Countries with golden visa programs – the ultimate guide

Which countries with golden visa programs offer these opportunities, and what do they entail? This is a critical question for investors looking to acquire residency or citizenship through investment. This guide provides the insights you need to differentiate between the golden visa programs of countries like Portugal and the UAE, covering the benefits, investment criteria, and potential pathways to citizenship. Our comparative approach will help you identify the program that best aligns with your objectives.

Key Takeaways

  • Golden Visa Programs offer residency and potential citizenship through significant investment, with benefits including access to new markets, lifestyle upgrades, healthcare, education, and tax incentives.
  • Investment requirements and eligibility criteria vary across different Golden Visa Programs, with minimum investments often in real estate or government bonds, as well as additional costs like application fees and financial commitments.
  • Comparison of Golden Visa Programs across countries such as Portugal, Spain, Greece, and the UAE is essential to identify the best fit based on investment requirements, benefits, residency outcomes, and the potential path to citizenship.

Understanding Golden Visa Programs

Golden Visa Programs are pathways to residency and potentially citizenship through substantial investment. These programs, offered by countries such as Portugal, Spain, Greece, Malta, Italy and United Arab Emirates, provide an opportunity to:

  • Enter new markets
  • Gain access to numerous benefits
  • Enjoy healthcare and education advantages
  • Receive tax incentives
  • Upgrade your lifestyle.
Malta's passport with a golden glow

Golden Visa programs have been designed as a win-win solution. They provide foreign investors with access to new markets and lifestyle benefits, while boosting the host country’s economy. But to make the most of these programs, potential applicants need to understand that the success of their golden visa depends on the key differences between them, their unique features, and which one aligns best with their individual needs and preferences.

Purpose of comparing golden visa programs in different countries

When comparing Golden Visa programs from different countries, potential applicants are empowered to make an informed decision that aligns with their individual needs, preferences, and future goals. Important elements to take into account in this comparison are:

  1. Investment Requirements: Each program has specific investment criteria, such as minimum investment amounts, types of eligible investments (real estate, government bonds, business ventures), and whether these investments must be maintained for a certain period.
  2. Residency and Citizenship Benefits: Programs differ in the residency rights they confer, the path to citizenship, and the time frame involved. Some offer immediate residency, while others may provide a pathway to citizenship after a certain period.
  3. Program Stability: The political and economic stability of the host country, along with the historical consistency and reliability of its visa program, are crucial considerations. A stable program in a stable country is likely to offer more security for your investment.
  4. Cost of Living: The cost of living in the host country can impact your overall financial planning. It’s important to consider everyday expenses, healthcare, education, and other living costs.
  5. Quality of Life: Factors such as healthcare quality, educational opportunities, safety, cultural offerings, and overall lifestyle in the potential host country are essential to consider.
  6. Legal and Tax Implications: Understanding the legal requirements and tax implications in the host country, including any benefits like tax breaks or drawbacks like double taxation, is important.

Requirements of golden visa programs

To participate in a Golden Visa Program, applicants must meet certain requirements. These usually involve being at least 18 years old, having a clean criminal record, and making a qualifying investment in the country’s economy. The investment requirements usually involve a minimum investment in real estate, government bonds, or other authorized investments, with varying thresholds across different programs.

In addition to the minimum investment, financial requirements may differ from one country to another. Some may require additional obligations such as investing in government bonds, meeting ongoing tax obligations, or demonstrating language proficiency. Hence, potential applicants should familiarize themselves with these requirements to determine the program that best matches their circumstances.

What are the general requirements for participating in golden visa programs?

Eligibility for a golden visa program typically includes:

  • Being a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen
  • Meeting a minimum age requirement
  • Maintaining a clean criminal record
  • Demonstrating a legitimate source of funds

These programs, including the immigrant investor program, are primarily tailored for non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens seeking residency rights within the EU by means of investment.

An applicant must be at least 18 years old, hold a clean criminal record, and provide proof of the source of funds. The source of funds must be legitimate, and some programs may require investments to be mortgage-free.

Minimum required investments

The minimum required investment for a golden visa program varies depending on the country. For instance, the Spain Golden Visa Program requires a minimum investment of €500,000 in real estate. For the UAE Golden Visa Program, the thresholds vary based on the type of investment. It is $600,000 for investors, but for real estate investments.

These variations in investment requirements are tailored to meet the economic needs and policy objectives of each country, offering potential investors a range of options to choose from based on their financial capacity and personal goals. For detailed information and specific criteria for each program, it’s advisable to consultofficial resources or legal experts specializing in helping investors obtain a Second Citizenship or Residency through the means of investments.

Additional financial commitments

Additional financial commitments are indeed an integral part of Golden Visa programs, beyond the primary investment. These include various fees and expenses that applicants should budget for:

  1. Application and Processing Fees: These are mandatory fees charged by the authorities to cover the administrative costs of assessing and managing your application. The amount can vary greatly from one program to another.
  2. Legal and Advisory Fees: Engaging legal and financial advisors to navigate the application process is common. Their fees depend on the complexity of your case and the level of service required. Contact Us.
  3. Due Diligence Fees: Many programs require a thorough background check, for which they charge a due diligence fee. This fee covers the cost of verifying the applicant’s information to ensure compliance with international regulations.
  4. Renewal Fees: Some Golden Visa programs require periodic renewal of residency permits, which may involve additional fees.
  5. Health Insurance Costs: Applicants may need to procure health insurance that is valid in the host country, which can be an additional cost.
  6. Taxes and Other Government Levies: Depending on the country’s tax laws, there might be additional costs in the form of government levies or taxes associated with the investment.
  7. Real Estate Maintenance and Management Costs: For real estate investments, ongoing maintenance, property management fees, and taxes associated with property ownership should be considered.
  8. Translation and Document Certification Costs: If documents need to be translated or certified, this can incur additional costs.

Top countries with Golden Visa Programs: Your guide to residency by investment

Several countries offer Golden Visa Programs, each with its unique benefits and requirements. Some of the most popular countries include Portugal, Spain, Greece and Malta in Europe, and the UAE globally. These programs offer a range of investment options and benefits, such as visa-free travel within the Schengen area, potential citizenship following a residency period, and the ability to live and work in the country.

Non-European countries, often considered as a foreign country, such as the UAE, also offer substantial Golden Visa Programs, providing long-term residency and access to a vibrant business environment.

Top european countries offering Golden Visas

In Europe, Portugal, Spain and Malta are recognized for their established Golden Visa Programs. These programs offer a range of investment options, such as real estate, that can lead to residency and potentially citizenship. Depending on the country, the path to citizenship can vary.

Spain’s Golden Visa program offers a potential path to citizenship after 10 Years (2 years for qualifying individuals), while Greece provides the opportunity to become a Greek citizen after 8 years, and Malta offers the chance to reside, work, and study in the European Union with the potential for citizenship.

Europe - a continent open to foreign investors

Portugal Golden Visa Program

The Portugal Golden Visa Program offers a range of investment options, including real estate, venture capital funds, and company formations. The minimum investment for this program is €500,000. After a five-year period, investors can pursue permanent residency or citizenship.

The benefits of the program include:

  • Visa-free access to the Schengen states
  • The opportunity to obtain Portuguese citizenship within five to six years
  • Visa-free travel across the Schengen zone and Europe
  • The opportunity to reside, work, and study in Portugal
  • Attractive tax benefits, including a potential Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) status, which may provide tax exemptions on foreign income for a period of ten years.
  • Family reunification, meaning that immediate family members can also obtain residency rights.
Portugal - one of the few European countries with a Golden Visa program

Beside, unlike many residency programs, the Portugal Golden Visa does not require investors to live in Portugal. The minimum stay requirement is quite low – just seven days in the first year and 14 days in subsequent two-year periods.

Spain Golden Visa Program

The Spain Golden Visa Program, also known as the Spain Investor visa, offers residency to non-EU citizens who engage in substantial investment activities within Spain. The eligibility criteria involve purchasing real estate valued at a minimum of EUR 500,000 or investing in funds or bank deposits.

The benefits of the program include:

  • Visa-free travel within the Schengen Zone.
  • The privilege of residing, pursuing education, and working in Spain.
  • No minimum stay requirement in Spain to maintain the visa.

The Spain Golden Visa Program does offer a potential path to citizenship.

Spain - one of the few European countries with a Golden Visa program

Malta Permanent Residence Programme

The Malta Permanent Residence Programme (MPRP) is a residency-by-investment initiative that enables non-Maltese individuals to obtain a European residence permit in Malta by making investments in property and government contributions. The purchase of property starting from € 150,000 EUR to the national development fund and a requirement of 36 months of residency. The investment must be held for the first 5 years.

Malta - one of the few European countries with a Golden Visa program

The benefits of the program include:

  • The program grants the right to permanently reside in Malta.
  • Beneficiaries enjoy visa-free travel within the Schengen Area (27 countries).
  • The residency card issued is valid for 5 years and can be renewed indefinitely as long as the requirements are met.

The processing time for a golden visa in Malta typically ranges between 2 to 3 months.

Non-European countries with Golden Visa Programs

Golden Visa Programs are not just confined to Europe; several non-European countries like UAE, Australia or Thailand also offer attractive options. These programs are designed to attract foreign investment by providing residency, and in some cases, a pathway to citizenship.

These non-European Golden Visa programs offer a range of investment opportunities and residency benefits. Each program has its own set of criteria, investment options, and processes. Applicants usually need to demonstrate the legal source of their investment funds, along with meeting other requirements such as background checks. The choice of program will depend on the individual’s investment goals, desired lifestyle, and long-term plans.

Luxurious skyline of Dubai

UAE Golden Visa Program

The UAE Golden Visa Program offers long-term residency for a maximum of 10 years, along with additional privileges. Investments in real estate are considered as qualifying criteria for obtaining the UAE Golden Visa.

Some of the key benefits of this program include:

  • Long-Term Residency
  • The flexibility in the duration of the visa, with options for 5 or 10 years
  • Access to UAE’s Dynamic Economy
  • Visa-Free Travel to 15 countries (include Europa, Asia, Africa)
  • Inclusion of family members, enabling visa holders to bring their families with them.

The UAE Golden Visa Program is an excellent option for those looking to establish a long-term presence in the Middle East, offering a combination of stability, investment opportunities, and family inclusivity.

United Arab Emirates - country with golden visa program

Comparing Golden Visa Programs: Investment requirements and benefits

Golden Visa Programs come with a variety of investment prerequisites and advantages. While some programs require a minimum investment in real estate, others may require investment in government bonds or other authorized investments. For instance, the Portugal Golden Visa Program requires a minimum investment of €500,000 in real estate, while the Malta Permanent Residence Programme it is also a contribution to the Maltese Government .

Comparing these prerequisites and benefits is key in determining which program aligns optimally with an applicant’s needs and objectives. For instance, while the UAE Golden Visa Program provides extended residency for a maximum of 10 years, tax advantages, and business investment prospects, a golden visa Europe comparison reveals that European Golden Visa Programs offer visa-free travel within the EU Schengen zone, potential citizenship following a residency period, and the ability to live and work in the country.

What are the general benefits of participating in golden visa programs?

Golden Visa Programs offer a plethora of benefits to applicants, including golden visa holders. They provide visa-free travel within the Schengen Area and the potential to either relocate to a favorable jurisdiction or visit it periodically through the golden visa scheme.

In addition to these travel benefits, a golden visa program can also improve access to various social services, including healthcare, education, and social security benefits.

Why is comparing benefits and requirements important?

Potential applicants stand to benefit from comparing the requirements and benefits of these programs, as it guides them in selecting the one that best matches their needs, preferences, and long-term aspirations. When comparing different golden visa programs, it is important to consider factors such as:

  • Investment requirements
  • Citizenship timeline
  • Minimum investment amount
  • Mandatory travel and residence requirements
  • Freedom of movement

Popularity ranking of countries with golden visa programs

Several countries are popular among golden visa applicants.Portugal, Spain, Malta, and Cyprus are among the most sought-after countries for golden visa programs. The popularity of these programs is influenced by various factors such as emphasis on wealth, availability of education and healthcare services, promotion of economic development, investment prospects, global mobility, and access to international markets.

Which countries are most popular among golden visa applicants?

Portugal, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta are the leading golden visa countries offering golden visa programs, including the popular golden visa Europe program. Among these, the Greece golden visa, Spain, and Portugal are the top choices for golden visa programs in European countries.

This data is available from various countries. For example, Portugal provides information on the volume of golden visa applications, investment amounts from different countries, and other pertinent data.

Factors influencing the popularity of programs in specific countries

The popularity of golden visa programs is influenced by a variety of factors. These include:

  • The benefits offered by the program, such as residency, education, healthcare, tax benefits, and investment rewards
  • The investment requirements
  • The ease of the application process

All of these factors contribute to a program’s popularity.

Political stability plays a significant role in the popularity of a country’s golden visa program, as shifts in government policies or instability can affect an investor’s capacity to uphold their residency status or attain a return on their investment.

The application process for Golden Visas: the role of Imperial Citizenship

Understanding the application process for Golden Visas is of paramount importance for potential applicants. From eligibility checks to document preparation and biometrics, each step plays a vital role in the successful procurement of a golden visa.

Moreover, these programs offer a potential path to citizenship, which can be an attractive benefit for many applicants.

What is the overall procedure for obtaining a golden visa?

The overall procedure of obtaining a golden visa involves several steps. Applicants must first meet the eligibility criteria, which usually include being at least 18 years old, having a clean criminal record, and making a qualifying investment in the country’s economy. After meeting these requirements, applicants need to prepare the necessary documents, such as a copy of a valid passport and travel documents, proof of investment, proof of health insurance, proof of accommodation, criminal record certificate, and a CV or educational documents.

The process of obtaining citizenship by investment varies among countries, but generally, it involves the following steps:

  1. Eligibility assessments
  2. Selection of investment options
  3. Documentation compilation
  4. Due diligence processes
  5. Comprehensive application submission.

Golden visa application procedure

he application procedure for a Golden Visa involves a series of well-defined steps, ensuring that all legal and regulatory requirements are met. Here’s a more detailed look at the process:

  1. Document Preparation: Applicants must provide a valid passport or another government-issued travel document. This is essential for identity verification and travel records. Completing the Golden Visa application form accurately is crucial. This form typically requires personal information, details of the investment, and other relevant data.
  2. Financial Verification: A critical aspect of the application process is proving the financial investment. This often involves obtaining a declaration from a bank confirming the transfer of funds for the investment. The declaration must usually specify the amount, source, and destination of the funds.
  3. Biometric Data Submission: Providing biometrics, including fingerprints and possibly a facial image, is a standard requirement for identification and security purposes. This data is used to produce biometric residence cards and for entry and exit records.
  4. Health Insurance: In many cases, applicants must show proof of health insurance coverage. This insurance should be valid in the host country and provide comprehensive coverage.
  5. Background Checks: Applicants typically undergo extensive background checks. These checks are intended to verify the applicant’s criminal record, financial history, and overall background.
  6. Legal and Advisory Consultation: Engaging with legal and immigration experts is often advisable. They can provide assistance with the application process, ensuring compliance with all legal requirements.
  7. Submission of Application: After gathering and preparing all required documents, the completed application, along with the supporting documents, is submitted to the relevant authorities.
  8. Processing and Approval: Once submitted, the application undergoes processing, which includes a review of all submitted materials and verifications. The processing time can vary based on the specific program and country.
  9. Receiving the Visa/Residency Permit: Upon approval, the applicant is granted the Golden Visa or residency permit. In some cases, this might involve visiting a consulate or immigration office to receive the visa or permit.
  10. Compliance and Renewal: After obtaining the Golden Visa, there may be compliance requirements to maintain the status, including maintaining the investment and adhering to any residency requirements. Periodic renewals might also be necessary, depending on the program’s duration.

Each Golden Visa program has its specific requirements and procedures, so it’s important to consult the official guidelines of the respective program or seek advice from immigration experts.

Citizenship Investment: Tips for choosing the right Golden Visa Program

Selecting the appropriate Golden Visa Program is a crucial decision that must resonate with the applicant’s long-term objectives and financial capacity. Various programs offer different benefits that may align with your aims, such as economic investment for long-term residency or a quicker path to citizenship. Besides, applicants should consider their financial status, as golden visa programs typically have a minimum investment requirement and may require proof of a certain annual income. Lastly, considering the potential eligibility for citizenship after maintaining legal residency for a specified period is an important consideration in the preparation and selection process.

Imperial Citizenship is dedicated to aiding investors in securing a second citizenship or residency via investment routes. We have a strong working relationship with 14 governments and boast over two decades of expertise in the Citizenship and Residency by Investment Industry. Our team of skilled client advisors is committed to guiding our clients towards a residency or citizenship that aligns with their family needs and future aspirations. We invite for a consultation.


Golden Visa Programs present individuals with the chance to obtain residency, and potentially citizenship, in a foreign nation via investment. These programs, offered by various countries have distinct benefits and requirements. While some programs require a minimum investment in real estate, others may require investment in government bonds or other authorized investments.

Moreover, these programs can lead to citizenship, providing even more benefits to the holders. By comparing these programs, potential applicants can choose the most suitable program that aligns best with their individual needs and long-term goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fastest Golden Visa?

The fastest Golden Visa is offered by the United Arab Emirates, and residency permits are granted within 21 days (2-3 weeks) of application. This program has one of the fastest processes for obtaining residency and an investment threshold of €600,000.

What country has the cheapest Golden Visa?

The country with the cheapest Golden Visa in Europe varies depending on current regulations and economic conditions. It’s important to research and compare the costs and benefits of each program before making a decision.

How to get free Golden Visa?

To obtain a free Golden Visa in Greece, you need to meet the eligibility criteria, which include purchasing real estate, investing in government bonds or capital shares, and making a deposit in a Greek bank account. Good luck!

What is a Golden Visa Program?

A Golden Visa Program is a residency-by-investment initiative that allows individuals and their families to obtain residency or even citizenship in certain countries, offering various lifestyle and business advantages.

What are the requirements for obtaining a golden visa?

The requirements for obtaining a golden visa typically include being at least 18 years old, having a clean criminal record, and making a qualifying investment in the country’s economy. These are the general criteria to be met.

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