, Turkey cut the investment minimum from $1,000,000 to just $250,000.
It made all the difference. In just one year, they got over 2,600 applications, surprisingly emerging as the most popular citizenship by investment program in the world.
But Turkey isn’t for everybody. Because it’s a primarily Muslim country, almost all of its applicants come from the Middle East.
Also, the political situation in Turkey keeps getting worse, and the government becomes more authoritarian by the day. There was an attempted coup d’etat in 2016.
On the flip side, political turmoil made the Turkish Lira drop significantly in value against the dollar over the past few years, meaning that the $250,000 you’re required to invest will go a lot further now.
To apply, you will need to purchase real estate worth $250,000. However, you can also qualify by investing in a local enterprise, government bonds, or a real estate or venture capital fund. In that case, your investment will increase to $500,000.
Alternatively, you can deposit $500,000 in a local bank for at least three years.
So if you’ve always wanted to live in Istanbul, now could be your chance to purchase a condo and get a passport in the process.
However, the passport is subpar, and although it gives you access to 112 countries visa-free, these exclude the Schengen area, the US, Canada, the UK, Japan and China.
It ranks as number 97 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
(The Worst Option)
In 2018, Jordan (sandwiched between Syria, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia) launched its own citizenship by investment program.
It offers several ways to obtain a Jordanian passport, but none of them are cheap.
You will need to invest between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 in various local enterprises, securities or bonds in the country – or deposit $1,500,000 with the central bank for five years without any interest.
However, Jordan’s citizenship by investment program is by far the worst in the world today. Its passport offers visa-free access to just 50 countries – excluding all the major developed nations.
It ranks as number 136 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
The country is landlocked in a conflict-prone region and lacks the lifestyle appeal of other countries offering similar programs. In short, we recommend you stay away from Jordan.
(The Fastest Option)
In the Oceania region is Vanuatu’s investor immigration program.
Vanuatu is an archipelago located about 1,000 miles east of Australia.
Vanuatu’s Development Support Program requires an all-in cost of $180,000 for a family of four. This is a non-refundable donation to the islands.
In return, applicants receive a passport good for visa-free travel to 116 countries, including the UK, all of Europe, Russia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
It ranks as number 86 out of 198 passports in our passport ranking.
It’s also likely the fastest citizenship by investment program in the world today. You can expect to receive your passport in just 45 days.
This can be both positive and negative, as it means they’re likely cutting corners in the due diligence of applicants, which in the future can damage the program’s reputation.
Furthermore, in October 2017, Vanuatu made headlines when they were the first citizenship by investment country to accept payment in cryptocurrency.
While accepting cryptocurrency is a positive development, and we should applaud the country’s leaders in embracing new technology, there is a drawback that we’ve warned about. Vanuatu is potentially setting itself up to be in the cross-hairs of illicit hackers, eager to exploit the government’s Bitcoin wallet.
So, if you’re leaning towards Vanuatu’s citizenship program, it’s wise to exchange your fiat currency – rather than cryptocurrency – for their passport.
You can get more details on Vanuatu’s official citizenship by investment website.
Citizenship By Investment is exactly what it sounds like: foreigners invest a certain sum of money in a country in exchange for citizenship and a passport.
Depending on the country, the investment amount can vary from just over $100,000 (St Lucia and Dominica) to around $1 million (Malta), plus applicable processing and due diligence fees.
Think of Citizenship By Investment as your shortcut to a second passport.
However, you’ve got to be careful — some of these shortcuts are MUCH better than others.
Whether you’re parting with a couple hundred thousand or a million dollars, you need to know exactly what you’re getting into.
For example, although these programs are collectively referred to as “investments,” in many cases, you won’t actually get your investment amount back.
It’s more accurate to refer to many of these programs as granting “citizenship by donation.” In other cases, however, you can get some or most of your money back… and potentially even generate an investment return.
Some countries offer passports that allow visa-free travel to a few dozen countries, which excludes North America, Europe, Australia, etc.
But others are good for visa-free travel to over 150 countries and include nearly all of the developed nations, ranking these among the highest quality passports in the world.
Traditionally, there are four ways to obtain a second passport & citizenship:
Instant citizenship is possible when you invest in a government fund, local real estate property, an approved business, or in government bonds. Shortly after the country processes your application, you receive a second passport.
(Frankly, these options are not really “instant” – you obtain a passport about four months or more after submitting your documents. However, it is usually by far the fastest way to obtain a second passport.)
Benefits of Instant Citizenship By Investment
Benefit #1: No disruptions to your normal life
Benefit #2: The opportunity to move your entire family to a gorgeous location
We mention gorgeous locations because some of the most well-known countries offering instant citizenship are in the Caribbean region.
In addition to quickly gaining a passport for as low as $145,000 (for a family of 4) the Caribbean countries offer the most affordable Citizenship By Investment programs.
Instant citizenship in Europe starts costs around €200,000+ (in North Macedonia). It can also be obtained for €450,000+ in Montenegro, but the flagship EU program, Malta, requires a capital outlay of €1,000,000 or more.
And thanks to the COVID-19 sales and new COVID bond options, pandemic passports in the Caribbean are becoming even cheaper than usual.
Each Caribbean Citizenship By Investment program grants visa-free access to the Schengen (passport-free) area of Europe.
But the quality of Caribbean passports — defined as the number of visa-free countries you can visit – isn’t as high as some of those granted by high-end economic citizenship programs in Europe.
Another option is to invest in Europe and get European residency in a country that can eventually lead to European citizenship.
These European Union programs offer a higher-quality second passport, but you’ll have to pay more for it.
And you’ll have to wait — often five years or more.
These programs are known as Golden Visas. A Golden Visa is not the same as citizenship by investment. It is a residency which can eventually lead to citizenship through naturalization.
Malta, Greece, Latvia, Spain, Panama and Portugal all have Golden Visas that grant residency and ultimately can confer citizenship… if you meet the country’s naturalization requirements such as learning the local language and history.
In this article, we’ll be focusing only on instant and near-instant citizenship programs that grant citizenship in a much shorter time frames than the Golden Visa options do, typically in 12 months or less.
A second passport is the ultimate insurance policy.
Like with any other insurance policy, you might not ever need it, but having one means you can sleep easy knowing you won’t go broke if disaster strikes.
But you don’t wait until a house is on fire to get fire insurance for your home.
The same goes for citizenships. Having a second citizenship gives you the freedom of knowing that no matter how bad things get in your home country, you’ll always have at least one other place to go to live, work and prosper.
In 2020, Americans are more restricted than ever with a global pandemic, extreme lockdowns and travel restrictions.
And as riots and civil unrest spread across the US, now more than ever is when you need travel options.
A foreign passport allows you to get on a plane and go… no questions asked. These countries may not be allowing Americans in, but they still allow their own citizens and legal residents in.
Unfortunately, the riots and covid lockdowns of 2020 could only be a taste of the extreme unrest to come.
That is especially true if the economy or US currency suffers from the trillions of dollars being printed, and the massive debts of the US government.
But there is still time to take advantage of the second passport deals that are available now.
Then, if you decide to move overseas, you can stay for as long as you like, work, start a new business or even retire there. Generally you can even purchase foreign property without much red tape.
The history of many CBI programs aligns with the history of storms. Not only do these storms cost these island nations a lot of money to rebuild, but they also stop the flow of tourism dollars.
After a particularly bad hurricane season in 2017, more Caribbean island nations realized that citizenship by investment programs could help them raise much needed funds.
This spurred competition among these small countries’ citizenship by investment programs.
As Covid-19 caused worldwide lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2020, these countries were once again forced to drop prices to remain competitive.
Now, for families of six or more, Antigua and Barbuda’s second passport cost is the lowest in the world.
For a $150,000 donation to the University of the West Indies Fund (plus $17,800 in government fees that we explain below), Antigua and Barbuda will grant citizenship to six members of the same family.
Plus, free one year tuition to the university for one member of the family is one of the Antigua citizenship benefits included in this option.
Even without this new option, Antigua and Barbuda citizenship by investment was still the cheapest route for families.
A family of four donating $100,000 (plus a $30,000 processing fee, as well as local agent filing fee) to the National Development Fund is the cheapest option for citizenship by investment in Antigua and Barbuda.
Although a second passport makes sense for everyone, citizenship-by-investment may not be the right option for you
Here at Sovereign Research, we believe that a second passport makes sense for everyone.
We cannot overstate the benefits of this. Having a second passport is something we call the ultimate insurance policy.
It ensures that, no matter what, you always have a place to go- to live,work, do business, retire, and in some cases, even seek refuge.
That way, when things go bad, you can take yourself and your family out of harm’s way.
With a second citizenship and passport, you are no longer beholden to one nation. No single government has exclusive authority over you.
Ultimately, a second passport is all about options – the more options you have for you and your family, the more freedom you will experience.
It’s one of those things that makes sense no matter what… especially these days.
Think about it: thanks to the lockdowns, freedom is at a premium.
But if you have options — if you have somewhere else to go, somewhere more free, where they leave you alone — then you’re in much better shape than someone who’s being treated like a house cat and can’t leave.
That’s why so many people have been looking to buy second citizenships. There’s been a big uptick in second passport applications since COVID-19 hit. People want to have more freedom.
That said, although obtaining a second citizenship and passport makes sense for everyone, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars does not make sense for everyone..
Again, economic citizenship is just one of four ways to get a second passport. And before you rush off to buy a second passport, we encourage you to first consider other options we’ll discuss here that may be a better fit.
A second passport is an insurance policy designed to protect you against various sovereign risks.
Whether citizenship by investment is the right option for you depends on many factors. Protecting your wealth could be one of them.
If that’s your main goal, then just as you wouldn’t spend $10,000 on a car insurance policy that covers a $40,000 SUV, it doesn’t make sense to spend $100,000 on a passport designed to safeguard total assets that are worth, say, $500,000.
For many people, there are far more cost effective ways to obtain this all-important insurance policy without having to write a big check…
For individuals with substantial assets, however, Citizenship By Investment programs offer an easy shortcut to obtain a second passport.
And if you are an American, obtaining a second citizenship could also mean saving BIG on taxes, if eventually you decide to renounce your US citizenship.
(Remember – the United States is the only major nation whose citizens are responsible for paying home country taxes no matter where they live. There is only one tax break to speak of. We cover it below.)
The first alternative everyone should look at is their family tree.
For example, if you have parents, grandparents (and in some cases even great-grandparents) from Italy, Ireland, Greece or several other countries, you may be eligible for a second passport through Citizenship By Descent.
This is called jus sanguinis – the right of blood – and many countries around the world recognize its citizens’ descendants as their own.
And if you’re eligible for Citizenship By Descent, then your children can also get a second passport. And children of their children inherit it, too.
That way, a little bit of your effort and time turns into a generational gift — at a fraction of the price you would pay for economic citizenship.
To get a better idea of how this process works, you can download a free in-depth intelligence report on How To Get an Italian Passport & Citizenship By Descent here.
Even if you don’t have Italian ancestors, this report will give you a better idea of how citizenship by descent works.
But not everyone is blessed with the ancestral line that grants them a second passport.
Another option to explore is to obtain residency in a foreign country.
A foreign residency won’t immediately grant you a second passport.
But foreign residency comes with plenty of upside. It’s almost as good as a second passport.
You’ve still got a place to go, no matter what happens in your home country. And you often can dramatically reduce your taxes if you pick a low-tax country.
Additionally, if you’re an American citizen, you can take advantage of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and receive up to $112,000 in tax-free income in 2022.
And some countries have a territorial taxation system, meaning you only pay taxes on locally generated income, not your global income.
That could mean significant tax savings for you and your family as well.
On top of that, foreign residency also means you’re on the path to naturalization.
After a few years of residency abroad (and assuming you meet all the country’s other requirements), you can apply for citizenship and a second passport.
In some countries, you don’t even need to actually spend any time in the country to become eligible to apply for a second passport.
(But the government usually still wants you to have significant connections upon naturalization, such as owning a local property, or having locally-generated income.)
We provide more details about one such option in our free guide:
The Four Passports ANYONE Can Obtain (Including a European One).
Only after reviewing these options should you consider citizenship by investment, especially…
An American passport is an excellent travel document with visa-free access to many countries, including most of Europe. But obtaining a second passport through investment could still be very beneficial for the right kind of person…
The US is the only major country in the world that taxes its citizens on their worldwide income– even if they don’t reside in their home country anymore.
For example, if a Canadian citizen moves to Hong Kong, after fulfilling certain obligations before the Canadian Revenue Service, they’ll only be liable to pay taxes in Hong Kong.
But American citizens who do the same (and make more than $112,000 per year in earned income in 2022) will have to pay taxes in both Hong Kong AND the United States…
And while they get the break on their salaries, they will have to keep paying taxes to the IRS on the first dollar of investment income, no matter their salary level.
If you are in this situation, the only way you can completely escape the US tax system is by renouncing your US citizenship. (We’ll talk about less drastic mitigation strategies below.)
And to renounce it, you’ll first have to get a second citizenship and passport.
(Potentially you can renounce first and become stateless, but that’s not something we recommend.)
So if you are a very high-income earner and want to drastically lower your taxes, citizenship by investment could certainly make financial sense for you.
But before you renounce your citizenship, you should look at alternative tax reduction strategies. The US tax code offers a lot of opportunities to legally reduce your tax liability without resorting to renunciation.
Foreign residency (as opposed to citizenship) is a potentially helpful option for high income earners, too.
Again, the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) in 2022 allows US expatriates to earn $112,000 annually, tax-free. And US taxpayers living abroad qualify for the Foreign Housing Exclusion.
The limit on housing expenses varies depending on the country you live in (the IRS allows you to deduct more in Japan than in Nicaragua, for example), but usually it amounts to another $15,000-$20,000 per year.
Another option is to take advantage of Puerto Rico’s amazing tax incentives.
A few years ago, the government there passed a number of tax incentive laws, the most famous of which are now part of Chapters 2 and 3 of the Incentives Code (previously known as “Act 22” and “Act 20.”)
Chapter 3 (previously Act 20) allows entrepreneurs to start certain types of businesses in Puerto Rico and pay just 4% in taxes.
Chapter 2 (previously Act 22) allows individuals living in Puerto Rico to generate unlimited investment income, subject to a few simple rules, and pay zero tax on it.
So, if you are an investor or business owner, you can use this strategy to slash your taxes to a negligible amount without giving up your US citizenship.
There are many other fantastic, legal tax reduction strategies you can use– especially if you own a business.
But if none of these options are suitable for you, then maybe a second citizenship by investment is the best way for you to renounce your US citizenship and enjoy enormous tax savings.
This strategy would, for example, make sense for financial professionals who are employees working overseas and earn significantly more than the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) limit allows.
If you work abroad and make millions each year, paying a little over $100,000 for a citizenship by investment program could make a lot of sense.
Also, if a large part of your income comes from investments, you should also consider citizenship by investment, as the FEIE does not apply to investment income.
However, before you renounce your US citizenship, always consider the travel inconveniences of a passport that’s not as high-quality as the American one. You may need to apply for a visa to be able to visit the US or Canada, for example.
Getting citizenship by descent should still be the first option you look at, because you may be eligible for a very high-quality European passport that could be even better than your US passport.
And consider subscribing to our free newsletter, Notes From The Field, where we share advice on how to make more money, keep more of it, and protect it all from frivolous lawsuits and overreaching governments.
In Notes, you will also learn about the latest developments in the field of economic citizenships and citizenships by descent. (The rules and details change frequently, especially in times of crisis.)
If your passport doesn’t allow visa-free travel to North America or Europe, you’re severely limited in your ability to conduct business in many of the world’s largest economies.
And if you can’t visit North America OR Europe visa-free, your restrictions are even more severe.
Take Saudi Arabia, for example.
Its citizens cannot travel visa-free to the US, China, Japan, Germany, France or the United Kingdom… adding barriers to entering countries with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2 trillion or more.
Australia, Russia and most of South America are also off-limits to Saudis unless they obtain a visa.
So, it’s no wonder that most economic citizenship applicants come from a few regions: the Middle East, the ex-Soviet bloc, and China – in other words, countries whose passports do not allow visa-free travel to the West.
Citizens of countries like these have usually lived through some catastrophic events in their country’s history and remember them well. They also generally tend to distrust their governments.
And as they gain more wealth, they want to diversify their lifestyles and assets around the world.
In China, for example, increasing political crackdowns and strict capital controls are spurring individuals to seek second passport solutions in Europe, Canada, the US and the Caribbean.
The Caribbean economic citizenship programs that grant visa-free travel to the European Union for business, work or travel, as well as European citizenship-by investment-programs, make a lot of sense for those disconnected from the rest of the world.
But “bad” passport holders should consider their options before buying a passport.
One such option is to pursue a points-based immigration visa. This type of visa grants residency to skilled immigrants – and especially those with skills in high-demand fields such as engineering or medicine.
This type of visa is offered by Australia, New Zealand and Canada. If you qualify, you will be able to immigrate to one of these countries. And after living there for approximately five years, you can apply for citizenship.
And of course, you may be eligible for Citizenship By Descent, as described earlier.
However, if neither option works for you, then citizenship by investment could be a solution for you.
Not all passports are equal. That's why you should consider...
The “best” citizenship-by-investment option for you will depend on a number of subjective factors: your budget, if you’re OK with parting with a donation, or whether you’ll want an option that offers a possible return on your investment.
It also depends, of course, on how well you like the country itself.
However, we encourage you to consider two objective factors:
For those who wish to renounce their original citizenship, this is the key factor to keep in mind.
For example, the US, Canada and many European countries provide visa-free travel for their citizens to more than 150 countries, making these passports the most valuable travel documents in the world.
(For reference, the world’s worst passports provide visa-free access to 60 countries or fewer.)
A passport from one of these countries includes visa-free access to most of the developed world and key parts of the developing world, including most of southeast Asia (for manufacturing and trade opportunities).
This is the number of countries you can visit visa-free with your new passport… that you couldn’t visit visa-free with your first one.
For those who intend to keep their original citizenship (and their passport), this second factor is the one to consider. When combining your two passports, you could unlock many more opportunities for business, work and travel.
For example, someone from the US would benefit from a European passport that gives them unfettered access to the European continent (except Russia).
This individual could reside in France, incorporate and run a business in low-tax Ireland, and enjoy passport-free travel to 26 countries (Europe’s Schengen Area).
But someone who already has a European passport would not benefit as much from a second European passport.
Take the example of Germany.
A German businessman or woman can travel freely to 162 nations. They can structure a manufacturing business in southeast Asia and visit as often as they’d like.
While they could benefit from diversifying internationally, a passport from a place like St. Kitts & Nevis is unlikely to unlock more business opportunities. (The German passport is one of the strongest in the world, so finding a better one would be difficult anywhere.)
There are other variables to consider in selecting what passport program to go for.
The first one is a passport’s reputation.
For example, some countries may not honor your citizenship if they don’t believe it’s legitimate. This is rare, but has happened in extreme circumstances.
With a top-tier passport from a place such as Malta, your chances of ever encountering this issue are rare.
The second is how well you blend in with your passport’s culture.
Immigration officers are not immune to racism, and some may not trust your travel document if you personally look nothing like the people from your adopted country of citizenship.
This is more of an issue in some countries than others – no one will think twice about you being Brazilian, given Brazil’s inherent ethnic mix.
The third consideration is taxes.
One great benefit of living or having citizenship abroad can be the ability to minimize your tax burden.
But, if you’re not careful, you could become liable for more taxes. For example, some foreigners in the US are opting not to pursue American citizenship because it would subject them to taxation on their worldwide income for the rest of their lives.
Luckily, the US is the rare exception – in most other countries, citizenship comes with no additional tax obligations if you don’t live there.
Finally, consider military service obligations that come with a new citizenship.
In some countries, all male citizens of a certain age are required to fulfill military service. The requirements may range from a few weeks of basic training to a few years of active duty.
However, just like with taxes, most countries will not make you go through with military service if you don’t live there.
So, while these are certainly objective measures, valuing a passport and citizenship still comes down to your individual situation – are you looking to renounce your citizenship, or do you want to retain your citizenship and take advantage of your second passport?
This brings us to the next point: an overview of where to buy a passport, and which countries offer citizenship by investment… one of which may stand out as the right one for you and your family.
Consider which options make the most sense for your circumstances
Most citizenship by investment countries offer two or more options to purchase a passport.
Governments that need capital will exchange citizenship for money.
These governments usually spend this money on education, healthcare or infrastructure. Technically, you obtain citizenship by “donation” since you will not get your contribution back. That’s an obvious downside.
But compared to other options, a donation to a government fund is often the best and the simplest way to obtain a cheaper passport.
The immigration through investment in real estate option usually requires a large purchase of local real estate, plus a hefty government application fee ranging from $25,000 to $50,000… or more.
The downside is that you’re often investing in an overpriced, government-approved luxurious real estate development or hotel project. These are hard to sell later for profit.
But because you’re buying a real asset, you might be able to recoup at least some of the money if you decide to sell. And if the local real estate market booms, you can do even better. After a certain period (typically 3 to 7 years), countries usually allow investors to sell the property.
In the meantime, if you don’t live in your new home full-time, you can rent out the property for some investment income.
Recently, a number of countries have slashed their minimum investment amount. You can purchase real estate for less than before and still be eligible for citizenship by investment, making this a more attractive option (more on that below).
This investment option is usually much more expensive than investing in real estate.
And some Caribbean countries offering citizenship by investment don’t allow investments in local businesses.
But, for countries like Antigua and Turkey, that allow investments in businesses, you’ve got a few options across industries to potentially generate a return.
However, only consider this investment option if you really know what you are doing. You may be investing in a business that will go under in a couple of years. And your “investment” will suddenly become a very expensive “donation.”
A few citizenship by investment countries give you the option to buy government bonds, which locks your investment in an interest-free account for several years.
While this may be another easy option to obtain citizenship and a passport, it’s important to consider the downsides.
First, the opportunity costs: instead of an investment in a cash-flowing (albeit, overpriced) rental property or a business, your money just sits in the government’s coffers, offering no return.
Secondly, you must consider the counterparty risk that the government poses – will it stay solvent enough to return your capital after the required hold period is over?
A number of these countries offering citizenship by investment have relatively high levels of debt, and are not considered prime lenders, meaning they won’t be able to borrow their way out of trouble should anything happen.
This is an especially apt point right now, with countries spending billions and trillions in pandemic programs… and when countries that rely on tourism, such as those in the Caribbean, are suffering from the lack of travel.
Then there is an opportunity cost.
When you invest in government bonds, countries will often require up to five times the amounts required for outright donations.
While St. Lucia, for example, will grant you (a single applicant) a passport for a $109,500 donation, you will need to cough up $287,500 if you choose to buy the new government Covid-19 relief bonds ($250,000 bond + $37,500 in government fees).
That’s still a decrease from the $500,000 bond requirement from before the Covid-19 passport sale.
On a bright side, five years later, St. Lucian government should pay you the $250,000 bond amount back, so your final cost for the passport will just be the fee of $37,500.
You know how the rest of this saying goes.
The second passport industry is no exception.
If someone offers you a passport for $30,000 somewhere in Nicaragua and promises to get it to you in a week, you’d better hold onto your money.
At best, you will just end up with an expensive and useless piece of paper. At worst, you can get into serious trouble at a border control for using fake documents.
Again, for a second passport from a Caribbean country, expect to pay at a minimum $100,000 (plus government and processing fees).
And while there’s no residency waiting period, it takes these governments a little time to process your application. In other words, don’t expect to receive your second passport within a week. Three to six months is a realistic period.
A few years ago, one ultra-low-cost residency specialist in Paraguay was taken into custody by the local authorities. They discovered she had been manufacturing fraudulent visas.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of websites claiming to have “expert information” about international diversification. But, some are nothing more than unqualified snake oil salesmen trying to make a fast buck.
These sites were all singing her praises… and lining their pockets. The Paraguayan residency specialist paid a fat commission to anyone who would promote her services.
If you find a program you like, make sure to find official information from the government’s website that confirms the program actually exists.
And if you can’t find it, it’s probably a scam.
Economic citizenship is not for everyone. For one thing, it’s really expensive.
But it’s not just about money. Other factors – which we cover in this article on how to determine if citizenship by investment is right for you – are also important.
Still, if CBIs are too expensive, know that there are at least three other ways to obtain a second passport & citizenship:
1. Ancestry: If you are lucky enough to have parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents from the right country, you may already be eligible for a second citizenship, by descent.
2. Time: If you are willing to pick up and move to a new country, this option may be for you. After you obtain permanent residency in a country, you can become eligible for a second passport through naturalization.
This option usually takes several years, but its main advantage is that anyone can do this. And in some countries you don’t actually have to spend much time on the ground abroad to become eligible for a passport.
3. Flexibility: There are unconventional ways to get a second citizenship and passport, such as giving birth in a foreign country, marrying a foreign citizen or even changing your religion…
If you’ve found yourself asking, “where can I purchase a passport”, you’ve now got a lot more information and plenty of choices. ESPECIALLY now that Caribbean passports are starting to see COVID-19 sales on their second citizenships.
The most important thing you should ask yourself is WHY you need a second passport. Only once you are clear on why you want a second passport, can you determine how much it is worth to you and decide whether you want to go the investment route.
Most people should consider citizenship by descent and residency option first…
Ultimately, you’ve got to determine what’s best for you and your family, and pragmatically balance the necessary costs against your needs.
Whether you choose a foreign residency or a second passport via citizenship by investment, you’re on the right path.
Many people haven’t even considered a Plan B – a plan that ensures no matter what happens next in your home country, you’ll have options and thrive.
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Citizenship By Investment Comparison Sheet
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It could potentially help you save tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars by picking the best passport for your personal situation at the lowest price…
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Easiest Citizenship & Passport Comparison Sheet
Inside you’ll see all the options you have at a glance and find…
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Four Passports ANYONE Can Obtain
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Italian Citizenship By Descent
The very first option that EVERYONE should consider before buying a passport is citizenship by descent…
Inside this free premium intelligence you’ll see how this process works if you have Italian ancestors.
And even if you don’t have Italian ancestors, this report is still useful to get a better idea how citizenship by descent works.
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