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April 1, 2024
9 min

Golden Visas: the Ultimate Guide

Kenley Henderson

Many developed countries allow wealthy people to obtain residence permits by investment. To get one, an applicant needs to buy real estate, bonds or securities, invest in a business, or transfer capital.

All the investment costs and requirements depend on a specific country. The minimum amount of money you would need to invest is around €150,000, and the period of a residence visa obtainment varies from 4 to 18 months.

Golden Visas: the Ultimate Guide

Golden Visas: the Ultimate Guide

What is a Golden Visa?

A Golden Visa is a residence permit by investment. That means a wealthy person is not required to get a job, enter a university or find other reasons to move to the country to be granted a visa. They need to invest in the economy of a particular state.

Each country has particular requirements for foreigners obtaining Golden Visas. But some of the conditions are common. 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.

Investment options vary from country to country, but the most popular one is real estate purchase. Other options include capital transfer, purchase of securities or business investment.

The investment amount starts from around €150,000 and can reach several million. For example, the Greece Golden Visa program requires investing at least €250,000.

Investors can add their close family members to the applications under the Golden Visa programs. Some countries allow applicants to include adult children, parents and even siblings.

How to apply for a Golden Visa?

To obtain a Golden Visa, you must meet the program requirements, submit necessary documents, undergo Due Diligence and fulfil the investment conditions.

The consideration of a Golden Visa application usually lasts several months. Each country has its procedure, but the primary stages are the following.

Collection of documents and application submission. The essential list of documents includes the following:

  • an ID or a passport;

  • a police clearance certificate;

  • a reference letter from your bank;

  • proof of health insurance;

  • other documents, depending on the program.

An applicant must also fill in government forms, notarise and translate documents, and pay processing and government fees. Experienced lawyers can make this step easier and help one submit a correct and comprehensive package of documents.

When the documents are ready, an applicant or their legal representatives submit them to the unit responsible for the program.

Due Diligence is conducted to ensure that applicants meet the program’s requirements.

The unit responsible for the program examines the documents and checks the investor and their close family members against international databases such as Interpol and Europol. They also look for information on the investor on the Internet.

While proceeding with an application, the unit can request additional documents if the provided package is insufficient.

Fulfilment of investment conditions. Depending on the program, investors do it before or after the Due Diligence. However, fulfilling investment conditions before applying for residency is more common.

An investor chooses an option, purchases real estate, transfers capital, or buys securities.

To make the procedure easier, one can turn to legal representatives as they know all the peculiarities of the Golden Visa programs. Experienced lawyers can advise you of the documents you need to collect, help you choose the investment option and accompany you from the very start till the obtainment of a residency card.

If you decide to do everything on your own, you need to collect the documents and then apply at the respective Embassy in your country. But some programs don’t allow individuals to apply independently; for example, those interested in the Malta Permanent Residence Program can participate only through a licensed agent.

Usually, investors and their family members are required to visit the country of the Golden Visa program for fingerprinting, submitting or picking up the documents, medical examination or other purposes.

Benefits of Golden Visas

Investors get numerous benefits with a residence permit. Particular advantages depend on the country of a Golden Visa, but here are the common ones.

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. They can visit the country for short periods for personal or business purposes.

Residence by investment is often offered by countries with a high quality of life, such as the EU countries, the UAE and the USA. They have high levels of safety and privacy, quality healthcare services and education, and good living conditions.

Creating a “safe haven”. Investors and their family members can enter the country that issued the Golden Visa even if the borders are closed for foreigners. This opportunity may be helpful in case of issues in the country of residence.

Travelling visa-free to other countries. For example, 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.

Tax benefits. Some countries offer special tax regimes for investors. For example, it is possible to obtain a Non-habitual Resident status in Portugal for ten years. With it, a resident doesn’t pay taxes on global income and benefits from a fixed 20% tax rate on the income earned in Portugal.

People in the UAE don’t pay taxes on income, capital gains, inheritance, gifts and properties. The corporate tax to be introduced in June 2023 will be 9%, which is still lower than in most countries.

Business opportunities. Investors can open companies in the countries that granted them Golden Visas or transfer their businesses there. It may help to develop an international business.

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

Returning investment. Most of the investments required for Golden Visas might be returned in several years. For example, if you purchase real estate, you are usually allowed to sell it several years later and get an additional profit.

The investment return period can be fixed; for example, it is five years in Portugal. In other countries, such as Cyprus and Greece, you can return investments after obtaining permanent residence or citizenship.

Access to a sound healthcare system. Some countries that offer Golden Visas have advanced healthcare systems. For example, the UAE is one of the most famous destinations for medical tourism. Hospitals in the country are modern and well-equipped, doctors come from all over the world, and some clinics provide the comfort of 5-star hotels.

Access to quality education. Children of Golden Visa holders can enter local schools and universities. Higher education diplomas from the US and EU countries are usually recognised in other parts of the world.

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

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.

UAE Golden Visa

Dubai is a fast-developing UAE Emirate, popular among foreign investors. Real estate is in high demand there: 90,881 residential transactions were registered in 2022, which is a record amount

Golden Visa: countries where you can obtain it

Many European countries offer Golden Visas programs. They are among the most popular ones as residency in these states gives the right to move to a developed country and sometimes to travel visa-free to the Schengen countries.

European states that have residency-by-investment programs:

🇦🇩 Andorra — investment of €400,000+, time required — 3+ months;

🇨🇾 Cyprus — €300,000+, 3+ months;

🇬🇷 Greece — €250,000+; time required: 3—6 months;

🇮🇹 Italy — €250,000+; time required: 3+ months;

🇱🇻 Latvia — €60,000+; time required: 1—3 months;

🇱🇺 Luxembourg — €500,000+; time required: 6+ months;

🇲🇹 Malta — €150,000+; 4—6 months for application processing;

🇵🇹 Portugal — €250,000+; time required: 8—10 months;

🇪🇸 Spain — €500,000+; time required: 2—3 months.

Non-European countries also have residence-by-investment programs. They allow to move to these countries and enjoy the benefits of living there.

Non-European countries that offer Golden Visas:

🇨🇦 Canada — investment of CAD 1,2 million; time required — up to 50 months;

🇭🇰 Hong Kong — no minimum investment; time required: 4—8 months;

🇲🇾 Malaysia — MYR 1,000,000+; time required: 3—6 months;

🇲🇺 Mauritius — $375,000+; time required: 6—8 months;

🇳🇦 Namibia — $300,000+; time required: 3+ months;

🇳🇿 New Zealand — NZD 5,000,000; , time required: 8—9 months;

🇵🇦 Panama — $100,000+; time required: 1—6 months;

🇸🇬 Singapore — SGD 10,000,000+; time required: 9—12 months;

🇹🇭 Thailand — THB 600,000+; time required: 2—3 months;

🇦🇪 The UAE — AED 2,000,000+; time required: 2+ months;

🇺🇸 The USA — $800,000+; time required: 30—36 months.

Greece Golden Visa

Gythio, a coastal town in Greece. The country allows real estate investors to obtain Golden Visas

Golden Visas as the path to citizenship

Citizenship gives an investor more rights than a residence permit. That may include visa-free travels to 150+ countries or the right to live, work or run a business not only in the country that issued a residence permit but in others as well. Additionally, citizens, in contrast with those who hold residence permits, don’t need to renew their passports every two or three years.

With a residence permit from some countries, it is easy to obtain citizenship. For example, those with a Portugal Golden Visa can apply for the country’s passport after five years. However, the investor seeking to acquire a passport must reside in the country for a particular time and pass history, culture and language exams.

The minimum time or residence required to apply for citizenship by naturalisation in countries that issue Golden Visas:

  • Cyprus — 5 years;

  • Greece — 7 years;

  • Portugal — 5 years;

  • Spain — 10 years;

  • The UAE — 30 years.

Some countries, such as Spain and the UAE, usually don’t allow their citizens to have multiple citizenships. Thus, an applicant will be required to renounce citizenship in other countries.

Which countries closed their Golden Visa programs?

In 2022, the UK decided to scrap their Golden Visa, also known as the Tier 1 visa. This decision was because, despite the tightening of the program’s conditions, unreliable applicants still received residence permits.

At the beginning of 2023, the UK was joined by Ireland as the country also closed its Golden Visa program. It was done based on the request of the European Commission demanded that European countries shut their Golden Visa programs to ensure higher security levels.

In February 2023, Portuguese authorities announced they also plan to scrap their Golden Visa program. The reason is the price boost on buying and renting real estate in Portugal.

🇨🇾 Cyprus Golden Visa is a permanent residence that is granted for an investment of €300,000. Investors may purchase:

  • residential properties;

  • commercial real estate;

  • shares in Cypriot companies;

  • securities.

The process of visa obtainment lasts for 3+ months. An investor must visit the country every two years to maintain Cyprus permanent residence. After living for 5+ years in Cyprus, an investor can apply for citizenship.

🇬🇷 Greece Golden Visa. The most popular option under the Greece Golden Visa program is the purchase of a residential or commercial real estate for €250,000 — it is the cheapest purchase of real estate among all EU countries. The property can be sold after five years.

Other options include:

  • renting a hotel or tourist residence for ten years — €250,000+;

  • purchase of land plot for construction or agriculture — €250,000+;

  • timeshare for ten years — €250,000+;

  • inheriting real estate or receiving it as a gift — €250,000+;

  • purchase of securities — €400,000;

  • opening a bank deposit — €400,000.

The obtaining period for the Greece Golden Visa is around six months. To obtain Greek citizenship, an investor needs to live in the country for at least seven years.

🇲🇹 The Malta Permanent Residence Programme allows one to obtain life-long resident status there. An applicant must rent or buy real estate and fulfil some other conditions.

The minimum rental price depends on the region:

  • in the south of Malta or Gozo island — €10,000+ per annum;

  • in northern or central Malta — €12,000+ per annum.

The minimum prices for purchasing real estate also depend on the region;

  • in the south of Malta or Gozo island — €300,000+;

  • in northern or central Malta — €350,000+.

There are other requirements that must be fulfilled as well:

  • payment of an administrative fee of €40,000;

  • payment of a contribution fee — €58,000 for those who rent a property and €28,000 for people who purchase a property;

  • charitable donations — €2,000;

  • confirmation of having assets of at least €500,000, where €150,000 are liquid financial assets.

The usual application processing time is 4—6 months.

🇵🇹 Portugal Golden Visa. This program allows foreigners to obtain residence permits in return for an investment of €250,000+ in supporting arts and restoring cultural heritage.

If an investor holds a residence permit in Portugal for five years, they can apply for Portuguese citizenship. They are not required to reside in the country permanently.

To get a Portugal Golden Visa, you would need to wait for 8+ months.

There are some alternatives to consider: for example, the D7 Visa for people with passive income or the Digital Nomad Visa.

🇮🇹 Italy Golden Visa offers investors to choose from four options:

  • investment in an innovative startup of €250,000+;

  • business investment of €500,000+;

  • investment in a philanthropic organisation — €1,000,000+;

  • purchase of government bonds — €2,000,000.

It takes at least three months to obtain an Italian residence permit by investment. After receiving it, one may move to Italy and apply for citizenship by naturalisation after 10+ years of residence.

🇪🇸 Spain Golden Visa offers six investment options:

  • purchase of real estate — €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 — the sum of investment is not established.

After five years of holding a residence permit, an investor can apply for permanent residence and, after another five years — for citizenship. For that, you must live in the country, and obtaining a passport, in most cases, requires renouncing other countries’ citizenship.

🇦🇪 The UAE Golden Visa. The program offers 10-year visas to investors, entrepreneurs, professionals and talents. Investors can get it for buying a property for AED 2 million (about $545,000). The time needed to obtain the visa is 2+ months.

There’s an alternative for real estate investors: a 2-year UAE residence visa is issued to those who buy real estate for AED 750 000 (about $204,000). Only ready-to-move properties are suitable for this type of visa.

Golden Visa: key features

Many countries have Golden Visa programs. The most popular are:

  • Cyprus — €300,000;

  • Greece — €250,000;

  • Portugal — €250,000;

  • Spain — €500,000;

  • UAE — AED 2,000,000.

A Golden Visa is a residence permit granted to wealthy people and their families by investing in the country’s economy.

Investment options vary from country to country, but purchasing real estate is the most popular.

Golden Visas offer many benefits to their holders. Among them are the following: the creation of a safe haven, moving to another country, visa-free travelling to European countries, tax optimisation and business opportunities.

Possession of The Golden Visa can lead to citizenship. However, in most cases, an investor must live in the country. The minimum amount of time one needs to hold a Golden Visa to become a citizen of the country is five years.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a Golden Visa?

    A Golden Visa is a residence permit that is given in exchange for investment in the country’s economy. It allows investors to reside in the country for the visa validity period, benefit from tax optimisation, and access healthcare and educational systems.

  • Who qualifies for a Golden Visa?

    All countries that provide Golden Visas have their requirements for investors. In all cases, the investor must:

    • have no criminal records or prosecutions;

    • have a sufficient amount of money for investment;

    • be able to prove the legality of income.

    The investor can also add their close family members to the application.

  • Which country has the best Golden Visa?

    Each Golden Visa program has its advantages. Among the most popular countries that offer residence by investment are:

    • Cyprus;

    • Greece;

    • Portugal;

    • Spain;

    • the UAE.

  • How much do you need to invest in obtaining a Golden Visa in the UAE?

    You can get a 10-year UAE Golden Visa if you invest AED 2 million ($545,000).

  • Which country has the cheapest Golden Visa?

    Greece offers the Golden Visa program with the lowest investment in real estate. Under this option, an applicant is required to invest €250,000+.

  • Which European countries offer Golden Visas?

    The most popular Golden Visa programs in Europe are the ones in Portugal, Spain and Greece.

  • How long is the Golden Visa valid?

    It depends on the visa. Portugal and Spain Golden Visas are valid for two years, and the Greek one is for five years. They are renewable.

    The UAE offers a 10-year Golden Visa. Cyprus permanent residence is valid for life.

  • Does a Golden Visa give citizenship?

    No, under a Golden Visa program, you can obtain a residence permit or permanent residence only.

    It is possible to get citizenship by naturalisation after a Golden Visa. You would need to maintain the status, reside in the country for a specific period, and fulfil some requirements: for instance, pass language and history exams.

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