Economy

Top 4: Golden Visa Countries

Countries across the Mediterranean continue to attract high-net-worth individuals through their Golden Visa programs, though some countries are raising the bar for applicants.

Image Credit: Shutterstock / R R

Countries around the Mediterranean have long been visited by the well-off of the world.

However, with the advent of so-called Golden Visas, some high-net-worth individuals are going so far as to acquire citizenship or permanent residency of certain Mediterranean nations.

To stand out from the top 1% on the economic ladder in the year 2023, one needs to have a net worth of around USD11 million— or enjoy a net annual earning of just under USD600,000, according to Forbes, based on US data.

It is estimated that around 1.5 million individuals across the world are fortunate enough to fall into this happy category.

However, Credit Suisse believes that, by global metrics, only USD760,000 in wealth is enough to land you among the top percentile. There are over 100 million individuals with a net worth of USD760,000 or higher.

Many such high-net-worth individuals are keen to have the right to permanently settle in a country other than their home nation, or even to acquire a second citizenship. This may be due to various reasons, ranging from more flexibility in tax regulations to a fondness for finer climates, or even for the simple advantages of holding a second passport.

With a view to attracting a significant inflow of investment, several countries have launched Golden Visa programs targeting high-net-worth individuals on the lookout for a new home country.

There is no wonder that many countries offering such visas enjoy a Mediterranean climate. There are very few millionaires eager to live above the 60th northern parallel.

Malta

Malta has long had a citizenship-by-investment program.
Officially known as the “Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment,” the program will grant citizenship to those willing to invest EUR600,000 to EUR750,000 after 12-36 months of residency.

The automatic European citizenship offered by the program appeals to many high net-worth individuals, as an EU passport facilitates visa-free travel to some 199 countries, among other incentives.

Interestingly, however, it is not always people from the developing world who apply for the Maltese golden passport. “For the first time, Americans are applying for ‘golden passports’ more than any other nationality,” reported the Business Insider in 2023.

Türkiye

For some years, Türkiye has been offering citizenship to those who purchase real-estate inside the country worth USD400,000 or more. This route can lead to the acquisition of a Turkish passport in 6-12 months.

Istanbul Homes, one of the many construction companies that came to prominence during the latest construction boom, told The Times in 2023 that their customers are mainly Russians and Iranians who are “looking for a plan B.”

Türkiye has the largest construction sector in the Mediterranean region. The influx of foreign investors on the lookout for houses worth over USD400,000 has stimulated the high-end segment of the construction market in Istanbul.

Cyprus

The Cypriot golden visa program is not as straightforward as the Turkish one. However, non-EU citizens can acquire permanent residency in the country through buying property or launching a business in Cyprus which, in turn, can lead to Cypriot citizenship—at least in theory.

In 2023, the Cypriot Council of Ministers announced new—and stricter—criteria for obtaining residency through investment.

While the minimum amount of investment was raised to USD300,000, the applicants must be able to prove, at the end of each fiscal year, that they have banked an annual net income of at least EUR50,000.

This effectively marks the beginning of a new golden visa program, as Cyprus’s older and more relaxed golden visa program was previously aborted following a scandal in 2020 known as “The Cyprus Papers.”

Al Jazeera journalists revealed in 2020 that a long list of individuals involved in shady activities had obtained Cypriot passports through dubious means—something that will not be possible any longer.

Spain

Spain is one of the few major economies in the Eurozone that runs a golden visa program. Since 2013, the program has channeled billions of euros into the Spanish economy in the form of foreign investment.

The so called golden visa can be secured through purchasing real estate worth EUR500,000 or, alternatively, through depositing twice that amount in a Spanish bank or buying an equal worth of shares in a Spanish company.

However, Spanish authorities are considering to raise the bar.

“The Spanish government has admitted that it is considering two alternatives: abolishing the “golden visa” altogether, or doubling to EUR1 million the minimum amount of investment required,” according to Forbes.

With Portugal putting an end to its once popular golden visa in 2023 due to housing shortages, Spain will likely face an increased demand from high net-worth individuals. And even after raising the minimum investment to EUR1,000,000, many will still be eager to apply for the Spanish golden visa.

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