Top EU Golden Visa Programs 2021:
The Ultimate Guide

Looking to obtain a Golden Visa in Europe? Sovereign Man presents a round-up of the top EU Golden Visa Programs for 2021. A second residency abroad ensures that you can leave and go live somewhere else if the situation in your home country deteriorated suddenly.

In the age of COVID-19 type pandemics, it can also help you retain your freedom of movement far more effectively. Alongside second citizenship, second residency by investment offers the ultimate form of insurance for your freedom. 

Find out more below, or get in touch below if you’d like to discuss your options with a trusted Golden Visa expert.

Compare ALL Citizenship-By-Investment Options At A Glance...

Download our Citizenship By Investment Comparison Sheet to see at a glance which options are right for you…

Citizenship By Investment Program Comparison

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.

Inside, you’ll find…

  • The differences between the programs (number of visa-free countries, price, investment options, taxation, …)
  • Which countries you can enter without a visa with each passport (and the differences between them)
  • And much, much more

What are the Top European Golden Visa programs for 2021?

Minimum Investment amount Minimum investment period Minimum annual stay requirement Leads to citizenship * Local employment allowed
Portugal €280k, €350k or €500K Indefinitely or until PR or citizenship (5 years) 7 Days Yes, after 5 years of PR Yes
Spain €500k Indefinitely or until PR or citizenship (5 years) None Yes, after 10 years of PR Yes
Malta  €280k Indefinitely or until PR or citizenship (3 years) None Yes, after 5 years of PR Yes
Greece €250k Indefinitely or until PR (5 years) None Yes, after 7 years of PR No

* Depending on the specific program, additional conditions may apply.

How can I obtain a Golden Visa?

To qualify for a Golden Visa, you have to make an eligible, significant capital investment. You can typically choose between buying real estate, investing in government bonds or fund instruments, or maintaining a large cash deposit in the country.

Additionally, you have to have a clean criminal record, and be able to prove that you won’t be a burden on the country’s medical or social security systems.

In return, you can typically obtain temporary residency, renewable either annually or in two-year increments.

To continue renewing your residency, your investment in the country needs to remain intact. That means you can’t sell your property, fund investments, bonds, etc. 

And in some countries, if you continue to renew your residency, and you live in the country for long enough, you can eventually become a citizen through naturalization.

So, if you can afford it and your goal is to live in Europe – plus you don’t need a European passport right away – then you may want to consider one of these programs. 

Here are all of the major European options available today and the minimum investment amount they require. (These prices do not include any applicable government or professional service fees.)

  • Portugal (the standard price is €500k, but can be as low as €280k)
  • Spain (€500,000)
  • Malta (€280,000)
  • Greece (€250,000)

Different investment options are available, but real estate is by far the most popular route. 

And unlike economic citizenship programs in the Caribbean, where you must invest in pre-approved property development, in Europe, you can usually invest in ANY property you want. 

A Golden Visa means residency for your family, also

A Golden Visa means residency not only for you but also for your immediate family.

The exact conditions will depend on the country you’re applying to, but generally, your spouse and  minor children are included.

Adding family members usually won’t affect the investment amount, but the government fees may go by up a few thousand euros.

Let’s get into the individual Golden Visa programs below:

1. Portugal Golden Visa Program
Starting at €280 000

Portugal is a beautiful, extremely livable place with great weather and hospitable people. 

The Portugal Golden Visa program has become very popular — and lucrative, bringing in half a billion euros in 2020 alone. In 2019, Portugal granted more than 3,000 Golden Visas. This year, despite the pandemic, it has already granted 2,000 and just saw its most successful September ever.

Portugal’s Golden Visa is our favorite program in Europe. It is a bit more expensive than the cheapest program (Greece), but it is streamlined and has a proven track record of successful naturalizations of Golden Visa applicants.

Portugal’s Golden Visa investment options:

Portugal offers several ways of obtaining a Golden Visa.

For the real estate option, you must spend at least €500,000 (~$590,000) on residential or commercial real estate in Portugal. The property can be rented for income, or used for personal needs.

You are not limited to a single purchase – any number of properties can be combined to reach the €500,000 total. 

But if you don’t want to spend a half million euros, there are a few interesting – and cheaper – alternatives.

If you care to purchase an older property in need of renovation, then you can invest a lower amount — €350,000 (~$410,000) . 

That sum already includes what you’ll spend renovating. So, for example, you could purchase a €300,000 (~$350,000) property and invest €50,000 (~$58,000)  in renovations for a total of €350k. (You do have to renovate the property.)

But you can bring these numbers down even further. The investment amounts (of €500k or €350k) may be reduced by 20% (to €400,000 or €280,000), if you purchase property in an area with low population density, or low economic density (low GDP per capita).

If you’d rather not purchase real estate, then you could instead put €350,000 or more into an investment or venture capital fund

Its main advantage – no additional costs. This is cheaper than the €500k property option, and unlike the €350,000 property option, you don’t have to renovate anything.

That said, even with a €350,000 investment, you’ll still have the brokerage commission, various government taxes, and annual property taxes. Your minimum purchase price of €350,000 (or €500k) could easily go up by 15% or more.

Additional costs:

In Portugal, it’s a safe bet to plan on spending another 15% on top of the purchase price. 

When it comes to Golden Visas, the investment amount is just the first expense.

In most cases, you must purchase your own private medical insurance to make sure you won’t burden the local social system. Such insurance usually starts at around €300 (~$350) per applicant annually.

There will be additional government Golden Visa fees, varying with the size of your family. 

And if you buy real estate,  you’ll take on applicable property transfer taxes, annual property taxes, brokerage fees, VAT, etc.

Can a Portuguese Golden Visa lead to citizenship?

In Portugal, it’s definitely possible.

In fact, one thing we really like about Portugal is its track record of naturalizing foreigners.

It’s one thing to pass a law stating that foreigners are entitled to become citizens after a certain number of years living in the country. It’s another thing to actually put that coveted passport in people’s hands.

In Spain, for example, it takes ten years of residency to become eligible for naturalization. And in Greece, to become Greek, you will need to go through a comprehensive exam on Greek history and culture that few can pass… conducted in Greek, of course.

Things are easier in Portugal. It takes five years of residency to become eligible for naturalization, not ten. 

And you don’t need to be fluent in Portuguese. You are only required to have a basic knowledge of the language. There are many ways to prove your knowledge – by passing a language exam, by demonstrating the appropriate diploma from a language school or course, etc.

Finally, not only does Portugal naturalize those who meet the program criteria, but it has a track record of naturalizing Golden Visa applicants who have spent very little time in Portugal – only around seven days a year.

That’s very generous.

As long as you successfully renew your Golden Visa — by spending an average of seven days a year in Portugal, and by maintaining your original investment — you should also be fine for naturalization. 

And upon becoming a Portuguese citizen, you’re free to keep your original citizenship.

Overall, Portugal provides flexible options that can suit many lifestyles.

2. Spain Golden Visa Program
Starting at €500 000

In 2019, a record 87.3 million people visited the land of tapas, bullfighting, flamenco and Dalí. The country is also hugely popular among expats, especially retirees from colder climates.

This year, though, Spain is hurting. Those tourism numbers usually account for more than 14% of its GDP and bring in $200 billion annually. 

Think about it — tens of millions people couldn’t show up this year. That’s over two hundred BILLION dollars in lost revenue…

Spain is doing what it can to make up for it.

It recently approved a plan to make the Canary and Balearic Islands (both off the coast, where Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca are) “COVID-19 tourism corridors.”

That means anyone who tests positive for the virus will be quarantined on the islands, with all costs (including medical) paid for by the government.

The country is scrambling for other sources of revenue. Because of a slump in new Golden Visa applications this year, industry insiders have been lobbying hard for Spain to cut the investment requirement in half, to €250,000 (~$290,000). 

That would tie it with Greece as the cheapest real estate based Golden Visa program in Europe.

Considering the amount of economic pain that the government response to the pandemic has caused, it’s possible that the investment amount may well be lowered. And if so, the program will probably become the most popular one in Europe. It’s already number two behind Greece, with barely any advertising at all.

Because people simply want to live in Spain.

Spain Golden Visa investment options:

As of December 2020, the most popular option is a €500,000 investment in Spanish real estate. The investment can consist of one or several properties of a residential, tourist, rural, commercial or industrial nature. Agricultural land also makes the list.

Property can be rented out for income.

Other investment options that can also lead to a Golden Visa include: 

  • Investing at least €2 million (~$2.4 million) in Spanish bonds;
  • Investing at least €1 million (~$1.2 million) in public or private companies in Spain;
  • Investing at least €1 million (~$1.2 million) in Spanish investment funds;
  • Depositing at least €1 million (~$1.2 million) in a Spanish bank; or,
  • Starting a business project that creates jobs, has significant socioeconomic impact in the region, or is technologically or scientifically innovative.

However, considering Spanish financial woes and the paltry state of the local banking sector, we cannot recommend investing in bonds or making a bank deposit.

And as usual, when going the real estate route, the €500,000 (~$600,000) is not all you will have to pay. Expect to add around 10-13% to the purchase price, consisting of various government and real estate-related fees.

Can a Spanish Golden Visa lead to citizenship?

Although the temporary residency permit (the Golden Visa) can be easily renewed from afar, the routes to permanent residency and citizenship both require you to settle in Spain.

After holding your Golden Visa residency for a total of five years, you can apply for permanent residency.

You don’t have to do so, but obtaining permanent residency makes sense: Once you have it, you can sell your Spanish investment if you wish and still keep your legal status. And it’s permanent.

To qualify for permanent residency, you cannot leave Spain for longer than six months at a time. 

Additionally, during the past five years, your total time spent outside of Spain cannot be more than ten months. That means that you must spend, on average, ten months or more in Spain each year. 

After you become a permanent resident, the physical presence requirements become less strict. You just need to visit the country for any period of time every 12 months.

Finally, after holding permanent residency for an additional five years, you become eligible to apply for naturalization. 

(That brings the total count to ten years: Five years of temporary plus five years of permanent residency.)

Naturalization requirements include knowledge of Spanish and of Spain’s history. If you’ve spent a decade there, you should be fine.

Again, Spain generally requires you to renounce your original citizenship upon naturalization. However, if you come from one of the ex Spanish colonies in the Americas and the Philippines, there will be no need to renounce, and your naturalization timeline will drop to just two years.

The Spanish Golden Visa is worth considering if you want to maintain residency in Spain that allows you to come and go as you please, but have no plans to obtain citizenship or even permanent residency. 

However, Portugal’s program is currently cheaper. And considering the borderless nature of the Schengen area, you could spend significant time in Spain with it.

3. Greece Golden Visa Program
Starting at €250 000 (Excl. fees)

Greece is the cradle of democracy and the place where Western civilization started. 

The country offers a great climate, healthy food, and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a wonderful place to spend time, especially if you avoid the crowds in Athens and Santorini.

It’s part of the EU and the Schengen Area, so residents and citizens enjoy access to both.

The cost of living is low — and the cost of housing, currently, is extremely low.

That caught our attention, especially because the Greek version of the Golden Visa program grants residency in return for an investment in local real estate.

Greek Golden Visa investment options:

To qualify for a Greek residence permit, you must purchase a property (commercial or residential) with a value of at least €250,000 (~$290,000). More than one property can be purchased with the same combined value.

Note that €250,000 is what the contract should state. Depending on the type of the property, additional VAT may apply.

A VAT of 24% is imposed on the sale of new construction (collected by a property developer). This applies to all properties with building permits issued after Jan 1, 2006.

VAT is not charged if the construction permit was issued before Jan 1, 2006. Instead, a transfer tax of 3% applies. You can rent out your property for profit, with no restrictions.

Interestingly, the Greek government also makes it possible to obtain residency by purchasing a timeshare. You could also buy hotel accommodations, or furnished tourist residences in integrated tourist resorts.

In those cases, the agreement period should be for at least ten years. And you still have to pay a lump sum of no less than €250,000.

Alternatively, there are several other investment options (all of them are more expensive). Here are a few prominent examples: 

  • €800,000 (~$940,000) investment in Greek government bonds 
  • €400,000 (~$470,000) investment in bonds or shares of real estate investment companies or Greek mutual fund
  • €400,000 (~$470,000) deposit in a Greek bank

In return, you receive residency that is renewable every five years. The permit allows you to live in Greece, but not to work as an employee. You will be able to run a business, however.

Greeks also allow you to include your closest family in your application – your spouse, children up to 21 years old and even your parents and your spouse’s parents. (Greeks are big on family.)

Can a Greek Golden Visa lead to citizenship?

Obtaining Greek citizenship is possible, but the procedure is much more demanding than just renewing your Golden Visa indefinitely. It will require a substantial effort and commitment on your side (more below).

It takes seven years of residency to become eligible for naturalization, during which time you cannot be absent for more than six months a year. 

Additionally, descendants of the main applicant will have to obtain permanent residency in the country first after living there for five years (the main applicant can skip this step).

But most importantly, upon naturalization, you must meet the conditions of integration into Greek society. This includes demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the Greek language, Greek history and culture.

And if you finally power through the exam, you won’t need to renounce your original citizenship, as Greece recognizes dual citizenships.

Greece is a wonderful place to live if you don’t have to get a job there. This program offers one of the least expensive Golden Visas in Europe, but naturalization will not be realistic for everyone. Still, if the European residency is your goal, it’s well worth considering.

4. Malta Golden Visa Program
Starting at €280 000

Malta is situated just south of Sicily, an archipelago of three populated islands – Malta, Gozo, Comino, and several uninhabited ones.

Malta is unlike most places you’ll find in Europe. It mixes a Mediterranean climate and laid-back Italian culture with red British phone booths and a business mindset.

The native language on the group of islands  is Maltese. However, almost everyone in Malta also speaks English — it was a British colony for 150 years — and Italian, due to its proximity to Sicily.

Like other Southern European entities, Malta was rocked by the 2008/2009 financial crisis. The government took a hard look at the books and realized that it needed to diversify. It built a small filmmaking sector and promoted tourism over the past decade. But both were hampered by the pandemic this year.

Malta aggressively works to attract foreign capital and talent in other ways. As a carrot, it dangles an attractive tax regime. (More below.)

The islands have a decidedly entrepreneurial spirit, so it should be no surprise that the Maltese introduced a straightforward Citizenship By Investment program a few years ago. You invest about one million euros in exchange for a passport.

Maltese Golden Visa investment options:

The Malta Residence and Visa Program (MRVP) was implemented in 2015, and since then has undergone several changes.

With this program, you cannot limit your investment only to real estate. 

First, you need to make a non-refundable donation to the government. 

Then, you need to invest in the government bonds (or publicly traded stock). Fortunately, Malta currently is in good shape. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio remains stable; in fact, they managed to lower it from around 70% back in 2011 to around 43% in 2019. 

And finally, you need to secure a property. Interestingly, the government allows for flexibility here. You can either buy or rent a property long-term in Malta.

Let’s look at the two available options.

Purchase option Rent option
Donation Make a non-refundable government contribution of €30,000 (~$35,000).
Investment Invest €250,000 (~$295,000) in stocks, bonds, or other approved assets. The most common option consists of an investment in zero-interest government bonds. That investment needs to be retained for a minimum period of five years.
Real estate rent/purchase Purchase a property for at least €320,000 (~$378,000). This amount can be lowered to €270,000 (~$320,000) if you buy in the less developed Southern part of Malta island or Gozo. The investment must be held for a minimum period of five years. Alternatively, you can substitute a property lease of €12,000 (~$14,000) annually. Again, it can be lowered to €10,000 (~$12,000) if in South Malta or Gozo. You have to maintain the lease for at least five years (for €60k or €50k total).
Total minimum contribution From €600,000 (€550,000 in South Malta or Gozo) From €340,000 (€330,000 in South Malta or Gozo)

So, the total minimum investment amount comes to around €550,000 (~$650,000) if you buy, or €330,000 (~$390,000) if you decide to rent the property instead.

The purchase or rent amount is lower in the less developed parts of the country – the island of Gozo and southern part of Malta island. 

You’ll need to prove an annual income of at least €100,000 (~$118,000) coming from outside Malta. Alternatively, you can show that you have savings/assets of at least €500,000 (~$600,000).

Golden Visa holders can do business in Malta with no restrictions. You can even work there, but you would need to apply for a work permit first.

Malta’s family policy is quite generous. On your application, you can include: your spouse; your parents; your spouse’s parents; any grandparents (if they are economically dependent on you); children up to 18 years of age; and your children between 18 and 26 years old, if they’re economically dependent on you and unmarried.

Each additional applicant will require an additional €5,000 (~$5,900) non-refundable donation to the government.

Can A Maltese Golden Visa lead to citizenship?

Under Maltese citizenship law, a person physically present in Malta for over five years has the right to apply for Maltese citizenship.

The Maltese Golden Visa should work for these purposes too.

However, for that to happen you will need to actually reside in Malta during all these years full time and treat Malta as your primary home. Showing up occasionally won’t work. 

Upon naturalization, you will also need to demonstrate knowledge of English and Maltese languages. Malta also recognizes dual citizenships, so you won’t need to renounce your original one.

So in essence… Malta gives you multiple avenues to residency — both temporary and permanent — and citizenship. It offers access to Europe and an attractive tax system, so it may well be worth a look.

5. Bonus Program: Ireland
Starting at €1 000 000

There are more Golden Visa programs in Europe (and, indeed, elsewhere in the world) than we show here, but we prefer the ones listed above. They tend to be straightforward, well-established, and have good track records of leading to permanent residency and/or citizenship. 

However, if the €1 million price tag doesn’t deter you, the Irish Immigrant Investor Program may be worth looking at as well.

Ireland Immigrant Investor Program

Brexit is fundamentally changing the way the relationship between the EU and Britain.

Once the divorce happens, EU passport holders will have a harder time accessing the UK, and vice versa. 

If those passport holders happen to be Irish, then they won’t have any problems going back and forth to London. And Irish passport holders will still enjoy all the benefits of EU access as well. 

The best of both worlds.

So if you want access to both the EU and the UK, then Ireland might be a great choice for you.

We list its Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) here because it only applies to high net worth individuals, and isn’t a classic Golden Visa. 

It does not lead to permanent residency status. Instead, residency status can be extended every few years, indefinitely.

The program is for non-EU nationals who do not yet qualify for a passport, but who want to move to Ireland. Because the residency status can be extended multiple times, it technically provides a path to citizenship via naturalization… or living in the country for several years.

To qualify, first, you have to show a net worth of at least €2 million (~$2.4 million).

It’s expensive, but that’s because Ireland is developed and financially stable. It doesn’t need fresh capital the way Portugal or Greece do.

The most popular options are as follows:

  1. Make an investment of €1 million (~$1.3 million) in a new or existing Irish business, spreading out the funds over a minimum of three years. The business can be established by you, but it must be registered and headquartered in Ireland.
    The investment must be, at minimum, “employment neutral,” which means it won’t require a reduction in staff. Ideally, it should create jobs. The investment must be made under the name of an individual (you), and not a corporation that you own.
  2. Invest €1 million (~$1.3 million) into a qualifying investment fund for at least three years.
    Immigration Ireland must approve the fund, which must be a private equity or venture capital fund focusing on small and medium-sized enterprises. The fund must also have a minimum target size of €20 million ($24 million).
  3. Invest at least €2 million (~$2.4 million) into one or more qualifying Irish REITs for at least three years.

To maintain your residency, you’ll need to spend at least one day per year in Ireland. And to qualify for naturalization, you must have spent the past 12 months in Ireland, plus four of the past eight years there (so five years in total).

Conclusion

The list of Golden Visa programs above is not comprehensive, but does include the programs we find best suited to our Sovereign Man members and readers.

A Golden Visa, as you’ve learned by now, is a powerful way to quickly expand your options. You don’t need to move abroad, per se… but you have the option to at short notice…

The world is becoming a more and more uncertain place. But we are optimists, and as you expand your abilities to live and work abroad, you’re also expanding your abilities to seize opportunities around the world.

Take back control of your mobility.

Acquire a second residency and/or passport.

That way, no matter who wins an election… no matter what your local government says about your ability to come and go as you please… you can find ways to seize freedom.

You can take back control of your most valuable asset — yourself.

Ready? Let's start your
Golden Visa application today.

Investments starting at €280,000.
Contact us now for more information.

Copy link