More than a dozen countries sell 'golden visas' to people willing to invest in a country’s economy under Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIPs), raising some $3 billion a year. London-based Henley & Partners citizenship planning consultancy named Germany the most desirable passport in the world in its 2017 Visa Restrictions Index - its citizens enjoying visa-free access to 177 countries in total. Singapore ranks second globally, with visa-free access to 176 countries.
But for those without those coveted passports, CIPs offer an alternative. The programs’ costs range from as little as $100,000 to become a citizen of Saint Lucia to as much as $3.3 million to acquire a New Zealand passport. Wealthy people merely invest money in property or businesses, buy government bonds or donate cash directly as in the case of Austria, in exchange for citizenship and a passport.
In the United States, $1 million buys an EB-5 visa - and generates about $4 billion a year to the economy - while a CIP costing $419,200 in Portugal secures visa-free movement throughout the European Union. Malta’s controversial Henley-designed citizenship programme has come under sustained fire. It’s CIP, which requires a one-off non-refundable “contribution” of €650,000, saw more than 800 wealthy individuals gain EU citizenship between 2014 and 2017. Malta, like Cyprus, seems to appeal to shady Russian oligarchs moving ill-gotten gains to Europe