These are the countries you can ‘buy’ citizenship to – Business Insider

Another good overview of the various schemes, and the relative advantages for those shopping for citizenship:

Most countries offer citizenship (passports) the hard way. But 7 sell them outright, and 3 have “powerful” passports. “Citizenship Planning” is a thing.

For people who need a second citizenship and passport to dodge the long arm of their government, there is something called “citizenship planning,” similar to “financial planning.” But when it comes to just outright buying a citizenship and passport without having to languish for years as mere non-citizen resident, the Huddled Masses need not apply. And not any passport will do. In fact, there are only three for sale that are really good.

Which are the best passports to get?

There are quality standards for everything, especially if it’s costly. The most powerful passports are those that allow visa-free travel to the most countries.

There are other considerations, for example those that drive US citizens nuts when they live overseas, due to the US government’s onerous reporting requirements on them and on banks that do business with them, and due to US taxation of their worldwide income no matter where they live. Few other governments treat their citizens that way.

In terms of visa-free travel, here are the 25 countries with the most powerful passports, according to a new ranking by Henley & Partners, which is into “citizenship planning.” But among them is only – Austria – one whose citizenship can be bought (more on that in a moment):

  1. Germany: visa-free travel to 176 countries.
  2. Sweden: 175 countries
  3. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain, and the US: 174 countries.
  4. Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, UK: 173 countries
  5. Republic of Ireland, Japan, New Zealand: 172 countries
  6. Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland: 171 countries
  7. Australia, South Korea: 170 countries
  8. Iceland: 169 countries.

And how do you get one of those passports?

In most countries, the hard way: Legally immigrate and obtain residency, and then fulfill the residency requirements to get citizenship and that second passport, which takes years. Most countries, including the US, have special programs for “investors” to obtain residency, such as a green card, essentially on the spot, but even then it takes years to obtain citizenship and a passport. If it’s possible at all, such as in Germany.

Then there’s the direct way: Buy a citizenship and the passport that comes along with it. These citizenship-by-investment programs are not for folks on a tight budget. According to Henley & Partners, only seven countries offer this convenient route, only three have powerful passports, and only one is in the top of the heap above.

Passports from EU countries are the best. If you’re from Russia or China or Iraq and become a citizen of one of the 28 EU countries, you’ll get a country-specific EU passport that allows you to live and do business anywhere in the EU. There are all sorts of offshore benefits. And travel around the world is a breeze.

But citizenship in most EU countries is not for sale. You can buy only residency, similar to programs in the US. But there are three exceptions:

Austria

Citizenship is almost impossible to get for normal foreigners already legally in Austria. But the super-rich and famous have a way. The government, through paragraph 10, section 6 of the Citizenship Act, can confer citizenship “because of the services already provided by the foreigner and the extraordinary achievements still to be expected of him in the special interest of the Republic.” This usually involves a big direct investments of unspecified magnitude plus some other “extraordinary” contribution, such as being famous or creating jobs. Few succeed. In some years, none succeed.

They’re playing hard to get. But the rewards are huge for the few that succeed, including an impeccable EU passport with visa-free travel to 173 countries.

Cyprus

In 2012, as the EU-part of the divided island was veering toward bankruptcy, it offered citizenship through a “fast-track” scheme to dodge the normal residency requirements. But the price tag was €10 million in direct investment. Too expensive for the average oligarch.

In 2013, Cyprus became desperate. Its offshore financial industry, the main breadwinner of the economy, had collapsed in a cesspool of corruption. The banks had taken much of the foreign money – particularly Russian money – down with them. Cyprus needed some moolah. It slashed the price of citizenship to €3 million of direct investment. Russians who’d lost at least €3 million in the collapse would also be eligible for citizenship.

Since then, the price was further slashed, to as low as €2 million. And it’s fast: about three months for citizenship and an EU passport, with visa-free travel to 159 countries. And that €3-million investment can be sold after three years. An adequate house would likely do.

Malta

The tiny EU member state with 417,000 residents spread over three islands is convenient for foreigners, with English being one of the two official languages. In 2013, during the still rough waters of the euro debt crisis, Parliament passed legislation that put Maltese citizenship up for sale at €650,000. A spouse costs another €25,000; unmarried children between 18 and 25 and dependent parents cost €50,000 each. There are no residency or investment requirements. The money goes into government funds.

This citizenship is a product to be marketed. If it sells 100 per year at €650,000 a pop, it would generate annual revenues of €65 million – or 1.75% of total 2016 revenues (€3.7 billion). Given the limits on budget deficits under EU Treaties, everything counts.

This Maltese product includes an EU passport with visa-free travel to 166 countries. Folks can stop by, jump through some bureaucratic hoops, pay, get their citizenship and passport, and settle in Germany or wherever. At the time, Simon Busuttil, leader of the opposition Nationalist Party, warned that Malta could end up being compared to shady tax havens in the Caribbean. And that’s our last stop.

Source: These are the countries you can ‘buy’ citizenship to – Business Insider

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Malta PM says decisions on citizenship by investment schemes should not be taken by politicians

This is the flagship model used by advocates of investor and citizenship immigration programs in Canada. Does not change the fundamental question of the morality and ethics of buying citizenship, and that this is largely driven by the business interests of consultants, rather than broader ones:

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat underlined the benefits of the Citizenship by Investment programme for the Maltese economy when he addressed the Investment Migration Forum 2016 in Geneva this afternoon.

The forum is being hosted by the Investment Migration Council, a worldwide association for investor immigration and citizenship-by-investment, grouping the leading stakeholders in the field and giving the industry a voice.

Dr Muscat said the global industry linked to citizenship by investment would grow when criteria for such schemes were known and decisions were taken by technical people and not politicians.

He said that it was on this basis that Malta successfully launched its programme, which was now yielding great benefits for the economy.

He said that despite controversies, Malta’s scheme still remained the only one approved by the European Commission.

Source: PM says decisions on citizenship by investment schemes should not be taken by politicians – timesofmalta.com

Malta’s citizenship scheme ranks number one in Henley & Partners report – The Malta Independent

Best compilation of citizenship investment programs, by the company that promotes them:

Malta’s citizenship scheme has taken the number one spot in a report compiled by Henley & Partners.

Henley & Partners launched its Global Residence and Citizenship Programs 2016 report, which ranks the 19 most relevant residence-by-investment programs as well as the top eight citizenship-by-investment programs available throughout the world today.

“For the second year in a row, Malta’s Individual Investor Programme is the top ranking citizenship-by-investment program in the world, with a score of 73 out of 100. The Mediterranean island nation is followed by Cyprus (71), and Antigua and Barbuda (62) in 2nd and 3rd place respectively,” the report read.

“A Maltese citizen has the right of settlement in all 28 EU countries and enjoys visa-free travel to 168 countries worldwide including the EU, the US and Canada. For improved visa-free travel, permanent relocation, and financial security, Malta is the way to go”.

“The Malta Individual Investor Programme is a modern citizenship-by-investment program designed, implemented and globally promoted by Henley & Partners for the Government of Malta under a Public Services Concession. Moreover, it is considered the world’s most advanced and most exclusive citizenship-by-investment program, being capped at 1800 applicants. Compliance and due diligence standards are considered to be the world’s strictest, aiming to ensure that only the most respectable of applicants are admitted”

As for Residency programmes, out of the 19 programs reviewed, Portugal’s Golden Residence Permit Program has again emerged as the world’s best residence-by-investment program, with a score of 80 out of 100. It is followed by Belgium (78) and Austria (77) in 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

In order for a person to acquire Maltese citizenship, one would have to make a contribution to the development of Malta, make a purchase of stocks/bonds, and must undertake a property transaction. “The combined upfront financial requirement, including applicable government charges and citizenship application fees, is just under  €900,000, the Henley and Partners website says.

Source: Malta’s citizenship scheme ranks number one in Henley & Partners report – The Malta Independent

Malta Offers Citizenship and All Its Perks for a Price – NYTimes.com

One approach to citizenship (the mercenary kind):

As wealthy foreigners rush to get citizenship in Malta under a new program, the residency requirement is taking many forms.

Russians rent high-end villas, then stay in five-star hotels when they visit.

An American financier plans to live in Switzerland but occasionally vacation in Malta.

One Vietnamese businessman, eager to start the clock ticking on the 12-month timetable for residency, sent the necessary paperwork on his private jet to expedite renting a property he had never seen.

“They come twice, once to get a residency card and once to get a passport,” said Mark George Hyzler, an immigration lawyer at a firm here.

Malta’s citizenship program, which offers a passport to those willing to pay 1.2 million euros, about $1.3 million, has been controversial since it was introduced more than a year ago. But the residency requirements, meant to make the program more palatable, are only increasing the consternation among critics, who say the program has resulted in the sale of citizenship to the global 0.1 percent.

“They come twice, once to get a residency card and once to get a passport,” said Mark George Hyzler, an immigration lawyer. Credit Darrin Zammit Lupi for The New York Times

Applicants must show they have rented a property in Malta for 12 months. But they do not necessarily have to spend any time in this Mediterranean island nation, raising the question of what genuine links they are establishing.

“It is questionable how the residency requirement is being applied,” said Tonio Fenech, a member of Malta’s Parliament

Lawyers, accountants and real estate agents say the citizenship program has catapulted Malta onto the radar of the global elite. Applications are pouring in, and the program aims to raise €2 billion, more than a quarter of Malta’s gross domestic product.

Malta Offers Citizenship and All Its Perks for a Price – NYTimes.com.

ICYMI: Over €450 million: Malta’s “citizenship sale program” reports success – eTurboNews.com

Malta’s “citizenship for sale” program:

Malta’s Individual Investor Program (IIP) has now received over 400 applications since its launch in early 2014, which will result in over Euro 450 million (US$ 530 million) in Foreign Direct Investment.

This foreign direct investment comprises deposits, bonds, and real estate among other elements, and equates to approximately Euro 10 million (US$ 12 million) per week.

The first letters of citizenship approval-in-principle have been issued, and the first applicants will be issued with their certificates of naturalisation soon after their contribution, investment and residency requirements are fulfilled. There are over 40 nationalities represented among the applicants so far.

The IIP is a modern citizenship-by-investment program aimed at ultra-high net worth individuals and families worldwide. It was designed and is marketed internationally by Henley & Partners for the Government of Malta under a Public Services Concession. Andrew J. Taylor, Vice-Chairman of Henley & Partners, states, “Our firm understands the finest details of the IIP because we designed and created it with the Government of Malta. We are proud to work with the majority of families applying for citizenship through the program, who choose Henley & Partners because we are best positioned to ensure applicants adhere to all government regulations and follow all steps needed for a successful application.”

While it has the advantage of being open and honest, there is something sleazy about such an approach.

Over €450 million: Malta’s “citizenship sale program” reports success – eTurboNews.com.