Citizenship by Investment is a relatively recent phenomena that grants high net-worth individuals from third world countries, pariah states and war zones the opportunity to gain second citizenship and a brand new passport to a safer, more democratic, liberal nation, enabling them to enjoy the freedom of movement and opportunities for business that those living in the free world take for granted.
For those still unfamiliar with the phrase or unsure of its meaning, Citizenship by Investment (CBI for short) is the legal, increasingly popular and progressively more accepted practice of a nation making its citizenship and passport available in the form of an investment program, whereupon foreign investors of good character and health and no criminal record can obtain said citizenship and passport in return for specified financial investment, normally in the form of a charitable donation, a real estate purchase or business investment within said country.
Needless to say, CBI has proven to be a viable solution to the very real problem of freedom of travel and movement suffered by business people from many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. These ambitious individuals, upon reaching a level of success in their own nation, wish to broaden their horizons and increase their scope of business, yet find that they are required to obtain visas and undergo thorough vetting before entering any worthwhile country in the world. Furthermore, upon entry, they are still met with suspicion by banks and the hostility by that country’s businesspeople.
However, if that businessman were to gain second citizenship to an EU, Caribbean or Central American country, and became the owner of a powerful passport that required no additional visa to enter a country, and he utilized his new citizenship and passport when he travelled and did business, he would find that instead of suspicion, he was met with instant respect, that when he traveled he could enter virtually any country in the world without drama, nor the need of a visa, and that the business and banking doors which were previously closed to him suddenly became open.
If you were to interview five people who have acquired second citizenship via a CBI program, they may give you five different reasons for doing so. Often, an individual will have more than one reason, multiple even. The beauty of CBI is that metaphorically, it is a bandage that heals many wounds, permanently.
The majority of people fleeing a warzone will not have the time nor the finances to embark on a CBI program, but those in more privileged positions, for example business owners who have managed to safeguard their assets, do so. At CACitizesnhip.com, we have had hundreds of people from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan etc contacting us, and in many cases going ahead and embarking on a CBI program. The fact that we offer programs from as little as $75,000, means that CBI need not be out of reach from people living in the most treacherous of places., and when one considers the alternative is to stay put and face the consequences, or join the millions of refugees and face a future that could mean years of poverty and uncertainty, purchasing second citizenship via CBI is the only real option.
One of the most valid reasons for acquiring second citizenship via CBI is when an individual feels controlled, restricted, even persecuted by the very country of their birth. Imagine being told from an early age that the religion your parents taught you was wrong, that you had to disown it and follow the religion imposed upon you by your teachers and rulers, and if you didn’t, you would be severely punished.
If you are reading this article from the privileged position of living in Europe, the USA, Australia, Japan, or any developed democracy around the world, it is hard to comprehend what it must be like to live in a country that imposes serious restrictions upon everything you do, from the work you do, the money you earn, the religion you follow, the politics you believe in, the television you watch, the radio and music you listen to, the books that you read and the internet you have access to. In the West we are quick to complain whenever we believe that our civil liberty is even slightly infringed upon, when in reality, we have no idea what it is really like to lose ones liberty.
Imagine what it would feel like to be trapped in a world in which you felt you didn’t belong. Imagine being force-fed a doctrine that made no sense to you, or was against your own personal beliefs, and yet you were told that if you didn’t adhere to it, you faced the very real possibility of prison or worse.
To make matters worse, imagine if you’d had a taste of life in the West, and experienced firsthand the freedom they take for granted, how could you then return home, back to a life of control and restriction.
Could you handle it?
Every year, tens of thousands of people from such scenarios around the world say to themselves “enough is enough, I demand the right to live my life with the freedom that others enjoy” and embark on CBI and residency by investment programs, often contravening the laws of their land. It takes great courage to do what they do, and yet thousands do every year.
In 1983 the UK government granted the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis its independence after centuries of British rule, although crucially it chose to remain a member of the British Commonwealth. The following year the fledgling nation announced the first ever citizenship by investment program, designed to allow investors the chance to become citizens and passport holders of a young Caribbean country in return for a financial investment. Initially it proved very popular, although the practice was frowned upon by some countries, and a lack of policing and control led to the occasional unscrupulous individual acquiring St Kitts citizenship for less than appropriate means.
The 21st century had seen an increase in the amount of wealthy individuals worldwide on a scale never before witnessed. The collapse of the Soviet Union a decade earlier had resulted in an abundance of independent, mineral, gas and oil rich nations, and the resulting influx of super-rich benefactors of this harvest gave birth to a new word; “oligarch”. The same was happening throughout Africa and the Middle East.
Nations that had never previously had millionaires or billionaires suddenly had several. And as the internet became established as a viable business platform and more and more countries became familiar with it, a whole new generation of tech millionaires and even billionaires from third world countries was born.
The last thing these rich and ambitious people needed was to be made to feel like a second-class citizen whenever they wished to travel abroad. They could afford mansions, supercars, boats, even jets, why not a second citizenship to a more respectable country? One that was a member of the British Commonwealth for instance?
In 2007, St. Kitts and Nevis was in a financial mire, the island was virtually bankrupt and its citizens destitute. Falling back upon one of the few assets they had, they gave their CBI program a complete overhaul, brought it kicking and screaming into the 21stth century, and employed a respected citizenship broker to help publicize it.
The result was dramatic: fast forward a decade and St. Kitts and Nevis are firmly in the black financially, with a strong economy, a happy, thriving population, and CBI now the nation’s no.1 source of income.
St. Kitts and Nevis had proved beyond doubt that there was a large market of wealthy individuals desperate for second citizenship, and if approached correctly, a country could benefit financially from that demand.
Officially, there are only eight nations in the world currently offering CBI Programs, although unofficially, several countries are prepared to work with specific citizenship specialists/brokers in shaping their residency programs into virtual CBI packages.
There are currently only three European countries that offer citizenship by investment programs, and all three of these countries and members of the European Union. They are Austria, Cyprus and Malta.
The Austrian CBI program is the most expensive in the world, with prices starting from €3 million for a nonrefundable charitable donation to the Austrian state, to a €10 million investment into an Austrian-based business. The Austrian CBI program is considered the Rolls-Royce of the second citizenship industry, as each successful applicant is thoroughly vetted by and cosigned by every member of the Austrian Parliament. Of course, not everyone wants or needs to drive a Rolls Royce.
The Cyprus CBI program was initially priced at €5 million to be invested into a real estate or business venture. Because this high price attracted very little interest, in 2016 Cyprus announced a reduction of cost to €2 million per CBI program, and at this price they have done much better business and attracted far more interest.
The Mediterranean island of Malta is the smallest country in the European Union, with a population of half a million people. Its program is the cheapest of the three EU CBI program at €1.2 million, which is still a sizable outlay for an investor. However, for what is a fully refundable (after five years of maintenance) investment which is divided into bonds and real estate, an investor is gaining an EU citizenship and passport, and all of the ensuing benefits that go with it.
Citizenship to an EU country is the most prized of all from the point of view of a foreign investor, and that reason is twofold; First off, the EU passports are consistently extremely powerful, averaging access to more than 160 countries visa-free.
Secondly, the European Union is the ultimate “private members club” for business people, and if you are a citizen of one EU member state, Malta for example, you are effectively a citizen of them all. You have the same rights to live and work without limitation in Malta as you would in Germany, France, Spain, Italy or Ireland.
So if you acquire Maltese citizenship but you find living on the island of Malta somewhat limiting, as an EU citizen you are free to live and work and remain for as long as you like (even the rest of your days) in a much larger nation like Germany or France.
In some ways, CBI is still synonymous with the Caribbean, more so than the European Union. To many foreign investors, second citizenship goes hand-in-hand with favorable banking and tax shelters, and from a business perspective that makes absolutely perfect sense.
The success of St. Kitts and Nevis’ CBI program has inspired Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and Saint Lucia to follow suite and establish their own programs. All offer the opportunity for an investor to gain second citizenship and a powerful passport for the price of a piece of Caribbean real estate or a charitable donation.
While officially there are no countries in Central America who offer CBI programs, the unofficial stance is that the residency by investment programs which are offered by Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica can be adapted into CBI programs, simply by speeding up the period of required residency before an investor can apply for full citizenship from several years to several months.
A residency by investment program requires an individual to be a part-time resident of a country for a period of five years, which makes them eligible to become a full-time resident. After one year of full-time residency, they are then eligible to apply for full citizenship. Many countries around the world offer a form of residency by investment, but the sheer time needed to reach citizenship status – on average around six years – makes such programs far less appealing than citizenship by investment, which takes a matter of months to complete.
Second citizenship specialists CACitizesnhip.com have the rights to provide adapted variants of the standard residency by investment program for those clients interested in obtaining citizenship to Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, in effect turning a straightforward residency by investment program into CBI.
Nicaragua are keen to attract foreign investors as they embark on their goal of replicating the tremendous economic success of close neighbors Costa Rica. However, should what seems to be the inevitable take place, and work on the Nicaragua Canal begins, within a few years Nicaragua will become one of the most high-profile countries in the world, and will surely benefit from the substantial economic boom that one of the world’s largest canals will bring.
The Nicaragua Canal will be twice as wide as the nearby Panama Canal, allowing for twice the number of tankers and container ships able to pass through from the Pacific to the Atlantic each day. Thanks to its legendary canal, Panama has long been a wealthy nation famous for its banks and tax-shelter status, and Nicaragua can expect a similar level of status and success.
Guatemala currently offers the most economical CBI program in the world, for a total outlay of $75,000. It is also one of the fastest to receive, and can be delivered within three months of application.
Guatemala also offers a powerful passport with access to 119 countries visa-free, plus the added bonus (shared by the passports of Nicaragua and Costa Rica) of visa-free access to the countries of both Eastern and Western Europe – something that even the super-powerful passports of EU countries like the UK, Germany, France and Spain cannot replicate.
If you are an ambitious business person who needs access to cities like London, Berlin, Paris and Rome as well as Warsaw, St. Petersburg, Minsk and Moscow, a passport from Guatemala, Nicaragua or Costa Rica is exactly what you need.
Few countries in the world today enjoy the seemingly unanimous love and respect that is bestowed upon Costa Rica (images of which are featured in this article), the little Central American republic that is world leader when it comes to HDI (Human Development Index), quality of life, standard of living, healthcare and education, all of which are on a par with Europe’s most developed nations.
However, when it comes to ecology and looking out for the world’s eco-system, Costa Rica have no rivals, and they continue to set standards that all other countries need to adhere to.
It’s no great surprise that such a respected country should have a powerful passport, and the Costa Rican passport has access to 134 countries worldwide, a tally only surpassed by those of Austria, Malta and Cyprus in the world of CBI, although Costa Rican citizenship acquires a small fraction of the financial outlay needed for that of an EU country.
For further information on the citizenship by investment programs of Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, email CACitizesnhip.com today at: [email protected]