By Harvey Law Group

If you’re considering getting a second passport, you may have heard of the term “Golden Visa” or “Golden Passport.” But what does this actually mean?

A Golden Visa is either a Residency or Permanent Residency-By-Investment Program, while a Golden Passport refers to a Citizenship-By-Investment Program. These are currently offered by more than 25 countries around the world to investors who want to invest in designated projects or hold an investment for a fixed period of time in exchange for immigration status for themselves and their dependents.

Each program has a different set of requirements and offers various benefits to the investor. So depending on your family’s needs and your ability to achieve the required criteria, you might want to consider the factors below if you’re planning to invest in a Golden Passport.

The world is full of choices and investment programs are no different. This means your first point of call is to make sure the program you are considering is a reputable one. The investment program you choose should have clear guidelines, a thorough due diligence process, and, of course, a positive track record. The legitimacy of a program should be reflected in the countries’ legal system, starting with its constitution, laws, and then regulations. Often, it is not enough to just look at the residency and/or citizenship program in isolation. You need to consider everything that goes hand in hand in the whole process.

Investment Options
Each country that offers residency and/or citizenship programs has different investment options for the investor. These options range from real estate to government bonds and even voluntary and non-refundable donations. Some countries prohibit real estate investments, others will seek to limit it. When deciding on the investment option, you must make sure that the best option for you is the one that is currently recognized by the government for that program.

For example, Malta has three mandatory investment streams: a donation; a real estate purchase or rental; and an investment into a government-approved fund. As a comparison, Cyprus has only one investment stream: real estate into commercial or residential developments. Therefore, each program and country have different options which the government has sanctioned so you need to ensure that the recommended option is a valid one.

Residency Requirement
Each program has different requirements with regards to physical residency in that country. For citizenship programs, most of the Caribbean countries either do not require the investor to spend physical time in the country of interest or very little time. Antigua and Barbuda requires the main investor and all adult dependents to spend at least five days within the first five years after being granted citizenship in the country. Failure to comply with the residency requirements could jeopardize the renewal of the investor’s passport. However, some programs require the investor to spend a significant time in the country such as Malta where the investor is required to live in Malta for a year before even being eligible to apply for citizenship.

Residency programs, on the other hand, have a fixed number of days which the investor is required to spend in the country of interest. Therefore, it is important that the investor achieves the minimum residency requirement in order to either maintain the visa, renew it, become a permanent resident, or become a citizen.
When it comes to choosing a country and program to invest in, make sure that you can satisfy the residency requirement, otherwise, the program is not for you.

Visa-Free Access
The Golden Visa or the Golden Passport has earned its nickname because it has no restrictions on where the holder can travel. And this is one of the top reasons why many investors are getting into the Residency and/or Citizenship program.

However, it’s not really about the number of countries you can visit. Rather, it’s more about the countries you want to visit. For example, a Vietnamese national is now granted visa-free travel to around 50 countries; a Filipino 65; and a Thai national 80. Most Citizenship-By-Investment programs grant a holder visa-free access to more than 140 countries, including the Schengen Area, UK, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Before you apply for the so-called Golden Passport, you need to look into the countries you plan on visiting for business and leisure, not just the total number of countries in general.

Processing Time And Requirements
Many people ask if the investor can apply and process the application by themselves. The short answer is no. Most countries with such programs prohibit investors from submitting their applications on their own. You need to work with an authorized and registered immigration consultant or law firm in order to gather the documents, review, and submit the application on your behalf.

Most processing times advertised are based on the best-case scenarios and takes into consideration that all documents are collated and ready to submit. However, the reality is quite different. In order to apply for a Citizenship-By-Investment program, your agent, consultant or lawyer needs to gather several documents, authenticate, and certify them. He or she needs to complete all forms and then present them in a way compatible with the governing body to whom the application needs to be presented to. Realistic processing time takes three to six months for a program within the Caribbean region, and six to 12 months for a European program.

Applying for a Golden Visa is not only reserved for one person. The main applicant can apply for his family who would then be dependents for the purposes of the application. The definition slightly varies, but dependents usually refer to children, spouses, parents and, in some rare cases, siblings. Each country is different and the cost implications of including additional dependents can vary between programs. It is advisable to decide who you will be including in the application to see if it is permitted.

Do You Want To Get A Golden Passport?
There are many perks of investing, working, and living with your family abroad. So if you’re thinking of embarking on this great adventure, you can contact any of our representatives below to take that first step.

Ms. Elisabeth Dumais
Director of Operations – Philippines

Mr. Samuel Harvey
Director of Business Development – Philippines


Edits: Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla

About Harvey Law Group

HLG is a leading multinational law firm specializing in corporate law and investment immigration with a worldwide reputation for representing high-profile clients and corporations, with over 19 offices worldwide. As the top immigration law firm, HLG offers the most comprehensive residency and citizenship programs available to date. HLG was awarded for Immigration Law Firm of the Year at the 13th and 16th annual Macallan ALB Hong Kong Law Awards 2014 and 2017.

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