If you’re looking to expand your horizons internationally, you’ve probably come across the terms ‘citizenship’ and ‘residency’ quite a lot. While these words are often used interchangeably, they actually mean different, and somewhat contrasting, things. So what exactly is the difference between citizenship and residency?
Residency is the act of establishing and maintaining a residence in a given country. The right is usually for a specified amount of time, and allows individuals to work, travel or study in that nation.
In terms of status, it means that they are no longer a tourist, but more like a legal alien. And while they can leave and return, they may be denied re-entry if they’ve failed to fulfil any of their residency conditions, which could be anything from spending a certain amount of time in the country to having a job and accommodation there.
Citizenship is the status of membership and belonging to a state. Unlike residents, citizens get all of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities defined by that nation’s laws. These include the rights to vote, participate in politics and receive education, as well as call upon their country for legal assistance and protection.
Citizens can also apply to receive a passport from their country and pass this right to citizenship onto their children. Citizenship is generally for a lifetime and individuals do not have to fulfil any requirements to retain it, such as living or working in the country in question. Many nations also allow their citizens a second nationality too — i.e. dual nationality.
The traditional acquisition of citizenship usually centres around birth in a country, descent from a parent, marriage to a citizen or naturalisation. Citizenship by investment (CBI) programmes, however, allow applicants to gain a second citizenship by investing in the country. Many of the best-known CBI programmes are based in the Caribbean, with Dominica’s ranked the number one in the CBI Index for six years running. The island offers individuals the chance to gain Dominican citizenship in exchange for either a contribution to a government fund or investment in pre-approved real estate.
While the standard route to residency of a country is to live and work there, residency by investment (RBI) schemes allow you to gain this by investing in it.
In the case of USA; as a permanent resident, you are generally eligible for naturalization after five years. This is the most common way that people apply to become a U.S. citizen. To qualify, you must have lived in the U.S. continuously for the five years immediately preceding the date you file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The Immigration and Nationality Act (Title III, Chapter 2) details all of the citizenship requirements for a 5-year permanent resident.
In contrast to CBI programmes, most of these are from countries within the European Union and are typically referred to as Golden Visa schemes.