Golden Visa Programs: Citizenship & Residence by Investment for US Citizens
A Golden Visa is a nickname given to international tax visa programs in which a person may apply for citizenship or permanent residence in a much more streamlined fashion than going through more traditional avenues.
Two common types of Golden Visas are the Portugal Golden Visa and St Kitts and Nevis Golden Visa. Due to its popularity, even Portugal recently confirmed that it is modifying their Golden Visa Program terms to move investment opportunities away from the coastal properties and towards more rural areas. So, if you are considering a Portugal Golden Visa, it is important to get in while the going is good — unless your goal is to move to Portugal and live 50 miles outside of Lisbon.
How a Golden Visa Works for Expatriates
Let’s say a US citizen wants to give up their US citizenship and move overseas to a foreign country. In order to do so, the individual cannot be “stateless.” Therefore, the US citizen must obtain a second citizenship before expatriating. That way, when the US citizen takes an oath and renounces their US citizenship at an overseas consulate — there will be no issue with their expatriation (this is not a big issue for US Long-Term Permanent Residents who are also considered expatriates, because they already have citizenship in another country and are only permanent residents in the United States.) Therefore, in order to accelerate the process of foreign citizenship, Americans can apply for a Golden Visa — which is also referred to as a Citizenship by Investment Visa (CBI). With a Golden Visa or CBI, the expatriate is investing into another country in order to pay for the opportunity of receiving expedited citizenship.
Golden Visa Does Not Mean Illegal Tax Haven
Don’t be misled by the concept that Golden Visa Programs are only located in tax haven countries, because the US has its own version of the Golden Visa — and it is quite popular. It is referred to as an EB-5 investment visa and it can lead to permanent residency and citizenship. (Noting, the US is actually known worldwide as one of the best tax haven countries.)
Not all Golden Visas are the Same
Not all Golden Visas are the same. Some Golden Visas are Citizenship by Investment while other Golden Visas are Residence by Investment. Sometimes, the Golden Visa is used as a second passport or travel card, since it may provide access to certain locations that the person’ citizenship passport does not. For example, some Golden Visa Cards (non-passports) provide access to travel such as the Portugal Golden Visa which allows travel throughout the Schengen Zone/Area.
Other Golden Visas provide a very quick and efficient route to citizenship, which can be accomplished in just a few months. Deciding which Golden Visa to apply for depends on the purpose and the strategy of the taxpayer — and why they are obtaining the Visa.