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Which second citizenship country should I choose?

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February 28, 2017

Which second citizenship country should I choose?

Which second citizenship country should I choose?
Neil Petch

Author:

Neil Petch

Chairman of Virtugroup

Increased freedom, better business options, insuring against instability – whatever your motives, second citizenship can tick all the boxes. With upwards of 20 quality investment programmes, however, the question is – how do you choose? St. Kitts and Nevis’ programme has been around a reassuringly long time, but what about St. Lucia? Established in 2016, the St. Lucian programme might be new but it’s fast, secure and incredibly cost-effective. You’ve got noteworthy Dominican tax benefits, but Antigua and Barbuda’s real estate market is calling too. How about Cyprus? More costly than the others, but investment here earns you almost instant citizenship in Europe.

Given that all these programmes offer something slightly different, choosing where to invest can seem overwhelming. It needn’t be. Read on to discover the major considerations when choosing second citizenship, and which programmes might best fit your needs.

1. Is the citizenship-by-investment programme well-established and secure? Yes. All the second-citizenship-by-investment programmes offered by NGE are reputable and secure. But many programmes offer extra peace of mind with a lifetime guarantee. This protects you against changes in policy, ensuring your citizenship can never be revoked. St. Kitts and Nevis is one such programme, although extra assurance is hardly needed given that this is the longest running programme in the world, established in 1984.

2. How long does it take to secure citizenship? There are many reasons you might want to move quickly with your second citizenship application, from a worsening political situation or growing environmental concerns to simple impatience. If you’re in a hurry, there are programmes that cater to that, such as Grenada. If you invest in real estate, the entire process could take as little as 60 days. If you’re looking for a European programme then Cyprus is by far the fastest, with full citizenship available within only three months.

3. Do citizens benefit from any international memberships? Global agreements and international memberships ensure citizens of participating countries aren’t isolated, and can expect greater respect, security and freedom globally. Such agreements often provide preferable trade conditions too, opening up profitable routes of business to citizens. For example, Antigua and Barbuda benefits from membership in the United Nations, the Organisation of American States (OAS), the British Commonwealth, CARICOM and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP). Grenada is worth mentioning as the island is a US Treaty Nation, a status that entitles citizens to apply for a US E-2 Investor Visa, allowing you to live and work in the US for an investment of around USD 100,000.

Grenada is worth mentioning as the island is a US Treaty Nation, a status that entitles citizens to apply for a US E-2 Investor Visa, allowing you to live and work in the US for an investment of around USD 100,000.

4. What are the implications for global mobility? Global mobility is one of the biggest drivers for many investors when it comes to second citizenship. It’s unfortunately the case that some passports are ‘stronger’ than others, due to political circumstances beyond any one individual’s control. Some people can travel to fewer than 30 countries on their home passport without incurring major obstacles and paperwork. Yet both the Cypriot and Bulgarian citizenship-by-investment programmes enable travel to 150+ countries on visa-free or visa-on-arrival terms and all the NGE programmes unlock at least 120 countries. Grenada bears the special distinction of being one of only 11 countries to allow visa-free travel to the Republic of China. Whether for business or pleasure, second citizenship can transform you into a truly global citizen.

5. What business benefits are available? The personal benefits of citizenship are what attract many investors but some programmes offer considerable business benefits too, not least in terms of tax. Many nations offering these programmes have highly favourable tax conditions, but Dominica is particularly noteworthy. Dominican citizens don’t pay capital gains, wealth, income, inheritance, withholding or estate tax, and there’s a special tax regime for IBCs. The same is true of St. Kitts and Nevis. From a European perspective, Bulgaria offers the lowest personal tax rates in Europe, at only 10% for both personal and corporate income tax.

Tax aside, some countries offer such impressive prospects of return on investment that they’re popular for their own sake. Portuguese real estate prices, for example, have increased by around 10% over the last year, while Maltese property price growth hit 10% in the final quarter of 2015. Antigua and Barbuda is worth talking about too, as the islands continue to attract extravagant investment into real estate including USD 250m from actor Robert De Niro.

6. What stability can the country offer? Many investors view second citizenship as an insurance policy, offering a secure base should the worst happen politically, economically or environmentally. Unfortunately that often proves a wise policy to have. Take Malta. According to the World Risk Report 2015, Malta is the safest country in the world from natural disaster, and investors have permanent recourse to the island. Portugal is another good example, offering a stable environment with a very high quality of life. Portugal is actually the 12th most globalised country in the world according to the KOF Globalisation Index in 2016.

According to the World Risk Report 2015, Malta is the safest country in the world from natural disaster, and investors have permanent recourse to the island.

7. What are the requirements to secure citizenship? When you’re deciding which second citizenship to invest in, the qualifying requirements are likely to be front of mind. Must you reside in the country for any length of time to become a citizen? Must you travel to the country regularly to maintain citizenship? Is there any requirement to speak the language, or prove knowledge of culture? The minimum requirement for these programmes is that you’re of outstanding character, holding a clean criminal record. For many, that’s the only requirement. Both St. Lucia and St. Kitts and Nevis, for example, have no residency requirements and you needn’t travel to the islands at any stage. It’s wholly possible to secure second citizenship without any disruption to your normal activities.

8. What investment options are available? Investment in these programmes can take many different forms, from cost-effective but non-refundable to higher outlay, higher return. For St. Lucia’s programme, for instance, investment starts at only USD 100,000 for a single application – but this is a non-refundable donation. On the other hand, the Cypriot programme requires a minimum investment of  EUR 2m – but that’s into real estate, Cypriot business or a fixed term deposit into a Cypriot bank, so you can hope to generate financial returns as well as securing European citizenship. If liquid capital is limited, both Dominica and Bulgaria offer a financing option – in Dominica’s case, up to 75%. Whatever your personal situation and objectives, there will be an investment option to accommodate you.

9. What options are available if second citizenship isn’t feasible for me? Second citizenship isn’t an option for every investor, depending on the home nation’s stance towards dual nationality. While all the programmes in the NGE portfolio recognise dual citizenship – allowing you to progress without impacting your home citizenship at all – your home country might not. China, for example, doesn’t recognise dual nationality. If investors from such nations do not wish to cut personal or business ties by renouncing home citizenship, there are alternatives available that are very attractive. The Portuguese, Maltese and Bulgarian programmes cater to this with their permanent residency-by-investment programmes. These still offer a safe and secure base in Europe while bypassing any restrictions you might face if applying for second citizenship.

10. Can my family get citizenship too? If you’ve got family to consider, most of the NGE programmes can easily accommodate you. There’s generally an additional fee to add family members onto your application, which tends only to be a fraction of the original investment. For instance, one of the ways you can secure St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship is through a USD 250,000 donation. You can add up to three dependents for only an additional USD 50,000. Cypriot second citizenship is especially family-friendly, as you can include your spouse and children for no additional cost.

There’s generally an additional fee to add family members onto your application, which tends only to be a fraction of the original investment.

The overview: Spoilt for Choice

As you can see, a huge variety of factors may influence your decision on where to invest, depending on your needs and aims. If this is primarily a business decision, you might choose citizenship that opens up important trade areas. You might be drawn to exciting investment opportunities in Portugal, or choose a Caribbean tax haven to protect your wealth. If personal freedom is your primary motivation, the 150+ countries that a Cypriot or Bulgarian passport unlocks might be particularly attractive. Maybe time is your biggest pressure, in which case Grenada’s 60-day turnaround will appeal. Or maybe you’re looking primarily for an insurance policy, making Malta’s political and environmental stability stand out.

Whatever your motivations, there’s a second citizenship programme that fits your needs.

Next Generation Equity specialises in dual citizenship-by-investment and residency-by-investment programmes around the world. To schedule a no obligation consultation