Business owners and managers around the world know all too well the importance of being able to travel on a whim, whether it be to attend an international business meeting or meet with potential global clients. Taking the next flight might be easy for EU and Canadian citizens, but for those from the Middle East it can be a challenge. Visa applications take time, cost money, and there is always a risk of refusal hindering the ability of even the wealthiest of businessmen to travel abroad. Not to worry though; there is a solution available that will afford investors from the Middle East the luxury of travel freedom.
Enter the world of second citizenships. In addition to common paths to citizenship, many countries now offer citizenship through investment into the country’s economy. These Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIP) offer wealthy foreign nationals the ability to travel as easily as any EU-born citizen. Each CIP has its own legal framework and due diligence process to reassure both applicants and the citizens of the country. Economic and political instability, civil-war, and religious persecution are but a few of the reasons some Middle Easterners may wish to leave home. A second citizenship can give those who feel threatened both independence and freedom. In the event of an emergency, a second passport allows one to immediately leave one’s home country and relocate.
Aside from travel freedom, foreign nationals often choose to invest in second citizenships in order to alleviate tax burdens. In order to optimize one’s tax situation, a tax expert should be consulted. Tax requirements will vary from country to country.
Citizenship by Investment Programs do not issue passports to just anyone who has sufficient funds for investment. Thorough background checks are performed on each applicant to ensure clean criminal records, and to help safeguard a trustworthy relationship between the applicant and the new host country. In fact, applicants of CIPs are often subject to much more stringent checks than those who apply for residence or citizenship through traditional programs. This process is important for not only the host country, but for the countries to which the second passport grants visa-free access. A country’s reputation is defined by its citizens. A country that grants citizenship without thorough checks would risk their foreign relations with other countries. If an applicant is found to be a potential threat to a country, or his/her background is questionable, the application for citizenship will be denied without question.
For those who are eligible for citizenship, we will discuss our top pick for each Europe, the Caribbean, and North America.
Europe: QICMS Top Pick – CYPRUS
Our top pick for Europe is Cyprus’ Citizenship by Investment Program. Although the initial investment may seem pricey at first, if the applicant chooses to invest in residential properties only, the minimum investment of EUR 2 million can include the permanent personal residence property of EUR 500,000, and the remaining EUR 1.5 million must only be maintained for three years. The end cost to the investor is therefore the cost of their own private residence at a minimum value of EUR 500,000 (not including program processing fees). Further, given that the real estate market in Cyprus is steadily increasing, the chances that there will be a capital gain on the EUR 1.5 million invested in real estate once sold are high. In addition, due to the increase in the influx of visitors to the country each year, there has been an increase in the demand for lodging, giving property investors the opportunity to rent out their properties for extra income. The Cypriot property market is forecast to continue steady growth for several years. There are other investment options, including government bonds and businesses. However, this would increase the initial investment minimum to EUR 2.5 million.
Cyprus has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in Europe at only 12.5%, making the country an attractive destination for business investors. Cyprus is known to be one of the most picturesque islands in the Mediterranean, and its proximity to the Middle East shortens travel back to one’s home country to visit family or for business purposes. As a member of the EU, Cyprus grants citizens the right to reside, work, and study in any of the other member EU states. A Cypriot passport is also among the strongest in the world offering visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to 159 countries.
The average time between submitting an application and receipt of passports is only three months which is the fastest processing time of any other Citizenship by Investment Program in Europe.
The Caribbean: QICMS Top Pick – ANTIGUA & BARBUDA
We recommend the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Program to our clients without hesitation, and not just because it’s a Caribbean paradise. With 134 countries included in an Antiguan citizen’s hassle-free travel list, these twin-islands have the strongest passport in the Caribbean. As a member state of the British Commonwealth, Antigua and Barbuda receives privileges in terms of international travel and trade. Further, this is the only passport among the Caribbean CIPs that includes visa-free travel to Canada.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda is stimulating increased economic growth by targeting emerging markets and diversifying the economy. At a small minimum investment requirement of only USD $200,000 for a family of four, this second citizenship is among the world’s most affordable. Those who choose to invest in property can do so for a minimum USD $400,000 investment. At the end of the five-year holding period, properties can be sold and likely at a profit, given current property market projections.
There is a requirement for physical presence in Antigua and Barbuda of five days within five years, but that can be a short vacation with family for those who choose not to relocate. Citizenship to Antigua and Barbuda can be obtained in as little as three to four months. What are you waiting for?
North America: QICMS Top Pick – QUEBEC, CANADA
While the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) isn’t a Citizenship by Investment Program per se, it offers applicants Canadian permanent residence which can eventually lead to citizenship once requirements are met. Actually, there is no true Citizenship by Investment Program available in North America at all. The QIIP is the only passive investment program in Canada since other currently available Canadian programs require the establishment and active management of a business. Applicants under the QIIP are only required to invest CAD $800,000 in a government organization, Investissement Québec, for a period of five years after which the full amount is returned without interest. This investment is completely risk-free as it is backed by the government. If you don’t want to invest the full amount, financing options are also available.
Why do we love Quebec? Aside from the decadent food, thriving arts scene, and historical roots, Quebec, especially its city of Montreal, is a true mosaic of people, culture, and language. And for those who change their minds about settling in Quebec once they have arrived in Canada, they have the right as Canadian permanent residents to settle anywhere in the country they choose.
Our team has extensive experience with the QIIP and over the years we have built a strong network of lawyers, bankers, and other specialists to assist through the entire application process, including eventual settlement in the province. Our affiliated office, Campbell Cohen, is the leading immigration firm in Canada. You can entrust our services for your QIIP application. After all, the “Q” in QICMS does stand for Quebec!
For more information on Cyprus’ Citizenship by Investment Program, please click here.
For more information on Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Program, please click here.
For more information on the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program, please click here.
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