You can call a new country home. For a price.
A global pandemic, drastic climate change, and a presidential election for the ages understandably have people on edge and re-thinking their own place in the world. While billionaires build luxury bunkers, buy private islands, and use private planes to leave the country at will, the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves in the face of immense crises.
During this pandemic, countries have closed their borders to citizens and residents to limit the spread of the disease through travel, and, as a result, many people are reevaluating their own countries, where they want to live, and where they can possibly turn if something bad really happens.
As a travel writer who can’t travel, I immediately began looking for loopholes around travel restrictions across the globe and one thing became very clear—every country takes care of their own people before anyone else. So, the next natural question is, how do you make other countries think of you as one of their own?
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The answer to that basically comes down to buying citizenship or residency in another country. And yes, you actually can buy your way into a number of countries if you really want to get out of your current situation.
Now, it won’t be cheap and won’t necessarily be easy, but if you really want to get out, you can in fact buy your way to another border. Here’s how.
Residency vs. Citizenship
First, some terminology. The basic difference between citizenship and residency is that, when you become a citizen of another country, you can get a passport, travel freely, vote, and are generally afforded all the rights of people born in that country. Residency, in contrast, typically means you can travel freely, work in that country, live in that country, but aren’t afforded all the same rights as a citizen.
- Citizenship by Investment (CIP): These are programs where you can literally pay a fee (usually more than $100,000) or invest in property in exchange for full citizenship and a passport. Countries that fall into this bucket include Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, Cyprus, and Malta.
- Golden Visas: Similar to CIP, but not necessarily guaranteeing citizenship, golden visas are granted to rich people who can afford to invest in government-run programs or properties, or make large investments or donations in the $250,000 and up range. This usually grants people and their families resident status. Some of these countries include Spain, Canada, Portugal, Greece, New Zealand, the U.K., and others.
Where to Get Started
If you’re seriously considering getting out of your current country and have the money to begin the process of applying to become a resident or citizen of another country, there are a bevy of companies that help you through the process and red tape of government bureaucracies. These companies are experts at this very thing and are incredibly helpful. They’ve got answers–and if not answers, information–for all the questions you may have.
Getting Citizenship or Residency
The most common way of getting a passport in another country is typically through birth, but there are a bunch of countries that will also consider you because of your ancestry, if you marry someone from that country, give birth to a child in that country, live in a place for enough time, or simply through money. Below is a breakdown of how to buy your way into another country, allowing you to buck pandemics, poor voting choices, or even climate change down the road.
Antigua and Barbuda
If you can stomach forking over around $400,000 in private or government property, you can get citizenship and a passport to this Caribbean country in as little as four months and you’ll have visa-free access to 132 countries. The cost of living in Antigua is typically 20% lower than the majority of North American and European countries.
In only three to four months, you can become a citizen of this island paradise that gives you visa-free access to 132 countries. Investment options come in the form of government bonds or direct donations and run from $100,000 to $500,000. Living in St. Lucia is also affordable to many, as you can get by on around $2,000 a month.
One of the countries with a golden visa program, Portugal grants citizenship for your entire family with an investment in property with a minimum of 350,000 euros and proof of investment income from another source. The visa can be renewed every two years as long as you stay in the country for two weeks every two years. Portugal is also one of the cheaper western European countries and a single person can get by for less than $2,000 a month.
To get a golden visa in Spain, there’s a minimum investment of 500,000 euros, which can be renewed every two years. After five years you can gain permanent residency and, after 10 years, full citizenship. Depending on where you want to live in Spain, the cost of living can also be on the less expensive side (under $2,000 a month), as it’s considered the third cheapest country in western Europe.
You can be just like Tom Hanks if you invest in real estate in Greece that’s worth at least 250,000 euros. You can also apply for citizenship after seven years of living there. Within 40 days from the moment of investment, you can be granted a resident permit. Living in Greece is also on the cheaper side, with monthly costs for a single person in the $1,300 range.
If you can shell out for a real estate investment that’s capped at 300,000 euros and can show a yearly income of 30,000 euros from abroad in addition to other income sources apart from employment, then you will be granted a residency permit that can be renewed every two years. Once all the economic requirements are fully met, Cyprus will grant full citizenship. The best part about this Mediterranean island nation is that it has easy access to all of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and the cost of living is around $1,600 a month for an individual.
Not surprising, there are a lot of specifics when it comes to getting residency in Germany. But, you can achieve residency with investments in a regional development fund for around 360,000 Euros. Permanent residency is granted after three years of temporary residency and five years for any dependents. The cost of living in Germany isn’t too bad as it’ll run upwards of $2,200 a month for a single person.
Authoritarian regime aside, Turkey is a magical country with stunning geography, archaeological sites for days, and access to all of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa with short flights. If you want to move here, you’ll have to invest in real estate or deposit a chunk of change in a local bank. Real estate minimums are around $250,000 plus fees. The best part of Turkey is that the cost of living can be as low as $700 a month.
If you’re rich, all the emeralds in the Emerald Isle can be yours! For one million euros through an approved investment fund, you can gain full Irish residency. There’s another catch, you must have a clean criminal record and a net worth of at least two million euros. It’s also not cheap to live here–a single person will be shelling out more than $3,000 a month for all necessities.
Can’t find Montenegro on a map? It’s directly across the Adriatic Sea from Italy and wedged between Croatia, Albania, Serbia, and Kosovo. And if you want to live in this stunning seaside country, there are a few different options. First, you can make a government fund donation of 100,000 euros and invest in approved real estate. The approved real estate falls into two categories. Undeveloped regions with a 250,000 euro investment or a developed region with a 450,000 euro investment. You also must have no criminal record, but you’ll be granted residency within three weeks and citizenship within six months! It’s also pretty cheap to live here as you can get by on a little more than $1,000 a month.
You’re not going to be able to buy citizenship right away in this Southeast Asian paradise, but you can apply for a Thailand Elite Residence Visa. The cost is a one-time payment of $15,000 for five years of residency or $32,000 for 20 years. If you do want to go the full citizen route, you can naturalize for citizenship after five years of living there. Cost of living in Thailand? Around $1,400 a month.
Singapore doesn’t want you. They do want your money though. The Global Investor program in Singapore costs around a million bucks for permanent residence. You can then apply for citizenship after eight years of living there. The rub: Singapore does not allow dual citizenship. The other rub: Singapore is expensive and living here will cost at least $3,000 a month.
To gain residency in Japan, you’ll have to go through the Investor/Business Manager Visa, which costs $45,000. You can then achieve permanent residency after a minimum of five to 10 years of living in the country. You can then apply for Japanese citizenship after five full years of residency. The good thing is that Japan is considered to have the best passport in the world with visa-free travel to 190 countries. The bad thing is that living in Japan is costly and rents in Tokyo are some of the priciest in the world based on square footage.
Another citizenship by investment country, Cambodia will welcome you with open arms if you’re willing to donate at least $250,000 or invest in the country for at least $350,000. The cost of living in Cambodia is also around $1,000 a month, but can you really put a price on seeing Angkor Wat every day?
There are four criteria for paying your way into Canada. You need experience managing or operating a qualified business. Your personal net worth must be over $1.5 million. You need to pass Canada’s medical and security evaluations. And you have to invest at least $800,000 for a minimum of five years in qualified programs. Not bad for cold weather and free health care! The average cost of living in this northern country will run around $2,000 a month depending on where you decide to be.
Another super-rich-person-only option, and to buy your way into Australia, you’ll need a net worth of at least $1.5 million and you’ll need to invest more than a million bucks into a qualified local project. The cost of living in Australia will run more than $2,000 a month as well. This is an awfully expensive walkabout.
If you think you’re getting into New Zealand with any ease, you’re wrong. There are two investor programs that run in the millions of dollars and have requirements of more millions of dollars in net worth. But to live in a country with zero COVID-19 cases and endless natural beauty, it’s got to be worth it, right?
The United Kingdom
The U.K. ain’t cheap. For more than $2 million in investments, the U.K. will let you stay in the country for three years and four months. Why that very specific amount of time? I don’t know. Also, London is one of the most expensive cities on earth. But if you can afford to splash two mil for three years and four months, the cost of living should be an afterthought.
To gain temporary residency in Mexico for one full year, you need to show proof of income above $1,500 a month, or show proof of work or volunteering in the country, or be related to a resident, or be married to a Mexican citizen. One year. But, if you want to invest in a minimum of $200,000 in real estate, or a combo of real estate and stock in local companies, then you can also stay as a temporary resident. During your temporary stay, it’ll only cost you around $1,000 a month though.
There are two options for staying in this tropical paradise. You can either prove that you make at least $2,500 a month and deposit $60,000 in a Costa Rican bank, or you can invest $200,000 in Costa Rican property. Either one will grant you residency here. If you want to retire in this warm weather climate, it’s going to cost between $1,500 and $1,800 a month depending on where you go.
To gain temporary residency in Argentina, you need to prove that you make $2,000 a month and you need to deposit the money in an Argentine bank. After two years of that, you can apply for citizenship as long as you spend at least 180 days in the country over those two years. Living in this South American country is super cheap though and you can easily spend less than $800 a month to live comfortably.