Historically dominated by a handful of large multinational citizenship planning firms, the as yet unregulated industry has seen hundreds of new boutique firms joining the fray in recent years.
Since the launch of the first citizenship by investment program by St Kitts and Nevis in 1984, the typical second passport buyer typically hailed from a developing country with a low-quality passport. For decades, the bulk of global applicants hailed from countries such as Russia, China, India and the Middle East.
High net worth individuals from developed nations in Europe and North America simply didn’t need a “Plan B”…
Worldwide, a new type of high net worth individual started doing their research with a view to obtain a back-up plan abroad, with many citizenship planning firms recording record volumes of enquiries and sales.
Given its appealing blend of affordability, process predictability and a proven precent of applicants becoming naturalized, the Portuguese Golden Visa received a large share of the total first world applicants in 2020.
Among Middle Easterners and Iranians, in particular, the Turkish citizenship by investment program gained massively in popularity, in large part driven by the cultural overlap, attractive price point and simple program requirements.
Another big winner was the Montenegro CIP, with local firms reporting a massive spike in enquiries off the back of the Cypriot citizenship by investment program being suspended amidst a spate of bad press and allegations of wrongdoing.
There are two things that all of these programs have in common: large 6 to 7 figure investment requirements, and hefty professional services fees. Especially given the economic impact of COVID-19, “investment passport” once more became a product for the ultra-rich only…
Yet there are a number of more affordable paths to residency and citizenship, none of which are being actively being aggressively promoted – if at all – by either the residency and citizenship by investment (RCBI) firms or the governments offering these programs…
And the primary reason for this is that they don’t have an economic incentive to do so – on the contrary…
European second residency and citizenship, in particular, holds immense appeal across the board.
And outside of making a hefty investment, there are at least 5 countries offering easy residency for applicants with sufficient financial means to support themselves in Europe. Often referred to as retirement visas, passive income visas or residency programs for financially independent persons, these long-term residency visas can be obtained without the need to buy an expensive property.
EU Golden Visa Alternatives 2023
As of August 2023, the following 6 countries offer programs that could be excellent alternatives to conventional Golden Visas these are mostly income based options):
1. Portugal: Highly Qualified Activity (HQA) Visa For Startups (full Golden Visa flexibility – low minimum stay requirement, €175,000 investment required to join a 3-year incubator, establish an enterprise and fund a public research project. Note: This option can be an almost fully passive investment, if you prefer).
7. Latvia: Priced from only €70,000, including a mandatory governmental contribution and service fees, the Latvian Golden Visa via company capitalization offers exceptional value. and best of all there are no minimum stay requirements – however your Latvian ID card has to be renewed annually.
8. Portugal: Cultural Production Golden Visa: Not to be confused with the Cultural Heritage Donation Golden Visa, this €250,000 investment option is used to fund a cultural production project – in this case, a full-length feature film. (There is also a €200,000 option for projects located in low-density areas.)
Featuring a capital guarantee and a minimum guaranteed yield of 4%, the investor will get paid out d300,000 after 5 years. Additionally, visa pre-approval takes place before the capital has to be committed.
9. Netherlands: The Dutch American Friendship Treaty Visa (DAFT Visa Program) – available for US nationals only.
Contact us for more information on this option if you’re an American citizen.
The bottom line?
If you’re looking for the cheapest Golden Visa options, look at Portugal’s Cultural Production Golden Visa (€200K or €250K), or Greece’s property investment option (€250K). Outside of these two options, the above programs can all offer viable path to residency in Europe. But if you need low in-country presence requirements, options 1, 7 and 8 above are worth exploring in more detail.
Portugal’s D7 Visa is one of the most affordable routes to EU residency and eventual citizenship on the market going into 2021 – but it may not be available for much longer…
What is a Financially Independent Person Residency Visa (FIP Visa)?
These programs cater for relatively well-off people seeking to settle in a country without the need to work there in order to sustain themselves.
Generally speaking, EU retirement visas, passive income visas and financially independent residency visas all require you to have either sufficient accessible savings or stable, non-salaried income (pension, royalties, dividends or other forms of passive income).
While there is an exception (being the Portuguese program), you are also not able to take up employment in your country of second residency).
What are the pros of EU Financially Independent Person Visas?
A key benefit of obtaining a passive income visa and residency over a Golden Visa is the fact that you won’t be required to make a property investment of €250,000 (Greece) or more – unless of course you want to. You will, however, be required to have accommodation in-country, but this can be rented.
Depending on which country you choose for second residency, you can also obtain citizenship through naturalization after a number of years (Portugal’s D7 residency offers citizenship eligibility after only 5 years).
What are the cons of EU Financially Independent Person Visas?
Unlike with EU Golden Visa programs, which only require you to spend 7 days per year in the country (Portugal), or no time at all (Greece), these passive income, retirement and FIP residency visa programs tend to require significant time spent in-country – the Greek, Portuguese and Italian residency programs all have a minimum in-country stay requirement of at least 6 months (183 days).
This makes these programs highly suitable for people seeking to immigrate to and settle in these countries, however if you’re looking for a back-up plan or “Plan B” – a residency permit in your back pocket in case something serious goes wrong in your primary home country – you’d be better off looking at a Golden Visa.
For more information and to speak to an immigration expert specializing in these alternative residency programs, contact us now below.