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Religious Statue

Residency vs Citizenship

What is the difference between residency and citizenship?

Citizenship is a legal status of personhood and membership in a sovereign state. Citizenship grants rights, privileges, and protections to individuals within a country and state. Citizenship is permanent. Residency, on the other hand, is a permit that allows an individual to reside in a specific country with conditions that must be adhered to. Residency can be either temporary or permanent.


During the early stages of researching options, applicants will come across programs that are similar, but different. Understanding the slight requirements associated with each program is critical. When looking at the programs offered applicants will see two types of programs: citizenship by investment programs and residency by investment programs, whereas the latter is often referred to as Golden Visa programs.


Though there are a lot of commonalities between these two options, there are important distinctions to understand and understanding the difference between citizenship and residency programs is essential. 


What is a Golden Visa Program?

Golden Visa Programs offer investors a chance to gain residency in another country through various investment channels. Residency can come with many benefits for investors, but it is not the same as citizenship in another country. The difference between citizenship and residency status can be confusing, but a golden visa program offers residency, not direct citizenship.


Currently, investors can choose between the European countries of Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Latvia if residency by investment is the desired outcome. Golden visas usually offer benefits such as the ability to live and work full-time in a country, the ability to conduct business in the country, access to social services, and potentially, a path to citizenship. 


What is Citizenship by Investment?

Citizenship by investment programs, on the other hand, allow investors to gain citizenship immediately after approval. With a new passport in hand, investors and their families can reap the benefits of full citizenship in another country, without navigating permanent residency first.


We offer citizenship by investment to our clients and the countries available for this type of investment are St. Kitts & Nevis, Vanuatu, St. Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and Malta.


Benefits of Golden Visa Programs

Despite not granting investors citizenship immediately, golden visa programs are rich with benefits. The major benefits found in most golden visa programs are:

Impressive Travel Access

Getting to travel freely throughout the European Union’s Schengen Zone can be extremely difficult for investors from many places in the world. These countries have strict travel requirements and tight limits as to how long visitors can stay, but with a golden visa, many of these restrictions melt away. Participants in a European residency by investment program can travel through Schengen countries at their leisure and without any additional visa requirements.

Social Benefits

Portugal, Spain, and Greece all offer impressive social benefits to their residents. World-class healthcare and education are two of the main social benefits that come with golden visa programs. Most of the time, investors and their families can enjoy premium education and healthcare at little to no cost to them. For investors with families, this benefit is especially important, as they seek to build a better future for the people they love most. 

Business and Professional Perks

Once the application process is complete and a golden visa is granted, investors can enjoy a plethora of business benefits. Being able to work and conduct business in the target country is a major deciding factor for many applicants, but some programs even offer tax incentives to golden visa holders, making it even easier to do business in a new country.

Eventual Path to Citizenship 

Investors will not be granted citizenship in any of these countries after completing the golden visa application process. Instead, applicants and their families will be granted residency in the target country. Once residency is in effect, investors are often given the chance to apply for permanent residency, followed by citizenship at a later date. Though it can take 7-10 years to achieve full citizenship, this is the clearest path to citizenship for foreign nationals offered by these European countries. 


Golden Visas are NOT Citizenship by Investment Programs


Many of the benefits offered by golden visa programs are similar to those offered by citizenship by investment programs, but the two are not the same. Citizenship by investment programs grant full citizenship to applicants once the application is approved, providing the same benefits that a natural-born citizen of that country would receive.


Golden visas provide investors with residency in another country, which is not the same as complete citizenship. As detailed, after holding golden visas for a certain time period, many countries allow investors to start the path to citizenship with a separate application process. 


The Path to Citizenship for Golden Visa Holders

Once investors have received their golden visa, many are interested in pursuing citizenship in that country. Though each country will have its own requirements when applying for citizenship, at a high level, the process is fairly uniform.


To hold and maintain a golden visa, investors are not required to abide by any residency requirements in the target country. However, if citizenship is the goal, most countries will require that investors and their family members reside in the country full-time for a certain number of years. If that requirement is met, applicants move through the process to achieve citizenship. Usually, citizenship status will require that individuals pass a series of language, history, and cultural exams, as well as hold resident status for a specific number of years prior to applying for citizenship.


Golden Visas: Accessing the European Union

There are not many countries in the EU that offer any type of citizenship by investment or residency by investment, but golden visas are the main exception. The European Union is a highly sought-after spot for immigration, largely due to the partnerships that exist in the EU and all of the benefits associated with living in an EU country. If an applicant is trying to build a better life for their family, golden visas are an exquisite option.

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