These three programmes are so new on the second citizenship scene that one – Montenegro - hasn’t even officially kicked off yet. The oldest of the three – Vanuatu – was only established in 2017 while the Moldovan programme is only a few months old.
That said, all three have already generated much interest from the international investment community.
Let’s compare these three new kids on the second citizenship block, so you get an idea which might suit you.
Is EU access important to you?
If EU access is your priority, Moldova or Montenegro are strong options.
Moldova isn’t officially an EU member, but the country has a strong relationship with the EU. In 2009, for instance, Moldova joined the EU’s Eastern Partnership, and the EU-Moldova Association Agreement was introduced in 2016, including an extensive free trade agreement. The EU accounts for over half of all Moldovan trade, for example, with total bilateral trade between the two increasing by 18% to EUR 4Bn in 2017.
These and other similar agreements mean the EU offers Moldova an increased level of economic, political, environmental and social support. It also means Moldovan citizens with a biometric passport (like you, if you invest here) can travel visa-free across the Schengen area.
Montenegro has a similarly strong relationship with the EU, having signed a European Partnership in 2006. Negotiations for Montenegro to join the EU have been underway since 2012, and Montenegro is expected to become an EU-member by 2025. Montenegro is also currently implementing a Schengen Action Plan, working towards free travel across the area.
Montenegro is also currently implementing a Schengen Action Plan, working towards free travel across the area.
Are you concerned about protecting your wealth?
Wealth protection is a major reason many investors choose second citizenship, and Vanuatu is especially strong thanks to a favourable tax landscape. If you become a citizen of Vanuatu, you’ll enjoy zero corporation tax for both domestic and international companies, zero income tax, zero capital gains, or estate, or wealth tax, zero withholding tax, zero gift tax and zero other personal income taxes either. Given investment starts from only EUR 136,000, most investors find the programme pays for itself. Often many times over.
Moldova and Montenegro aren’t quite as tax friendly as Vanuatu, but they’re still an interesting proposition. The Moldovan corporate income tax rate is 12.5% on worldwide income for resident companies, and SMEs can opt into a special 4% rate if not yet VAT registered. As a Moldovan citizen, you’ll be subject to personal progressive income tax of 7% up to MDL 33,000 (roughly USD 2000) and 18% beyond. Dividends are taxed at only 6%.
If you choose second citizenship in Montenegro, you’ll face non-resident personal income taxes of 9% to 11% on income sourced from Montenegro. Any entity operating in Montenegro is subject to 9% corporate profit tax, which isn’t as good as Vanuatu but is still significantly lower than many countries.
Do you need to move fast?
Sometimes you need to know you’ve got the security of that second passport there and waiting if you need to move you, your family or your money quickly.
Vanuatu is the fastest of these three citizenship-by-investment programmes, with a simple and transparent 5-stage process that takes only 45-60 days. You could have your new Vanuatu passport in-hand within 45-days, which makes this one of the fastest such programmes in the world.
You could have your new Vanuatu passport in-hand within 45-days, which makes this one of the fastest such programmes in the world.
The Moldovan programme takes around three months until you get your certificate of naturalisation, depending on how due diligence checks progress. Then your biometric data is collected, you swear an Oath of Allegiance and can apply for your new passport.
The Montenegro programme isn’t due to launch until next month, so it’s difficult to talk about timeframes yet. If speed is a major driver, you’ll likely prefer an established programme with proven timeframes.
What are the investment criteria?
Vanuatu is a very affordable option, especially if you’ve got family to consider. Investment here is a non-refundable donation starting from only EUR 136,000 for a single applicant going up to EUR 188,000 for a married couple with two children. You won’t find many programmes that compete at that price point, especially for full citizenship.
The Moldovan programme also offers very affordable investment criteria, with investment again taking the form of non-refundable donation into a government fund. To secure Moldovan citizenship, you’re looking at EUR 100,000 for a single applicant or up to EUR 155,000 for a family of five or more, plus processing fees.
The Montenegro citizenship-by-investment programme is also affordable compared to some other global programmes, although it is the more costly of these three. Overall investors must invest EUR 250,000 in approved development projects in undeveloped areas of Montenegro, or EUR 450,000 in approved projects in developed areas. In addition, you’ll pay up to EUR 100,000 as a non-refundable fee into a special government development fund.
Is freedom to travel a major motivator for you?
One of the major reasons to consider second citizenship is enhanced global mobility. All three programmes are a good choice here, offering an escape from unnecessary bureaucracy.
All three programmes are a good choice here, offering an escape from unnecessary bureaucracy.
If you invest into Vanuatu, your new passport will unlock visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to 124 countries. That includes all of Europe plus many other key global business hubs like Hong Kong, Singapore and Russia. It’s the only of these three passports to allow visa-free access to the UK.
Montenegro is the second strongest passport of these three, offering visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to 117 countries. Moldova follows very close behind with 112 countries.
Vanuatu is a leading light but all three should excite investors
Choosing second citizenship can feel overwhelming – which isn’t helped by the constant influx of new programmes worldwide. You might be tempted to defer to seniority and choose a programme that’s been established for decades – but you could be missing a trick. Vanuatu, Moldova and Montenegro are three of the most recent citizenship-by-investment programmes and all three definitively hold their own on the world stage.