A golden ticket to citizenship

A number of countries allow you to become citizens by investing in government-approved projects or real estate or by buying bonds

A golden ticket to citizenship

Tinesh Bhasin
You have got money and want to shift abroad? There is some good news. Many countries are offering long-term visas for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), if they are willing to invest Rs 3.5 crore or more. The money can be used to even buy a property. Also, the residency rights obtained through a 'golden visa' can be upgraded to citizenship after a few years. This is also the fastest way to get a long-term visa for a country - be it the US, Canada, Australia or small countries like St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada and Dominica in the Caribbean.

In general, there are two separate categories for investment - active and passive. Under active investments, the person needs to start his or her own business (or acquire one). Under the latter, one invests either in projects, bonds or property.

Why migration by investments?

Indians usually migrate using these programmes for benefit of their children, says Pankaj Joshi, managing director at NYSA Consultancy Services. These migrants feel that the facilities offered in developed countries are better for overall development of their kids. "To get ahead in education and career, children need to have citizenship or permanent residency (PR)," says Joshi. For example, a person wants his/her child to be a doctor in the US. It's much easier to get a job if they study in the US. Also, if they have a PR or citizenship, the seats available to them are more than international students. They can also get scholarships easily.


Ajay Sharma, president, Abhinav Outsourcings, says for these migrants, it's about improving quality of life. Many countries also offer subsidised medical facilities and social security benefits. Sandeep Chauhan, AVP - sales & marketing at WWICS, says those planning to expand their business internationally also prefer migration by investments. Some of the smaller nations, especially those in Caribbean, have low taxes. Moving there can be more tax-efficient for businesspersons. These programmes also offer freedom of movement and these individuals can get into many more countries globally either without a visa or availing visa on arrival.

Many such individuals prefer a residency permit in another country while holding an Indian passport. For example, a person holding a Green Card in the US gets almost all citizenship benefits. The only difference is that Green Card holders can't vote or serve jury duty, says Joshi.


An investor is allowed to take spouse and unmarried dependent children along. Usually, children above 18 or 21 are not allowed as dependents. In case of the US, the dependent child's age limit is 21 while for Canada it is 19.

Apart from investment, for many countries, like Canada and Australia, the applicant needs to be proficient in a local language. Few countries also specify a cut-off age for the applicant.

One strict requirement is that the funds need to be legal and the person should be able to establish the money trail. An application for developed countries takes around two years. For smaller nations, like in the Caribbean, it can be as fast as six months, and the person can even get citizenship on processing of the papers.

The investment criteria differ widely. While for the US, you cannot apply without having the funds, Canada first lets you apply and only if you are selected, other documents are needed. For Spain, the applicant can buy property and own it, and for countries such as Hungary, the investment should be in government bonds.


While passive investment visas are the easiest to get, they have pitfalls. For example, almost all the projects in the US are under the private sector. There have been cases in the past when lesser known developers tried to take advantage of the programme by taking the investor's money and never launching the project. Though investors didn't lose money, as it's kept in the government's escrow account, they had to return home. The US also has strict guidelines. For example, the projects are required to generate certain amount of employment.

Rules also change every year for these programmes. For example, the demand for Australian investor visas slowed after the government changed the rules last year. Applicants now need to invest in riskier assets such as venture capital and emerging companies to qualify for a visa. There's also cap on residential real estate investment. In 2014, one of Canada's provinces, Ottawa, scrapped a programme offering residency to rich foreigners as there was a feeling that it undervalued Canadian citizenship. And the programme was also cited as a reason for a spike in house prices.


If a person plans to set up a business abroad, many countries are willing to roll out the red carpet for him/her. The idea behind these visas is to generate employment for citizens and help economic growth. These visas are called as entrepreneur or active investment programmes. The UK, for example, has an entrepreneur visa. The applicant needs to start a business (or takeover one) in the country and should be able to generate employment for 10 citizens or should be able to maintain a turnover of more than £5 million in three years. To apply, the person needs to have £200,000 in regulated financial institutions and also access to an additional £200,000. In many countries entrepreneur visa is based on points. Each criterion is assigned specific points. And, the aggregate should cross a minimum threshold. Many English-speaking countries also mandatorily require the person to prove language proficiency by taking a test. But, if you are planning to set up a business for the purpose of visa, do explore different programmes in the country. Canada and Australia have more than one programme for entrepreneurs. They vary depending on the nature of business, investment amount and location. Then there are also smaller countries such as Armenia where one can obtain a business visa easily and there are no requirements to make an investment, buy or rent property, prove annual income, deposit money within a bank, obtain insurance, provide character references, etc. All countries offer citizenship after a person has met the objectives of the programme and has stayed for certain years.


Every year, countries such as Canada and Australia release a list of profession and skills they need. If you are below 35, well-educated, proficient in English and with relevant work experience your chances are high. The person needs to have a budget of Rs 12-15 lakh. This would include various fees that country charges, visa cost, flight tickets, consultant bill and three-month expenditure the family will incur after going abroad. Most of these countries have a point-based system. They allot points for each criterion, such as age, education and work experience. English proficiency is mandatory for many countries. Some give additional points for spouse's qualification and language ability, and for children below 18 years of age. There is demand for professionals in software, finance and medicine.

First Published: Jan 31 2016 | 10:10 PM IST

Explore News