Firstly, why would anyone want an EU passport?
1. Visa Free Travel
For my mother to visit us in Spain on her South African passport she needs a visa. To get the visa she must fly to Cape Town, pay over R1,000 and produce a seemingly endless pile of letters, insurances, invitations, bank account documents, and stamps in a process that takes weeks. My mother-in-law, with her British passport, just hops on the plane and here she is. EU passports are amongst the most powerful passports in the world when it comes to visa free travel. Germany allows your visa free travel to 157 countries worldwide, the highest in the world!
2. Education and business opportunities
An EU passport allows you to freely live, study, and work across the EU According to the QS World University rankings, a third of the top ranking universities in the world are located in the EU. An EU passport opens access to all these universities plus numerous other colleges and schools for you and your children.
3. Financial Opportunities
An EU passport the opportunities to live under a tax regime that suits your situation. Additionally, EU regulations offer a layer of privacy regarding taxation that is not available many parts of the world.
4. Social Security and Civic rights
Access to world class health care, unemployment programs, pensions and the like, for you and your family, are all benefits to which you would be entitled with EU citizenship. Voting, the right to stand for public office and other civic rights also come with citizenship.
5. Consular Assistance
A range of options in a “worst case” scenario. An EU passport will allow you and your family unrestricted travel, safe passage, consular assistance and much more if there is a situation beyond your control in your country of residence or business.
6. A gift to pass onto your children
EU citizenship is something you can often pass onto your children and sometimes your grandchildren, opening a world of opportunities to them.
What are the fastest ways to an EU Passport?
1. Through your family
Most of Europe follows the rule of Jus Sanguinis, the inheritance of a countries’ citizenship from one, or more, of your parents. Most people know about this rule but often do not realise that in some countries you can inherit citizenship from your family in other ways. Here are some that you may not know about:
- Ancestry beyond one generation. In Italy, Ireland, Poland, Greece, Hungary and Lithuania you may be eligible for citizenship from grandparents, great-grandparents, and even much further back than that in some cases. Check out your family tree using a tool like ancestry.com and then run our wizard against your details.
- People of Jewish heritage impacted by the Sephardic diaspora. Spain has offered citizenship to an estimated 2.2 million descendants of Jews exiled from Spain in 1492. You’ll need to prove a link the Sephardic community that was impacted and a link to Spain. Portugal has a similar program with applicants needing to prove links to the Portuguese Sephardic diaspora.
- People with ancestors (predominantly Jewish, but also Romany, communists, LBGTI and others) displaced in World War 2. Several European countries offer citizenships to ancestors of people who lost their citizenship fleeing persecution, including Germany, Poland, Austria, and Hungary.
Request a free consultation if you think you are eligible for any of the above.
2. Marriage/ Civil Partnership
This path has some obvious drawbacks if you are not already in a long term, committed relationship with an EU citizen! Seriously, most EU countries recognise the rights of a spouse but there are often a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to clear.
3. Citizenship by Investment (CBI)
CBI has become a recognised way for countries attracting inward investment to grow their economies. For most people who have the means there are two realistic options in Europe: Cyprus and Malta. The third option is Austria, but the visa is very seldom granted. We’ll explore all three in a bit more depth here.
The Mediterranean island nation, officially the Republic of Cyprus, has been a member of the European Union since 2004. Its economy, based primarily on tourism, shipping and financial services has rebounded from the 2008 crisis and is one of the fastest growing economies in the Eurozone. Growth across most sectors is projected to continue in 2018. A Cypriot passport offers access to the European Union, free travel within the Schengen area and visa-free, or visa on arrival access, to 159 countries as at January 2018.
Any non-EU citizen may apply for Cypriot citizenship through Naturalization by Exception if they meet the requirements of the program, the key areas of which are:
- A €2 million investment into one of the following:
- Real estate, developments and infrastructure projects.
- The purchase, creation or participation in Cyprus based businesses and companies.
- Investment in Alternative Investment Funds or Cyprus based organizations licensed by the Cypriot Securities and Exchange Commission.
- Combination of the above investments, including a maximum of special government bonds of the Republic of Cyprus of €500,000.
- A minimum of €500,000 invested into the applicant’s primary residence. This can form a part of the above €2 million investment under certain circumstances.
- A police clearance from the applicant’s current country of residence.
One of the key benefits of this program is the possibility of a rapid turnaround, with applications correctly submitted being approved and citizenship granted, in around 6 months utilising a skilled immigration partner will ensure that these timelines are met. Additionally, there are no residency requirements during or after the application process.
Click here for a confidential consultation on the Cyprus Citizenship by Investment Program.
This archipelago nation is home to 450,000 people and has been a hub of commerce and trade for centuries. Independent since 1964 and a Eurozone member since 2008, Malta is once of 32 advanced economies recognised by the IMF. The economy has performed well in recent years with real GDP growing strongly in 2017 and continuing to surprise on the upside, reaching 7.2%. Real estate continues to show strong and consistent growth across the sector. The low tax rates and the lack of inheritance, death, net worth, high wealth, rates or real estate taxes make living and investing in Malta an attractive proposition.
A Maltese passport gives visa free access to 156 countries and access to others, including the USA and Australia through Electronic Travel Authority.
Malta’s Individual Investor Programme (IIP) offers full citizenship after 12 months once an applicant in good standing has met the conditions of the program.
- A contribution/donation of €650,000 to the National Development and Social Fund for the main applicant, an additional €25,000 for your spouse and each dependent child under 18, and an additional €50,000 for dependent children 18 – 26 years old or dependant parents.
- Purchasing a property for a minimum of €350,000 or leasing a property for a minimum of 5 years with a minimum annual rent of €16,000.
- An investment of €150,000 in government approved instruments which is held for not less than 5 years.
- A clean criminal record and passing a “fit and proper” test.
The program is efficient and well administered, with processing times of 3 – 4 months but your chances of a positive outcome are greatly enhanced by working with an experienced immigration professional.
Click here for a confidential consultation on the Malta’s Individual Investor Programme.
This landlocked Central European nation of 8.8 million citizens offers one of the most powerful passports in the world. Austria’s economy is also one of the strongest in the world driven by a large industrial base, high levels of global tourism and a robust services sector. Growth in 2017 was twice that of 2016, and the OECD forecast is for the economy to continue to be buoyant through 2018 and 2019.
Austria is a stable social democracy, with low crime rates, high levels of social inclusion and strong civic institutions.
The Austrian Citizenship by Investment program in an amendment to the Austrian Citizenship act and is administered through the “person of extraordinary merit” clause. This means there is no fixed criterion for the award of this visa, the determination is by the government of the day. Consensus on what would work seems to be that, at a minimum, the applicant should:
- Directly invest a minimum of €2 million in a business or enterprise in Austria that will add significant value to the Austrian economy (for example through offering an innovative product or service), create significant jobs in Austria, or create significant export sales.
- The applicant must be of good standing in the eyes of the authorities.
- The applicant must have links to Austria.
The application process is rigorous and involves various levels of government and can take as long as 3 years. While no official statistics are available on the number of these visas granted, anecdotally it is a very small number. Given the complexity of the program, again, working with an effective, experience partner is critical for success with this visa.
The three paths of ancestry, marriage and investment are the quickest ways to gaining citizenship and a passport to a European Union country. If you have more time and are mobile, gaining residency then serving a qualifying period may be a better option. If you want more information about some of the best residency programs in the EU check out our 14 ways to European Union Residency.