How High-Net-Worth Services can Help Individuals Secure a Golden Visa, Residency and Citizenship in Another Country

Luxury Property

Over 100 countries worldwide have some form of investment migration legislation in place, approximately 30 of these have Residency or Citizenship by Investment programs running successfully. A Residency by Investment program allows individuals and their families to obtain residency in a foreign country by investing in its economy, often leading to citizenship after some time. Usually, this is in the form of an investment into real estate, government bonds, or other initiatives that are set out as qualifying criteria to the program.

Participants in Citizenship by Investment programs account for around 30% of all dollar millionaires in the world. Countries that offer such programs include Singapore, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Malta, the USA, New Zealand, and Turkey; we explore some of the specific programs available in more detail later in this article.

These highly sought-after programs allow investors and their family members to gain access to benefits, privileges, and rights in a second country, earning their name as so-called ‘Golden Visas’. Acquiring a Golden Visa is a fantastic way to mitigate economic and political risk and a beneficial tool in maximising a high-net-worth portfolio. Importantly, investors and their families can avoid the naturalisation process, which usually involves residing in another country for a long period, demonstrating language proficiency, passing a citizenship test, or other stringent requirements.

In 2020, Cristiano Ronaldo famously obtained a UAE Golden Visa, after he started playing football for Al Nassr in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, offering him residency for ten years and allowing him to regularly frequent Dubai, where he shares a close friendship with Crown Prince HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. Other celebs with a UAE Golden Visa include French footballer Paul Pogba, Egyptian megastar Mohamed Ramadan, and Serbian tennis legend Novak Djokovic.

Why do some countries put their coveted residency status up for sale?

The answer to this question is pretty simple. Not only do these programs offer a range of benefits for the investor, but they can also have a significant impact on the welfare of the nation in question, serving as strategic tools to attract foreign investment and global talent, and contributing to long-term economic growth.

In the European Union alone, more than 130,000 people have gained citizenship or residence in this way. In total, they have brought in over €21.4 billion according to Dr Kristin Surak, Associate Professor of Political Sociology at the London School of Economics. Globally, she estimates that these programs contribute up to 15% of foreign direct investment. 

By contrast, the St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment program offers two main investment paths. Applicants can obtain citizenship through a donation route ($250,000 to the Sustainable Island State Contribution) or by investing in government-approved real estate projects (minimum $400,000). This program has helped the nation generate substantial foreign investment, providing a boost to the local economy, as well as funding for key community-focused projects across the islands. 

What are the main benefits of obtaining a Residency or Citizenship by Investment

1) Improved Quality of Life

By obtaining residency in another country, individuals can often gain access to a better quality of life in terms of healthcare systems, safety, education, social services, and environmental benefits. It also provides an opportunity to experience a new culture, language, and lifestyle, or a better way of life for you and your family.

2) Business Opportunities 

Investors can explore business ventures and investment opportunities in their chosen country, adding to their overall wealth portfolio and expanding their business operations globally. It’s an opportunity to access new markets and take advantage of local government incentives in that country.

3) Financial Protection

Holding residency or citizenship in multiple countries can provide financial security, mitigating against volatility in your home country, as it means you don’t have all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. By diversifying your assets and investments in this way, you can better protect your wealth from political and economic turbulence.

4) Global Mobility 

A significant benefit of obtaining a Residency by Investment is increased mobility and global access i.e. the ability to live, work, and study in the country where you invest. By obtaining a second passport or a residency visa in another country, you’ll be able to travel freely and without restriction to numerous destinations. For example, most European countries with Golden Visa programs include the right to travel within the EU for extended periods, for business or pleasure, without the need for additional visas.

5) Political and Social Stability 

Residency or citizenship in another country can offer you a more stable environment, especially if your home country faces political, economic, or social conflict, offering peace of mind for you and your family.

6) Tax Advantages 

Many countries with investment-based programs offer favourable tax regimes, including exemptions or reduced tax rates, such as on income generated abroad. These tax benefits can help in your overall financial planning and result in potential savings.

7) Future Planning

Residency by Investment allows families to plan for their future, ensuring better opportunities and more security for their loved ones, offering a safe environment and growth opportunities. Many Golden Visa programs provide access to local education systems, including public schools and universities, and often provide access to local healthcare benefits.

Which countries should I consider?

There’s no such thing as the ‘best’ Residency by Investment program. Overall, these programs come with a range of superb benefits, but each has its unique advantages, and the program you choose depends on your individual preferences, investment goals, and desired lifestyle. We explore a sample of countries below and what their programs have to offer:

1) Portugal

The Portuguese Golden Visa program was launched in 2021 and it has become one of the most popular programs because of the multitude of benefits it offers.

The program gives successful applicants visa free travel to all EU countries and access to 191 countries globally either visa free or via a visa on arrival. It offers access to premium healthcare and education services and investors can include family members in their application. Successful applicants will qualify for Portuguese Citizenship after five years, without the requirement to renounce their current citizenships. After this time, they’ll be eligible for a highly desirable Portuguese passport, currently ranked fourth in the world.

Applicants can choose one of the following investment options:

€500,000 in a Portuguese Government approved and regulated mutual fund

€500,000 towards research activities of public or private entities that are part of the national scientific and technological system

$400,000 in a low population density area

€250,000 in support of artistic production or the recovery or maintenance of national cultural heritage

One major benefit of the Portuguese scheme is access to a government regulated fund which offers enhanced safety and security. Capital is guaranteed after the five-year program period and growth is typically between 2-3% per annum.

2) Monaco

Monaco is considered a top place of residence in Europe for the wealthy due to its high-class leisure facilities, excellent climate, and favourable tax system. Residents of Monaco (with the exception of the French) are not subject to many of the usual taxes that most of us are familiar with. The Principality of Monaco is the second-smallest country by area in the world, yet one of the wealthiest, boasting a GDP of almost $9 billion.

Known for its array of high-quality restaurants, exclusive nightlife and casinos, residents enjoy a Mediterranean climate with over 300 days of sunshine per year, characterised by warm summers and pleasant winters. Education and healthcare systems in Monaco are among the best in the world.

The Monaco permanent residency card, known as the Carte De Sejour, allows applicants to live there indefinitely. Permanent residency is granted based on demonstrating proof of accommodation and proof of financial self-sufficiency. Affluent persons of impeccable standing can receive Monaco citizenship and a passport after ten years of permanent residency.

3) St Kitts & Nevis 

As already outlined above, access to this program is via either a donation to the Sustainable Island State Contribution fund or by investing in government approved real estate projects.

Established in 1984, the St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment visa program is the oldest, most trusted, and most successful program in the world. This highly popular and coveted program, boasts visa free travel to 160 countries including Hong Kong, the UK, and the Schengen area. Saint Kitts and Nevis allows for dual citizenship and investors can include family members in their application. There are no travel requirements to Saint Kitts and Nevis during the application process and beyond. You’d be mad not to visit these islands however, renowned for their beautiful beaches, tropical climate, coral reef, and incredible rainforests

4) Greece

Situated at the junction of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Greece is regarded as the cradle of democracy and the birthplace of Western civilization. The country’s history dates back to 800 BCE and has significantly influenced the language, arts, philosophy, politics, and physical pursuits of the modern world.

One way to access this program is via a €250,000 investment in real estate. Alternatively, you can make a €500,000 minimum investment in specific locations, including Mykonos, Santorini, Thessaloniki, and most municipalities in Athens.

Benefits include access to premium healthcare and education services, and the freedom to travel freely across Greece and the EU Schengen area under the EU Residency Card. Investors can include family members in their application and successful applicants qualify for Greek Citizenship once they meet the seven-year residency requirements. This program also allows for dual citizenship, and there is no requirement to reside in Greece.

5) St Lucia

St Lucia is renowned for its fast application process when it comes to its Citizenship by Investment program. Applications are typically processed within a 3–6 month time frame, making it one of the fastest and most reliable programs in the world. The investment options for this program are pretty straightforward, you can either make a minimum donation of $100,000 to the National Economic Fund or invest $200,000 in an approved real estate project.

St Lucian citizens enjoy visa free travel to 146 countries globally. Holders of a Saint Lucian passport are eligible for entry to Hong Kong and Singapore, making it a valuable asset for applicants with business interests in Asia.

Like many of the other programs described in this article, applicants to the St Lucia program do not have any travel requirements to the country during the application process or at any stage in the future. Investors can also include family members in their application and do not have to renounce their current citizenships.

What's the process for obtaining one of those 'Golden Visas'?

As outlined above, investment options depend on the requirements of the specific program; however, real estate continues to be the most popular option among investors. International real estate has always been a reliable asset class for global investors due to its long-term stability. It offers the additional advantage to investors of enhancing potential for relocation or retirement, as well as significant lifetime gains, rental yield potential and a multitude of other benefits which make it a compelling choice for investors seeking to build a well-rounded portfolio.

Obtaining a golden visa can be considered a ‘high-net-worth’ service and available from specialist companies with expertise in managing the international financial affairs of wealthy families. Such entities often also help high-net-worth individuals and ultra-high-net worth individuals preserve other aspects of their wealth too, providing advice and information on investment, tax, legal, and other key financial planning areas.

Specialists operating in this area are essential and typically play a crucial role in assisting you with your Residency by Investment application in the following ways:

1) Offer Investment Guidance 

A specialist high-net-worth service provider can look at your financial situation, risk appetite and long-term goals, to provide advice on suitable investment options that meet the Golden Visa requirements. They can advise on which countries might be most suitable for your needs and why.

2) Perform Due Diligence and Ongoing Compliance

They will also conduct thorough due diligence on investment opportunities to help you choose the most reliable program. They assess the legitimacy, financial stability, and compliance of projects eligible for Golden Visas, so that you can make a highly informed decision. Even after obtaining your Golden Visa, they should also continue to monitor the requirements of the program, looking at aspects such as changes in regulation, ensuring you maintain ongoing eligibility for residency.

3) Support the Application Planning and Process

Obtaining a Golden Visa involves paperwork, and specialist expertise can assist you in preparing the necessary documents, such as financial statements, investment agreements, and proof of funds. They can guide you through the entire application process, ensuring that submissions are completed accurately and quickly, giving you the best chance of being accepted. Helping you complete forms, submit documentation, and liaise with the relevant authorities on your behalf, saving you time and hassle. Where required, they’ll ensure that your application includes all eligible family members.

High-net-worth service providers are uniquely positioned to navigate the complexities of Residency by Investment programs and tailor solutions to your specific needs. Familiar with dealing with high-net-worth clients, their expertise will be invaluable in helping achieve residency goals which complement your overall financial status and wealth planning, enhance your quality of life, and provide access to global opportunities.

Enness Global has recently set up a new ‘High-Net-Worth Services’  offering in Dubai, lead by Conor Groome and with the assistance of our global partners and experts. For further information on how we can help support you with obtaining a Golden Visa or other residency programs, please contact Conor Groome directly at [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not constitute advice or a recommendation. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Enness and are not intended to indicate any market or industry viewpoints, or those of other industry professionals.
Enness does not give tax, legal, wealth, investment or financial planning advice or recommendations; for this you should always seek specialist professional advice.