What is the fastest path to European citizenship?
European nationality is one of the most sought-after commodities in today’s world. Its value is estimated in millions of dollars, and includes some of the most powerful passports in the world. Some smaller Europeans countries have understood that and in recent years have developed citizenship-by-investment programmes to bank on that demand. Nevertheless, there are only two citizenships-by-investment programmes, and they are particularly expensive; therefore, some HNWI might require cheaper alternatives.
Here are 5 of the best ways to gain European citizenship:
Cyprus Citizenship-by-Investment Programme
Cyprus developed the latest version of its citizenship-by-investment programme in 2013, reducing its investment requirement from €5m to €2m. The application process is not long, but recent amendments to the programme, following pressure from the EU, led the Cyprus government to require citizenship-by-investment applicants to hold a resident permit for at least 6 months before they apply for naturalisation. The application takes 3 months to process, but the applicant receives the initial resident permit very quickly, enabling him to include the 3 months processing time inside the 6-month holding period. This means the full process, from initial application to receiving the passport, can be completed in 7 months.
Malta Individual Investor Programme
Malta launched its citizenship-by-investment programme in 2014 and brought serious competition to the Cyprus programme. Since Malta holds the only citizenship-by- investment programme whose passport enables visa-free travel to the US, the programme as been particularly successful. The programme also received pressure from the EU, so it later added a 12-month residency period prior to naturalisation. Just like Cyprus, the applicant is required to hold a resident permit for 12 months but is not required to be physically present in Malta for the duration of those 12 months. The process begins with the initial application for a resident permit via the Maltese Individual Investor Programme. During the 12-month waiting period, the application for naturalisation is sent, so the whole process can be completed in 13 months.
Bulgaria Fast-track Immigrant Investor Programme
We are adding the Bulgaria Investor Programme’s Fast-track option because it exists, but – it must be said – the programme has left many regretting their choice to choose it as a path to European citizenship. The normal Bulgarian Immigrant Investor Programme takes 8-15 months to process, depending on whether you have dependents or not. After that period, if you double your €500,000 initial investment, you are allowed to fast-track your naturalisation request after only 1 year of residency. The application for naturalisation takes 6 months to process, but the fast-track process can be longer. Unfortunately, some cases have never reached a conclusion. The total process, if realised, can take 30 months from initial application to receiving the passport.
UK Tier 1 Investor Programme
The UK Tier 1 Investor Programme is a residency-by-investment programme and doesn’t give direct or fast-track access to British citizenship. Nevertheless, it provides quick access to a resident permit, and after 5 years of residence an applicant can apply for naturalisation. Those applying for naturalisation are also required to hold permanent residence for at least 1 year. The citizenship application process takes 6 months, and the whole process can take only 66 months from the initial Tier 1 investor application to the receipt of the passport thanks to the Super Premium Service that processes applications in 24h.
Portugal Golden Visa Programme
The Golden Visa programme is not a citizenship-by-investment programme, but rather a residency-by-investment programme – and the most popular one in Europe. Every year, thousands of foreign investors use the programme to gain the 5-year residence permit. After 6 years of residency, Golden Visa holders can apply for naturalisation. The naturalisation process takes only 2 months, and the Golden Visa applicant can expect to gain citizenship after 6 years.
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