Golden Visa Countries: Best Global Programs Available in 2023

Golden visa countries

Are you an international investor looking to expand your horizons with a second residency or citizenship?

Then it’s worth checking out one of the many ‘Golden Visa countries’ currently offering these programs.

Golden Visa programs allow foreign nationals to gain permanent residence and/or citizenship in a country in exchange for making an investment in that country.

Investments come in a variety of forms, most commonly real estate. Some countries also offer Golden Visa investment opportunities in private equity and venture capital funds, local businesses, art and heritage projects, scientific research, or government debt.

It’s true that the Golden Visa concept has attracted negative attention in recent years, especially within the European Union (EU).

As a result, several countries have decided to shut down their Golden Visa programs altogether, while others have made theirs more restrictive.

But, in many cases, investing for a Golden Visa is still one of the fastest and most flexible routes to a second passport and a safe haven overseas.

Let’s take a look at which Golden Visa countries are still available as we move into 2023.

Golden Visa Countries: Best Global Programs Available in 2023

Programs in Europe

Second citizenship in the EU countries opens up a multitude of opportunities.

Holding the passport of any member state in the EU, EEA or Switzerland gives the holder full freedom to move across 30 countries.

And that’s not just for tourism, but also for long-term living, working, doing business, studying and retirement.

That’s why Golden Visa countries in Europe are so much in demand.

But the EU is becoming increasingly unhappy with the presence of Golden Visa programs in its member states.

On several occasions, wealthy individuals with criminal records have used the programs to gain access to Europe.

Hence, Brussels wants to shut down all the programs, but, for the time being, a number of countries are hanging on to theirs.

Here’s a rundown of Golden Visa countries in Europe still operating in 2023.

Portugal

retiring in portugal

Portugal is the crème de la crème of Europe’s Golden Visa countries.

It has eight investment routes on offer, starting from €280,000 for renovating real estate in low density areas, all the way to €1.5 million deposited and held in a Portuguese bank.

The investment funds route (min. €500,000) has become especially popular recently, as investors shy away from the increased hassle, expense, and bureaucracy of real estate.

Flexibility is a major advantage of Portugal’s Golden Visa program. Once your residence permit is issued, you can spend as much or as little time in Portugal as you want (min. 7 days per year), while still maintaining full legal residence status.

After year 5, you can apply for either permanent residence or citizenship.

Portugal has one of the world’s most powerful passports, granting free access to 187 countries, along with full EU freedom of movement rights.

Entrepreneurial investors might be interested in Portugal’s hybrid investor-startup visa, the Highly Qualified Activity (HQA) visa.

The program involves starting your own Portuguese company and running it in partnership with a local university. You can be involved as much or as little as you want.

The minimum investment for the HQA visa is just €175,000. What’s more, HQA applications are given priority processing over the Golden Visa – meaning there’s a much faster timeline for getting that residence permit in your hand.

Malta

Malta’s Golden Visa program is one of the EU’s most popular, mainly because it offers the bloc’s fastest route to citizenship.

You’ve got two options within the program: full citizenship after 12 months, and citizenship after 36 months. Which one you pick depends on how much you’re ready to spend.

For the 12 month route, it’s €750,000 (plus €50,000 for each family member), and for the 36 month route it’s €600,000 (plus €50,000 for each family member).

You’ll also need to donate at least €10,000 to a Maltese charity or NGO, and purchase or rent a property.

Maltese citizenship brings you and your family full EU rights, plus a powerful passport that ranks 8th globally.

Compared to Portugal’s offering, Malta’s Golden Visa scheme has an advantage because it’s a faster route to citizenship.

Also, the Malta program practically guarantees citizenship (unless you have a criminal record), whereas in Portugal you have to apply for it (and may be rejected).

Overall, compared to Malta, Portugal’s program offers a more appealing package of benefits, at more affordable investment levels.

Spain

Spain’s Golden Visa program is another popular option in the eurozone.

It offers residence rights for a minimum investment of €500,000 in real estate. You could also choose to invest in a new business and create jobs, with no minimum threshold.

The key downside of Spain’s Golden Visa program is the country’s long (10 year) timeline to citizenship, plus the lack of dual citizenship. Although Spain has a strong passport with EU rights, gaining one would (in most cases) mean giving up your original one.

What’s more, those seeking citizenship with Spain’s Golden Visa would need to physically live in Spain and pay Spanish taxes for the entire 10 years.

But if you’re content with residence rights only (which wouldn’t give you EU freedom of movement), then you can maintain those rights without having to live in Spain.

Compared to Spain, neighboring Portugal is a far better option for potential Golden Visa investors, offering a wider range of routes, lower investment thresholds, tax benefits, a much faster timeline to citizenship – plus the flexibility to choose whether or not to relocate there.

Greece

Beautiful Greece currently offers Europe’s cheapest real estate Golden Visa route, at just €250,000.

But this is set to change, with the Greek government announcing plans to double the minimum threshold to €500,000 in 2023, although this change will likely apply only to prime areas of Athens and Thessaloniki.

One key benefit of the Greek program is that it allows investors to complete the whole application process remotely. This was introduced during the pandemic and remains in place.

It’s a relatively speedy process too, with many investors obtaining their permanent residence permits within a three-month window.

But permanent residence doesn’t give you Greek citizenship, so you wouldn’t have freedom of movement rights across the EU/EEA and Switzerland.

You’d only have the right to live full-time in Greece, plus travel for up to 90 days at a time in the other Schengen countries.

Those seeking Greek/EU citizenship have a far longer path. Citizenship takes seven years.

It requires your full physical presence in-country, paying taxes in Greece, plus reaching B1 level in the challenging Greek language.

In contrast, you could invest just a little more and go for one of Portugal’s Golden Visa routes (or the country’s HQA visa) – which offer a far better package overall.

Italy

Those looking to invest in Italy for the Golden Visa can benefit from a low €250,000 minimum investment threshold. The catch is: there’s no real estate route. Instead, accessing the lowest threshold means you have to invest in an ‘innovative startup’.

You could also choose to invest €500,000 in shares of an Italian limited company, donate €1 million to an Italian NGO, or invest €2 million in Italian government bonds.

These options are even more unappealing when combined with Italy’s 10-year timeline to citizenship and B1 language requirements.

To be eligible for citizenship, you’d have to live full-time in Italy and pay Italian tax for 10 years.

On the upside, investors in the Italian Golden Visa program have the advantage of getting their application approved BEFORE making the investment – which isn’t the case for most other European programs.

In terms of Golden Visa countries, Italy might be a good choice if you just want residence rights in Europe.

It could also be a good option if you’d prefer the security of having your visa application approved before you invest.

Ireland

Ireland offers one of Europe’s best pathways to citizenship – and its Golden Visa program is an easy way to get yourself on track for it.

Pro Tip: Despite Brexit, British nationals can still move freely to Ireland without any visa, then apply for Irish/EU citizenship after five years. If you’re a British passport holder, you don’t need an Ireland Golden Visa.

In Ireland, you can apply for citizenship after just five years of residence, with no language requirements apart from English, and the benefits of dual citizenship.

The Ireland Golden Visa doesn’t come cheap. Plus, you’d still have to live there for five years.

If you don’t mind donating, you can get the visa for just €500,000.

But if you’d prefer some returns on your funds, then you’re looking at a minimum investment of €1 million in one of Immigration Ireland’s approved investment funds. You must hold the investment for at least three years.

Alternatively, you could invest €1 million in an Irish enterprise and hold the investment for at least three years. The Irish enterprise could be an existing business, or you could start a new business yourself.

All in all, Ireland offers a decent pathway to citizenship. But Portugal’s Golden Visa program is much more flexible and has lower investment thresholds.

Austria

Austria is unique among EU options because it allows investors to choose the type of investment they make.

All investments must be significant and of value to the Austrian government. Plus, there’s a strict quota in place of just 300 applicants per year.

Citizenship by investment in Austria isn’t an official program. Instead, it’s covered by Article 10, Section 6 of Austria’s Citizenship Act.

This law allows the government to award Austrian citizenship to foreigners in return for making a contribution of ‘extraordinary merit’ – including economic, athletic, scientific, and cultural contributions.

The Austrian government always has the final say on whether to accept any investment proposal.

Unlike most other Golden Visa countries, Austria doesn’t accept passive forms of investment, such as government bonds and real estate, as a means to secure residence.

Acceptable forms of investment for the Austria Golden Visa:

  • Significant contribution to a government fund
  • Investing in a joint venture
  • Investing in venture capital
  • Investing in an innovative or priority business (according to government requirements), and creating new jobs

Just like the type of investment, Austria’s minimum investment amounts are flexible and subject to change. They normally start from €3 million and can go as high as €10 million.

Gaining Austrian citizenship via this program is faster than in many other Golden Visa countries. The typical timeline is around 36 months from the time of making your initial investment.

Don’t forget, you’ll need German language skills, not only for citizenship but also to apply for the visa.

You’ll also need to renounce any existing citizenships, as Austria doesn’t recognize dual citizenship.

All in all, gaining Austrian EU citizenship via the country’s Golden Visa program is expensive, rigorous and doesn’t give the benefit of multiple passports. It’s not the EU’s best option, and we strongly recommend looking elsewhere.

Switzerland

In keeping with Switzerland’s secretive image, it’s not easy to get residence by investment there. For starters, there’s no real estate investment route and no plans to introduce one.

You can get Swiss residence through investment in two ways:

  • Swiss Residence Program through lump sum taxation: CHF 200,000 (about USD 203,000)
  • Swiss Business Investor program: Set up a new Swiss company to create job opportunities, or invest in an existing Swiss company (minimum CHF 1 million annually)

The Swiss passport is one of the world’s most powerful, but it’s also one of the most difficult to get.

To eventually obtain full EU rights (which extend to Switzerland even though it’s not an EU member state), you’d be much better off choosing a Golden Visa in either Malta or Portugal, then using it as a pathway to citizenship.

Programs Worldwide

Now let’s venture beyond Europe’s borders and see what sort of Golden Visa options are on offer worldwide.

Anguilla

Anguilla offers permanent residence within a few months by investing in an approved government program. 

These include a capital development fund ($150,000) and real estate ($750,000), plus the tax residency program ($75,000 annually).

For citizenship, Anguilla requires five years residency before you can apply.

The main advantage here is that Anguilla is a British territory, so you’ll be eligible for British Overseas Citizen status (BOC). This enables you to apply for British citizenship. 

However, since Brexit, a UK passport no longer confers the right to freedom of movement across 30 countries, so it might not be worth the effort.

Antigua and Barbuda

You can get immediate citizenship in this Caribbean nation by contributing at least $100,000 to the national development fund.

There’s also a real estate route available for a minimum of $400,000. All real estate purchases must be government-approved and held for at least five years.

Antigua’s passport is ranked 29th globally. You can use it to enter 150 countries as a tourist, without arranging a visa in advance. That includes visa-free tourist entry to both the Schengen Area and the UK.

Bahrain

Bahrain now offers a “Golden Residency Visa” with 10-year renewable residence rights for property owners, retirees, or ‘Highly Talented Individuals’. It also includes the ability to sponsor your family members to join you in Bahrain.

To be eligible, you must either own a property in Bahrain worth at least BHD 200,000 (USD 530,000), be retired with a monthly income of at least BHD 4,000 (USD 10,600), or prove you’re a ‘highly talented’ individual (in academia, entrepreneurship, science, or sports, among other fields).

However, don’t bank on getting Bahraini citizenship any time soon. You’ll need to be resident for at least 25 years and fluent in Arabic. What’s more, Bahrain doesn’t recognize dual citizenship.

Canada

The most popular investor residency program in Canada is the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP).

You can apply for Canadian citizenship after just three years, in return for a 1.2 million CAD passive government guaranteed investment (which doesn’t pay interest).

To be eligible for the program, you’ll also need a legally acquired personal net worth of at least 2 million CAD. What’s more, during the three years, you’ll need to spend at least 183 days per year physically in Quebec.

But investing in Canada could be well worth the effort. The country has one of the world’s most powerful passports, is well-regarded globally, offers state healthcare and good job opportunities.

Grenada

Like Antigua, Grenada is another of the Golden Visa countries offering immediate citizenship in return for an investment. There’s no physical residence requirement at all.

To qualify, you’ll need to invest at least USD 150,000 in the national development fund of Grenada. You could also qualify by investing in real estate.

A Grenadian passport allows visa-free travel to 140 countries, including the whole Schengen Area.

New Zealand

In 2022, New Zealand launched its Active Investor Plus Visa, which replaces the two previous categories (Investor 1 and Investor 2 visas). categories).

The visa program operates on a weighting system, with a minimum investment threshold of $15 million NZD.

Direct investments receive a 3x weighting per dollar, so the minimum threshold for a direct investment is $5 million NZD.

Indirect investments have a lower weighting. For example, investments in private equity or venture capital funds are weighted at 2x, and investments in listed equities and philanthropy are weighted at 1x.

Government bonds and property are no longer eligible for investment under the Active Investor Plus Visa program.

You can become eligible to apply for New Zealand citizenship and a passport after 5 years of residence, including at least 240 days per year physically in-country. New Zealand recognizes dual citizenship.

Singapore

Singapore’s Golden Visa is officially known as the ‘Singapore Global Investor Program‘.

To qualify, you need to invest at least SGD 2.5 million (1,853,600 USD) in any of the following:

  • An existing business or setting up a new business
  • Approved funds in Singapore
  • Establishing a family office in Singapore

You can use the Global Investor Program to gain permanent residency in Singapore, then apply for citizenship after just two years.

Singapore has one of the world’s most powerful passports, usually ranked either first or second in various passport strength indices. However, Singapore doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, so you’ll likely need to give up any existing citizenships.

St. Kitts and Nevis 

St. Kitts and Nevis is a pioneer among Golden Visa countries, being one of the first to offer such a scheme back in 1984.

The program currently offers a choice of two investment routes:

  • Donating to the Sustainable Growth Fund (min. USD 150,000)
  • Investing in government-approved real estate (min. USD 200,000, hold for 7 years, or min. USD 400,000, hold for 5 years)

Upon completing the investment, you can apply via one of the government approved agents. You should receive your new passport within 90 days (or 60 days with accelerated processing).

A St. Kitts and Nevis passport currently gives you access to 153 countries without arranging a visa in advance, including the UK and the entire Schengen Area.

St. Lucia

St.Lucia offers a low minimum investment threshold and a wide range of investment routes. There’s no residency requirement and you can get the passport within approximately 3 to 4 months.

The cheapest option is contributing USD 100,000 to the National Economic Fund. This increases to USD 165,000 to include a spouse, and USD 190,000 for a family of four.

Other investment routes are as follows:

  • Investing in Covid-19 relief bonds (min. USD 250,000, route may have closed as of 2021)
  • Government-approved real estate investment (min. USD 300,000)
  • Investing in government bonds (min. USD 500,000)
  • Enterprise investment (min. USD 3.5 million, can be a joint venture)

The St. Lucia passport currently gives you access to 137 countries without arranging a visa in advance, including the UK and the entire Schengen Area.

The Cayman Islands

Unlike many of its Caribbean neighbors, the Cayman Islands doesn’t allow the direct purchase of citizenship.

Instead, you can invest USD 2.5 million in real estate and receive permanent residence after several months.

You can then apply for citizenship by naturalization after maintaining residence status for at least five years (including 90 days per year in-country).

Permanent residence status allows you to live in the Cayman Islands for as long as you want, but you aren’t allowed to work there.

Acquiring a Caymanian passport will give you British National Overseas (BNO) status, plus tourist entry to 132 countries without arranging a visa in advance, including the Schengen Area and the UK.

The Cayman Islands recognizes dual citizenship.

Turkey

Getting Turkish citizenship by investment is a fast process, requiring only a three to six month period from successfully investing to being officially awarded citizenship.

The cheapest and most popular investment route is real estate, for a minimum of USD 250,000. Turkey also offers other routes at higher thresholds, including the following:

  • Investment in government bonds
  • Bank deposit to a Turkish bank
  • Capital investment
  • Investment in real estate or venture capital funds

All investments (apart from direct real estate purchase) have a minimum threshold of USD 500,000.

Plus, you’ll need to hold them for at least three years. Alternatively, you could establish a Turkish company and hire at least 50 new employees. There’s no minimum threshold for this route.

Turkey’s passport allows visa-free access to 124 countries. But you’ll need a Schengen visa to visit Europe, plus a UK tourist visa to enter the UK.

Turkey recognizes dual citizenship.

The United Arab Emirates

The UAE Investor Visa program offers qualifying foreign nationals the chance to get a 5 or 10 year residence permit in the UAE, including Dubai, with no need for a sponsor.

For the 10 year visa, you’ll need to either:

  • Invest at least AED 10 million in the public sector
  • Have a specialized talent, such as being a doctor, scientist, inventor, special talent in the field of culture and art, medical doctors, as well as engineers, computer programmers, and specialists in electronics, electrical and biotechnology.

For the 5 year visa, you’ll need to either:

  • Invest in real estate in the UAE with minimum value of AED 5 million
  • Be an entrepreneur with a business having minimum capital of AED 500,000

In particular, the UAE Investor Visa program is an interesting opportunity for PhD holders. If you have a PhD from any of the world’s top 500 universities, you’re eligible to apply for the 10 year UAE residence permit. That means no need for a restrictive sponsorship arrangement that ties you to one company.

The United States

In the US, the equivalent of a Golden Visa is known as the EB-5 Investor Visa. To be eligible, you must invest at least $900,000 in a US enterprise, and create at least 10 American jobs. There’s an annual quota of 10,000 visa slots available, including family members.

The EB-5 visa is just the first step on the long road to US citizenship. First you will be issued with a ‘conditional’ residency Green Cardvalid for two years. After that, you can apply for unconditional/permanent residency, i.e. a 10 year renewable Green Card.

After at least seven years living in the US, you can apply for US citizenship by naturalization. That’s two years of ‘conditional residency’ status and five years of ‘unconditional residency’ status.

Vanuatu

Vanuatu offers one of the world’s fastest citizenship by investment programs, officially known as the Vanuatu Development Support Programme. You can get citizenship in just 30-60 days by donating a minimum of USD 130,000 (for a single applicant) to the national development fund.

You can also get citizenship of Vanuatu by investing in government approved real estate. This requires a minimum investment of USD 200,000. Only property purchased in certain developments will qualify you for the program.

Citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, North Korea, and Yemen are excluded from the program. Vanuatu recognizes dual citizenship, and its passport gives you visa-free access to 148 countries.

Before you go…

If you’ve got second residency or citizenship in your sights for 2023, then we hope this article has given you some inspiration.

Plenty of Golden Visa countries around the world remain keen to welcome foreign investment and grant valuable immigration rights in return.

EU citizenship remains one of the most flexible and powerful options available, opening up freedom to live, work, study, do business, or retire across 30 safe and economically strong countries.

And there’s no better EU Golden Visa program than Portugal’s, for flexibility, range of options, tax benefits, affordability, and timeline to citizenship.

Learn more about getting EU citizenship via Portugal, with our detailed Portugal Golden Visa guide for 2023.

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