The best countries for obtaining citizenship for real estate investments

One of the ways to obtain permanent residence and citizenship of another country, which is gaining popularity these days, is through the purchase of private property in exchange for legal status. In the CS Global Partners 2017 survey, as reported by Insider, nine out of ten respondents admitted that they wanted to get a second passport, and every third one said he was actively doing something to this effect.

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Incidentally, governments have a direct financial interest in this immigration method too, as the table below shows: 

Country

Annual Revenues from Residency by Investment

Canada

$2,200,000,000

Cyprus

$1,400,000,000

Greece

$1,000,000,000

Portugal

$700,000,000

Turkey

$1,000,000,000

USA

$5,000,000,000

In the following sections, we will introduce the best countries where you can buy property in order to get a residence permit, according to numerous expat reviews. 

Greece

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get a permanent residence status in the EU is to invest in the Greek real estate sector. It only takes €250K, which is enough to buy a fairly good house on the islands or a spacious flat in a big city, and you will receive your permanent residency in just a couple of months.

Your family members will get residence permits as well, and they will be able to live in the EU even in your absence. Besides, you do not have to live in the country for this purpose, and if you spend less than six months per year there, your foreign income will be exempt from taxation. And you can apply for citizenship in seven years if you reside in Greece permanently during this period.

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The application process is relatively straightforward, although you or a legal agent will have to speak Greek. The only documents required for the purpose are:

  • Your passport or ID,

  • Confirmation of foreign income or a certain amount in a Greek bank account,

  • Medical insurance,

  • Greek tax number and SIM-card.

Your residence permit will need to be renewed every five years, and you may hold it for as long as you continue to own the property you purchased for immigration purposes. The property can be resold, though, once you have obtained citizenship, and if you decide to rent it out in the meantime, the good news is, rental yields are relatively high in most places in Greece.

Note: the property must not be located near state borders or significant military bases.

Antigua and Barbuda

If you are willing to buy private property in this beautiful Caribbean country for at least $400K, you will receive your passport in just three months. In addition, citizenship will be granted to your:

  • Spouse;

  • Brothers and sisters;

  • Children under the age of 30;

  • Parents and grandparents older than 55.

The application process is extremely simple: there will be no interviews to attend or language tests to take. Moreover, there will be no capital gains or foreign income taxes in the future either, and dual citizenship is allowed. You will need to renew your passport in five years, but you will only have to be present in the country for five days in this period.

Note: the property must remain in your possession for five years after obtaining citizenship.

Canada

In our list of countries where you can buy property to get residency, Canada is, probably, the most difficult one. The main reasons are:

  1. The list of those who would like to relocate to this country has always been very long.

  2. Canadian government authorities are notorious for their bureaucracy and complicated procedures.

In view of this, we can say that their terms for citizenship by investment seem pretty lenient indeed. You only need to purchase a property for CAD800K, which may be a lot more than in the neighbouring States, but it still compares well with two million pounds in the UK, for example. And it only takes about three years of permanent residency to become a citizen, which, again, is much better than, say, ten years in France.

The complicating conditions include:

  • Relatively limited annual quota of 1,900 applicants.

  • All sorts of security, health, education, financial and other screening procedures.

  • Long application processing times.

Note: you must own the property for the first five years, during which you may not be absent from the country for longer than three months in total.

Republic of Cyprus

Currently, there are two ways to buy citizenship in Cyprus: 

Via Permanent Residency: Slow and Cost-Effective

  1. Buy a private property for at least €300K.

  2. Freeze €30K in a local bank account for at least three years.

  3. Wait up to four months for your permanent residence permit, which you will not have to renew afterwards.

  4. Live in the country permanently for seven years and apply for citizenship. 

Via Temporary Permit: Very Slow and Cheap

  1. Invest at least €130K in real estate.

  2. Freeze €30K in a local bank account for at least three years.

  3. Wait up to four months for your temporary residence permit.

  4. Wait up to18 months for your permanent residence permit, which you will not have to renew afterwards.

  5. Live in the country permanently for seven years and apply for citizenship.

It was possible earlier to obtain citizenship in Cyprus in a faster and easier way via investment, but the authorities have suspended this programme. 

Note: in any case, you will need to prove a foreign income of at least €30K and have at least €5K for each dependant per year.

Dominican Republic

This is probably the best Caribbean country to buy citizenship since:

  1. You only need to invest $200K in real estate.

  2. You do not have to stay there or even visit it, submitting your application remotely instead.

  3. The processing time is between three and six months only.

  4. Citizenship will be automatically granted to all your family members and close relatives.

  5. Your Dominica passport will give you visa-on-arrival or visa-free access to 145 countries in all parts of the world.

You will have to renew your passport every ten years, but you can resell your property three years after becoming a citizen. And you will not be subject to taxation on anything other than your local income.

Note: there will be some registration and other administrative fees to pay as part of your application and property registration procedures, which may come to about $50K for a family of four.

Grenada

The passport of this country is unique for the region, as it entitles its holder to an E2 visa (by investment) in the States and visa-free entry to China. In fact, Grenada is one of four countries whose citizens enjoy visa-free access to the Schengen states, the Russian Federation, China and the United Kingdom.

All it takes to qualify for Grenadian citizenship (for yourself, your immediate family, siblings and close relatives) is a $220K purchase of private property, which you must keep in possession for at least five years after obtaining your legal status. And just as in other countries in the region, there will be no taxation on your capital gains and foreign income, and no required days to stay in Grenada either.

The application processing takes about 2-3 months in most cases. However, you will need to renew your status every five years, which can be done remotely.

Note: alternatively, you may choose to invest in commercial property in the tourism and hospitality sector on the same terms and conditions.

Republic of Malta

The Maltese conditions are a little more complex, breaking down as follows:

  1. Buying a property for at least €700K or renting one for the minimum of €16K per year, and continuing to do so for at least five years after receiving your legal status

  2. Investing at least €600K in specified national funds for the first three years of your permanent residency

  3. Making a €10K contribution to some culturally significant NGO

  4. Confirm an income of €10K per year, unless you have €500K in assets

The average processing time is between 8 and 15 months, and you will not need to renew your permanent residency permit. You can apply for citizenship once you have lived in Malta permanently for three years.

Note: the applicant and his family are subject to an annual resident tax of €15K.

Montenegro

One of the most beautiful and investor-friendly countries in Europe, Montenegro sells its passports for only:

  • €250K investment in its real estate sector

  • Additional €200K "registration fee", which you may as well think of as your donation to the federal budget

This money will be enough to buy a really nice house there, given that even an apartment in a resort area costs less than €100K. The application is very quick, requiring only your identity document, medical insurance and police clearance, and it covers your immediate family too. In most cases, it takes up to six months to receive a residence permit. 

Note: the current annual quota is only 2000 applicants.

Portugal

This country offers the quickest way to get a residence permit in the EU, and you will most likely not have to wait longer than two months. In addition, your spouse, underage children and parents older than 65 will automatically get their permits as well, and it will not cost you a penny.

The table below shows the three currently available real estate purchase options:

€500K

New real estate in a good area

€350K

Old property (at least 30) or one that is located in an unpopular area

€250K

Property in a sparsely populated area (under 100 residents per sq km)

Note: Since 2022, Lisbon, Porto and coastal regions are excluded from the programme. Foreigners can no longer obtain residence permits for purchasing property in these areas.

The property must remain yours for five years from the date you buy it. You will need to renew your residence permit every three years, or you can apply for citizenship in five years. And you only have to stay in the country for one week a year. 

Saint Lucia

In line with the other Caribbean states on our list, Saint Lucia:

  • Grants permanent residence and/or citizenship to the applicant's family members and close relatives under specified conditions.

  • Does not expect the applicant to reside in the country.

  • Allows remote applications.

  • Does not levy taxes on one's foreign income, capital gains, inheritance and other dividends.

  • Permits alternative investment in tourism-related commercial property.

What makes Saint Lucia different from the rest is that you need no permanent residency permit to apply for citizenship. In other words, you can receive your passport bypassing the residency stage altogether. The minimum investment amount is $300K, and the average processing time is three months.

Note: the property must remain in your possession for at least five years after you get your passport.

Republic of Singapore

According to the Human Development Report, Singapore currently ranks first in Asia in terms of the standard and quality of living. In addition, the country provides a favourable business environment and taxation system for foreign investors, and its passport is among the top five in the world.

This option is not cheap, though, as it requires an investment of at least 2.5 million Singapore dollars in real estate or any other sector of the national economy. However, if you do have that money to pay for citizenship:

  • Application process will be very easy and quick.

  • Your permanent residence status will apply to your spouse and unmarried children.

  • You can get citizenship in two years.

  • Your foreign income will be exempt from taxation if you invest four million dollars. 

Note: Singapore does not allow multiple/dual citizenship.

Spain

This is another easy country for buying citizenship, provided you have medical insurance and €500K to invest. However, you cannot work in Spain with your permanent residency as an investor, needing a special permit for this purpose. The entire application process breaks down as follows: 

Temporary Permit

Permanent Residency Permit

Citizenship

Up to five months

Five years of temporary residency

Five years of permanent residency

You do not have to stay in Spain during this time, but the property must remain in your possession for at least five years from the date of purchase. 

Note: dual citizenship with some countries is not allowed.

Turkey

Making everything as convenient as possible, Turkey issues ikamets (residence permits) for all imaginable purposes. If you buy a property, you will have a "property ikamet" right away, and there is no minimum investment amount for that.

To apply for citizenship, you need to invest $400K, and your application will take about three months to process. You must own the property for three years afterwards, and you do not have to stay in Turkey during this period or after receiving citizenship. 

Note: your spouse and children automatically become Turkish citizens too.

United Arab Emirates

The most commonly reported benefits of investing in the UAE real estate sector include:

  • Profitable rental interest rates.

  • Decent and easily accessible mortgage loans.

  • No taxation on capital gains or rental income.

  • Favourable profit and nominal real estate values by international standards.

  • High standard and quality of life by all the HDI and macroeconomic variables.

In Dubai, the minimum investment amounts are 750 000 and two million dirhams for a residence permit for three and five years, respectively. In addition, in case you are over 55, you can get the permit for five years if you:

  1. Buy a property for only one million dirhams.

  2. Deposit one million dirham in a local bank account.

  3. Confirm an income of AED20K per month.

Note: foreign investments in the off-plan property are welcome in Dubai.

United States of America

In case you would like to relocate to a developed Western country, the USA provides the most efficient and cost-effective investment program for obtaining permanent residence and citizenship. Basically, all you have to do is buy a private property for $500K, and the rest of the application process will be fairly hassle-free.

This may seem very expensive, though, especially considering that real estate in this country is quite cheap by Western standards, but it is still better than other EB-5 options, such as one million US dollars in foreign direct investment in a local commercial enterprise. And it compares favourably with ten million euros required by some European countries.

Another advantage is that the US tax system is fairly lenient compared to most developed countries worldwide. The actual legalisation process goes through the following stages:

  1. First, you get an EB-5 visa (by investment), which serves as the basis for a temporary residence permit, called conditional residence in the States.

  2. Once you have had this permit for two years, you may apply for a permanent residence permit, called a green card. The permit allows you to work and live freely in the country, and it normally takes about four years to obtain. Your immediate family will get a green card too.

Note: you must remain the owner of the property for the entire duration of your conditional residence.

  1. Green card becomes the basis for obtaining US citizenship, although the differences between the two are negligible for all practical purposes, just as they are in most English-speaking countries, unless you want to vote and serve in the army. 

Note: to become a US citizen, you must first reside in the country permanently for five years, not absent for longer than three months during this period.

Final Word

Which country you choose will depend on your particular purposes and budget. Keep in mind, though, that all data provided in this article are subject to change, and you should consult your legal agent or the relevant government authorities for the latest information on the subject.

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