If there is one question that will invariably arise when you start looking for European Golden Visas or Permanent Residency Programmes is, “Will I eventually be granted citizenship?”
Citizenship Rights in the EU can potentially include the right to settle in another EU country and work, study, and set up a business like any other EU national. You may also pass on your status to future generations, acquire immovable property, vote, and travel visa-free across certain countries. Citizenship allows you to obtain a passport.
These rights accrue gradually, and in this article, we will outline tangible ways to acquire such rights.
What is the “Illusion of a Golden Visa”? Why is it important to understand this concept?
More often than not, you believe or are led to believe that your citizenship application would be automatically accepted through investing in some property and visiting a country a few weeks a year. Few or no further questions asked!
Unfortunately, most Golden Visas are temporary, requiring renewal every five years. Most programmes also oblige children to reapply once they become of age and independent. Vague articles stating the contrary are most often written by those that stand to benefit from this “misunderstanding.”
Typically, it takes a decade or more of physical presence in an established country to become naturalised. Even then, citizenship is not guaranteed. The same promoters would also have you believe you can skip the Long-Term Residency and Permanent Residency stages and go straight to citizenship. Still, a free upgrade to EU citizenship is extremely unlikely.
Many European countries have provisions in their legislation that allow a person to apply for permanent residency and be naturalised, i.e. become a citizen, after several years. While the conditions vary from country to country, these usually include several strong links such as:
- Being a fit and proper person
- Being able to sustain yourself and your family
- Being legally, continuously and physically present in the country for several years.
This tends to vary in Europe, but it is five years at a minimum.
Someone who has not physically resided in the country for several years is unlikely to be eligible to apply for permanent residency, let alone citizenship.
So, let us assume that one meets the required conditions and now has the right to apply. Here is the catch: The right to apply does not guarantee the obligation of the state to accept the application.
How does a Golden Visa lead to EU Citizenship? Here’s the Real Cost
Golden Visas are a way for wealthy individuals to gain EU citizenship by investing in property or businesses in member states. In return for their investment.
Golden Visa holders enjoy all the benefits of EU citizenship, including freedom of movement and travel, access to healthcare and education, and the right to live and work in any member state. However, Golden Visas come at a cost.
Malta promotes clear-path citizenship by investment through the Malta Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment. The programme provides investors with two routes:
- Apply for citizenship after one year of residency status in Malta with a non-refundable investment of €750,000 to the National Development and Social Fund set up by the Government of Malta.
- After three years, apply for Maltese citizenship with a lower non-refundable investment of €600,000.
The main applicant must allot €50,000 per family member in the application. Moreover, you must donate €10,000 to any non-governmental organisation registered in Malta and lease a residential property for a minimum annual rent of €16,000.
Alternatively, you may purchase a residential property in Malta with a minimum value of €700,000 and hold it for at least five years from the date of the certificate of naturalisation.
Administrative and due diligence fees will be applicable, depending on family composition. Regardless of the applicant’s choice, the lifetime benefits will remain the same.
There is already a legal provision to allow third-country nationals to avail themselves of citizenship benefits like those enjoyed by other European citizens without forking a million euros.
The answer lies in EU Council Directive 2003/109/E, also known as The Long-Term Residents Directive. Barring three countries, the rest of the 25 European Union countries are all signatories to this directive. The cost? Almost zero.
Once you have been legally and physically resident for four years and two months over five years and fulfil some other essential criteria, your right is to receive Long-Term Residency status. Moreover, the country is under an obligation to process it.
The benefits of this legislation are significant since it grants rights typically attributable to nationals. These include freedom of employment or self-employment, education and access to social services across 25 European Union states. If you stay within that country for even longer, one is more likely to receive citizenship and the country’s passport.
Golden Visas have become increasingly popular as they offer European citizenship paths. In addition, Golden Visas provide many benefits. However, Golden Visas also come at a cost, such as high investment requirements and strict eligibility criteria. Golden Visas remain a viable option for those looking to live and work in Europe.
Applying for and acquiring Golden Visas are not without challenges. That is why it’s essential to look for immigration specialists to assist you in making your dream of becoming a European citizen a reality.
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