Every year, Global RCG reviews over 200 investment migration programs from around the world. Not every program out there, but the most significant ones. When it comes to Europe, we review all of them. Every day, we get many messages from global citizens who are looking for an investor visa in Europe.
To get one, many variables come into play, and much depends on your profile. We like to say that the program is the price of admission and the product you’re purchasing is life in a country. The best investment migration programs will be linked to highly rated countries.
Let’s not forget that EU nationals can live anywhere in the Union. So it’s often not your dream destination in the EU you should consider, but which investor visa gives you the best path towards an EU citizenship.
With that, let’s look at the best European Investor visas or Golden Visas available, and let’s weigh the Pros and Cons.
#1 Portugal Golden Residency
The Portugal Investor Visa, in my opinion, is the best option out there. It will satisfy the most global citizens. Portugal is a wonderful place with beaches, beautiful architecture, and a warm climate. It’s also extremely safe and affordable compared to other western European countries. Now, I’m not saying Portugal is the best place to live in Europe. It’s a decent place, but it’s the other advantages – such as those provided by the Golden Residency visa – that make Portugal number one in our book.
First, the country has a special tax regime for foreigners not domiciled in Portugal. That can translate roughly as “those whose main business activity is abroad”. So, as a foreigner, you can stay in Portugal for most of the year and not fear heavy taxation from the state. As a non-domiciled, you won’t be taxed on your foreign income, only on income sourced in Portugal. But perhaps what distinguishes Portugal from the rest is that, as a foreigner, you can become naturalized if you “have resided lawfully in Portuguese territory for a minimum of 5 years.”
For those that need more explanation, this is extremely important. Holding a valid permit for 5 years is enough and doesn’t require to prove that you’ve been physically present in Portugal for x numbers of days. For Global Citizens that are looking for an EU citizenship but can’t spend a lot of time outside their home country, this is the best solution. How many days, you ask? Well, the Golden Residency program requires the approved applicant to spend 7 or more days in Portugal in the first year, and 14 or more days in the subsequent 2 years. It’s important to note that only the Portugal Golden Visa offers this flexibility. Other Portuguese resident permits require 6 months of physical presence in the country. The investment options are also numerous and vary between 200,000 Euro and 500,000 Euro. But, importantly, it offers a Real Estate investment option.
What is the negative? I’d say the fragmented nature of the resident permit. You must hold your investment for 5 years, but you don’t get a 5-year resident permit. At approval, you get a 1-year permit that will get renewed with a 2-year permit, which will also be renewed with another 2-year permit. At each renewal, you’ll need to prove you’re still holding your investment and pay fees. After those 5 years, you can apply for permanent residence or citizenship in the country.
Also, for many, the language can be a barrier. You’ll have to learn it to become a citizen, but English is widely spoken as a second language. Most Global Citizens favor an English-speaking country, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from selecting the program.
- Citizenship after 5y without minimum stay requirement
- No tax on foreign income as a non-domiciled
- Warmest winters in Continental Europe
- Very safe
- Affordable cost of living
- Real Estate investment option
- Low physical residence requirements
- Parent allowed as dependents
- Children of any age as long as they are unmarried and studying in university
- Fragmented residence permit
- You will need to learn Portuguese to become a citizen
#2 UK Tier 1 Investor Visa
The UK Tier 1 Investor Visa is the Rolls Royce of programs, with investment starting at 2M GBP to 10M GBP. At 10M GBP, it’s the most expensive investor visa on the planet. The more you invest, the shorter you wait for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence). You’re required to invest in share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK-registered companies. But you can’t invest in companies that are mainly engaged in property investment, property management, or property development. The process is really fast, and you get your initial permit in 3-4 weeks. After 5 years (or 2 and 3 years under the 10M and 5M options) you can apply for permanent residence. After holding permanent residence for 1 year, you can apply for citizenship.
So, with the UK Tier 1 Investor you can become a British citizen in 5 or 6 years. As you can see, the program is good, but what makes it one of our favorites is London. You can live in the Global Citizen capital of the world surrounded by wealth, luxury, and world-class universities. London is the place of choice for the truly wealthy. It also offers non-domiciled taxation. Instead of being taxed on your worldwide income as a tax resident in the UK, you’re taxed on what you remitted to the UK, meaning the money you transferred to the UK. It has annual costs and doesn’t last forever, but it still has its advantages.
Now that UK has exited the EU, some will see its value diminish. But in truth, both parties are losing since the UK was an economic powerhouse, an English-speaking country in and the main destination for many of the wealthiest Global Citizens.
In my view, the main disadvantage to the program is that it requires you to spend at least 180 days in the UK per year if you’re looking to qualify for permanent residence. You’ll have to make the UK your home if you ever want to get a hold of a passport.
- Fast process
- English speaking country
- London is a world-class city
- Non-domiciled taxation
- Citizenship in 5-6 years
- High investment requirements
- Need to spend at least 180 days a year in the UK for permanent residence and citizenship
- Not an EU member anymore
#3 Greece Golden Visa
The Greece Golden Visa has been Europe’s most popular investor visa for the last decade. It’s very affordable and enables you to have a great vacation home. The program starts at 250,000 Euro for a real estate investment and provides a 5-year permit. After those 5 years, you can renew your permit or apply for permanent residence. After 7 years in Greece, you can apply for citizenship. That sounds amazing, but to be naturalized you’ll need to have spent at least half of the year physically present in Greece and pass a language and civic test. That would be the main issue in what is otherwise a great option. Becoming a tax resident in Greece might not be costly, as foreign income is taxed at 15%. If your home country has double taxation with Greece, you might pay any additional tax. Furthermore, now Greece provides a non-domicile tax scheme shielding foreign income in exchange for an annual lump sum tax of 100,000 Euro.
- Great vacation home
- Affordable investment amount
- Renewable 5-year permit
- Citizenship in 7 years
- Low tax on foreign income
- Requires you to spend at least 180 days a year for naturalization
- Language requirement for citizenship
#4 Spain Investor Visa
The Spain Investor Visa is one of Europe’s most popular residence-by-investment programs. Living in Spain is particularly attractive because of the country’s lifestyle, warm climate, and beautiful architecture. The program is similar to Portugal’s and also offers a real estate option at with a minimum investment of 500,000 Euro. The country also has a special tax law named after David Beckham (due to his time as a professional football player at Real Madrid) that caps taxation on foreign income of foreigners at 24%. Again, in this case, if your country has a double taxation treaty with Spain, this might not have a financial effect on you. There’s also a low physical requirement: you need to visit at least once during the term of your permit. So you don’t have to become a tax resident if you don’t want to.
What’s the catch? You can’t get permanent residence or citizenship if you don’t spend most of the year in the country. Furthermore, you’ll have to wait 10 years for a chance to obtain naturalization, which itself can take 2 years. In brief, Spain is great, but its Investor Visa is not the best option if you’re looking to gain citizenship. That is unless you are a citizen of an Iberoamerican country. Certain nationals, mainly Latin Americans can access Spanish citizenship after only 2 years of residence. If you are lucky enough to have Mexican citizenship, for example, the Spain Investor Visa suddenly becomes by far the best option.
- Parents can qualify as dependents if they are at charge
- Only need to travel at least once in Spain during the permit lifespan
- hundreds of millions of people can qualify for Spanish citizenship after only 2 years.
- Fragmented residence permit
- Adult children need to apply for a different permit
- Need to spend most of the year in Spain to qualify for permanent residence
- 10 continuous years of residence to qualify for naturalization