If there is one question that will invariably arise when people start looking for European Golden Visas or Permanent Residency Programs, is
"Will I eventually be granted Citizenship?''
Citizenship Rights in the EU can potentially include:
- The right to settle in another EU country;
- The right to work, study, set up a business like any other EU national;
- The right to pass on your status to future generations;
- The right to acquire immovable property (real estate);
- The right to vote;
- The right to travel visa-free across certain countries; and
- The right to a passport.
These rights accrue gradually, and in this article, we will outline factual ways to acquire such rights.
The Illusion of a Golden Visa
Most people are under the illusion that by only receiving a "Golden Visa" they are magically entitled to receive Citizenship a few years later.
They believe or are led to believe, that through investing in some property, and by visiting a country a few weeks a year, their Citizenship application would be automatically accepted. Few or no further questions asked!
To make matters worse, most Golden Visas are Temporary, requiring renewal every five years. It also obliges children to reapply once they become of age and independent.
Vague articles stating the contrary are most often written by those that stand to benefit from this "misunderstanding".
Typically it takes a decade or more of physical presence in an established country to become naturalised, and even then Citizenship is not guaranteed.
The same promoters would also have you believe that you can skip the stages of Long-Term Residency and Permanent Residency and go straight to Citizenship.
Unfortunately, a free upgrade to EU Citizenship is extremely unlikely as people are starting to find out at their own expense.
- Malta Golden Visa & Passport - The Path to EU Residency & Citizenship
- Complete Guide to Malta Citizenship by Investment
Naturalisation | Becoming a citizen of a country
Many European countries have provisions in their legislation that allow for a person to apply for permanent residency, and after that to be naturalised, i.e. become a citizen, after several years. While the conditions vary from country to country, these usually include several strong links such as;
Being a fit and proper person;
Being able to sustain yourself and your family;
Being legally, continuously and physically present in the country for several years. In Europe, this tends to vary, but as a minimum, it's five years.
The last point is critical since it denotes that person would likely become a tax-resident in the country.
Someone who hasn't physically resided in the country for several years is unlikely to be eligible to apply for Permanent Residency, let alone Citizenship.
So, let us assume that one meets the required conditions and now has the right to apply.
Here is the catch!
The right to apply does NOT guarantee the obligation of the state to accept the application. It usually takes five years to become either a permanent resident or a long-term resident. Typically it takes a decade or more of physical presence in an established country to become naturalised, and even then Citizenship is not guaranteed.
Many people are eventually disillusioned.
The TRUE cost of EU citizenship
So let us be blunt. Setting aside Bulgaria whose program is still in its infancy, Malta and Cyprus are the only two countries that promote a "clear-path" Citizenship by investment programs within the European Union. Both programs generate significant revenue streams to their respective governments.
The Malta Citizenship by Investment Program
Cyprus Citizenship by Investment Program
Cyprus Citizenship by Investment program requires a monetary outlay of approximately EUR 2.5 million. From this outlay up to EUR 600,000 - EUR 700,000 are sunk costs.
Both the Maltese Citizenship by Investment and Cyprus Citizenship by Investment programs require extensive due diligence, investments and government contributions, government fees, professional fees, real estate, and some ancillary expenses such as international medical insurance.
The advantage of going down this route is one - Time!
If you pass the due diligence process, you can expect to receive your Citizenship within approximately a year.
The Illusion of a free citizenship upgrade
So when you think about it, European countries are aware that people are willing to pay millions of euros to acquire Citizenship. So why give it away for free, or simply because one invested some money in real estate.
By contrast, people who have lived in a country for an extended period would have generated genuine links. They might be operating a business or be employed. Either way, they are contributing to the economic output of the country and paying taxes. It, therefore, follows these people are in a better position to receive to become naturalised Citizenship.
What if you don't have a million euro?
There is already a legal provision to allow foreigners technically know as "Third Country Nationals" to avail from Citizenship benefits as those enjoyed by other European nationals without forking a million euro.
The answer lies in EU Council Directive 2003/109/E, also known as The Long-Term Residents Directive. Baring three countries, the rest of the twenty-five European Union countries are all signatories to this directive.
The cost? Almost Zero
Once you have been legally and physically resident for a total of four years and two months over five years, and fulfil some other essential criteria, it is your RIGHT to receive the status of Long-Term Residency. Moreover, the country is under an OBLIGATION to process it.The benefits of this legislation are significant since it grants rights typically attributable to nationals. These include the freedom of employment or self-employment, education and access to social services across twenty-five European Union states. If you stay within that country for even longer, then eventually one is more likely to receive Citizenship and the country's passport.
So as we have explained above, attaining Citizenship is only possible through forging genuine long-term links or through investing significant amounts of money.
The illusion that one can jump from being a temporary resident under a Golden Visa to becoming a Citizen skipping the stages of long-term residency and permanent residency is that - an illusion.