Six frequently asked questions about second citizenship

July 18th, 2017

Citizenship-by-investment is one of the most important decisions you may ever make. But if you have been considering investing in second citizenship – and who can blame you – you’re probably overwhelmed with questions.

  • Can I afford it?
  • How long does it take?
  • Is second citizenship even legal?
  • And the biggest question of all: is it worth it?

So read on for the answers to the most common questions about citizenship-by-investment, to help you decide whether it is right for you.

1. Can I afford it? The first question you’re probably asking yourself if you’re considering second citizenship is this: what can I afford? Second citizenship is undeniably a luxury reserved for those with means, but it can be less costly than you might think. At the upper end, citizenship-by-investment programmes can run into seven figures but there are several more cost-effective options as well.

If your budget is more on the restricted side, the Caribbean programmes will tend to suit you best. St. Lucian citizenship can be purchased for an investment starting at USD 100,000, for example. Or, if liquid capital really is an issue, Dominican citizenship might be a good choice as the island offers a 75% financing option on the required USD 200,000 investment.

If your budget is more on the restricted side, the Caribbean programmes will tend to suit you best. St. Lucian citizenship can be purchased for an investment starting at USD 100,000, for example.

There are multiple investment options available for these second citizenship programmes too. They range from a non-refundable donation to a higher-outlay higher-return investment in real estate or business. So there are variations to fit every budget.

As with anything in life though, you do get what you pay for. If you have the financial means, you unlock a host of second citizenship programmes across Europe. If money isn’t an issue, you could even look at the Cypriot citizenship-by-investment programme. Admittedly costly, demanding a starting investment of EUR 2m, the Cypriot programme really does set itself apart.

Read more: 7 ways Cypriot citizenship is tailor-made for the elite

All the second citizenship programmes mentioned have a great deal to recommend them, but thinking carefully about your budget can really help you make the right decision.

2. How long does it take? This is an important question since the length of process can vary a great deal. The average second citizenship application takes around three months, but there are outliers. So it’s important to know how fast you want to move before deciding which second citizenship programme is best for you.

Many investors only start thinking about second citizenship the moment they need it – if political difficulties are brewing at home or you have a business opportunity abroad that demands immediate travel that otherwise might be slowed by a laborious and uncertain visa application process. As so often happens, we tend not to think about these things until they’re urgent.

If time really is of the essence, this would rule out certain second citizenship programmes. The Portuguese citizenship programme is fantastic but you’re looking at six years before becoming a full citizen. Likewise, the Bulgarian second citizenship programme can be a great choice, but it does take up to five years. There is a fast-track option for Bulgaria, but you’re still looking at least one year.

If you need to move fast, the Caribbean programmes can be a good bet as they all take under three months. Grenada can take as few as two, if you invest in real estate. Or, if you really must get into Europe and you need to move quickly, and you have the financial means, the Cypriot programme takes only three months.

3. Do I have to spend time there? The next question you’re likely asking yourself is how much time you can afford to spend attaining citizenship. While some investors seek second citizenship for the relocation opportunity, this isn’t the most common motivation. Most investors we speak to have business and personal interests at home, and see second citizenship in the same light as any other investment asset.

If that’s you, it follows that you’ll want second citizenship acquisition to be as straightforward as other investments. If that’s the case, you’ll want to avoid programmes that require you to spend time in-country to qualify. The Portuguese programme, for instance, requires you to maintain residency for six years before applying for citizenship – by spending at least seven days in Portugal annually. That’s no particular hardship, but some investors would find that a commitment worth avoiding.

If you want to secure second citizenship with absolutely minimum disruption to your normal life, you’ll want to look at programmes like St. Kitts and Nevis or Grenada. Many of the Caribbean programmes have no residency or even visitation requirements, so you can complete the entire process remotely.

Many of the Caribbean programmes have no residency or even visitation requirements, so you can complete the entire process remotely.

4. Is second citizenship even legal? A surprisingly common question. Yes, it is legal as long as your home nation allows you to hold dual nationality (if it doesn’t, don’t lose hope – just skip to Point 5). Assuming your home country accepts its citizens holding dual nationality, the next step is talking to a trustworthy second citizenship specialist who can offer you a wide choice of ‘second’ countries to invest in.

As a dual national, you can then travel on your new passport whenever you choose, so you can go to places that previously (on your home passport) would have required a much longer visa application process. Essentially, second citizenship allows you to pick and choose which of your two nationalities is most beneficial to you at any one time.

5. What if my home nation doesn’t allow dual citizenship? Unfortunately, this is the case in some countries. If that’s true for you, you don’t have to give up hope though. Many of the major benefits of second citizenship are available through residency-by-citizenship programmes as well. For instance, there’s no obligation to convert your Portuguese residency into full citizenship. You could simply acquire residency and hold onto it. As a European resident, you would be able to travel and trade easily throughout the 26-state Schengen area. You would have all the benefits of a European insurance policy, and enjoy tax advantages through the Non-Habitual Residence scheme (NHR).

The Maltese Residence and Visa Programme (MRVP) is also a good option if your home nation doesn’t allow dual citizenship. As with Portugal, you enjoy access to the Schengen area as well as potential tax advantages thanks to Malta’s 70 or so double tax treaties. If you’re primarily interested in relocation, Malta could be an especially good choice as it’s considered one of the safest and most appealing places to live. In fact, Malta was ranked the 10th best place to retire in the world, according to the Annual Global Retirement Index 2017.

6. Will I be refused citizenship? This is a natural concern to have. Sometimes it seems too good to be true, that you can invest your way into desirable countries as if you were born there. But it’s not too good to be true. Genuinely, these programmes tend to ask little more than a clean passport and clean criminal record. Knowing the nuance of each programme’s requirements can ensure you apply for the most suitable, so you avoid needless rejections.

For instance, the Antigua and Barbuda citizenship programme asks that you have not been denied a visa from a country with which they have a visa-free travel agreement, such as France, the Netherlands or Germany. If you have, you must apply to that country and obtain a visa before Antigua and Barbuda will grant you citizenship. Knowing little details like this can save you unnecessary hassle.

Although all the programmes are relatively straightforward, the requirements can be more stringent for European programmes than their Caribbean counterparts. Offering some of the best healthcare, education, business and personal opportunities in the world, Europe has to be careful to manage demand. Generally though, you needn’t worry about being denied as long as you have got nothing to hide.

Although all the programmes are relatively straightforward, the requirements can be more stringent for European programmes than their Caribbean counterparts.

The most important question: Is it worth it?

Those first six questions are some of the most common we hear about second citizenship.

Hopefully what’s clear is the huge range of second citizenship – or even residency – options available catering to your unique needs. There are in-a-hurry programmes, and programmes for those who’re willing to take their time. There are less expensive programmes, and programmes tailor-made for those with an extravagant budget. Some demand travel; others can be secured entirely remotely.

Once you have found a second citizenship programme that ticks the right boxes, you still probably have one big question though: is it worth it?

The short answer is definitely. Irrespective of the programme you choose, second citizenship delivers huge return on investment. Tax breaks are obviously a major factor for many investors, but you’ll also enjoy huge gains in global mobility, with the personal and business benefits which that can deliver. You get a potentially life-saving insurance policy, and can enjoy an incredible standard of living if you choose to relocate. Most programmes are extremely family-friendly too, making second citizenship the ultimate gift for your children.

Any investment takes serious consideration, and citizenship-by-investment is no exception. But it can be a golden ticket, for your lifetime and beyond.