Between war, climate change, and political turmoil, more and more people are wondering how they can call a new country home. The good news is there are ways you can move across borders—for a price.
A global pandemic, drastic climate change, and devastating wars understandably have people on edge and re-thinking their own place in the world. During the COVID pandemic, countries have repeatedly opened and closed their borders. Meanwhile, climate change has begun to wreak havoc on island nations and coastal cities that are below sea level. And wars in the Middle East and Ukraine have created refugee crises that affect every corner of the Earth.
Many people have been reevaluating life in their own countries, where they’d want to live if they could, and where they could possibly turn if they had to leave. But how can you permanently move to another country if you’re a citizen of another?
The answer to that basically comes down to money: buying citizenship or residency in another country. 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 it won’t necessarily be easy, but if you really want to get out, you can technically buy your way across a border. Here’s how:
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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 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 & 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 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 investors and their families resident status (but not citizenship). Some of these countries include Spain, Portugal, Greece, New Zealand, the U.K., and others.
Where to Get Started
If you’re seriously considering leaving your country of citizenship 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 with information for all the questions you may have. Check out:
Buying Citizenship or Residency
The most common way of getting a passport in a country is typically through being born there, 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.
Antigua and Barbuda
There are actually four different ways to get citizenship in Antigua and Barbuda. First, you can purchase real estate with a minimum value of $200,000. You can purchase a business for a minimum of $1.5 million. You can contribute to the National Development Fund for $100,000, or you can contribute to the University of the West Indies for a minimum of $150,000. Any one of these options can get you citizenship and a passport to this Caribbean country in as little as four months and gives you visa-free access to 132 countries. The cost of living in Antigua is typically 20% lower than in 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 146 destinations. Investment options come in the form of government bonds or direct donations and run from $100,000-$3.5 million. Living in St. Lucia, you can get by on around $2,000 a month.
One of the countries with a golden visa program, Portugal grants citizenship to your entire family with either a capital transfer, property acquisition, or starting a business. The least expensive option is to donate 200,000 euros to an artistic production in a low population area. Portugal is also one of the least expensive 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 (less than $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 one-to-two months from the moment of investment, you can be granted a resident permit. Living in Greece is also very affordable for Europe, 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 island Mediterranean 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.
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 can 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 + fees. In Turkey, the cost of living can be as low as $700 a month.
For 1 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 2 million euros. For a single person, it’s estimated $3,000 a month for all necessities.
Directly across the Adriatic Sea from Italy and wedged between Croatia, Albania, Serbia, and Kosovo, if you want to live in this stunning seaside country, there are two different options. First, you can make an investment of 450,000 euros to development projects in the capital of Podgorica or in the coastal regions. Or, you can invest 250,000 euros to development projects in northern or central Montenegro, but not in Podgorica. There’s also an additional 200,000-euro government fee per application. Once you’ve shelled out your life savings, the processing time is six-to-eight months. The good news is that you can get by on a little more than $1,000 a month.
You’re not going 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 $19,000 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.
The Global Investor program in Singapore costs around 2 million bucks for permanent residence. You can then apply for citizenship after two 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 a mountain of bureaucratic red tape and paperwork. The multi-step process includes maintaining a Japanese residency for five years, having no criminal record, being able to financially support yourself in the country, and relinquishing your other citizenship, to start. 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 as much as you like?
To buy your way into Australia, you’ll need a net worth of at least $1 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 run by Jacinda Ardern and experience endless natural beauty, it’s got to be worth it, right?
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 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.
In 2021, Costa Rica streamlined their citizenship by investment program. Now, you only need to invest $150,000 in Costa Rican property and you’ll be granted 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.