The World’s Top Residency Havens
Dual citizenship isn’t reserved for a lucky few with cosmopolitan parents. There’s more than one way to skin the cat. A cozy life abroad is available to anyone with time, money and/or flexibility. Permanent residency is even easier to obtain. Havens for obtaining one or the other exist the world over.
There’s a lot to be said for diversifying internationally. By spreading out assets around the world, it’s far more difficult to be taken out financially by an economic downturn, a messy divorce or an overzealous bureaucrat. More importantly, a life abroad is a life of adventure – new languages, new people, new challenges. With a little zest and a little creativity, such a life can be yours to enjoy.
Citizenship for Sale
Many find secondary citizenship gives them a greater sense of security. By far the simplest way to acquire citizenship in a foreign country is to buy it. It’s a better option that permanent residency for those who can afford it, since it’s far less demanding and time consuming to obtain.
St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Nevis: This country’s “citizenship by investment” program offers citizenship for the modest sum of a quarter of a million dollars for a single person, but the price goes up if there are dependants to consider. A cheaper way to enjoy the country long term is to purchase a property with a value of $400,000 or more, which allows the owner to obtain permanent residency. The first language here is English, making it easy to do business, and St. Kitt’s strong economy indicates good chances of property appreciation.
Dominica: St. Kitts seem a little pricey? Try Dominica. Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, Dominica is a small island in the West Indies, sandwiched between Guadeloupe and Martinique, offering citizenship for a mere $75,000 per person or $100,000 per family. There are a few drawbacks, however. There are no international flights to this country and only a few sandy beaches, most of which are tricky to find. Median income is low, about $5,000, and per capita GDP is about $10,000. To put it mildly, the economy is not exactly booming.
Buy Property and Obtain Residency
Many countries have residency schemes for property owners, though it’s important to consider capital appreciation, available finances and property tax.
Malaysia: Many people don’t know that Malaysia’s first language is English, meaning contracts are also in this language and therefore the red tape is a whole lot easier to navigate. Buying property here may not be a great bet for the short term, since the economy has been a little shaky as of late, but long term growth looks good. After a recession that lasted just four months, the government is taking steps to get the real estate market back on its feet. Chance of capital appreciation are excellent and financing is widely available.
UAE: Residency is automatically granted to property owners in the UAE. It’s good for three years and is easy to renew. Proceed with caution – investors are nervous about the UAE. Don’t expect much capital appreciation, particularly in Dubai where the economy is just getting back on its feet. Overbuilding and speculation have wreaked havoc and many expect a big crash in property values at some point. There are, however, a fair few perks to living here: no income tax, beautiful beaches and cultural diversity, among others.
Mauritius: The government has several residency programs in place for property buyers. Mauritius also has the highest standard of living in all of Africa. English is the first language here, making it easy to buy property. There is a 15 percent tax on worldwide income but the cost of living is fairly low. Nearby Seychelles also has similar programs, but be aware that work permits in both countries are extremely difficult to obtain.
Residence Programs for Pensioners
In South America, “pensionado” programs make it easy for retirees to take up residence in a foreign country. Panama, Ecuador and Nicaragua have made themselves particularly attractive to retirees, making it easy to bring along personal possessions without incurring any taxes.
Age and financial situation play a role in the application process. Applicants usually have to prove a certain level of income or meet a minimum pension amount, between $400 and $1,000.
Easiest Places to Obtain Citizenship
Many countries naturalize permanent residents after a period of time. That period is sometimes very long – as much a 20 years in Japan – but sometimes as little as three years, as it is in Belgium.
Singapore: Set up a company in Singapore and you automatically obtain permanent residency. After two years of residence it’s possible to apply for naturalization. Being a citizen of Singapore is incredibly valuable. Singaporeans can travel to almost any country in the world without a visa. Just be sure to check if you’ll be required to do mandatory national service before applying.
Brazil: Anyone can become a Brazilian citizen, sometimes in a matter of months. It’s a big, beautiful, cultural melting pot that anyone can access by marrying a Brazilian or adopting a child (or a rainforest), among other options. The process is messy because it’s different for every application and the language barrier is significant. Brazilians never extradite their citizens so, if you’re a high flying criminal, this is a good bet.
Israel: Any Jewish person can become a citizen of Israel, including those who convert later in life. Be aware that the conversion process is lengthy and nigh impossible to fake. Military service is compulsory for all citizens, making the country slightly less attractive to would-be citizens.
Belgium: Maintain residency in Belgium for three years and you’re a shoo-in for citizenship. Anyone can apply for naturalization, provided residency has been maintained. The definition of residency is fairly loose, requiring the applicant to merely maintain ties with the country via a family, job, property, etc.