What Is a Golden Visa?
A Golden Visa is a citizenship by investment or residency by investment program. It is directed to wealthy foreign nationals who want to acquire residency in a certain country by investing a substantial amount of money or by purchasing a property.
If you apply for a Golden Visa, you and your immediate family members (spouse and children) will receive residence permits which can be renewed indefinitely as long as you maintain the investment.
In most cases, there is little to no requirement to actually be present in the country that issued the Golden Visa. This means that you do not need to relocate to another country unless you want to.
However, if you wish to get permanent residence or citizenship by investment, most countries will require actual residency for about five to ten years.
A Golden Visa for an EU country is particularly desirable as it allows the holder (and their family members) freedom of movement throughout the entire Schengen Zone. If the Golden Visa eventually leads to EU citizenship, then the resulting passport will offer visa-free travel to over a hundred countries in the world, depending on the issuing State.
Can You Get EU Permanent Residence by Investment?
Yes, you can get permanent residency by investment in an EU country after five years of living there*. Once you get a permanent residence permit, it is usually automatically renewable, although some specifics will depend on the issuing country.
You will still have to renew the residence permit, but not actually apply for a new one – similar to an ID card.
*Certain countries, such as Portugal, do not have any stay requirements to obtain a permanent residence permit.
Can You Get Citizenship by Investment in the EU?
Citizenship is not guaranteed if you receive a Golden Visa. In order to receive citizenship in a certain EU State via a Golden Visa, you must spend a specific amount of time actually living there. Requirements for citizenship by investment depend on each State separately, but you are usually looking at about ten years of continuous residency.
Some countries will offer citizenship after a shorter period of time (such as Greece, after seven years) or even without any stay requirements at all.
How Much Investment Is Required for a Golden Visa?
The amount of money you have to invest to be eligible for a Golden Visa depends on the country.
Some countries, such as Spain, Portugal, or Greece offer residence by investing in real estate, companies, government bonds, or certain industries in the country. In these cases, the amount of money required for investments usually does not exceed €500,000.
On the other hand, there are EU countries such as Switzerland, Italy, and Austria which require a much more active investment method, such as creating job opportunities. Investment requirements in these countries are higher.
Can You Get a Loan to Pay for a Golden Visa?
No, you cannot. If you intend to make an investment as a means of obtaining residency, you will need to prove that the money being invested is actually in your name, so no loans are allowed.
However, if you intend to purchase a property, a mortgage may be allowed, depending on the country. You still have to pay the minimum amount of money required upfront, and for anything over the minimum required amount, you can get a mortgage or loan. But remember, the exact rules change from country to country, so this may not always be true.
Requirements for Obtaining a Golden Visa
The eligibility requirements for a Golden Visa are different from country to country, but in general, you will have to prove the following:
- That you own the money intended for investment
- That the money was acquired legally
- That you have no history of criminal records
- That you can sustain yourself and family members for the period of time you intend to live there.
Which EU Countries Offer a Golden Visa?
EU countries offering Golden Visa programs are:
The most common method of getting a Spanish Golden Visa is by investing in real estate. You need to purchase a property amounting to at least €500,000.
To be eligible for a Spain Golden visa, you must make one of the following investments:
- Invest in real estate amounting to at least €500,000
- Invest in shares in a Spanish company or bank deposits of at least €1 million.
- Invest in Spanish public debt, at least €2 million.
- There is no minimum stay requirement
- All family members can make use of visa-free travel in Schengen
- If you decide to live in Spain, you can get permanent residence in five years, and citizenship and an EU passport in ten years
The Portuguese Golden Visa has investment options which start at €250,000. Holders of a Golden Visa can apply for permanent residence and citizenship after as little as five years.
To be eligible for the Portuguese Golden Visa, you must make one of the following investments:
- Purchase real estate amounting to at least €500,000
- Purchase real estate in an urban regeneration area at least 30 years old amounting to min. €350,000
- Make a capital transfer of at least €1 million
- Create at least 10 job positions
- Invest at least €350,000 in scientific research
- Invest at least €250,000 in arts, culture, and heritage
- Invest at least €500,000 in a small/medium business
- The investment options can start at €250,000
- You only need to spend two weeks per year in Portugal to renew the visa.
- You can apply for citizenship after five years, without needing to live in Portugal. Ties to Portugal and acquiring language is a requirement for citizenship, however.
- You and your family members will enjoy the freedom of movement through the Schengen Zone.
>> Portugal Golden Visa – Invest in Portugal and Get the Residence Permit
You can get a Greek Golden Visa by purchasing real estate worth at least €250,000 or another type of investment. Although there is no required minimum stay to renew the visa, if you want to acquire citizenship, you have to live in Greece for seven years.
To be eligible for a Greek Golden Visa, you must make one of the following investments:
- Purchase real estate worth at least €250,000.
- Make an investment of at least €400,000 in Greek government bonds
- Make an investment of at least €400,000 in a Greek company
- Make an investment of at least €400,000 in bank deposits in Greece.
- No minimum stay requirements
- Relatively low investment options
- Visa can be renewed every five years if the investment is retained
- You can get Greek citizenship after seven years of residence
- Freedom of movement in the Schengen Zone for all family members
- The visa can include the spouse, children up to 21 years of age, and both sets of parents
>> Greece Golden Visa – How to Get Permanent Residency and Citizenship
Cyprus offers two types of Golden Visas. One leads to citizenship whereas the other to permanent residency (indefinitely), and both have desired results.
To get a Citizenship by Investment in Cyprus, you must make an investment of €2 million. You must also make an additional donation of €75,000 to the Cyprio Research and Development fund and a €75,000 to the Land Development Organisation, for a total of €2,150,000.
You can get Cypriot citizenship within six months via this program.
To get Permanent Residence by Investment in Cyprus, you have to purchase property amounting to at least €300,000. The Residence Permit includes your family members as well, including children up to 25 years of age.
>> Cyprus Golden Visa – How to Get Permanent Residency and Citizenship
Italy does not offer a path to residency or citizenship via the purchase of a property. To get an Italian Golden Visa (Investor Visa), you have to actually invest in a company or make a donation.
To be eligible for the Italy Golden Visa, you have to make one of the following investments:
- Invest in a Government Bond issued by the Italian Republic.
- Invest at least €500,000 company incorporated and operating in Italy.
- Invest at least €250,000 in an innovative startup
- Make a philanthropic donation in the fields of culture, education, immigration management, scientific research, preservation of cultural and natural heritage.
- Visa-free travel to Schengen Zone for yourself and your family members
- Visa can be renewed every two years if you have maintained the investment
- After five years of residency, you can apply for permanent residency
- After ten years, you can apply for Italian citizenship
>> Investor Visa for Italy – Get Italian Residency & Citizenship by Investment
Similar to Cyprus, Malta offers two types of so-called Golden visas. One leads to citizenship whereas the other to indefinite permanent residency.
Conditions and benefits
To be eligible for a Malta Citizenship by Investment visa, you must fulfil the following conditions:
- Invest at least €650,000 to the government’s national development fund and €150,000 in government-approved bonds or shares.
- Rent or purchase a property in Malta, and commit to living there for at least 5 years. Price of purchased property cannot be less than €350,000.
Via this program, you can be eligible for Maltese citizenship after a year.
To be eligible for Permanent Residence by Investment in Malta, you have to:
- Invest at least €250,000 in government bonds or shares for a minimum of five years
- Invest at least €30,000 in the State Fund of Malta
- Live in Malta, either by purchasing or renting a property
This program does not guarantee citizenship, but you will be allowed to live in Malta and have visa-free travel to the Schengen Zone.
The Golden Visa program for Switzerland is much more rigorous than it is in most other countries. For one, to receive residency via investment in Switzerland, you would have to make one of the following investments:
- Form a company which offers employment opportunities for Swiss nationals
- Pay annual tax of between CHF 150,000 and CHF 1 million, depending on which canton you wish to settle.
Additionally, the required settlement period before you can receive permanent residency or citizenship is also higher. You need to live in Switzerland for at least 10 years to get permanent resident status and at least 12 years to get citizenship.
Similar to Switzerland, you cannot get an Austrian Golden Visa by purchasing real estate or similar non-active investments. In order to receive residency by investment in Austria, you would have to invest in something which would create jobs and have an impact on the Austrian economy.
The options include:
- Investing at least €10 million directly into a business
- Investing at least €3 million to the government development fund.
Belgium does not offer a Golden Visa on the basis of purchasing a property – in this case also, the investment must be more active.
To be eligible for a Belgian Golden Visa, you have to create a company and invest €350,000 – €500,000 for a period of five years.
You can only receive citizenship in Belgium after five years of residency.
Do Countries Outside EU Offer Golden Visas?
Yes, several countries outside the European Union also offer Golden Visas. This includes:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- New Zealand
- Kitts and Nevis
- The United States of America
- United Kingdom