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April 1, 2024
10 min

All About European Golden Visa: A Comprehensive Guide

Kenley Henderson

Golden visa is an immigration program aimed at affluent individuals seeking residency or citizenship in Europe and offers numerous benefits and opportunities. The easiest way to obtain residency in Europe by investment is to join the Golden Visa programs of Spain or Greece. It will allow investors to get their permits in 3—6 months.

Greece and Portugal offer Europe’s most affordable investment options starting from €250,000. The acquisition process will take 6—12 months.

The appeal of the European Golden Visa lies not just in its potential for visa-free travel within the Schengen Zone but also as a path towards an EU passport.

This comprehensive guide will delve into every aspect you need to know, from understanding what it entails to exploring key countries offering these programs and their unique requirements.

All About European Golden Visa: A Comprehensive Guide

All About European Golden Visa: A Comprehensive Guide

What is Golden Visa?

A European Golden Visa is a residence permit or citizenship that lets wealthy individuals live in a country of their choice in exchange for investing a significant amount of money into the local economy.

Portugal started the concept of Golden Visas in 2012, and now many European countries offer similar programs, including Spain, Greece, Malta and Cyprus.

Applicants must make a considerable financial commitment, such as purchasing real estate, investing in government bonds with set maturity periods, establishing businesses or other significant contributions to qualify for these visas.

The minimum investment amount starts from $100,000.

Among the popular investment options are:

  • real estate;

  • fund units;

  • government bonds;

  • philanthropic donations;

  • business.

Validity for European Golden Visa

Each country has its own set of criteria, investment thresholds, and qualifying investments. Therefore, the validity of a European Golden Visa would depend on the specific country’s regulations that you’re interested in.

In most cases, a European Golden Visa initially grants temporary residency, often ranging from one to five years, depending on the country. After this initial period, the residency permit can be renewed as long as the investment and other requirements are maintained.

Some countries offer a pathway to permanent residency or even citizenship after a certain number of years of living and meeting additional conditions.

14 European Countries Offering Golden Visas

The allure of the European Golden Visa program is vast and varied, with numerous countries offering unique advantages. Let’s explore some of these major players.

If an investor needs to obtain the status of permanent residency, then the fastest way would be the Cyprus Golden Visa and Malta Permanent Residence Program. This way, the applicant will obtain residence for life.

In EU Golden Visas, Portugal’s program is a favoured choice among affluent investors. It offers flexibility in investment options coupled with attractive residency benefits. A minimum investment starting at $250,000 for cultural heritage can set you on your way to obtaining this coveted permit.

It means applicants can acquire Portuguese citizenship after six years without any obligation to reside permanently during this period.

The Spanish Golden Visa does not require continuous physical presence to secure residency status, making it particularly appealing for those wishing to maintain their business interests elsewhere while enjoying perks associated with EU residencies.

A decade-long legal stay paves the path towards applying for Spanish citizenship, thus granting unrestricted access within Schengen Zone countries, amongst other benefits EU member states offer.

Greece might offer precisely what you’re looking for if you seek speed. With real estate investments beginning at merely $500,000 alongside rapid application processing times of around two months, the Greek fast-track Golden Visa program is a tough competitor amidst similar schemes.

Comparison of Golden Visa Programs Offered by the European Countries

Country

Minimum investment

Obtainment period

Andorra

€400,000

2—4 months

Belgium

€300,000

4—6 months

Cyprus

€300,000

3 months

France

€300,000

4 months

Georgia

$100,000

10—30 days

Greece

€250,000

2—6 months

Italy

€250,000

3+ months

Latvia

€50,000

1—3 months

Luxembourg

€500,000

4—6 months

Malta

€150,000

2—4 months

Monaco

€500,000

2—3 months

Netherlands

€1,250,000

1—2 months

Portugal

€250,000

8—10 months

Spain

€500,000

2—3 months

The Appeal of EU Golden Visas

The European Union’s golden visas have gained immense popularity among affluent individuals globally. These coveted permits not only pave the way for residency or citizenship in prestigious European countries but also bring a host of benefits along.

An integral perk that comes with these golden visas is visa-free travel within the Schengen Zone, an area comprising 27 European nations that eliminated passport control at their mutual borders. This benefit offers freedom to move across most parts of Europe and opens up new avenues for business opportunities while enhancing personal liberty.

A gateway to EU citizenship. The Golden Visa is a significant stepping stone towards acquiring full-fledged EU citizenship. After holding a temporary or permanent residence for an interval — typically five to ten years — those with the visa may be qualified to request naturalization.

This opportunity brings several advantages, such as:

  • unrestricted access to work anywhere within the EU member states;

  • voting rights in national elections;

  • protection by diplomatic services outside Europe;

  • potential tax benefits depending upon individual circumstances.

Inclusion of family members. One appealing aspect of many European Golden Visa programs is that they are not just limited to individual applicants but extend beyond them.

Most programs allow investors' family members to obtain residency permits through investment made by the primary applicant alone. They include:

  • spouses,

  • dependent children under the age of 18 or older,

  • parents,

  • grandparents,

  • siblings.

This provision ensures family unity while offering educational opportunities for younger generations at renowned institutions throughout Europe.

How much time must be spent in the country for a Golden Visa?

The time you must spend in the country to maintain a Golden Visa varies depending on the country’s program. Different European countries have additional requirements regarding residency obligations for Golden Visa holders.

Portugal Golden Visa Program requires holders to spend at least 7 days in the country during the first year and 14 days in subsequent 2-year periods.

Spain’s Golden Visa program did not have a strict minimum stay requirement. However, you were expected to visit the country at least once during the visa validity period to maintain your residency.

Greece Golden Visa Program required at least one visit per year.

Cyprus did not have a minimum stay requirement for their Golden Visa program. However, to eventually qualify for citizenship, you must spend 12 months in the country over 7 years.

Malta Golden Visa Program required at least 1 year of physical residency before being eligible to apply for citizenship.

Hungary’s investment program did not have a strict minimum stay requirement, but you needed a registered address.

Life After Acquiring Your European Golden Visa

A new chapter unfolds once you’ve successfully secured your golden visa in Europe. The transformation can be quite profound, offering many opportunities and lifestyle changes.

1. Visa-free travelling. An EU golden visa holder enjoys the privilege of unrestricted movement within Schengen Zone countries. It translates into visa-free travel across 27 European nations, simplifying business travels and enabling spontaneous leisure trips.

This freedom isn’t confined to just travelling; it also allows you the flexibility to conduct business or own properties in different parts of Europe while residing elsewhere on the continent.

2. Lifestyle upgrades. Your quality of life will likely be upgraded with your newly acquired status as a resident through one such European golden visa program. Many European countries are recognized globally for their high living standards, which include top-notch healthcare systems and world-class educational institutions.

Besides this, depending on where your residency lies — from Portugal’s sun-drenched beaches to Spain’s bustling cities — cultural immersion will add richness to daily experiences, further broadening horizons.

3. Potential pathways towards citizenship. Another crucial point post-acquisition is that holding a residence permit could pave the way toward obtaining permanent residency or citizenship over time.

This progression from temporary residence permit holder to becoming an EU citizen offers long-term security while enhancing global mobility options due to its powerful passport granting access beyond Europe.

4. Tax considerations post-acquisition. Tax implications associated with being an EU resident via any given EU golden visa scheme. Each nation has unique tax laws that may impact income earned domestically and internationally, so it’s critical to understand these aspects beforehand.

For example, Cyprus provides attractive tax incentives like no inheritance tax, whereas Spain imposes worldwide income taxation on residents who spend more than six months per year there.

European Golden Visa benefits

Some people see Golden Visa programs as a retirement strategy that will give them an appropriate location and a good quality of life when they retire

Tax Implications Associated with European Golden Visas

One must recognize tax implications regarding the allure of golden visas. The landscape varies from country to country in Europe, but there are common threads like worldwide income taxation and inheritance taxes.

The scope of worldwide income taxation. In some EU nations that offer golden visa programs, residency status might require you to pay taxes on your global earnings — a concept known as "worldwide taxation." Each jurisdiction has its unique rules.

Portugal has an appealing scheme for non-habitual residents where certain types of foreign-sourced income can enjoy partial or total exemption from Portuguese taxation over ten years.

Spain’s approach is different: if, under their Spanish golden visa program, you spend more than 183 days per year within their borders, then you’re considered a fiscal resident and subjected to global taxation.

Navigating inheritance taxes. Beyond potential issues surrounding worldwide taxation lies another crucial aspect of acquiring an EU golden visa — inheritance taxes. It refers to the amount beneficiaries must cough up after inheriting property or wealth upon someone’s demise.

An example here would be Spain’s law, which applies even when both the deceased person and beneficiaries aren’t residents of Spain — it could potentially lead to high costs depending on the value of inherited assets and the relationship between the donor and recipient.

Avoiding double jeopardy through DTAs. Double-tax agreements come into play to counterbalance these possible tax burdens associated with obtaining European citizenship via investment schemes such as those offered by various EU countries. These ensure individuals only end up paying once: once back home and again in the new residence obtained via the European golden visa program.

Pivotal players like Portugal boast extensive DTA treaties safeguarding against this risk, but comprehending these legal documents can be challenging. Hence, professional advice becomes essential before deciding to invest in permanent residency schemes across Europe like Portuguese ones.

Income taxes for individuals in European countries with Golden Visa Programs

Country

Income tax rate

Andorra

0—10%

Belgium

25— 50%

Cyprus

0—35%

France

0—45%

Georgia

20%

Greece

9—45%

Italy

23—43%

Latvia

20%

Luxembourg

0—42%

Malta

0—35%

Monaco

No income tax

Netherlands

9.45—49.5%

Portugal

14.5—48%

Spain

19— 47%

Embarking on the journey to obtain a European golden visa requires understanding the financial commitment involved. The associated costs can be substantial and differ significantly among EU countries.

The application process encompasses various types of fees, including:

  • government processing charges;

  • legal expenses;

  • due diligence checks;

  • donations or investments.

In many EU member states that offer golden visas, governmental fees are related to processing your application. For example, the Portugal Golden Visa Program demands an initial payment of €500 per applicant plus an additional €100 per family member.

Bear in mind that this cost does not cover renewals, which come at separate charges every two years until permanent residency status is achieved after five years of holding a temporary permit.

Apart from government levies, you’ll also need to budget for professional services such as those offered by immigration lawyers who navigate the complex legal processes required to obtain a golden visa. This amount will depend on several factors, like the complexity of your case and the law firm’s reputation, but generally, it ranges between 1—4%.

Certain countries require applicants to make obligatory contributions towards social or economic causes, while others demand significant property investments instead, like Spain’s requirement for a minimum real estate purchase worth €500,000 without a mortgage.

Significantly, these funds cannot be recovered once invested, unlike other costs incurred during the application. Hence, careful evaluation before committing any resources to such schemes is advised.

Potential Challenges when Applying for a Golden Visa

The journey to obtaining a golden visa in Europe can be challenging sailing. It’s essential to be aware of potential obstacles during the application process.

Legal hurdles and language barriers. One significant challenge many applicants face is navigating complex legal procedures, especially if they need to familiarise themselves with their chosen EU country’s language or property laws.

For instance, those opting for real estate investment as part of their golden visa scheme must understand local property transaction regulations. Without this knowledge, there are risks associated with delays or even rejections.

Fulfilling residency requirements. Countries have varying residency requirements, which can pose challenges depending on personal circumstances. Some countries require you to reside within their borders for specific periods each year. Spain’s program requires investors to spend at least half the year within Spanish territory.

Navigating financial considerations. Beyond the initial investments required by different European programs, other financial aspects warrant careful consideration during your application process, such as government fees associated with applications and renewals and costs related to maintaining investments, such as taxes.

Currency fluctuations between your home currency and the Euro may also affect the overall cost, making budgeting challenging over time.

Risk assessment: evaluating investment options. A vital aspect often overlooked is assessing the risks in various types of eligibility under different schemes.

If choosing the real estate route, market volatility might impact the value of properties, while business ventures carry inherent operational risks that need thorough evaluation before proceeding.

Tackling bureaucracy: navigating foreign administrative systems. Delays and miscommunications, among other common hurdles, are encountered, requiring patience and resilience to make it through successfully.

Steps to Getting European Golden Visa

Embarking on the journey towards securing a Golden Visa in Europe is intricate. It demands strategic planning, informed decision-making, and meticulous compliance with procedures outlined by each country’s golden visa scheme.

1

2—4 weeks

Selecting the perfect EU country for you

The first step involves identifying which of the many EU countries offering golden visas aligns best with your lifestyle preferences and financial situation. Each program has unique advantages, investment requirements, and conditions for residency or citizenship that should be thoroughly evaluated before making a choice.

2

2 weeks

Familiarising yourself with investment requirements

Your next move will involve understanding specific investment options available within your chosen destination. For instance, Portugal’s Golden Visa allows flexibility in investments starting from €250,000 into cultural heritage projects, while Cyprus mandates at least €300,000 invested into property assets.

3

1 month

Gathering required documentation

A critical part of this venture entails assembling all necessary documentation stipulated by immigration authorities in your selected EU member state. It typically includes proof of source funds for investment clean criminal record certificates, among other documents, depending on regulations set out under respective EU Golden Visa programs.

4

1—2 months

Executing the planned investment

This stage marks the actualization of planned investments, whether acquiring properties or transferring capital based on what suits you best within guidelines provided by relevant bodies across various EU nations, such as Spain’s Spanish citizenship via their Spanish Golden Visa Program.

5

2 weeks

Packaging and submitting your application package

Last but not least comes the submission phase, where the application and supporting documentation are submitted through channels defined by respective immigration departments across Europe, like Greece’s fast-track Greek Residence Permit Program.

Professional guidance from legal experts versed in immigrant investor programs could prove invaluable during these complex proceedings.

Conclusion

Exploring the European Golden Visa has taken us on an enlightening journey. We’ve delved into the concept, understanding its appeal to affluent individuals seeking EU residency or citizenship.

Key countries like Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Cyprus have been spotlighted for their unique programs. A comparative look at Europe’s golden visa programs was provided to help make informed decisions.

Tax implications and application costs were also covered thoroughly. Potential pitfalls and challenges during the application process were highlighted, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Are the Benefits of a Golden Visa in Europe?

    The European Golden Visa offers numerous perks, such as visa-free travel within the Schengen Zone, potential paths to EU citizenship, and access to high-quality healthcare and education systems.

  • What Is a Golden Visa in Europe?

    A European Golden Visa is an immigration program that grants residency or citizenship rights to wealthy individuals who invest significantly in the host country’s economy.

  • What Is the Disadvantage of a Golden Visa?

    Potential downsides include:

    • substantial financial investment requirements;

    • complex application processes;

    • tax implications on worldwide income;

    • possible language barriers depending on the chosen country.

  • Can you Live Anywhere in Europe with a Golden Visa?

    No. While it provides freedom to travel across Schengen countries without a visa, your residence will typically be tied to the country where you made your qualifying investment for the golden visa.

  • What Is the Easiest EU Country to Get Permanent Residency?

    Cyprus and Malta — the applicant will obtain residence for life.

  • Which Country in Europe Has the Cheapest Golden Visa?

    The most economical options are the Portuguese and Greece Golden Visas, involving an investment with a minimum value of €250,000.

  • Who Is Eligible for a Golden Visa?

    Investors with immediate family members, such as spouses, children, parents and siblings are eligible for golden visas.

    Each country has particular requirements for foreigners obtaining Golden Visas. But some of the conditions are general. To be able to participate in the program, the investor must:

    • be over 18;

    • have no criminal records or prosecutions;

    • have a sufficient amount of money for investment;

    • prove the legality of income.

  • How Many Golden Visa Programs Are in Europe?

    There are 14 golden visa programs in Europe. Each country has its own criteria, investment thresholds, and qualifying investments. Therefore, the validity of a European Golden Visa would depend on the specific country’s regulations that you’re interested in.

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