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April 1, 2024
10 min

12 Best Golden Visa Programs Worldwide

Brittany Collins - head of legal department

Exploring the best Golden Visa Programs in 2023 can be complicated for those seeking to invest in Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East with minimum $100,000 thresholds.

Greece offers affordable real estate investments with unrestricted Schengen area access. Portugal provides multiple investment pathways towards potential permanent residency. Spain demands substantial economic contributions but rewards with possible citizenship after ten years of continuous residence.

The attractiveness of mentioned investment programs is that they can provide investors with a range of advantages, such as the freedom to travel within the Schengen area, potential tax benefits, and access to top-notch healthcare and education services.

Best Golden Visa Programs 2023

12 Best Golden Visa Programs Worldwide

Overview of Best Golden Visa Programs Worldwide

Golden visa programs are rapidly gaining traction as a viable route for affluent individuals to secure residency by investment or citizenship in foreign countries. These investment immigration initiatives involve substantial financial commitments towards property purchases or business investments and have seen significant uptake over the past decade.

A Golden Visa Program essentially serves dual purposes:

  1. It provides potential residents an avenue toward permanent residence or even citizenship while boosting economic activity within the host country.

  2. This influx of capital is typically directed towards sectors such as real estate development projects and government bonds, among others.

To become eligible for a Golden Visa depends on meeting certain criteria set out by each respective program, including:

  • making sizable financial contributions;

  • fulfilling specific stay requirements during the initial years after obtaining a residence permit.

However, achieving full-fledged citizenship isn’t automatic; investors may need to demonstrate language proficiency and maintain a clean criminal record.

The increasing demand for global mobility amongst high-net-worth individuals worldwide led to a marked rise in interest in Golden Visas, offering them increased freedom to travel, enhanced personal security, and improved quality of life overall.

Top 12 Golden Visas Programs

Country

Minimum investment

Processing time

1

Antigua and Barbuda

$100,000

4—6 months

2

Dominica

$100,000

2—6 months

3

St Lucia

$100,000

3—4 months

4

Grenada

$150,000

4—6 months

5

Malta

€150,000

2—4 months

6

Greece

€250,000

2—6 months

7

Italy

€250,000

3+ months

8

Portugal

€250,000

8—10 months

9

St Kitts and Nevis

$250,000

6+ months

10

UAE

AED 750,000

2+ months

11

Cyprus

€300,000

3+ months

12

Spain

€500,000

2—3 months

What are the Golden Visas Requirements for Applicants?

A specific requirements list for applicants depends on the program you choose. But there are some general points in all Golden Visas terms.

Investors should comply with the following requirements to get a Golden Visa:

  • be over 18 years old;

  • own money for investment earned not in the country of the program they apply for;

  • have no criminal record or prosecution;

  • Be able to prove the legality of income;

  • not be under sanctions;

  • have health insurance.

Some countries have other demands: for example, an applicant should not have any debts in Portugal to get its Golden Visas. Also, in some cases, one should have rented or own housing in the country to apply for a residence permit.

Who Can Benefit from Golden Visas?

The Golden Visa Programs offer a wealth of benefits to various individuals based on their unique needs and objectives.

For nationals who frequently traverse European borders due to work commitments or wish for more freedom in choosing where they live and how they lead their lives, having a second residency or citizenship in an EU country can be incredibly advantageous.

This privilege is part of many popular Golden Visa Programs, such as the Portugal Golden Visa scheme, which allows holders unrestricted travel within the Schengen area comprising 26 European countries.

This flexibility offers convenience and opens up new professional and personal horizons by providing access to vast markets, rich cultures, and a high-quality life.

Citizens from emerging economies. Another demographic that stands to benefit significantly is those hailing from developing nations, often grappling with issues like political instability, economic uncertainty, and lack of opportunities on the home front.

For them, acquiring permanent residence through investment schemes offered by Spain’s and Ireland’s respective Golden Visas presents a chance to secure a stable future abroad while gaining access to better healthcare and education facilities in host countries.

Business owners and investors. High Net Worth Individuals, whom these programs cater most directly towards, offer a dual advantage — an insurance policy against potential risks back home and opens avenues for expanding businesses in foreign lands through solid investments in local economies, real estate, government bonds, and other asset classes.

Mobility ranks high among the advantages offered by these programs. Successful Golden Visa applicants gain visa-free access or travel within Europe’s Schengen area, comprising 27 countries. This mobility perk facilitates cross-border movement for business ventures or leisurely exploration.

Beyond enhanced global mobility, investing in a foreign country through these schemes can pave the way towards permanent residence and citizenship after meeting specific requirements. For instance, Portugal’s popular Golden Visa Program opens doors to permanent residency status after five years and potential citizenship eligibility.

10 Major Advantages of Golden Visa Programs

1. Easy application process. There is no need to pass any exams, prove language knowledge, get a job or enter a university for Golden Visa applicants.

2. Freedom of movement. If a state is a member of the Schengen Area, residents may visit other member countries visa-free and spend 90 days in any 180 in the area.

3. Moving to another country. All Golden Visas give investors the right to reside in the country that issued the permit or its validity period. At the same time, an investor is not obliged to live in the state all the time if they don’t intend to apply for citizenship in future.

4. Access to healthcare and education. Eligibility for public services such as healthcare and education in your chosen country.

5. Potential for permanent residency or citizenship. Obtaining permanent residency or citizenship after meeting specific requirements set by the government.

6. Tax optimization opportunities. Favourable tax conditions for foreign investors depend on the country’s tax laws.

7. Favourable investment environment. Attractive investment options like real estate investments, business ventures, or other financial products are tailored for high-net-worth individuals.

8. Opening bank accounts. Golden Visa holders can open bank accounts in the countries that issued their residence permits for asset protection and international transactions.

9. Returning investment. Most of the assets required for Golden Visas might be returned in several years. For example, if you purchase real estate, you can sell it 5—7 years later and get an additional profit.

10. Income from renting real estate out. In most Golden Visa countries, investors don’t need to reside permanently. So they can rent their properties out and get income from it.

Malta Golden Visa — Permanent Residence by Investment

To obtain permanent status under the Malta Permanent Residence Programme, the investor buys or rents a property for five years, pays government fees and donates. He also confirms having assets of at least €500,000, where €150,000 are liquid financial assets.

Real estate investment can be made in one of two ways:

  • rent a property with a minimum annual rent of €10,000 in the South of Malta or Gozo or €12,000 in the rest of Malta;

  • purchase a property for a minimum value of €300,000 in the South of Malta or Gozo or €350,000 in the rest of Malta.

A mandatory donation of €2,000 must be made to a local philanthropic, cultural, scientific, artistic, sport, or animal welfare NGO registered with the Commissioner of Voluntary Organisations​.

The contribution fee is the following:

  • if purchasing a property, you must pay €28,000;

  • if leasing a property, the contribution is €58,000.

Applicants must also pay a non-refundable administrative fee of €40,000​. An additional €7,500 is required for each adult dependent, except for the spouse​.

Malta permanent residence by investment

With the investor, a Malta Golden Visa can be obtained by his spouse and children of any age if they are unmarried and financially dependent on the applicant

Greek Golden Visa Program — Faster than Others Residence Permit by Investment

Greece has positioned itself as one of Europe’s most accessible gateways through its Golden Visa Program. The cornerstone requirement is an affordable real estate purchase starting at €250,000.

This low threshold, combined with attractive returns on property investments, makes it a compelling choice among prospective investors.

A successful application provides residency status in Greece and allows holders unrestricted access within the Schengen area, a significant advantage for those seeking business or leisure travel across Europe.

Greece is one of the most economical options, demanding an investment starting from €250,000 under its Golden Visa Program. This scheme allows investors to acquire property while offering a residence permit that can be renewed every five years without additional investments.

Greece offers several options for investors to obtain a residence-by-investment visa. Most of them have to do with buying or renting real estate:

  • the investor can buy residential and commercial properties in any area of Greece. It’s allowed to rent the real estate out;

  • the investor can rent a hotel or a tourist residence, making a one-time payment before getting a residence permit;

  • the investor can buy a plot of land to build a house or a farm. The Investment includes the building contractors’ services and the site’s overall cost;

  • the investor can sign an agreement that gives the right to use the property for specific periods, for example, from July 1st to 31st every year for 10 years;

  • inheriting real estate or getting it as a gift. The inheritor must pass Due Diligence and submit the documents required in the residence permit application.

As holders of Golden Visas, investors and their families enjoy visa-free travel within all EU Schengen Zone countries — making it easier to explore Europe without hassle.

Portugal Golden Visa Program with Beneficial Tax Regime

Golden visa programs are vast and varied, but one nation stands out. The Portugal Golden Visa program has become a beacon for foreign investors seeking European residency.

The Portugal Golden Visa program grants a temporary residence permit in Portugal for 5 years, requiring the holder to spend at least 7 days in Portugal in the first year and at least 14 days in each subsequent two-year period.

Under the Golden Visa program, non-EU citizens are eligible for Portuguese residency if they undertake certain types of Investment in the country, including:

  • €250,000 investment in cultural heritage;

  • €500,000 investment in research activities;

  • €500,000 of funds units purchased;

  • €500,000 in small and medium-sized Portuguese companies.

The Non-habitual resident (NHR) tax regime allows certain types of income sourced overseas to be exempt from local taxation, making it especially beneficial if a substantial portion of your earnings come from outside the borders.

Spain Golden Visa Program — Variety of Investment Options

Spain’s Golden Visa Program has become popular among wealthy individuals seeking a second home.

In Spain, getting your hands on their much sought-after Golden Visa requires you to either make substantial economic contributions, such as setting up large-scale projects deemed necessary by Spain’s government or buy properties valued at more than half a million euros without any financing involved.

An intriguing feature of this scheme is that it offers eligible applicants citizenship after legally residing there continuously for ten years, an opportunity few other EU countries provide so readily.

Investment options under the Spain Golden Visa Program

Type of investment

Minimum sum

Real estate purchase

€500,000

Opening a deposit in a Spanish bank

€1,000,000+

Purchase of shares of Spanish companies

€1,000,000+

Purchase of units in investment funds

€1,000,000+

Purchase of government bonds

€2,000,000+

Business investment

No

Italian Golden Visa Program — the Way to Obtain the Strongest Passport in the World

The Italian Golden Visa Program often called the Investor Visa, is a way for non-EU nationals to gain lawful residence in Italy that necessitates a significant monetary investment and has been available since 2017. It requires a substantial financial investment and has been operational since 2017.

Current Investment Requirements:

  1. The requirements of this European Golden Visa program depend on your chosen type of investment. One option involves injecting €250,000 into an innovative startup company based in Italy. These startups are typically high-tech ventures creating new products or services.

  2. An alternative path entails investing €500,000 into a mature public company registered within the country. This route demands due diligence from applicants to ensure their selected business operates ethically and fulfils all legal obligations.

  3. A third avenue calls for investors to donate at least €1 million towards projects supporting culture, education, or scientific research within Italy. Lastly, there’s an opportunity to purchase government bonds worth at least €2 million, which should be held for no less than two years.

After living in Italy for five years, the investment visa holder can apply for permanent residence and benefit from additional rights. These include the right to access Italian social security services and work or study in EU countries without another permit.

UAE Golden Visa Program — Residency in the Safest Country

The UAE Golden Visa is granted to foreigners for 10 years, enabling them to live, work, or study in the UAE while enjoying exclusive benefits.

“Golden Visa” is a residency visa type’s official name. There are other ways to obtain long-term permits in the UAE — freelancers and remote workers visas, retirement visas, and others. Those visas are typically valid for 5 years.

To obtain a 10-year UAE Golden Visa, foreigners may purchase real estate for AED 2 million, or nearly $545,000.

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In 2022, the UAE ranked 2nd in the World Safety Index. Among the emirates, the first place went to Abu-Dhabi. Sharjah and Dubai ranked fourth and eighth, respectively

Dominica Golden Visa — One of the Cheapest Investment Program

The Dominica Golden Visa Program is the first route involving making an irrevocable contribution to Dominica’s Economic Diversification Fund, EDF. Unlike most countries mandating substantial Investment in real estate or government bonds, Dominica presents two primary paths for obtaining a Golden Visa — donation and property investment.

Dominica offers two affordable routes:

  1. $100,000 donation to the Economic Diversification Fund.

  2. $200,000 investment in approved real estate.

A minimum donation amount of $100,000 is required from individual applicants. However, this figure escalates if you plan on incorporating dependents into your application; for instance, it increases to $200,000 for families comprising four members.

If tangible assets appeal more than donations as part of your strategy towards participation in the Golden Visa program, consider opting for property investments instead.

It requires applicants to invest at least $200,000 in approved real estate projects within Dominican territory that span luxury resorts, villas, and boutique hotels.

Application Process for a Golden Visa

The pathway to procuring a Golden Visa may appear daunting, yet it can be broken down into more straightforward steps by becoming familiar with the procedure. Let's explore these steps in detail.

1

Up 1 month

Selecting your preferred country

Your first task is choosing an appropriate country that aligns with your investment goals and lifestyle aspirations. This decision should be independent of minimum investment amounts or quick processing times offered by various Golden Visa programs.

Tax implications are another crucial factor when selecting your preferred country, as some nations offer attractive tax rates to lure foreign investors. In contrast, others might have higher taxes, which could impact overall returns.

2

Up 2 months

Making the required Investment

Once you’ve selected the desired destination, the next step is making the required financial commitment. Each nation has specific requirements, varying from purchasing property, investing in government bonds, or contributing to certain investment funds.

3

Up 1 month

Submitting an application

To apply successfully, one must provide the necessary documentation, including proof of income and evidence showing all legal obligations have been met regarding residency rights within the chosen jurisdiction.

You will likely require professional assistance from lawyers who specialise in immigration matters and due diligence checks, so ensure that the costs are factored into budget considerations upfront.

4

2—8 months

Receiving residence permit

Your efforts will continue once the approval is granted. Upon receiving the residence permit, further steps like setting up bank accounts become necessary, depending on individual circumstances.

Given the new responsibilities, this final stage often feels rewarding yet daunting. However, most governments provide ample support during the transition period, ensuring a smooth social integration.

Alternatives to Golden Visas

If Golden Visa programs do not align with your goals or circumstances, other methods can lead you towards obtaining residency or citizenship in a foreign country. Let’s take a closer look at some of these options.

Becoming an entrepreneur abroad. An additional path involves setting up business ventures overseas. Several nations offer specific visas for entrepreneurs intending to start businesses within their territories.

The eligibility criteria vary extensively from nation to nation but typically involve demonstrating your proposed venture’s viability and potential economic impact through comprehensive business plans and financial forecasts.

Education overseas. A less traditional route might include pursuing educational opportunities abroad. This pathway requires enrolling in university studies or vocational training courses at accredited institutions within the desired host country.

For example, Germany’s Student Visa grants international students permission to study and work part-time during the course duration with possibilities of post-study options leading to eventual permanent residency.

However, this approach calls for careful planning since it depends heavily on individual factors such as age, academic qualifications, and language proficiency levels.

Marrying a citizen or permanent resident of your desired country. Falling under family reunification laws, marrying someone already holding citizenship or permanent residency status opens another avenue for acquiring similar rights yourself.

However, applications usually undergo rigorous scrutiny by immigration authorities due to their potential misuse, so genuine relationships backed by substantial evidence are key here.

Potential Pitfalls Of Golden Visas

Taxes. In contrast to their allure lie some significant drawbacks tied predominantly to taxation policies imposed by host nations.

For example, Spain taxes worldwide income once you become a tax resident — usually when spending more than half a year in-country. Hence, understanding local tax laws becomes critical before opting for any nation’s scheme.

Due Diligence. Another challenge often overlooked is the rigorous due diligence processes undertaken during application review stages, which could be time-consuming depending on each country’s regulations.

Conclusion

  1. The decision to pursue a Golden Visa program is impactful, requiring careful planning and understanding of the implications on your lifestyle and financial situation. Each program offers unique benefits, whether it’s Portugal’s offer of permanent residency status or Greece’s attractive real estate investment options.

  2. Ensuring alignment between your choice for Golden Visa programs and personal circumstances and future goals is crucial. Suppose education opportunities or access to world-class healthcare facilities are important considerations for you. In that case, countries like Spain or Ireland may hold more appeal due to their high standards in these areas.

  3. Given their thriving economies and dynamic startup ecosystems, if business growth forms part of your long-term vision, selecting economically robust nations such as Germany or the Netherlands might make sense.

  4. To navigate complex immigration laws across different jurisdictions, professional advice from tax advisors and lawyers proves invaluable. They provide insights into nuances around double taxation treaties, fiscal advantages offered by certain countries, thereby helping avoid pitfalls later.

Frequently Asked Questions