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Citizenship guide
Imperial experience

Residence and citizenship – your guide on how to move to Europe

PUBLISHED: 27 December 2019

Though with each year there are less and less visa restrictions between countries of the world, some borders are still closed for foreigners. Of course, if you have a British passport, around 169 countries will welcome you without a visa or issue a visa on arrival. Not all nationalities are this lucky; take Iran for example, they have signed visa agreements with only 49 countries leaving the rest of the world, including Europe, USA, Japan, visa restricted.

In this article we aim to explain all the difficult immigration terminology used in the Internet. Our lawyers will strip down the words “residence”, “permanent residence” and “citizenship” for you to help you make an informed decision when travelling or moving to a foreign country. No more confusion and misunderstandings.

Entry visa

You will need a visa to any country that has not signed an agreement with the country of your origin. If it is just a short holiday break or business trip, you will be fine with a standard visitor visa that is valid for a few days up to a few years. In all other cases you would need to secure a different immigration status.

Temporary residence

Temporary residence, or as it is sometimes called a residence permit, gives you the right to live in the country and much more than a standard visa.

Advantages of a residence permit

  1. Stay in the country for a few years, run a business, study or do nothing, depending on the type of a visa.
  2. Bring your family with you.
  3. Leave and re-enter the country whenever necessary.
  4. Buy and/or rent a property.
  5. Enjoy the benefits of a resident: get a health insurance, open a bank account, send your children to a nursery, school or a university.
  6. Travel to other countries visa-free, depending on your residence permit. For example, if you live in a Schengen state, you can enter other Schengen countries without a visa. UK residents can freely enter only the islands of Man, Guernsey and Jersey.

Disadvantages of temporary residence

Though a resident status gives a lot of rights and freedoms, it lacks one important thing. Permits are given for long but limited periods of 1 to 5 years in different countries. Before they expire you would need to extend your stay or step up to the next level.

Permanent residence

It is an immigration status given to foreign nationals that have lived in the country continuously for a long period of time to allow them stay there permanently.

Permanent residents have two major advantages to temporary residents:

  • Unlimited time in the country. You would still need to renew the permit every 5 years, but it is a simple renewal and not a review of your immigration status.
  • Right to do whatever you wish and no requirement to invest in a local economy.

Permanent residents are free to work, study, run a business or simply enjoy the safety and comfort of a modern European country. They are very close in terms of rights and freedoms to citizens. However, they cannot serve in the government and take part in national elections.

Citizenship

Citizenship, or more correctly naturalisation, is the final step in a long process of integration in a foreign country. A citizen has all available rights and freedoms of their country. For example, an EU national can live and work in any EU member state for as long as they wish. It is not something a temporary or even a permanent resident would be able to do with the latter limited to only 90 days per each six months.

Unfortunately, not all European countries allow dual nationality and you might face a difficult choice. Naturalisation process in Europe can take from 5 to 12 years.

Enough with theory, let’s get down to practice. Here we will give you examples of real residence programs that lead to permanent residence/settlement and citizenship.

European residence and citizenship

There are a few European countries that are currently offering their residence permits to investors, affluent individuals and businessmen.

United Kingdom

Great Britain has been welcoming foreign entrepreneurs since God knows when and expecting them to strengthen local economy thanks to their intellectual abilities, hard work and generous investments. Depending on what you intend to do, you can get a residence permit in the UK by applying for one of the following visas:

All of the above, except for the Tier 1 Investor visa, have stringent application requirements and restrict migrants in what they are allowed to do in the UK. Not all of them lead directly to settlement and naturalisation. Start-up visa is valid for 2 years and cannot be extended; however, a start-up businessman can switch to another category and then settle and get a British passport under that route.

As you might have already guessed, the UK immigration authorities are very favourable to investors. However, in order to get all the benefits, you must invest at least £2,000,000 in the UK economy. In 5 years, you will be able to become permanent resident and a year later apply for a British passport.

Latvia

This Baltic state has been operating its residence by investment program – Latvia Golden Visa – since 2010. The good news is, you would not be limited to investing in shares of Latvian companies, you would be able to buy a good-size flat in the capital city or a country house. The key thing here is to purchase something for more than €250,000 and come with your family to enjoy a quiet and peaceful life in a European city for 5 years. If you live there in total for more than 4 years, learn Latvian and pass a language test, you can apply for permanent residence. Five more years and you can get naturalised and apply for a European passport.

Malta

In most cases this island state is a go-to solution for those who are seeking to optimise their taxes. The reason for this being that Malta has one of the lowest corporation taxes, only 15%, and there are no property taxes at all.

Maltese authorities are keen to attract foreign investments, which is why they offer a special program whereby you can get a residence permit, become permanent residence and apply for a European passport within a short period of time.

The cost of residence permits for a whole family would be around €30,000 plus €9,000 each year for its renewal. As a temporary resident you don’t need to spend on Malta every day of the year, but you must also remember that you must not spend more than 183 days outside Malta either.

You can get a Malta permanent resident permit under the residence by investment program if one of the following applies:

  • You bought shares of Maltese companies or other investment instruments for no less than €250,000;
  • You purchased a property in Malta for at least €270,000 or have been renting one for 5 years for €10,000 a year.

You are required to own both shares and purchased property for at least 5 years.

Malta passport would cost you much more because the investment consists of three parts. First, you must make a non-refundable contribution to a national fund of €650,000. Secondly, you must buy Maltese government bonds for €150,000, and, thirdly, purchase a property for at least €350,000 or rent one for €16,000 a year for 5 years. You will need to hold the shares and own the property for 5 years. You are not allowed to lease or sublease the owned or rented property.

Total cost of Malta citizenship for one person will be €1,150,000. If you wish to add dependants, spouse and minor children, you must make extra contribution of за €25,000 for each of them. European passport for an adult dependant would cost you another €50,000.

Montenegro

Citizenship by investment program was launched in this country at the start of 2019. It will be open only till 2021 for a limited number of applicants, 2000 people. Please bear in mind that the country is not a part of the European Union yet, but on the way to become one in a couple of years; however, even now Montenegro passport guarantees visa-free travel to 117 countries.

It is one of the most attractive programs for the following reasons:

  • It only takes 6 months from application to a European passport;
  • Montenegro allows dual citizenship;
  • No need to learn the language or be a prominent businessman;
  • Montenegro passport is passed to future generations;
  • Affordable property prices and booming real estate market;
  • Beautiful country with a lot of tourist attractions.

How much for Montenegro citizenship? There are three investment options:

  1. €450,000 investment in a real estate project in a developed area, for example on the coast;
  2. €250,000 investment in a real estate project in underdeveloped areas of northern and central Montenegro;
  3. Direct investments in tourism or hotels with creation of jobs – €5 million or €15 million.

Non-refundable investments in Montenegro citizenship:

  • €100,000 contribution in the national fund;
  • €15,000 application fee for the main applicant. €10,000 application fee for up to 4 family members plus €50,000 for each additional dependant;
  • due diligence fee and passport fee.

Conclusion

We have reviewed four European programs that give access to high living standards – three countries are members of the EU and Montenegro will soon be due to become one. In case of the UK that is ready to Brexit, it is highly unlikely that British nationals will be in any way restricted from travelling across Europe. Long-term immigration permit either in a financial hub or in a peaceful place like Latvia will allow you to work, study, run a business and travel in Europe while enjoying stability, comfort and safety.

There are many other residence by investment programs and citizenship by investment programs that can make you a global citizen. For example, citizenship by investment programs in the Caribbean countries, part of the Commonwealth. A Caribbean passport opens almost the same opportunities to an investor as a European one.

Irrespective of your choice of a program, applying for residence or citizenship in another country would always require certain procedures, documents and paperwork, and compliance with rules and regulations. To avoid unnecessary costs and waste of time, let our expert lawyers take care of the whole application process, preparation of documents and relocation to a new place.

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