The 5 Best Cheapest Golden Visas are even more appealing as governments are reducing the money expats have to pay for their new travel status. So if your priority is to get the fastest and cheapest golden visa, these are the five European golden visas with the lowest investment requirements.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen several countries suspend or change their golden visa rules – particularly some states in the European Union with less than stellar economies.
One of the challenges when choosing between citizenship or residency by investment is separating out the best deals because each golden visa has different costs and application rules.
To understand the general details, be sure to read the Golden Visa and Golden Passports overview.
This tiny island in the Mediterranean packs a punch for expats with two routes to a residence.
Both are popular with nationals of countries outside the European Union, as Malta is a member of the EU and passport holders have the right to visa-free travel in the Schengen area.
- Citizenship by investment is available with a minimum contribution of € 600,000 (£ 515,000) to government funds
Maltese citizenship by way of investment, which comes with a second passport, has been the subject of intense political scrutiny and the subject of a legal challenge launched by the European Commission.
The MPRP is a renowned program, offering lower investment requirements but significant benefits for foreigners, such as a lifetime residence permit and the right to work.
It takes eight months to process applications and you must travel to Malta to provide biometric data before your digital residence permit is issued.
Other requirements include:
- Expats must prove that they earn at least € 100,000 (£ 85,800) per year and have assets worth more than € 500,000 (£ 429,000)
- The choice of donating € 100,000 (£ 85,800) to government funds, or buying a house for € 300,000 (£ 257,000) or more or renting a house for at least five years
- Cash donations are one-time and non-refundable
- Applicants must have full private health insurance and no criminal record
The lowest donation option of € 100,000 (£ 85,800) is € 145,000 (£ 124,500) with legal fees and agency fees.
Read the detailed guide to the Guide to Maltese Citizenship by Investment.
Portugal’s Golden Visa is the EU’s most popular and oldest program, launched in 2012.
This device mainly attracts real estate investors, grabbing housing at very attractive prices and generating billions of euros for the economy.
If you are looking for a European passport program with reasonably low investment thresholds, this might be the option for you.
The demand for housing is high, but property prices in Portugal are reasonable compared to some EU countries.
However, from January 2022, the government will limit investors to buying homes in Madeira or the Azores – expatriate magnets from Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve are closing for a gold visa business.
The costs of the plan are also increasing.
A final rush is expected since the average processing times are around ten months.
The conditions of the Golden Visa from January 1, 2022 are:
- Property investments start from € 500,000 (£ 429,000) and are limited to the Azores, Madeira or inland territories, rising from a minimum of € 280,000 (£ 240,000)
- Cash contributions or government bond purchases drop from € 1million (£ 860,000) to € 1.5million (£ 1.29million)
- Contributions to research activities or business investments start from € 500,000 (£ 429,000), compared to € 350,000 (£ 300,420) today.
One of the advantages of the Portugal golden visa is that the money spent on buying a house is fully recoverable when the property is sold after five years.
Read the detailed guide to Portuguese citizenship by investment.
The golden visa for Greece is popular with expats for two reasons: the program is one of the cheapest and applicants do not have to travel to the country until their visa is confirmed.
After five years of living in Greece, you can apply for full citizenship through the naturalization program.
Greek residence permits are managed by Enterprise Greece and come with several investment options:
- Invest in hotels, commercial projects or tourist resorts
- Buy shares in a Greek company
- Investors can deposit € 400,000 (£ 343,000) in a Greek bank or buy government bonds from the same threshold.
The legal fees and taxes associated with buying a property result in around 10% additional fees, making it one of the easiest and cheapest residency routes available in the EU.
Latvia is not always an obvious choice as a destination for wealthy expats.
However, investors looking for quick and inexpensive investment avenues to obtain residency in the European Union may find this program to offer substantial benefits.
Although you cannot apply for citizenship immediately, foreign nationals can acquire a residence permit for an investment of € 250,000 (£ 214,000) in a property.
You only need to visit Latvia once a year to maintain your residence and obtain permanent residence after five years.
- Real estate options start from € 250,000 (£ 214,000), or purchases of government bonds for the same value are also eligible
- There is a quota of 800 applicants – once reached the minimum real estate investment will increase to € 500,000 (£ 429,000)
- Applicants must pay an additional government contribution of € 25,000 (£ 21,450), or five percent of the property’s value, whichever is greater
- Other avenues of investment include a commercial investment of € 50,000 (£ 43,000), plus a state grant of € 10,000 (£ 8,500). Fees for large companies with more than 50 employees start from € 100,000 (£ 85,800)
To upgrade a Latvian investor visa to permanent residence, you must have lived in Latvia for five years.
Permanent residents become eligible for full citizenship by naturalization after five years, but applicants for citizenship must meet strict requirements.
They must have lived in the country full time, be fluent in Latvian and renounce any former citizenship. Maintaining permanent or long-term residence in the EU is therefore often a more attractive solution.
As an English-speaking nation, Ireland is often an easier prospect for British expats seeking residency rights in the EU, and the country offers a range of investment options:
- Company investments of € 1 million (£ 858,000) for a fixed term of at least three years
- Real estate investments are available through the Irish Real Estate Investment Trust. Applicants must keep the property for three years
- Philanthropic donations from € 500,000 are eligible for residency, including projects benefiting Irish culture, education, the arts, sport or health.
If a holder of residence wishes to become an Irish citizen, they will need to have lived in the country for at least one year, with four years of residence accumulated within the previous eight years.
Applicants of Irish descent or other ties to the country may waive certain residency requirements and dual citizenship is permitted.
Read all about life in Ireland here.
FAQs on European Golden Visas
Some of the most frequently asked questions about European gold visas.
Many golden visas offer residency rather than immediate citizenship.
Investors can usually apply for a second passport after a minimum number of years and may need to have lived in the country for a required period.
Portugal offers five-year citizenship through the residency program, as does Malta. However, the Portuguese regime does not require applicants to have lived there for a mandatory number of years.
The cheapest ways to acquire residency in the EU are:
Greece – from € 250,000 (£ 214,000)
Montenegro – from € 250,000 (£ 214,000)
Portugal – from € 350,000 (£ 300,000) until January 2022
Spain – from € 500,000 (£ 429,000)
Residence does not always come with a visa. Most programs offer permanent residency rights in exchange for an investment, but others offer residency on a renewable basis. Additionally, investors can opt for Golden Visa citizenship by investment program to acquire a second passport, although investment minimums are generally higher.
Potentially, yes. Some golden visa programs include the right to apply for full citizenship after a minimum period. However, some programs have other criteria, such as speaking the local language and living in the country for a number of years. In other cases, you can apply for citizenship by naturalization after being a resident, but without a mandatory life requirement.
Each country has rules and policies regarding welcoming foreign investors, including factors such as:
• Proving sufficient funds to reach the investment threshold
• Proof that the applicant legally acquired the funds
• Have a clean criminal record
• Meet the minimum age criteria
• Have private medical insurance
The timelines vary, with processing ranging from a few months to around a year, depending on the Gold Visa program you are applying for.
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