After years of experience, we’ve created the most comprehensive Residency by Investment (RBI) guide, explaining industry terms and presenting the details of the most popular RBI programmes from all over the world.
If you’re looking to move or invest abroad, you’ve probably come across the terms ‘residency’ and ‘citizenship’ often. While these words are often used interchangeably, they mean different and somewhat contrasting things. So, what exactly is the difference between residency and citizenship?
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 a legal alien. While individuals with residency 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, receive education, and 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. However, citizenship by investment (CBI) programmes allow applicants to gain second citizenship by investing in the country.
Residency by investment programmes can offer the right to live and sometimes work in a country. After several years of living in that particular country, it is often possible to apply for citizenship in an altogether separate process, often with added requirements, such as learning a language. Residence status can be more easily removed, often subject to the fulfilment of certain minimum physical presence requirements.
While the standard route to the 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 contrast to CBI programmes, most of these are from countries within the European Union and are typically referred to as Golden Visa schemes.
The key difference between CBI and RBI is that CBI programmes, offer investors citizenship, in most cases, without needing to go through a period of residence and only within a few months of applying if the requirements have been met.
Meanwhile, RBI programmes only offer residence to investors, namely the right to live (and sometimes work) in a country. RBI programmes often implement mandatory physical presence requirements for specific periods of time for investors to maintain residence rights.
There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding regarding citizenship options, differences between various residency programmes and golden visa schemes. The term ‘golden visa’ is often used to refer to RBI programmes. In contrast, the term ‘golden passport’ is commonly used to refer to CBI programmes.
The latter term, in particular, is a misnomer, as the citizenship by investment process ends with receipt of citizenship – generally evidenced by a naturalisation or registration certificate. A passport is received in a separate process and, in most cases, through independent government offices.
Golden visa schemes or RBI programmes came into the media spotlight when they began to be implemented in Western countries like Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In contrast to CBI programmes, there is a high concentration of RBI programmes in the European Union, commonly referred to as golden visa schemes in the media.
The eligibility requirements for golden visas or RBI programmes are different from country to country, but in general, you will have to prove the following:
• that you are over the age of 18
• that you own the money intended for investment
• that you are of good repute
• that you can sustain yourself and family members for the period you intend to live there
Considering popularity, cost, waiting time and benefits, we selected the best residency by investment programmes of 2021.
Applying to Spain’s RBI Programme allows you to reside, study, and work in Spain. Applicants can choose between various investment options, with the most affordable being a 500,000 euros investment in real estate property to be held for the validity of the residence period. Processing time by the Spanish Government once the application for a Residence Visa and a Residence Authorisation has been submitted takes an aggregate time of around 30 days.
There is a one-day physical presence requirement to retain the Residence Authorisation. If, however, the investor seeks to obtain Permanent Residence of Spain, that requirement is extended to five years (excluding absences of up to six months).
Other requirements include having evidence of being able to support oneself and one’s family. This must be done by a minimum showing of 30,000 euros for the main applicant and 10,000 euros per family member for the entire residence period. To receive Spanish citizenship, applicants must have resided in Spain legally, continuously, and immediately prior to the application for a period of 10 years, subject to the fulfilment of other conditions.
The process of obtaining residence in Spain is divided into stages. Investors do not immediately
receive Permanent Residence, and their status in Spain remains temporary for some time after the application is first submitted. The stages of Spanish residency are:
• making the chosen investment
• filing a visa application at a local Spanish Consulate if investors outside of Spain (the expected response time is ten days)
• entering Spain to apply for the Residence Authorisation for Investors at the Large Companies Unit upon receipt of a Residence Visa for Investors (the expected response time is 20 days)
• giving biometrics and receiving a Foreigner’s Identity Card
The Residence Authorisation for Investors is valid for an initial two-year period and can be renewed for consecutive five-year periods.
Successful applicants can receive a range of benefits, including:
• the right to live, work, study, and undertake business in Spain
• ability to include family members in an application
• residence valid for an initial two years, renewable for consecutive five-year periods
• ability to apply for permanent residence after five years of ‘legal and continuous’ residence
• ability to apply for citizenship after ten years of residence in Spain
Portugal’s RBI Programme allows you to reside, work, and study in the country. The investment options vary from purchasing real estate to capital transfers to creating jobs in Portugal. It is one of the most popular Residency by Investment Programmes in Europe, mainly because it leads to European citizenship after six years of residency, upon the fulfilment of certain requirements, including a language requirement. For the real estate investment option, applicants can purchase residential, commercial, or agricultural real estate for either 500,000 euros or 350,000 euros if the real estate is over thirty years old or located in an area of urban regeneration and designated for refurbishment.
Applicants can also choose between a series of capital transfers, with the most affordable being a capital transfer of 250,000 euros in artistic output or national heritage. If this does not suit the investor, the final investment option is to create at least ten jobs in Portugal.
Applicants must have made their investment before applying and submit the proof of investment as well as their intentions to maintain it for at least five years. Interested applicants must:
• apply at the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Services (SEF)
• submit the application along with documentation.
• pay all the relevant fees
• wait for confirmation from the SEF
• schedule an appointment to submit your application at a local branch of the SEF
• The right to live, work, study, and undertake business in Portugal
• exceptional levels of safety and security, excellent education opportunities, and high-quality healthcare
• minimal residency requirements
• eligibility for citizenship after six years of residence
• family reunification
Switzerland is a federal republic made up of 26 cantons and is one of the most attractive countries in the world for conducting business. Switzerland does not have a typical residence by investment programme. A non-EU/EFTA national who does not plan to undertake gainful activity in Switzerland can become a Swiss resident if a Swiss canton confirms a fiscal interest in that individual taking up residence.
The application process in Switzerland can be broken down into several steps and may vary according to the canton of residence:
• applicants must first apply for a visa at the Swiss consulate in their country of residence
• upon arrival in Switzerland, applicants should rent or acquire real estate in the country
• applicants may then apply for a residence permit (‘B permit’) and must make a formal commitment not to engage in gainful activity Switzerland
• a decision will usually be made in relation to the application within three to six months
Residence in Switzerland comes with a wide range of benefits, including:
• the right to live and study in Switzerland
• the B permit is valid for one year and can be renewed on an annual basis
• eligible to apply for permanent residency (C permit) after ten years
• C permit holders may apply for Swiss citizenship
To grant foreigners access to the nation, the Government of Greece launched its RBI Programme in 2014. Applicants who are successful receive the right to permanent residency.
One of the most popular routes under the Programme is the purchase of residential, commercial, or agricultural real estate with a minimum value of 250,000 euros. Whilst the property purchase can take several months to complete, once this is achieved, the residence permit is issued quickly.
It is worth noting that the Greek residence permit is subject to renewal every five years. If all the requirements are fulfilled, applicants may be eligible for citizenship after seven years of physical presence in Greece.
Interested applicants must:
• apply for a Schengen visa to the Greek consulate authority in their country of origin
• select a property for purchase
• collect supporting documentation for the residence permit application
• submit an application along with supporting documentation before the expiry of the entry visa
• final verification
• if approved, travel to Greece to submit biometric information
There are a number of key advantages for those applying to the Greece Residence by Investment Programme, including:
• the right to live, work, study, and undertake business in Greece
• high levels of safety and security, excellent education opportunities, and robust healthcare options
• immediate permanent residence, subject to renewal every five years
• ability to include family members in an application (married spouse, children of the main applicant or spouse under 21 years old, and parents of the main applicant or spouse)
• eligible for citizenship after seven years of physical presence in Greece, subject to the fulfilment of other criteria (including language requirements)
Since 2010, Latvia has issued temporary residence permits to foreign investors, allowing them to reside in Latvia and travel visa-free across the Schengen Area.
The process of obtaining residence in Latvia is divided into stages. Investors do not immediately receive permanent residence, and their residence status in Latvia remains temporary for five years after issuance of the initial residence permit.
• applicants must submit the residence application and any application fees to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs.
• as part of the application, the investor must commit to the investment.
• after one to three months, a decision is made in relation to the application.
• if the application is approved, the applicant must travel to Latvia within three months to give biometrics, make the investment, and pay the deposit.
• after making the relevant investment, the applicant will receive a residence permit valid for five years.
• after five years, and upon fulfilling certain requirements (including a language requirement), the investor may apply for a permanent residence permit.
Successful applicants can receive a range of benefits, including:
• the right to live, work, study, and undertake business in Latvia
• spouse and minor children may apply for a residence permit with the investor
• residence valid for a five-year period
• ability to apply for permanent residence after five years
• ability to apply for citizenship after five years of holding permanent residence
Singapore hosts one of the oldest RBI programmes, which launched in 2004. Upon making the investment, and fulfilling all other application requirements, applicants are granted a Final Approval of their Permanent Residence status and must formalise their Permanent Residence status within 12 months. It is worth noting that some of the key application requirements are that an investor shows a history of previous business experience and success.
There are three investment options for this RBI programme. Applicants can invest:
• a minimum of SGD 2.5 million in a new business entity or expansion of an existing business operation in a permitted industry. Once this option has been chosen, the applicant must submit a five-year business plan
• a minimum of SGD 2.5 million in a government-approved GIP fund that supports Singapore-based companies
• SGD 2.5 million in a new or existing Singapore–based, single-family office having assets under management of at least SGD 200 million. Once this option has been chosen, the applicant must submit a five-year business plan
There is no language requirement for this RBI programme, but an interview is conducted.
It is important to note that Singapore only allows citizens to hold one citizenship – so investors should think carefully prior to applying for citizenship of the nation. A person can become eligible for citizenship after two years of permanent residence if gainfully employed or married to a Singaporean citizen.
• Upon approval of the application, the investor is issued Approval in Principle status, valid for six months.
• upon making the chosen investment and submission of evidence thereof, the investor is issued the Final Approval letter.
• within 12 months from the date of the Final Approval letter, the investor must formalise their permanent residence status.
• upon formalisation of permanent residence status, the investor receives a Re-Entry Permit that allows them to travel in and out of Singapore without affecting their permanent residence status. Valid for an initial five years, the Re-Entry Permit can be renewed for either three or five years, subject to the investor meeting the Re-Entry Permit renewal conditions by the third or fifth year of permanent residence status.
Those that have permanent residency in Singapore can benefit from a number several key advantages, including:
• right to live, work, study, and undertake business in Singapore
• access to excellent infrastructure, education, and healthcare
• political stability and low crime rates
In recent years, Italy has become an even more attractive location for foreign investors. One of these steps was introducing an RBI Programme in 2017.
Through it, investors receive the right to reside in Italy after fulfilling one of the following investment options:
• investing 250,000 euros in an Italian innovative start-up company
• investing 500,000 euros in a limited company that is incorporated and operating in Italy
• investing 1,000.000 euros in a philanthropic initiative
• investing 2,000,000 euros in Italian government bonds
The path for investors to receive residency in Italy is as follows:
• apply online for a ‘Nulla Osta’ (a certificate of ‘no impediment’) with the Investor Visa for Italy (IV4I) Committee, which has 30 days to process the request
• within six months of receiving the Nulla Osta, apply for an Investor Visa at the local Italian Consulate or Embassy
• enter Italy with the Investor Visa within two years of receiving the Investor Visa, and, within eight days of entry, apply to the local police for the Investor Visa Residence Permit
• wait for the Residence Permit, which will only be issued if the investor can show that the investment requirements were met within three months of their entry into Italy and which lasts for two years
• apply to the IV4I Committee to receive a new Nulla Osta and renew the Residence Permit for a further three years
• after five years of residence, the investor can apply for a renewal of the Investor Residence Permit for an additional three years or apply for an EU Permanent Residence Permit
Successful applicants can receive a range of benefits, including:
• the right to live, work and undertake business in Italy
• ability to include family members in an application
• residence valid for an initial two years, renewable for consecutive three-year periods
• ability to apply for an EU permanent residence permit after five years of residence
• ability to apply for citizenship after ten years of residence in Italy
Ireland’s RBI Programme started in 2012, and it offers residence rights to the applicant. There are four types of investments one can make as an applicant:
• 500,000 euros donated to a project that is of public benefit to Irish arts, sports, health, culture or education
• 1,000,000 euros invested in an Irish enterprise to be held for at least three years (and to be accompanied by a detailed business plan)
• 1,000,000 euros in an approved investment fund to be held for three years and approved and regulated by the Central Bank
• 2,000,000 euros in an Irish Real Estate Investment Trust listed on the Irish Stock Exchange, to be held for three years
The application process in Ireland can be broken down into seven steps:
• applicants must submit an application, including a completed application form and supporting documents via email and pay the application fee
• the application must also send the original signed application form and proof of payment of the application fee to the Immigration Investor Unit by post
• the application is processed, and the Department of Justice conducts due diligence
• the Department of Justice presents the application and its findings to the Evaluation Committee, which may seek further information from the applicant if required
• if the application is deemed suitable by the Evaluation Committee, a pre-approval letter is issued
• upon receiving a pre-approval, the applicant must make the investment
• a resident permit is then granted to the applicant and their family members
Residence in Ireland comes with a wide range of benefits, including:
• the right to live, work, study, and undertake business in Ireland
• residence, subject to renewal initially after two years, then three years, then subsequent five-year periods
• ability to include nuclear family members in an application
• eligible for citizenship after five years of physical residence in Ireland (including for 12 months immediately prior to the application)
Applicants must prove they have sufficient funds to reside in Monaco without needing to work. The most common means of proving sufficient funds is through depositing funds in a Monaco bank and obtaining a letter of evidence from that bank.
The Government sets no mandatory minimum deposit amount. Whether the amount will be judged sufficient depends on the Monaco bank providing the reference. However, the average deposit amount is around 500,000 euros (but can be substantially more).
The residency process in Monaco can be broken down into the following steps:
• if applicable, applicants must apply for a long-stay visa at their nearest French consulate
• applicants must gather the following documents as part of the application:
– proof of accommodation in Monaco that is big enough to account for the number of people that will be living there
– a letter from a Monaco bank evidencing sufficient savings
– proof of good character evidenced by the authorities of the last country or two countries in which the applicant lived in the five years prior to arriving in Monaco
• upon gathering the required documents, applicants must contact the Monaco Immigration Police to schedule an interview.
• application processing differs according to an applicant’s country of citizenship, with the processing time for non-EU citizens expected to be between 16 to 20 weeks.
• applicants then receive a carte de sejour temporaire (temporary residence card) valid for 12 months.
• after the first 12 months, applicants can renew their temporary residence card for another two 12-month periods.
• after their third year of residence in Monaco, applicants can then apply for a carte de sejour ordinaire (ordinary residence card), giving them permission to reside in Monaco for three years. This card can be renewed for subsequent three-year periods.
• after three temporary residence cards and two ordinary residence cards (nine years of residence in Monaco), an application for a carte de sejour privilegie (privileged residence card) can be submitted. The privileged residence card is valid for a period of ten years.
Residence in Monaco comes with a wide range of benefits, including:
• the right to live, work and undertake business in Monaco
• temporary residence, renewable for three one-year periods, followed by ordinary residence, renewable for two three-year periods
• opportunity to apply for a privileged residence card after nine years
• eligible for citizenship after ten years of continuous residence in Monaco
These are some of the most interesting residency by investment programmes of 2022. We hope you now better understand the logistics of the different programmes and their main requirements and that this will serve as an initial overview to make a more informed decision on your investment migration journey.
To get advice on investor immigration options, feel free to contact us for a consultation.
CS Global Partners has a team of experts with heaps of industry knowledge to help you decide what country and citizenship or residence programme may suit you best.