Many countries administer programs that grant residency to foreign investors similar to the United States EB-5 investment visa program. These programs aim to increase a country’s foreign direct investment levels by offering incentives to those willing to make sizeable investments. The requirements of these immigrant investment programs and the residency status that is granted to investors differ from country to country. Some countries grant full permanent residency as part of their investment visa programs, whereas others only grant conditional residency.
Other alternatives to the U.S. EB-5 investment visa program include the investment visa programs of other countries around the world.
Investors may obtain citizenship by investment in the independent Commonwealth state of Antigua & Barbuda, located in the Eastern Caribbean. To qualify, applicants must be over 18-years-old, meet the program’s application requirements, and select one of the following three investment options:
- Invest a minimum of US$100,000 into the country’s National Development Fund (NDF); OR
- Invest at least US$400,000 into an approved real estate project (to be held for at least five years); OR
- Invest at least US$1.5 million into an eligible business as a sole investor. If making a joint investment, the investment must total at least $5 million, with each investor investing at least $400,000.
The applicant’s spouse, minor children, and dependent parents or grandparents may also be included. Dependent children between 18 and 26 who are attending college, and physically/mentally challenged dependent children over 18 are also eligible.
A passport from Antigua & Barbuda is valid for five years and the recipient has visa-free travel to 150 countries. After receiving citizenship, the investor must spend at least five days in the country in order to be eligible for passport renewal.
Qualified workers from countries not in the European Economic Area (EEA) may apply for Austria’s Red-White-Red Card. The Card is valid for 12 months and gives the holder fixed-term settlement and employment with a specified employer in Austria. Examples of qualified applicants include:
- Highly qualified workers.
- Skilled workers in shortage occupations.
- Graduates of universities and universities of applied sciences in Austria.
Applicants must also meet Austria’s general residence requirements:
- A monthly income of €882.78 for singles, €1,323.58 for couples, and €136.21 for each child.
- Health insurance coverage that provides benefits in Austria.
- Evidence of accommodations adequate for the worker’s family, e.g. a lease contract.
A spouse/same-sex partner and minor children, including adopted children and stepchildren, may be included in the applications. Holders of Austria’s Red-White-Red Card may eventually apply for the Red-White-Red Card plus, which grants one-year of settlement in Austria, along with self-employment and gainful employment not limited to a specific employer.
Moreover, Austria is among the EU countries offering citizenship and a passport to investors without requiring residence in the country. An investment in the Austrian economy is required, such as in a business that creates jobs. An Austrian residence permit allows travel to all Schengen states without a visa and after a minimum of six to 10 years of residence an investor can apply for citizenship depending upon whether such investments provide development and implementation of innovative technologies or creations of jobs. Application processing time typically is between 24-36 months. Investment should be in the range of 8-10 million euros.
Australia gives foreign investors the opportunity to immigrate through their investment visa category. Unlike the EB-5 program, which leads to permanent residency, the Australian investor visa only allows foreign immigrants four years of temporary residency. After four years, the visa holder may apply for other visa types that could lead to permanent residency.
The Business Innovation and Investment 188 Program includes the following five visa streams:
The Business Innovation stream (or 188A visa) is for investors seeking to start and manage a new business, or develop an existing business in Australia. The minimum investment into a business is $200,000, but an additional $600,000 must be transferred to Australia (Note: some states require a larger investment amount).
The Investor stream (or 188B) requires an investment of at least 1.5 million Australian dollars in an Australian state or territory usually into their State government bonds.
The Significant Investor Stream (or 188C) requires an investment of 5 million Australian dollars into complying Australian investments for a period of four years.
The Premium Investor Stream (or 188D) requires an investment of 15 million Australian dollars into premium investments in Australia for a period of twelve months.
The Entrepreneur stream (188E) is for people with funding of at least $200,000 and have at least a 30% ownership interest in the entrepreneurial entity.
The 132 Business Talent – Significant Business History requires an investment of at least 1.5 million dollars, although some states require a higher investment.
Investors may be interested in residency in Belgium, a country with highly developed infrastructure of airports, seaports, roads and railways, and various tax incentives.
To qualify for a residence permit, applicants must
- Be able to prove personal, business, or professional ties to Belgium. Setting up a company, investing in an existing Belgian company, or working for a Belgian company is a good way to establish business ties.
- Be highly skilled or key personnel, an entrepreneur, or self-employed individual
- The company’s share capital must be at least € 18,600, but the applicant does not need to be a shareholder of the company
- Have a yearly salary must of at least € 37,712 for a highly skilled employee or at least € 62,934 for an employee with a managerial position. In the case of a self-employed individual, there is no minimum salary requirement.
The residency permit will normally be granted within two to three months after the work permit has been issued. The permit is subject to annual renewal at least in the first three years, after which a permanent residence permit could be issued.
The applicant’s spouse and children can join the applicant as residents in Belgium through a family reunion procedure after the residence permit has been issued.
Investors have two options to apply for the Bulgarian Immigrant Investor Program, a full investment or a financed investment.
To apply for the full investment, investors must
- Have a net worth greater than BGN 1,000,000 (€ 511,292)
- Invest BGN 1,000,000 into a fully guaranteed governmental bond portfolio for five years. At the end of the five-year term, investors receive the full amount back, without accrued interest.
To apply for the financed investment, investors must
- Have net worth greater than BGN 2,000,000 (€ 1,022,000)
- Deposit € 180,000, which is used to cover the costs of obtaining a loan from a chartered Bulgarian bank for the remaining funds, adding up to € 511,292. The deposit is not returned to the investors.
The loan period for both investments will last five years. Applicants must have a clear criminal record in their country of residence and country of birth.
Canada is known for its provincial residency-by-investment programs, including the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
Since September 2018 Prince Edward Island has one pathway for entrepreneurs through the Provincial Nominee Program - the Work Permit Stream. Applicants must have a minimum personal net worth of CA$600,000, make a minimum investment of CA$150,000.
For the New Brunswick Entrepreneurial Stream,foreign entrepreneurs must demonstrate a minimum net worth of CA$600,000, have at least three out of five years management or ownership experience, make a minimum CA$250,000 investment in an approved business.
The British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) Entrepreneur Stream requires an applicant to have a minimum net worth of CA$600,000 obtained from legal sources with a minimum investment of CA$200,000 or CA$400,000 if proposing a Key Staff Member
Saskatchewan’s Entrepreneur Program requires applicants to have at least CA$500,000 legally obtained in net business and personal assets; and intend to invest at least CA$300,000 in Regina and Saskatoon or at least CA$200,000 in another Saskatchewan community.
Manitoba’s Business Investor Stream (BIS) is for applicants with a minimum net worth of CA$350,000 legally obtained, make a minimum investment of $250,000 for businesses situated in the Manitoba Capital Region, or $150,000 if a business is situated outside the region,
Nova Scotia and Ontario too have their similar programs to attract immigrants.
Cyprus suspended its CBI program in November 2020. The permanent residency-by-investment program remains available, however. An investor can obtain for themselves and their family permanent residencies in Cyprus by: investing at least 300,000 euros (plus VAT) in a brand-new house or apartment; depositing at least 30,000 euros in their Cypriot bank account which should remain there for three years; prove their yearly income of minimum 30,000 euros from abroad, which increases by 5,000 euros for each dependent (spouse and children).
Investors have two options when it comes to investing in Dominica for economic citizenship; they can apply as a single applicant or a family applicant. As a single applicant, the investor is required to make a non-refundable cash investment of US $100,000. As a family applicant, depending on the number of children involved, the investor must pay US $175,000, US $200,000, or US $350,000.
In order to qualify for the Dominica Citizenship by Investment Program, the investor must
- Be of at least 21 years of age
- Be of outstanding character
- Have a clean source of funds and no criminal record
- Have a basic knowledge of the English language
- Have a letter of intent addressed to the Minister for Citizenship
- Have a government-approved promoter/agent.
The processing of applications for economic citizenship can take between 6 to 14 months and all applicants must undergo a personal review.
Investors have the French Tech Visa option to receive a residence permit. For investors to qualify for a resident permit, they must invest 300,000 euros in fixed tangible or intangible assets, directly invest or through a company that they have at least 30 percent shareholding, own 10 percent of the company being invested in, and work to create or protect jobs during the four years after the investment.
While Germany does not have a specific visa program for investors, German residence law allows foreign investors to apply for a three-year national resident permit. Investors are required to either establish their own company or invest a significant amount in a German company. The company formation procedure takes about three to four weeks. The visa application process takes about three months. There is no minimum investment requirement, but there is a minimum requirement on the register capital of a company, which is set at 25,000 euros.
Visa holders can obtain a three-year resident permit that can be extended to a permanent resident permit once applicants prove their business is successful. The spouses and underage children can also apply for family reunion resident permits, which grant them some advantages that other visa types don’t have. Successful residency applicants can obtain citizenship and a well-regarded EU passport after habitually and legally being a resident in Germany for at least eight years.
Entrepreneurs seeking to relocate to Hong Kong to establish or join in a business may apply for the Special Administrative Region’s Entry for Investment Visa. This option is a work permit that is issued to the business owner as an employee of their own Hong Kong company. There is no minimum investment requirement.
In order to qualify, the entrepreneur must have a good education background, i.e., a first degree in the related field. They also must demonstrate they can make a substantial contribution to the Hong Kong economy, and must submit documentation such as a two-year business plan, business turnover, investment sum, financial resources, number of jobs created locally, and, if applicable, introduction of new technology or skills.
In addition, applicants must meet Hong Kong’s general immigration requirements such as having a clean criminal record and holding valid travel documents from their home country. The entrepreneur may also bring their spouse and their unmarried children under 18-years-old.
The Investment as Entrepreneurs Visa is generally valid for two years, but may be renewed for as long as the business remains viable. After seven years of continuous residence in Hong Kong, the investor may apply for Hong Kong permanent residence.
In order to be qualified, applicants must
- Make an investment of at least 5 million yen in Japan or already have a place of business in Japan with more than two full-time employees who are Japanese or legal residents. The investment does not necessarily have to establish a company. Without a company, the investment must be actually spent on the purchase of products, real estate, or employee’s salaries, etc.
- Have more than three years of experience in business management.
The visa lasts for one or three years.
Located off the coast of France, Jersey is a Crown dependency of the United Kingdom. High-net-worth individuals can apply to become high-value residents of Jersey by satisfying the following criteria:
- Making tax revenues in accordance with Article 135A of Jersey’s Income Tax Law.
- Demonstrating that Jersey residency will benefit the island in some way.
- Proving annual worldwide earnings in excess of £625,000 per year, which must be sustainable income.
Once the individual has become a High Value Resident and has lived in Jersey for 10 years, they may apply for “Entitled” status. This is granted by Jersey’s Chief Minister if he is satisfied that doing so will have a social or economic benefit to the island. Entitled status allows High Value Residents to buy, sell or lease any property in Jersey as their main place of residence, and they can work anywhere without needing permission to be employed.
The Malaysia My Second Home Program allows foreigners meeting certain financial and medical criteria to live in the country on a visa for up to 10 years. Successful applicants may openly travel in and out of Malaysia on a multiple-entry social visit pass, and the visa is renewable.
Citizens of any country recognized by Malaysia may apply, and may include their spouses and unmarried children below the age of 21. The rules differ for the main applicants depending on their age:
- Applicants under age 50 must: Open a fixed deposit account in Malaysia of RM300,000 and maintain a minimum balance of RM150,000 from the second year onwards and throughout their stay in Malaysia.
- Applicants over age 50 can: Either open a fixed deposit account of RM150,000, or provide evidence of a RM10,000 per month pension from an offshore government. From the second year onwards, the participant must maintain a minimum balance of RM100,000 throughout their stay in Malaysia.
Applicants and their families must also submit a medical report from a Malaysia-based hospital or clinic, and must have valid insurance coverage.
At the end of 2020, Malta introduced a new citizenship legislation for the Granting of Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (CDI), following a residency period of 36 months or by exception 12 months. The direct investment required for an application includes a financial contribution of 600,000 euros following a 3 years residency or by exception, 750,000 euros following a 12 month residency period. In addition, investors need to either purchase or rent property for the following minimum values: purchase a property for 700,000 euros or rent a property for 16,000 euros per year for a period of five years. A donation to a Maltese charity must be paid with a minimum value of 10,000 euros.
In January of 2021, the Malta Residency and Visa Agency announced the launch of a new residency program called the Malta Permanent Residency Programme (MPRP). This program will replace the existing Malta Residency and Visa Programme (MRVP) that will be closed at the end of March 2021.
Like its predecessor, the MPRP offers third country nationals the opportunity of a second residency in Malta. The investment requirements include: a real estate investment of either purchasing or renting residential property with a minimum value of 300,000 euros in the case of buying or 10,000 euros in the case of renting. Such investment should be held for a minimum of five years.
The Netherlands offers a residency permit in the country for foreign investors willing to put a minimum of 1.25 million euros in a Dutch business, invest in the economy and create jobs.
The Netherlands does not have a citizenship-by-investment program, but after five uninterrupted years of permanent residency, applicants can apply for Dutch citizenship.
Applicants can invest 3 million New Zealand dollars over four years or invest NZ$10 million over three years. Under the first option applicants must be under 65 years of age, have 3 years of business experience and the applicant and family must have English language ability. Option two has less requirements, but applicants need to pass the standard health and character requirements, have their funds invested in acceptable investments for a period of 3 or 4 years and need to show where the money came from, how it was transferred to New Zealand and that it stayed invested.
New Zealand doesn’t have a CBI program but applicants who were granted residence under either of the investor programs are eligible for New Zealand citizenship after they have spent at least 1,350 days in the country during the preceding five years, with at least 240 days in the country each year.
Portugal offers a five-year pathway to the Portuguese passport.
The Golden Visa residency-by-investment program offers eight options of investments, ranging from 200,000 to 1.5 million euros. The most popular ones among applicants are the real estate options:
- €280,000 minimum investment amount for rehabilitation in low-density areas
This is the least expensive Portugal real estate investment option, which requires the same criteria as the €350,000 rehabilitation option listed below, but in a low-density area. A low-density area means a region with fewer than 100 inhabitants per square kilometer or a GDP of less than 75% of the national average.
- €350,000 minimum investment amount for rehabilitation
The applicant can invest in and renovate older properties in urban rehabilitation areas that are defined by municipalities.
- €400,000 minimum investment amount for standard low-density areas
The applicant can invest in any property in a low-density area located in inland Portugal.
- €500,000 minimum investment amount for any standard property in inland Portugal
The applicant can invest in any property without limitations. Lisbon, Porto, and some regions in the Algarve are no longer available for residential real estate investments.
Despite being less popular, other pathways to obtaining a Portugal Golden Visa include investments in venture capital or private equity funds, existing or new business entities, capital transfers, and donations to support scientific, technological, artistic and cultural developments.
Holders of a Portuguese resident permit can also work and study in the country without the need of obtaining additional permits. They can spend a minimum of only seven days per year in a Portuguese territory to remain in status.
The Golden Visa is extended to family members, namely children, spouse, and dependent family members. The residency permit is granted for an initial period of one year and can be renewed in two-year periods. After five years, the applicant can apply for Portuguese citizenship.
Investors who are interested in starting a business or investing in Singapore may apply for Singapore permanent residence through the country’s Global Investor Program. There are two investment options:
- Invest at least S$2.5 million in a new business or to expand an existing business; OR
- Invest at least S$2.5 million in an approved GIP fund, which invests in Singapore companies.
Investors must have both a successful entrepreneurial background and a substantial business track record in order to apply. They may include their spouse and their children under 21-years- old on their application for permanent residence.
Successful applicants will receive a renewable five-year reentry permit, which allows for open travel in and out of Singapore.
Investors may apply for an investment business visa, known as a D-8 residence visa, in order to live in South Korea. In order to apply, applicants must establish a company in South Korea to enter a partnership with a Korean firm and invest a minimum of 100 million won (USD $94,100) into the business enterprise.
South Korea also offers an F-5 visa for permanent residency. This visa is open to foreign investors, high level professionals, and directors of multinational corporations. To obtain permanent residency status, applicants must invest the minimum amount of funds as stipulated by the South Korean Ministry of Justice and hire a minimum of five employees who are Korean nationals.
Applicants who have obtained a D-8 business visa and have invested the required amount into a business enterprise can also seek an F-5 visa after being a Korean resident for at least five years and having created at least three employment opportunities.
Investors can obtain permanent resident in Spain via the Spanish investor residency visa. To qualify for the visa, the applicant must:
- Make an investment of at least € 500,000 in residential real estate in Spain
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have no criminal record in Spain or other countries of residence
- Hold sufficient funds to support both the applicant and immediate family members during residency in Spain
The initial Investor Residency Permit will be valid for two years, after which, the investor may apply for renewal of the permit for another two years. After five years, the investor can apply for permanent residency in Spain.
Located in the West Indies, St. Kitts & Nevis allows investors who make a substantial contribution to the Federation to apply for citizenship and a passport. The investor must be at least 18-years-old, must meet the minimum investment requirements, and must also meet other application criteria. There are two options: investing in real estate or contributing to the Sustainable Growth Fund.
Applicants can invest $400,000 in government approved real estate that is resalable after 5 years. Or they can invest $200,000 in government approved real estate that is resalable after 7 years. All while paying government fees. Or they can donate $150,000 to the government’s Sustainable Growth Fund and pay lesser government fees. Applicants must have a high net worth, outstanding character and health and no criminal record.
Previous business experience is not required, and there is also no St. Kitts & Nevis residence requirement before, during, or after the application. All dependents may be included in the application. The benefits of the St. Kitts & Nevis investment program include full citizenship for life, and visa-free travel to more than 151 countries.
Swiss Residence Program
Investors interested in living in Switzerland may apply for the Swiss Resident Program. Clients must have a minimum of USD $250,000 at their disposal before applying for the program. Investors are issued residence permit in Switzerland upon paying an “annual lump sum taxation” fee, a minimum of CHF 150,000 (approximately US $170,000) and up to CHF 1 million, depending on the chosen Swiss canton. By paying the lump sum taxation fee to the Swiss canton, there is no need to declare worldwide income and assets to Swiss authorities. This is the main advantage of immigrating to Switzerland compared to other high tax countries.
In order to be eligible for the program, applicants must
- Be over the age of 18
- Not be employed or occupied in Switzerland
- Not have Swiss citizenship, it must be their first time residing in Switzerland
- Have rented or purchased residence in Switzerland
- Provide a long list of identification documents, including clean criminal record and good moral character
It takes about three to four months after payment to obtain a resident permit.
Immigrant investors can obtain residency status in the United Kingdom by obtaining a Tier 1 investor visa. Tier 1 visa holders remain in status for about three years (depending on where the application was filed) and must apply to extend their stay if they wish to continue living in the United Kingdom.
Candidates must have personal assets that value at more than £2 million and have £1 million of their own money in the U.K. A minimum of £750,000 must be invested in the U.K. through U.K. government bonds, share capital, or investment capital in active U.K. companies. In order to apply for settlement in the United Kingdom, visa holders must maintain residency for two, three, or five years, depending on their investment amount.
Entrepreneurs who want to set up and run a business in the United Kingdom may also obtain residency through the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa program. The applicant must have at least £50,000 in investment funds to apply, and must meet certain eligibility requirements such as being at least 16-years-old.
The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa is valid for three years and four months, with the option to extend the visa for another two years. The applicant may bring their dependent family members. Once the entrepreneur has been in the United Kingdom for five years, they can apply for indefinite leave to remain.