You may be familiar with the difficulties foreigners can have in obtaining U.S. visas. But did you know that foreigners can “buy” visa status in the United States and dozens of other countries?
Referred to as “golden visas,” these countries offer citizenship in exchange for investment. Unfortunately, the price is on the steep side in almost every country. But if you have the funds and a great desire to live in a foreign country, obtaining a golden visa may be the best way to do it.
Table of Contents
- What Is a “Golden Visa”?
- 17 Golden Visa Countries that Offer Citizenship for Investment
- 1. Germany
- 2. Italy
- 3. Spain
- 4. Portugal
- 5. Ireland
- 6. Greece
- 7. Malta
- 8. Montenegro
- 9. Turkey
- 10. The United States
- 11. Dominica
- 12. St. Kitts and Nevis
- 13. Grenada
- 14. St. Lucia
- 15. Curacao
- 16. Antigua & Barbuda
- 17. Vanuatu (South Pacific)
- Final Thoughts on Golden Visa Countries
What Is a “Golden Visa”?
Golden visas allow individuals to buy at least a temporary residency in select countries. It’s a way for financially qualified individuals, particularly investors, to bypass the red tape so common with visa and citizenship application processes.
A golden visa doesn’t automatically grant citizenship or permanent residency. It allows for an extended residency that can be renewed and may eventually result in citizenship.
The word “golden” refers to the fact that obtaining a visa requires investing in a country to gain extended entry. The visa’s purpose is primarily economic. The country offering a golden visa is looking to attract foreign individuals who can bring capital, entrepreneurial skill, or both into their country.
Schengen Visa Program: This is a European Union program offering a passport-free zone that covers most European countries. Twenty-six countries are participating in the program, which enables visa holders to travel freely between those countries. Though some countries in the program offer golden visas, most do not. We’ll be including most of the golden visa countries from the Schengen Visa Program in this guide.
Other Golden Visa Requirements
Each country requires minimum investments, but the dollar amounts don’t always refer to actual investments. Some are referred to as donations or by other wording. But whatever the title, you should expect to invest several hundred thousand US dollars into the country where you hope to establish residency.
Other requirements will include a visa application, a valid passport from your home country, evidence of sufficient income while residing in the host country, and sufficient financial assets to make the required investment.
You can also expect the destination country to do a criminal background check from your home country and charge various processing fees.
Before establishing residency in any foreign country, check the specific requirements for that country. Simply making a large investment in a country will not automatically satisfy residency requirements. Also, health insurance plans, particularly from the US, aren’t valid in most foreign countries. Many countries will require you to provide proof of coverage in that country.
Currency conversions were done on 11/21/2022, when 1 Euro was worth approximately 1.02 US Dollar.
17 Golden Visa Countries that Offer Citizenship for Investment
The following list includes 17 countries offering golden visas, the general requirements to obtain one, and what the visa will give you. We compiled our list from several websites specializing in golden visa countries. As you’ll see from the list, most golden visa countries are located in Europe and North America.
Minimum Investment: €360,000 ($367,200)
Investment Types: Starting a business that fulfills an economic interest or need
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Residency for three years (renewable), German citizenship after eight years
Germany offers what is referred to as a Schengen Visa, which essentially grants you temporary residency that can become permanent and eventually lead to full citizenship.
Technically, it’s not a golden visa but a visa program that favors the self-employed. It’s also an entrepreneurial visa or a visa for setting up a business. The visa allows foreign individuals to live in Germany to establish a business or company. You cannot obtain a visa simply by investing in German real estate.
Minimum Investment: €500,000 ($510,000) investment in an established Italian company, or €250,000 ($255,000) invested in an upstart
Investment Types: Investing in either an established company or an upstart
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Residency for two years (renewable), citizenship after ten years
The Italian entrepreneurial visa (also a Schengen visa) is very similar to that of Germany because it can be obtained by investing in business enterprises. And also, like in Germany, the purchase of real estate will not automatically qualify you for a visa.
Minimum Investment: €500,000 ($510,000), up to €2 million ($2,040,000)
Investment Types: Real estate, bank deposits, investment in Spanish companies, or purchase of Spanish public debt
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Residency for one year, then a Spanish residence permit for two years (renewable indefinitely as long as you maintain your investment)
Spain is another Schengen zone country, offering visas for individuals investing in the domestic economy. But Spain offers more investment opportunities than either Germany or Italy. For example, you can qualify if you purchase real estate worth at least €500,000. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy shares in a company, make a deposit in a Spanish bank of at least €1 million, or invest a minimum of €2 million in Spanish public debt.
They also have a loosely defined category – with no minimum financial investment – for investing in a new business that offers employment opportunities, contributes to scientific and/or technological innovation, and has relevant socioeconomic impacts in a region where it will operate.
Minimum Investment: €250,000 ($255,000) and up
Investment Types: Real estate, Portuguese venture capital fund, scientific or technological research
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Residency for five years, leading to an opportunity to become a permanent resident or citizen
Portugal is one of the easier countries to obtain a golden visa in. Not only can it be the ticket into Portuguese residency, but also anywhere in the European Union.
Portugal offers residency with various investments and investment amounts. You’re eligible for the following investments:
- €250,000 to support the arts or the reconstruction of a national heritage site.
- Purchase a property worth at least €400,000 in a low-density area or as low as €280,000 in a low-density urban regeneration area.
- €350,000 in a qualifying investment fund.
- €1 million transferred into a Portuguese bank or other capital transfer.
- €1 million investment in a Portuguese company.
- Create at least ten jobs for Portuguese nationals.
Minimum Investment: €1 million ($1,020,000)
Investment Types: Approved investment fund
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Residency for two years (renewable), citizenship after five years
Not only does Ireland require a minimum investment of €1 million in an approved investment fund, but you must also be able to prove a minimum net worth of €2 million and have a clean criminal background.
The process from residency to citizenship is not automatic, but you will be eligible after just five years. And as a bonus, you’ll also get a €50,000 reduction in the minimum investment requirements for each of your children who plans to attend college in the country.
Minimum Investment: €250,000 ($255,000), plus real estate taxes of 3% to as much as 24%
Investment Types: Real estate
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Residency for five years (renewable)
Like Portugal, Greece offers a very low cost of entry into their golden visa program. You must invest in real estate, and you’ll be required to pay real estate taxes of up to 24% in addition. You’ll be eligible for citizenship if you maintain residency for at least seven years.
Schengen Visa Program: Other Participating Countries
The following European countries participate in the Schengen Visa Program with their own unique requirements and benefits – but don’t offer golden visas:
Malta (see below)
The Czech Republic
Malta participates in the Schengen Visa Program, but they also offer a golden visa program with an investment of €900,000 ($918,000) or more.
Minimum Investment: €250,000 ($255,000) to €450,000 ($459,000), plus an additional government donation of €200,000 ($204,000)
Investment Types: Real estate (investment varies by location)
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Passport, leading to citizenship
Minimum Investment: $250,000
Investment Types: Real estate ($250,000); by hundred thousand dollars for each of the following: bank deposits, Turkish government bonds, or capital investments
What the Golden Visa Buys You: A four-month passport with the potential for citizenship
Turkey is one of the few countries outside Europe or North America to permit golden visas. Referred to as the Citizenship By Investment Program, Turkey provides investors with a four-month passport. From there, you can apply for citizenship. The program requires a minimum investment of $250,000 to $500,000, depending on the type of investment made. But Turkey also offers a non-cash investment – if possible – to create full-time jobs for at least 50 people.
Like other countries granting golden visas, you’ll be required to have a clean criminal record and evidence of adequate health insurance.
10. The United States
Minimum Investment: $500,000 to $1.8 million
Investment Types: Commercial enterprises
What the Golden Visa Buys You: EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program
This one may not interest our US-based readers, but it might be for our international audience. The United States grants residency under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program. The program began in 1990, though it is expected to expire in 2027 under current law.
To qualify, foreign applicants must invest in a new commercial enterprise. Those include sole proprietorships, partnerships, holding companies, joint ventures, corporations, business trusts, or other business entities. The enterprise must create full-time positions for at least ten qualifying employees.
There are six dollar amounts of investments required, as follows:
|On or After|
Unfortunately, the whole process takes about two years to complete. But you will eventually be eligible for citizenship.
There’s also a second program for the US, the E2 Visa. It provides work permits in the US with an investment of at least $100,000 in a business enterprise. However, it is available only to residents of countries participating in the E2 treaty. Applicants should also be aware that while the visa can be renewed after two years, obtaining a green card is not guaranteed.
Other North American/Caribbean countries that offer golden visas include the following:
Minimum Investment: $100,000 or $200,000
Investment Types: Government-approved real estate ($200,000) or donation to the Economic Diversification Fund ($100,000)
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Passport, leading to citizenship within six months
12. St. Kitts and Nevis
Minimum Investment: $150,000 to $400,000
Investment Types: $150,000 (single applicant) or $195,000 (applicant +3 dependants) donated to the Sustainable Growth Fund; $200,000 in a government-approved real estate project for at least seven years or $400,000 in a government-approved real estate project for at least five years
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Citizenship within six months
Minimum Investment: $$150,000 to $220,000
Investment Types: $150,000 donation or $220,000 in real estate
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Citizenship and passport
14. St. Lucia
Minimum Investment: $100,000 to $300,000
Investment Types: Donation ($100,000 for a single applicant, $165,000 for a couple or $190,000 for a family of four), or government approved real estate ($300,000)
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Citizenship
Minimum Investment: $280,000 to $850,000
Investment Types: Real estate, a local business venture, or a company listed on the Dutch Caribbean Securities Exchange – $280,000 for a three-year residence permit, $425,000 for a five-year permit, or $850,000 for an indefinite permit
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Temporary or permanent residency
16. Antigua & Barbuda
Minimum Investment: $100,000 to $1.5 million
Investment Types: Donation to the National Development Fund ($100K – $125K), preapproved real estate ($400,000), or investment in an established business ($1.5 million)
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Citizenship in five months
And finally, there’s one other country located outside Europe and North America offering a golden visa program:
17. Vanuatu (South Pacific)
Minimum Investment: $130,000 or more, and demonstrate at least $250,000 in your bank account
Investment Types: Vanuatu local development fund ($130,000 for a single individual, or $180,000 for a family of four)
What the Golden Visa Buys You: Citizenship and passport in 30 days
Final Thoughts on Golden Visa Countries
The 17 golden visa countries represent some of the world’s most desirable countries and most advantaged locations.
But just as you would with any major investment, thoroughly review the “fine print.” Each country has its own specific requirements that go beyond the basic investment required. Understand exactly what those requirements are and the laws in the country you are applying to. If need be, consult with an attorney specializing in international citizenship applications.
One final note – even if you obtain citizenship in another country, you will still be required to file an annual income tax return in the US. However, the IRS permits a foreign tax credit to reduce your US income tax by the amount of taxes paid to other countries. Discuss this issue with a tax professional to get more information on how to proceed.