By Veronica Cotdemiey, CEO of Citizenship Invest.
Obtaining a dual a nationality or second citizenship has long been a significant goal for many families in the Middle East.
The constant struggle of not being able to travel freely; being scrutinized by immigration and governmental entities; as well as being a citizen of countries with political and economic distress are the main drivers that encourage individuals to consider investing in a second nationality.
There are two main approaches for obtaining a second citizenship by investment. The first way is through Fast Citizenship programs which are prevalent in the Middle East as they provide the quickest route to owning a lawful second citizenship. Countries like St. Kitts & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia and Cyprus allow foreigners to financially contribute or invest in real estate to obtain a legal citizenship within a period of less than 6 months.
Furthermore, these countries’ citizenship legislative acts do not pose any relocation requirements, which means that the applicants and their families do not need to move to another country in order to obtain or keep the citizenship. The non-relocation requirement makes these programs highly popular among Middle Eastern businessowners and successful professionals. These programs have a strong effect in raising the country’s GDP but it can also culminate in long-term economic prosperity through investment in housing and infrastructure.
Some of these programs have existed for over 30 years and are sought-after by nationals from all over the world included Americans. From Middle East the key nationalities searching for these programs are Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Lebanese and many more who are constantly faced with travel restrictions. An alternate passport opens up an entirely new world on visa-free travel including the UK, Schengen countries, Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, China, Hong Kong. Additionally, many nations in the Middle East face political and economic problems, which makes it difficult to predict the future of these nations, and their family futures along with them. Therefore, having a second citizenship or passport is a strong contingency plan for many individuals in the region.
Nevertheless, there is another option available for investors and it is through Residency programs. There are many countries around the world that grant applicants a permanent residency through investment. Let us take Spain as an example. Spain’s Golden Visa includes the main applicant, spouse, and all dependent children, after the applicant purchases a property in Spain. The duration of the Residence Permit in total is 5 years, Permanent Residence may then be applied for a further 5 years where you must reside in Spain to be eligible to apply for the citizenship. Residents may study, work and live indefinitely in Spain and travel visa-free within the European region. Best of all, they will own a European nationality, which consequently allows them to live anywhere in Europe and grants them visa-free access to over 170 countries worldwide.
Another example is Portugal, which is a member of the European Union and also has its own Residency program. Unlike Spain, this program does not require investors to physically live in Portugal to obtain the Portuguese citizenship. The country has a high quality of life with modern business and medical facilities, which makes Portugal a beautiful country with high standards of living. The citizenship will be granted to the applicant and family after a period of 6 years, therefore the entire family will benefit from being European nationals and will be able to pass the nationality to future generations through naturalization.
To make things simple, permanent residency programs are primarily for investors who plan to relocate to benefit from living in a European country and eventually becoming European citizens. However, it is the long route towards obtaining a second nationality and their citizenship is no 100% secure as it is up to the Government’s discretion.
Fast citizenship by investment programs on the other hand, pose different advantages. They are more suitable for individuals who do not wish to disrupt their current lives by immigrating to a different country, who do not want to wait 6 to 10 years and who are not willing to take a language test.