If there is one question that will invariably arise when you start looking for European Golden Visas or Permanent Residency Programmes is, "Will I eventually be granted citizenship?”
Citizenship Rights in the EU can potentially include the right to settle in another EU country and work, study, and set up a business like any other EU national. You may also pass on your status to future generations, acquire immovable property, vote, and travel visa-free across certain countries. Citizenship allows you to obtain a passport.
These rights accrue gradually, and in this article, we will outline tangible ways to acquire such rights.
The Illusion of a Golden Visa
You believe or are led to believe that your citizenship application would be automatically accepted through investing in some property and visiting a country a few weeks a year. Few or no further questions asked!
Unfortunately, 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. 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. Still, a free upgrade to EU citizenship is extremely unlikely.
Many European countries have provisions in their legislation that allow a person to apply for permanent residency and 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 is five years.
Someone who has not 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.
The Real Cost of EU citizenship
Malta promotes clear-path citizenship by investment through the Malta Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment. The programme provides investors with two routes:
- Apply for citizenship after one year of residency status in Malta with a non-refundable investment of €750,000 to the National Development and Social Fund set up by the Government of Malta.
- After three years, apply for Maltese citizenship with a lower non-refundable investment of €600,000.
The main applicant has to allot €50,000 per family member included in the application. Moreover, you have to make a charitable donation of €10,000 to any non-governmental organisation registered in Malta and lease a residential property for a minimum annual rent of €16,000.
Alternatively, you may purchase a residential property in Malta with a minimum value of €700,000 and hold it for at least five years from the date of the certificate of naturalisation. Administrative and due diligence fees will be applicable, depending on family composition. Regardless of the applicant’s choice, the lifetime benefits will still be the same.
There is already a legal provision to allow third-country nationals to avail themselves of citizenship benefits like those enjoyed by other European citizens without forking a million euros.
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 25 European Union countries are all signatories to this directive. The cost? Almost zero.
Once you have been legally and physically resident for four years and two months over five years and fulfil some other essential criteria, it is your right to receive Long-Term Residency status. 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 freedom of employment or self-employment, education and access to social services across 25 European Union states. If you stay within that country for even longer, one is more likely to receive citizenship and the country’s passport.
Integritas Endevio is a Malta-based multi-disciplinary firm providing permanent residency and citizenship services to clients across the globe. Learn more about European Golden Visas, the Malta Permanent Residency Programme, and the citizenship by investment programmes available. We can help you maximise your benefits and build a stable future for your family. Get in touch with us today.