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What is the difference between citizenship and residency?

Some countries provide mechanisms to obtain legal status in their territory. These investment immigration programs are often known as Golden Visas and Golden Passports and offer, respectively, Residency and Citizenship. This makes understanding the differences key, especially if you are seeking to establish a life outside your home country.

Residency vs. Permanent Residency vs. Citizenship

The main similarity between Residency and Citizenship is that they are legal statuses granted by one specific country, allowing its holder to usually, live, work, and study in its territory. However, the key difference between these statuses is that Residency is restricted, at least in comparison to Citizenship.

Besides being a status granted by an official government permit, Residency must often be renewed after a set certain amount of time to remain valid. Becoming a Resident in a country often grants many, but not all, of the same rights as Citizens, and likewise, not all the obligations. For example, Greek Residents can access higher standards of living, healthcare, and education, and can travel visa-free to any of the other 26 Schengen countries for any 90 days out of 180.

Residency can be further classified according to two categories: Temporary and Permanent.

As the name implies, Temporary Residency is only available for a set amount of time. This status is often provided by governments to those who are coming to a country for work or study but expires once the due date arrives, which means the Temporary Resident will have to leave the country.

Permanent Residency is, as the title indicates, perpetual, and holders of this status can stay in the country indefinitely and do not need to renew their status, these tend to be the main differences between Temporary and Permanent Residency. For example, United States permanent residents are also more colloquially known as “green card” holders, and can live, work and study in the United States, despite not being a Citizen.

Permanent Residency is only one step away from Citizenship, and holders of this status often enjoy near-Citizenship levels of benefits. Living, working, doing business, and accessing all sectors of the respective society is possible in most countries due to this status.

Citizenship, on the other hand, is the final stage in terms of legal status in the country. As a citizen, you are entitled to the full legal rights and protections a country has to offer, and this usually includes the right to vote and hold public office. Furthermore, becoming a Citizen is possible in most countries after a certain amount of time has been spent in a country as a Resident.

Couple looking at the globe, choosing the next residency. Residency vs. Citizenship.

Why choose Permanent Residency instead of Citizenship?

While the prospect of being able to vote, hold public office, and influence the political direction of the country where you are choosing to settle down is a perfectly valid choice, sometimes this is not possible. This is because some countries, such as Austria, Japan, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore do not allow Dual Citizenship. Obtaining Citizenship in the country of your Residency is still possible, but it ultimately means giving up your original citizenship, which is not a decision to be made lightly.

Other factors come into play as well, such as the requirements to achieve Citizenship. A few countries may have varied and complex requirements to obtain the status, including high levels of proficiency in the language, or deep, vast knowledge of the country’s history.

In situations like this, it becomes understandable why one would prefer Permanent Residency status as opposed to Citizenship, especially when many of the benefits are the same.

Can Investment Immigration Programs Lead to Citizenship?

During the last few decades, the world has witnessed the rise of investment immigration programs, which are legal frameworks set up by countries’ governments to attract foreign investment into the economy. In exchange, legal status in the country is provided to the individual.

Investment immigration programs in Europe commonly provide Residency by Investment. Countries such as Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Malta all have these mechanisms, including Golden Visa programs, enabling foreign investors to become legal in the country through Residency status by investing in the economy. Though the time necessary to be spent as a Resident differs from country to country, it is possible to become a Citizen in these countries through naturalization.

Some countries even offer Citizenship by Investment programs, providing a straightforward path to Citizenship status and bypassing several complexities often required by Residency programs. These are more commonplace in the Caribbean, though they exist in Europe and the South Pacific as well.

What are the countries with the most popular Residency by Investment programs?

All the available Residency by Investment programs in Europe boast extremely attractive options, but the two countries that truly stand out are Portugal and Greece.

Even though Portugal discontinued its qualifying option of directly purchasing Real Estate as a path to obtain its Golden Visa, new Residency opportunities arise with the Portugal D2 Visa.

This program is aimed at the creation of businesses in Portugal to foster the local economy, and investing in Portuguese Real Estate is one of the many possibilities to qualify for this program. The major upside of this mechanism is that it does not have a minimum set amount, and still provides Residency status, and all its benefits, in Portugal.

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The Greece Golden Visa is open to almost all non-EU nationals, this mechanism provides the best path to securing Residency in the European Union, with investment options starting at €250,000 through the purchase of a Real Estate property in Greece.

Besides obtaining Residency status, the acquisition of a real, physical asset in a politically stable and economically strong country represents the perfect Plan B, should the need ever arise. Though the Greece Golden Visa mandates keeping the property for five years in order to maintain Residency status, it can be rented in the meantime, or sold off after the time has passed, opening the possibility for a return on the investment.

Right now, the Greece Golden Visa provides the most affordable and efficient path to securing Residency in the European Union, with an average obtaining period of 3 months, and enabling benefits such as visa-free travel, family inclusion, and access to a higher standard of living, healthcare, and education.

What are the countries with the most popular Citizenship by Investment programs?

Though Citizenship by Investment programs also exist in Europe, in Malta, and in Türkiye, the most popular ones are found in the Caribbean, in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia.

Because of their modest economies and dependence on tourism, these countries’ investment immigration programs are far more relaxed in terms of requirements and allow individuals to directly bypass Residency requirements and become a Citizen straightaway. These programs often end up being excellent deals for both parties involved. On the one hand, the country receives a capital injection into an emerging economy. For instance, the Citizenship by Investment program in Saint Kitts and Nevis has become a true economic pillar for the country. On the other hand, the individual gains the country’s passport.

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Considering the exceptional standing of the Caribbean countries in the international scene, one of the greatest advantages of these passports is the opportunity to travel visa-free across the world, often ranking in the top 50 of the Global Passport Index.

In order to remain competitive with each other, and to draw larger numbers of worldwide investors, the Caribbean countries also boast a variety of tax benefits, usually including no tax on income, personal wealth, capital gains, inheritance, or gifts. Plus, all these offer the Caribbean lifestyle, and spending your days lounging by the beach and relaxing in warm waters is a dream come true in any of these countries.

How Investment Visa Can Help You

In an increasingly uncertain world, it is always an excellent idea to keep the options wide open, and having a second residency or citizenship to fall back on is the perfect Plan B. The purpose behind Investment Visa’s mission is to mitigate these risks and provide guidance toward having a Plan B. Our advisory team is entirely dedicated to this. Committed to providing the most personalized service with the highest degree of care, they have more than 25 years of experience in the field of investment visas and real estate. You can count on their expertise and the satisfaction of more than 40,000 clients worldwide. Contacting Investment Visa is the first step to securing a second residency or citizenship, and the start of a journey toward a brighter future.

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