How fast can you achieve a second nationality?

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By Veronica Cotdemiey, CEO, Citizenship Invest

For years on end, the citizenship by investment industry has proven to be a commendable and credible solution for individuals seeking international integration. High net worth individuals in the region are gaining more and more awareness about the numerous benefits associated with having dual nationality and a second passport. However, many do not understand the process of obtaining a second citizenship and what it entails. In fact, it is a common misconception to mistake fast track citizenship by investment programmes with immigration programmes.

There is a high percentage of the expat community in Qatar under the impression that they need to immigrate and relocate outside of Qatar for several years to achieve second citizenship status. Virtually, most expats residing in Qatar, with the exception of UK residents are looking for a second passport.

Indians, Pakistanis, Syrians, Egyptians and Sudanese residing in Qatar are at the top of the list of demand for second citizenship. These residents are facing the usual problem of restricted visa-free travel and the hassle of obtaining a visit visa even to countries in the GCC. With a GDP of USD 124,000 according to the IMF, many of these expats are wealthy individuals who have set up their lives and businesses in Qatar and are looking to obtain a stronger passport without necessarily having to immigrate to a different country if they don’t have to.

Whilst every country contemplates the process of obtaining citizenship under their legislations, most of the countries in the world do not have a citizenship by investment act.  ‘Citizenship by investment’ means the possibility of obtaining citizenship by investing in a certain country whether it is real estate, government bonds or simply contributing to a government fund. However, these programmes can still require the person to reside in the country.

Saying this, there are only a handful of countries in the world through which you can attain citizenship by investment in only three to six months without any residency requirements. These programmes are gems within the citizenship by investment arena. You have probably heard about countries like St. Kitts & Nevis, Commonwealth of Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St Lucia and Grenada. These beautiful islands located in the Caribbean Sea contribute a substantial part of their economy’s success to their fast citizenship by investment programs. Also Cyprus falls under this category, it is part of the European Union and the only European country that can grants investors a passport within a period of only six months. This is unprecedented as no European countries had before such a fast route to obtain an EU passport.

Why is the demand for these countries’ passports on the rise? The answer lies within the convenience of their application process and the requirements, such as fast citizenship issuance and no residency or travel requirements to the country.

Detailed below are the countries which grant a second nationality fast without needing to relocate to them.

Cyprus

Being the 14th strongest passport in the world with a visa-free score of 146 countries, Cyprus is a game changer for investors looking to obtain a fast European nationality. This programme attracts the UHNWs who are interested in Cyprus’ high-end property market. The required investment is of EUR 2,000,000 in Real Estate in Cyprus and the investors will obtain a European nationality for the entire family enabling them to live, work and study in any country of the European Union. According to the Cypriot citizenship law, an investor is eligible to sell the property after three years, keeping one of a lower value for EUR 500,000. This provides investors with the opportunity of making a profit while retaining full citizenship status.

Saint Kitts & Nevis

This country has risen to the occasion given its huge popularity among people in the region. It is one of the first countries in the world to introduce a Citizenship by Investment Act in its legislation. The programme includes two investment options, one of which is a financial contribution of USD 150,000 to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation. The second option requires making a real estate investment of USD 220,000, which entitles you to own a share in the luxurious Six Senses hotel brand. Either investment options will grant the investor a St Kitts & Nevis nationality in less than six months. It is important to mention that the country’s passport allows visa-free travel to 130 countries including Schengen States, the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and Russia.

Antigua & Barbuda

Antigua has currently the most cost-effective financial contribution option for a family of four members for USD 125,000. The country’s passport is recognised among the strongest passports in the world ranking at the 28th of the most powerful passports. Antigua & Barbuda is the only country in the Caribbean that requires investors to visit the country for a period of five days after granting the citizenship in a window of five years to do so, which could become a great family trip to the stunning region.

Grenada

Grenada is the only country amongst those in the Caribbean with citizenship programmes, which holds visa free access to China, Russia, Schengen and UK and has strong government ties with the GCC. Grenada is also the only programme with such ties with USA, which enables those who became citizens to apply for its E-2 Investor Visa Agreement which enables them to reside in the United States. The country ranks as the 32nd most powerful passport in the world. Applicants can obtain a Grenada passport through a financial contribution of USD 150,000 in the country’s National Transformation Fund.

Dominica

Since the establishment of Dominica’s citizenship by investment program in 1991, the country has seen nothing but success. The country has a fast citizenship processing time and has recorded multiple cases of individuals obtaining their citizenship approval within a period of less than three months. Surprisingly, the most attractive point about Dominica is not only the country’s efficiency in processing the citizenship but also the fact that individuals can obtain its passport through a financial contribution of USD 100,000 to its Government Fund, which makes it one of the most cost-effective for single applicants.

Dominica also provides investors with a second investment option of owning a share in world-renowned hotels like Kempinski. The value of the investment sits at USD 220,000 and the hotel is scheduled to start its operation by beginning of 2019.

Saint Lucia

The citizenship by investment programme being offered by this beautiful island in the Caribbean has become a major international player. It mainly rose to fame because of its recent change in the legislation, making the programme more affordable to single applicants. The country currently requires a contribution of USD 100,000 to St Lucia’s National Economic Fund or a USD 300,000 investment in a government-approved project. It allows visa-free access to over 120 countries including the Schengen zone, UK, Singapore and other major countries.