For investors and entrepreneurs in the Middle East region, certain passports can create barriers for expanding a business or economic interests overseas. Even for the most successful individuals, passport restrictions and limitations can make access to profitable foreign markets a difficult job to say the least.
In the past, the process for obtaining a second passport was usually limited to tedious residency requirements or verification of familial ties to another country. In recent years, one of the largest growing methods for investors, entrepreneurs, and business-minded individuals to obtain a second passport is through a Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP).
What are the benefits of European citizenship?
Acquiring a second passport in a European Union (EU) country provides the investor with several benefits. First, it grants the primary applicant and their immediate family members the right to travel, work, and live in any of the 28 countries in the EU. Second, holders of an EU passport are not only afforded the legal rights of natural citizens, but have access to education and social benefits of their chosen country.
Depending on his or her country of choice, EU residents can take advantage of the various benefits and rights afforded to all citizens of a member state, including (but not limited to) education, free healthcare, social and legal services, employment benefits, and retirement pensions.
Whether investing in a country’s economy or pursuing business opportunities abroad, obtaining a European passport opens the door for personal and financial freedom, as well as access to Europe’s common market. Those who possess an EU passport can trade between all participating EU countries and gain access to a collective market which, as of 2015, boasts a GDP of close to €17 trillion and almost 500 million business customers worldwide.
However, for investors or entrepreneurs in Middle Eastern countries, one of the most frustrating obstacles is gaining access to foreign markets and financial institutions or organizations. This poses a problem if an individual wants to open a bank account, for instance. Obtaining an EU passport will allow a greater degree of financial freedom for those who face restrictions due to his or her country of origin.
The EU is of strategic importance for the Middle East due to its proximity, historic links, and trade routes. Businessmen from the Middle East who wish to continue operating their business in their home country can more easily expand their business to Europe with an EU passport. The central location of the Mediterranean, for instance, is an excellent spot that could act as a hub for conducting business in both the Middle East and the rest of Europe.
Another key benefit of an EU passport is travel freedom. In addition to access to foreign markets and financial institutions, holders of an EU passport are granted visa-free travel and visa-on-arrival amenities. However, not all EU citizenship programs grant the same visa-free travel. For instance, Bulgaria grants visa-free travel to 149 countries, whereas Malta grants visa-free travel to over 160 countries. This is largely due to whether or not the country of choice is in the European Union as well as the Schengen Region. One thing is certain, though: no matter which European Citizenship by Investment Program is chosen, it will open the door for greater travel freedom.
Financial and travel freedom are not the only benefits of obtaining an EU passport. Citizens of the EU are granted the right to travel, work, and reside within any EU member state. It is good to bear in mind that the term ‘residency’ is not binding; it does not require an individual to permanently reside in the chosen country of his or her second citizenship. Whether or not he or she intends to remain in the country of choice, Europe offers an array of ideal locations to conduct business, raise a family, or even retire in.
Without question, obtaining a European passport is an investment into a brighter future for you and your family. Although Citizenship by Investment Programs are becoming more common for the wealthy, it can still be a complex process for many. Applying for a CIP takes time and effort for all parties involved, not just the applicant and his or her immediate family. Qualified immigration lawyers, agents, or consultants provide guidance for a client, step-by-step through the application process; comprehensive financial and medical histories must be submitted to immigration authorities, and translation services might even be necessary. In short, there is no “cheap and easy” way to gain second citizenship.
However, some European CIPs are faster than others. Cyprus’ Citizenship by Investment option is by far the fastest granting citizenship in three months, whereas an applicant to Malta’s program takes twelve months and Austria’s up to twenty-four.
Immigration is a commitment that should not be taken lightly. If conducted in a proper and professional manner, successful applicants and their immediate family can enjoy the many benefits and freedoms of European citizenship for years to come.
For the Citizenship by Investment Programs comparison table, please click here.
For the Residency by Investment comparison table, please click here.
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