If you are looking to acquire legal residence in a foreign country, you have several options to consider. First, there are ‘golden visa’ programs administered by several countries. You can invest in real property in a foreign state or in a business venture or alternatively, you can make a large bank deposit or purchase government bonds to qualify for a residence permit. With time, your ‘golden visa’ can turn into a passport of a foreign country.
Second, many countries grant residence permits to foreign nationals owning real property there. These are most often temporary residence permits but they can be extended as long as the property remains in your possession. In five or ten years you may be able to qualify for a permanent residence permit and then for citizenship of the country by naturalization. To achieve the latter goal, you will have to physically reside in the foreign country most of the time. Please note that your family members are also eligible for residence permits if you acquire one yourself.
Let us discuss several options that you can consider if you would like to obtain foreign residence in 2023. We will mention both the countries that have ‘golden visa’ programs and those that grant residency to foreign owners of real property. The list of countries below is not exhaustive. Please follow this link to find out about other legal residence opportunities.
Countries where you can acquire legal residence in 2023
Cyprus does not have a ‘golden visa’ program at the moment. However, there is a program in the country called ‘Cyprus Permanent Residence Permit — Category F (fast track)’. To qualify for a residence permit in the country, you have to invest in a newly built piece of property. It can be both residential and commercial property. Investments in old houses are acceptable only in exceptional cases.
Minimum investment amount: €300,000 +VAT.
Timeframes of residence permit issuance: 3 to 9 months.
Special features of the program: the applicant obtains a permanent (not a temporary) residence permit from the start. All family members qualify for residence permits. You can live in Cyprus but you cannot work there. However, you can receive dividends from a business venture. You can but you don’t have to become a tax resident of Cyprus.
United Arab Emirates
The UAE does not issue residence permits but it does issue long-term visas to foreigners. There are several legal grounds for obtaining a long-term visa to the UAE including purchase of real property. You can buy an apartment or a house in any Emirate.
Minimum investment amount: US$ 205,000 to obtain a 3-year visa (extendable) or US$ 545,000 to obtain a 10-year visa (also extendable).
Timeframes of residence permit issuance: 2–4 months on average.
Special features: because the visa can be extended an infinite number of times (as long as the property remains in your possession), it is actually a permanent residence permit in essence. All family members qualify for visas. You can legally reside in the UAE, take a bank loan, send your children to school or college, and acquire fiscal residence in the country. Please note that you will not have access to free healthcare if you live in the Emirates on a long-term visa.
You can acquire legal residence in Serbia if you purchase livable real property in the country.
Minimum investment amount: not specified. The average cost of an apartment in Belgrade and other large Serbian cities is €80,000 and it is €50,000 in smaller cities. The immigration authorities of Serbia are not going to inquire how much you have paid for the property. Instead, they will want to make sure that the house or apartment can be lived in. If you buy a place in Serbia that is unlivable, your application for a residence permit will be turned down.
Timeframes of residence permit issuance: 45 days.
Special features: all family members qualify for residence permits. The permits are valid for 1 year and they can be extended. After five years, your temporary residence permit can turn into a permanent one if you live in Serbia. You can use the document to open a bank account and start a business company in the country. The tax system is beneficial there and free trade agreements with many countries make Serbia attractive for international entrepreneurs.
Spain administers a ‘golden visa’ program. You can invest both into erected property and property under construction.
Minimum investment amount: €500,000.
Timeframes of residence permit issuance: 1 month to 1 year.
Special features of the program: ‘golden visa’ holders do not have to permanently reside in Spain. At the same time, they can use the document to freely travel across the EU. The ‘golden visa’ is valid for three years and it can be extended afterwards. In ten years, you may qualify for citizenship of Spain by naturalization but you have to live in the country to be able to do that. You will have to prove that you have not spent more than 10 months outside Spain over the last 5 years.
Malta has a citizenship-by-investment program but the required investment amount is rather high. The Global Residence Program is a more affordable alternative. There are some special requirements, however: you have to purchase real property in Malta and become a tax resident of the country.
Minimum investment amount: €220,000 or €275,000 depending on the region of the country.
Timeframes of residence permit issuance: 3 to 4 months.
Special features of the program: Your foreign income will be taxed at 15% (minimum €15,000 per year is payable in taxes) and your locally made income will be taxed at 35%. You have to live in Malta for the best part of each year. You cannot sell or rent out your property in Malta if you want to keep the residence permit. The permit is valid for 1 or 2 years and it can be extended. On the other hand, it can hardly be turned into a passport of Malta even if you live there permanently.
You can buy one or several pieces of property in Thailand to qualify for an investor visa to the country.
Minimum investment amount: US$279,000.
Timeframes of visa issuance: 2–3 months.
Special features: it is extremely difficult to obtain a residence permit in Thailand but you can live on an investor visa there. Please note that you can purchase only buildings in Thailand: the land plot that the building sits on has to be rented. There is a ‘Freehold’ option and a ‘Leasehold’ option. You own the building in the first case and you make a long-term lease agreement in the second case. You can live permanently in Thailand on your investor visa and you are entitled to apply for a job in the country. What makes the Thai investor visa program different from most other similar programs is that you don’t have to prove the legality of your investment capital.
A foreign national can acquire a residence permit in Ecuador by purchasing any piece of real property in the country.
Minimum investment amount: US$45,000
Timeframes of residence permit issuance: 1 month.
Special features: The residence permit is valid for two years and it can be extended. If you want to extend your residence permit, you have to live in Ecuador for the best part of each year. You can apply for citizenship of Ecuador after living in the country for only three years. Why would you want to become a citizen of Ecuador? Because with the passport of the country, you can legally reside in Spain and become a Spanish citizen after living there only for two years. Citizens of Latin American countries enjoy special treatment on the part of Spanish authorities.
Without doubt, there are other countries that grant legal residence to foreign investors. The larger is the sum that you are prepared to invest, the larger is your choice.