Golden Visa Program & Golden Passports Guide

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Written By Mohsen Salami

A golden passport is a country’s investment program for wealthy immigrants that offer citizenship or residency in return for hard cash.

The governments of smaller countries seeking to bolster their foreign currency reserves are not the only ones presenting gold passports to incomers.

Developed countries among the world’s largest economies dangle the golden passport carrot in front of would-be investors as well.

The USA, UK, Canada and Australia have their golden passport programs, as do around half of European Union countries.

What Is A Golden Passport Or Visa?

Passports or visas gained through an investment program are not golden; it’s just a media term for residence or citizenship that’s bought by a wealthy investor rather than acquired over time.

Governments target wealthy foreign nationals who want to live in their countries and are ready to pay for the privilege.

The golden passports generally include a place for partners, children and sometimes other dependent relatives or family in need of care.

The passports and visas are available to renew indefinitely – or at least as long as the investment stays in place.

One extra benefit from an EU visa or passport is the holder is entitled to visa-free travel throughout the Schengen Area. The Schengen comprises 24 EU countries, plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The EU countries outside the Schengen Area are Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus.

Countries With Golden Visa Programs

This is a list of the most popular citizenship and residency programs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted most of the programs, so check the details before making an application.

CountryProgram typeRegionMinimum investmentProcessing timeSchengen travel
Antigua and BarbudaCitizenshipCaribbeanUS$100,0003-4 monthsYes
AustraliaResidenceAsia PacificAU.5 million12 months
AustriaCitizenshipEurope€3 million24–36 monthsYes
AustriaResidenceEurope€40,0003 monthsYes
CanadaResidenceNorth AmericaCA$1.2 million48–56 months
CyprusResidenceEurope€330,0002-18 months
DominicaCitizenshipCaribbeanUS$100,0003 monthsYes
GreeceResidenceEurope€250,0001-2 monthsYes
GrenadaCitizenshipCaribbeanUS$150,0003-4 monthsYes
Hong KongResidenceAsia PacificNone4-8 months
ItalyResidenceEurope€250,0003-4 monthsYes
JerseyResidenceEurope£145,000 + annual taxesN/A
LatviaResidenceEurope€250,0001-3 monthsYes
MalaysiaResidenceAsia PacificMYR 300,0003-6months
MaltaCitizenshipEurope€738,00014–38 monthsYes
MaltaResidenceEurope€175,0004-6 monthsYes
MauritiusResidenceAfricaUS$375,0002-6 months
MontenegroCitizenshipEurope€350,0003 monthsYes
New ZealandResidenceAsia PacificNZD3 million3-12 months
North MacedoniaCitizenshipEurope€200,0002-5 monthsYes
PortugalResidenceEurope€250,0003-8 monthsYes
SingaporeResidenceAsia PacificSGD2.5 million9-12 months
South KoreaResidenceAsia PacificKRW300 million20 days
SpainResidenceEurope€500,00020 daysYes
St. Kitts and NevisCitizenshipCaribbeanUS$150,0003-6 months 
St. LuciaCitizenshipCaribbeanUS$100,0003-4 months 
SwitzerlandResidenceEuropeCHF250,000 + annual taxes3-6 months
ThailandResidenceAsia PacificTHB600,0002-3 months
TurkeyCitizenshipEuropeUS$250,0003 months
United KingdomResidenceEurope£2 millionTwo–four weeks
United States of AmericaResidenceNorth AmericaUS$500,00033–50 months

What Can You Do With A Golden Visa?

The two main benefits of a golden passport or visa are residence and travel.

Many golden passport applicants want to move because of political instability in their home country. Others are attracted by the freedom of travel taken for granted in the west but eyed with jealously from many other countries.

Beyond the Schengen Area, more than 100 other countries grant visa-free access to European Union nationals.

Whereas many countries allow golden passport applicants to invest in a home, some have stricter controls like the UK and Austria.

The UK has a number of different schemes to allow people to get a golden visa, one of the more popular one is the Tier 1 Investor Visa.

In both countries, expats must invest in businesses that create new jobs.

Other benefits are attached to a golden passport, like the right for children to study, an improved quality of life and better personal security.

Frequently Asked Questions about Golden Visa’s and Passports

What’s the easiest country to get a golden passport?

Many countries process golden visas and passports within a few weeks, but Portugal is reportedly the easiest country to get a golden passport.
The processing time can be as short as three months; the investment is €250,000 – the price of an average home, and the package comes with Schengen Area travel rights and a residence permit.

The cheapest golden passports are offered by the Caribbean countries of St Lucia and Dominica. Both charge US$100,000.

What’s the difference between a passport and a visa?

A passport is issued to nationals of a country to permit them to travel to other countries, while a government grants a visa to allow visitors leave to stay for a certain length of time.

Can I borrow the money to buy a golden passport?

No, you cannot borrow money to buy a golden passport. You or your partner must have the money in the bank and ready for investment.

How do I apply for a golden passport?

Head to your chosen country’s immigration service website and read through the terms and conditions of applying for a golden passport.

Most governments have an online application and instructions on how to prove your ID and financial status.

How much money do I need to apply for a golden passport?

Besides a minimum of $100,000 for investment, you also need cash to cover the application costs for each person, your living costs and other significant expenses.
For instance, the UK demands a healthcare surcharge that can add up to several thousand pounds for a family of four.
Most countries expect applicants to have enough money to pay their way without claiming state benefits or free healthcare.

Building Block For Permanent Residency

Golden visas and passports are the keys that unlock residency.

The programs are a tool for cherry-picking the best talent and wealthy entrepreneurs. In return for their expertise and investment, the passport or visa is a pass that allows immigrants the chance to spend time building life before they apply for citizenship or permanent residency.

The golden passports and visas are popular because the holders don’t have to do much other than fork out some money to gain one.

Unlike other visas, expats don’t need to marry, get a job or start a business to qualify.

How Many Golden Passports And Visas Are Granted?

The answer is not as many golden passports are granted as you might think.

A recent report by Spotlight on Corruption claims these are the numbers seeking golden passports and visas in the UK during the past 12 years. The number of visas granted is in brackets:

  • China (4,106)
  • Russia (2,526)
  • Hong Kong (692)
  • United States (685)
  • Pakistan (283)
  • Kazakhstan (278)
  • India (254)

The report claims only 9 per cent of golden visa applications were rejected.

In the USA, a Green Card lottery is held every year. In 2021, 55,000 green cards were granted to allow foreign nationals to live, work and study in the States.

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