Nearly every nation globally extends special privileges to skilled and affluent foreign immigrants. Typically, these individuals must decide between so-called "passport countries" and "visa countries." Passport countries grant citizenship in exchange for financial investment, whereas visa countries offer only a residence permit. Continue reading to discover the countries that boast the most advantageous golden visa programs.
Cyprus, known for its stable climate and strategic location, is notably more affordable than many other European nations and maintains a low crime rate. Additionally, its free market economy and transparent legal system make it particularly attractive to ambitious entrepreneurs. For example, in 2020, the World Bank ranked Cyprus as the 54th best country globally for conducting business.
In an effort to attract foreign investment, the Cypriot Government has introduced various golden visa programs targeted at individuals from non-European countries. These programs enable the acquisition of a golden visa within just a few months.
Photo: Mary El (Unsplash)
Advantages of a Cyprus Investment Visa
The Cyprus Investment Visa has a number of benefits.
- Easy and clear application procedure.
- High approval rate. If you meet all the requirements and comply with the rules, it is highly unlikely you will be denied a visa.
- No minimum residence required. The key requirement is to visit Cyprus at least once in two years.
- An opportunity to acquire residence permits for your spouse and children under the age of 25.
- Access to the Cypriot education system.
- The right to apply for citizenship by naturalisation after five years of permanent residency.
How to Obtain an Investment Visa in Cyprus
In Cyprus, obtaining a golden visa requires a minimum investment of €300,000 in the local economy. This can be achieved through various means, including purchasing specific residential or commercial real estate, or investing in local companies or funds.
Nevertheless, when purchasing property, remember to include VAT in the total cost. Additionally, investors are required to demonstrate an annual income of at least €50,000 and a clean criminal record. Your yearly earnings must also be adequate to support €15,000 for each adult dependent included in your application, or €10,000 per child. It's important to note that this visa does not permit employment in Cyprus; your income source must be from outside the country. The only exception applies to CEOs of companies that receive foreign investments.
The Cyprus Investment Visa remains valid as long as its conditions are met, which must be verified annually.
As a member of the Schengen Area, Greece offers a residence permit that allows visa-free travel to 26 European countries.
Antiparos. Photo: Dimitris Kiriakakis (Unsplash)
Advantages of a Greek Golden Visa
The advantages of a Greek visa encompass residing in a country known for its mild climate, stunning beaches, and exceptional cuisine. Additionally, as an EU member, Greece provides a high standard of security, education, and healthcare. For investors, this visa also offers:
- The ability to obtain a residence permit within just one or two months.
- The freedom to live outside Greece without risking the loss of residence status.
- The option to rent out investment property.
- Residence permits eligibility for your spouse, parents, and unmarried children under 21.
- The opportunity to apply for naturalisation in Greece after seven years of residency.
How to Obtain a Residence Permit in Greece for Investment
There are several ways of acquiring the Greek Golden Visa. The simplest is to buy or rent real estate. The requirements depend on which way you choose.
- Real Estate Purchase: The investment cost varies by location. For instance, acquiring residential real estate in Mykonos, Santorini, Thessaloniki, or certain areas of Athens requires a minimum investment of €500,000. For more affordable options, consider other Greek cities where a residence permit can be obtained by purchasing a house or apartment for €250,000.
- Property Rental: You can also gain residency by renting local property. This involves signing a ten-year lease agreement with a hotel, resort, or other types of accommodation.
- Business Investment: Investing in a local business is another pathway. The investment ranges from €400,000 to €800,000, depending on the company type. The government oversees the investment expenditure.
- Capital Transfer: Alternatively, you can transfer capital to Greece by depositing a minimum of €400,000 in a fixed-term account at a local bank for at least 12 months.
The residence permit is valid as long as the applicant invests into the local economy.
Italy, a nation renowned worldwide, is home to 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the magnificent Alps, idyllic southern islands, and a mild climate. These attributes alone make Italy a compelling choice for anyone considering a move.
Manarola. Photo: Kristine Tanne (Unsplash)
Advantages of an Italian Investor Visa
In addition to residing in one of the world's most picturesque countries, investors in Italy enjoy several benefits:
- Visa-free travel within the Schengen Area.
- An opportunity to become a permanent resident in five years and gain citizenship in 10. However, there are some key requirements to be met. For example, you must permanently live in Italy.
- Access to top-notch healthcare and education systems, exemplified by the world's oldest university located in Bologna, Italy.
- A two-year residence permit with the option to extend for an additional three years.
How to Obtain an Investor Visa in Italy
Initially, investors need to secure approval for their residence plan. After arriving in Italy, they are required to make an investment within three months. To maintain their permit, investors must periodically verify their investment. The following are the pathways to obtain a golden visa in Italy:
- Invest €250,000 in an approved innovative startup.
- Purchase shares of Italian companies for at least €500,000.
- Invest €2,000,000 in Italian government bonds.
- Spend €1,000,000 or more on certain cultural, educational, ecological or other state-approved projects.
You can get a residence permit in Italy within three or four months.
Malta, a small nation spread across three islands, is home to a population of just 400,000. Renowned for its scenic beaches and language schools, Malta's long history as an English colony has significantly influenced its local culture.
Despite its modest size, Malta offers a comfortable living environment. The country is well-equipped with numerous schools, banks, advanced telecommunication services, a university, an airport, and regular sea connections to Italy. Notably, Malta's healthcare system is ranked fifth globally by the World Health Organisation.
Overall, Malta maintains a standard of living comparable to other European countries, yet it remains more affordable.
St. Paul's Cathedral in the medieval city of Mdina. Photo: Mike Nahlii (Unsplash)
Advantages of a Maltese Golden Visa
In addition to the things mentioned above, moving to Malta has lots of other advantages, such as:
- Visa-free access to Schengen Area countries.
- The opportunity to obtain a residence permit without the need for permanent residency in the country.
- Eligibility for Maltese residency extends to up to four generations of the main investor's family.
- The possibility for investors to retrieve their investments after five years while retaining their residence permit.
How to Get a Maltese Golden Visa
The Maltese Investment Visa is among the most cost-effective in Europe, requiring an investment in the local economy for just five years.
Initially, you must submit your application to a local investment agency and swear under oath that you possess a minimum of €500,000, with at least €150,000 of these funds in financial assets. Following this, you can proceed with the investment process, which involves the following steps:
- Buy real estate for €300,000 or more or rent a residential property for at least €10,000. The entry threshold depends on the location of the chosen property.
- Make a non-refundable contribution for €28,000 when purchasing real estate or €58,000 when renting it.
- Donate €2,000 to a local non-governmental organisation.
- Pay an administrative fee of €40,000.
- Pay another €7,500 for each additional family member in your application.
The application is processed between four and six months.
The World Bank claims Montenegro is one of the fastest growing economies in the Balkans. Montenegro is well-known for its spectacular beaches and developing resort towns.
Kotor. Photo: Radik Sitdikov (Unsplash)
Advantages of a Golden Visa in Montenegro
Obtaining a residence permit in Montenegro is notably straightforward, which is a significant advantage. The application process can be completed in just a month. Other benefits include:
- An opportunity to quickly immigrate to a European country with a nice climate.
- High approval rate for residence applications.
- Relatively low cost of getting a residence permit.
How to Obtain an Investor Residence Permit in Montenegro
In Montenegro, purchasing any property entitles you to a one-year residence permit without a minimum investment threshold. This permit can be extended repeatedly, as long as you retain ownership of the property. If you reside in the country for at least 10 months each year, you become eligible to apply for permanent residency after five years.
New Zealand, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes made famous by the Lord of the Rings trilogy, offers much more than scenic beauty. Foreigners are drawn to its high standard of living and welcoming business environment. It stands as one of the top countries for safeguarding investors' interests and facilitating business operations.
Auckland. Photo: Dan Freeman (Unsplash)
Advantages of a New Zealand Investor Visa
In addition to the chance of living in a location with excellent ecology, the New Zealand golden visa also offers the benefit of a reduced tax burden. Notably, there are no taxes on gifts, property, wealth, or capital gains in New Zealand.
An investor can bring their spouse and dependent children under the age of 24.
How to Obtain an Investor Visa in New Zealand
Unlike in many other countries, investing is not enough to get a residence permit in New Zealand. You must also meet a number of other requirements. For example, applicants must speak English at an acceptable level and spend at least 117 days a year in the country for the next four years.
After this, they can apply for permanent residency. The key thing is to keep your investments in New Zealand throughout the entire period. Otherwise, you will lose your visa.
The procedure consists of the following steps:
- Apply for a visa and wait for the approval.
- Arrive in New Zealand and invest at least 15,000,000 NZD ($8,874,300) in one of the approved projects within six months. For instance, you cannot simply invest in real estate, but you may put your money in a certain fund.
As a rule, the application process lasts about eight or nine months.
The United Arab Emirates, situated along the Persian Gulf, ranks among the world's most developed nations. It is renowned for its technological advancements, commendable ecological standards, and excellent business environment.
Abu Dhabi. Photo: Dan Freeman (Unsplash)
Advantages of a Golden Visa in the UAE
Currently, the UAE stands as one of the world's most favoured destinations for immigrants. Of the 10 million residents, only 1.5 million were born and raised in the country. People are drawn to the UAE due to its high quality of life, straightforward business regulations, and the impeccable standard of public order and security.
Here are some of the benefits offered by the golden visa in the UAE:
- The right to include the investor's spouse and unmarried children to the application.
- Favourable tax policy for investors.
- A chance to get a residence permit for investing in real estate.
How to Obtain a Residence Permit for Investment in the UAE
Residency in the UAE is achievable through various means, not just investment. The country offers multiple immigration programs aimed at attracting talented individuals. However, for investors, property acquisition is the quickest route to residency. Here are a few options:
- Invest 2,000,000 AED ($544,500) in an approved business project and get a residence permit for 10 years with the right to extend it later.
- Buy a company which annually pays at least 250,000 AED ($68,062) in taxes and get a 10-year residence permit.
- Buy a property for 2,000,000 AED ($544,500) in one of the approved real estate projects and acquire a five-year residence permit, which can be extended multiple times.
Thailand, known for its affordability, boasts stunning seaside beaches. As one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, it is celebrated for its vibrant nightlife, Buddhist temples, palaces, and excellent opportunities for surfing and diving.
Wiang Kum Kam, Tambon Chang Phuéak. Photo: Mathew Schwartz (Unsplash)
Advantages of a Thai Investment Visa
Obtaining a Thai Investment Visa is remarkably straightforward. Essentially, foreigners need only to purchase a resident card. Additional advantages include:
- A diverse array of programs to choose from.
- Access to a plethora of supplementary services, such as VIP departure lounges at local airports, spa and golf facilities, and even complimentary domestic flights.
How to Obtain a Thai Investment Visa
If you wish to become a resident of Thailand, you may choose to buy one of the resident cards listed below.
Type of visa
Additional fees for family members
900,000 THB ($24,745)
1,500,000 THB ($41,243)
1,000,000 THB ($27,495) per each member
2,500,000 THB ($68,738)
1,500,000 THB ($41,243) per each member
5,000,000 THB ($137,476)
2,000,000 THB ($55,000) per each member
Malaysia, a member of the British Commonwealth, features one of Asia's fastest-growing economies. The country is celebrated for its incredible beaches, spectacular landscapes, and lush tropical forests.
Kuala-Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: Mohd Jon Ramlan (Unsplash)
Advantages of a Malaysian Investor Visa
Besides relocating to a picturesque nation, applicants for an Investor Visa in Malaysia receive several benefits. These include the ability to:
- Bring the family with you, including spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21.
- Reside in the country indefinitely, as investor visas are long-term and renewable.
- Obtain a 10- or 20-year residence permit within three to six months.
How to Obtain Residency in Malaysia for Investment
Malaysia offers two golden visa programmes:
- Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H): This program, valid for 10 years, targets applicants aged 35 and older who have a monthly income of at least 40,000 MYR (about $10,000). Additionally, applicants must possess bank assets of a minimum of 1,500,000 MYR (about $350,000). These are essential prerequisites for MM2H application. Once approved, candidates are required to invest 1,000,000 MYR (around $230,000) into the local economy. An extra fee of 50,000 MYR (around $12,000) is charged for each additional dependent. The program allows partial retrieval of the initial investment after 12 months, permitting up to 500,000 MYR (approximately $115,000) to be used for purchasing property, education, or healthcare within Malaysia. A key stipulation is a mandatory stay in Malaysia for at least 90 days per year.
- Premium Visa Programme (PVIP): Valid for 20 years, PVIP is accessible to those with a confirmed monthly income of 40,000 MYR (around $10,000). Upon approval, an investment of 1,000,000 MYR (around $230,000) in the Malaysian economy is required. Additional dependents incur a fee of 50,000 MYR (around $12,000) each. Similar to MM2H, PVIP allows withdrawal of up to 500,000 MYR (around $115,000) after one year for spending on education, healthcare, or property in Malaysia. However, it also involves additional fees of 200,000 MYR ($45,000) for the primary applicant and 100,000 MYR ($22,000) for each dependent. Unlike MM2H, PVIP holders are not required to reside in Malaysia.
Panama, nestled between North and South America, is bordered by the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The country is home to diverse natural landscapes and encompasses five distinct ecosystems.
However, its breathtaking natural beauty isn't the only reason to consider relocating to Panama. Prior to the pandemic, the World Bank reported that Panama exhibited one of the highest growth rates in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), with its economy expanding by 4.7% over five years. In contrast, this rate was just 0.9% in other LAC countries.
San Blas Island, Panama. Photo: Mohd Jon Ramlan (Unsplash)
Advantages of a Panamanian Golden Visa
Many are drawn to Panama for its comfortable living conditions, while others are attracted by its proximity to North America. Additionally, a significant appeal for some immigrants is the ease of obtaining residency for the entire family, including unmarried children under the age of 25.
However, the biggest advantage is the opportunity to get permanent residency in an instant for non-refundable donations.
How to Obtain a Residence Permit in Panama for Investment
There are several routes to a Panamanian golden visa.
- Real Estate Purchase: The minimum investment must be $500,000. However, there's an opportunity to obtain a residence permit in Panama by investing $300,000 in property, under a special offer valid until October 15, 2024.
- Stock Market Investment: Investing a minimum of $500,000 in the stock market.
- Bank Deposit: Opening a bank deposit with at least $750,000.
To maintain your residence permit, it's crucial to keep your investments in Panama for five years. After this period, you become eligible to apply for permanent residency.
Additionally, you can automatically obtain permanent residency by donating $350,000 to Panama's forest restoration efforts. A donation of $100,000 towards forest restoration grants a two-year residence permit, after which you may apply for permanent residency.
In a Nutshell
The list of countries offering golden visas is extensive, as many nations seek to attract foreign investment into their economies.
For those aiming to acquire European residency, the most straightforward approach is to apply for an investor visa in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, or Montenegro.
Outside Europe, the top destinations for golden visas include New Zealand, the UAE, Thailand, Malaysia, and Panama.
Cover photo: Manarola, Italy. Ananthan Loggi (Unsplash)