Investor Citizenship Programmes: a Blessing or a Curse

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Many EU countries found in the Investor programmes a quick-fix to the troubled European economy. Offers of visa investors and citizenship by investment have been mounting in the last five years. Countries which provide those schemes are among the countries with the easiest citizenships to obtain as explained in an earlier blog.

Essentially, the least powerful EU countries are tempted by the economic profits of these programmes. Yet, those programmes are met with much criticism.


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Already, and along with the benefits of having dual citizenships and a second passport. The citizenship-by-investment scheme carries with it mutual profits for the foreign investor as for the host country.

First, unlike the independent citizenship, the economic citizenship allows the investor to bring members of his family as independent citizens. Once citizens, they are exempt from the income tax, property tax and inheritance tax.

The Maltese and Cypriot examples are already in hand and are among the most successful examples. They both offer lenient procedures: they grant a fast-track access to EU passport. They give the right to work, and study in any other EU country with the privilege of a citizen. Multiple nationalities/ passports are permitted by both nationality laws.

In Malta's case, citizenship holds the EU and the commonwealth privilege, and a visa-free accessibility to more than 180 territories. It requires candidates to make financial contributions to National Development and Social Fund of Euro 650,000 for the main applicant ( for spouse and minor children: EUR 25,000 each/for dependent children 18 to 26 years or dependent parents above 55 years: Euro 50,000 each).


As far as Cyprus is concerned, a citizenship costs the applicant from 2 million Euro up to 5 million Euro depending on the criteria opted for by the candidate. When granted the citizenship, he/she would need to purchase a private residence in Cyprus for at least 500,000 Euro.

Other EU countries have been trying to follow the same track by processing other regulations that do not amount to granting citizenships like the Golden Residence Permit: a residency granted to foreign investors that allows them to become full citizens five years later.

The major benefit of this programme is that it gives freedom of movement in the Schengen area (including the UK and Ireland) .

The UK's offer of Entrepreneur visa/ Investor visa is not very different from that of Portugal. It requires the investor to launch at least one business which the investor may run for/and by himself (self-employed), or, conduct a team work within it (entrepreneur visa). The investor visa, on the other hand, grants the possibility to work and study at the same time along with options to settle (after 2 years if 10 million£ is invested and 3 years if 5 million£ is invested).


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However current experiences with Investor programmes seem to run in favor of host countries. It was not appraised by many others who tend to think that the process has turned citizenships into mere commercial commodities.

It has proved not to be a safe choice to make for investors: some programmes need investors to provide (and maintain) full-time job positions for nationals of the host country: if the investor fails to do so, he/she loses his/her funds and potential citizenship.

Past experiences with similar programmes did not work and ended worsening the economic situation for host countries adopting it. In Canada, The Immigrant Investor Programme was interrupted in the middle of its action leaving thousands of businessmen in a situation of blockage with frozen applications. However put to end, the citizenship-by-investment programme still had its negative impact on Canada. In 2014, the Canadian government discovered that Iranians were able to infiltrate into their territory via passports they purchased from St. Kitts and Nevis.

Some investor programmes, the Canadian programme, were terminated (or are still in hand) are a perfect way out for foreigners with a criminal record especially with the lack of efficient control in many countries (like Malta). Likewise, the Investor Citizenship Programme in Belize was met with a similar fate earlier in 2002. Economic experts described it as a total failure. Thus those EU member countries found themselves in a challenging situation with other EU state members.