Citizenship is one of the few rights that ostensibly everyone gets just for the sake of being born.
Although there are other avenues to becoming a citizen, like marriage or employment, those are often arduous and often unsuccessful.
But in a handful of countries, getting citizenship is quite simple – it’s as easy as writing a cheque. So, we wanted to know, where can you buy citizenship? Well, as of 2017, nine countries are effectively selling citizenship.
Most are small islands in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and all are relatively cash-strapped. Allowing foreigners to buy citizenship has the obvious effect of raising the country’s GDP, but it can also culminate in long-term economic prosperity through investments in housing and infrastructure.
With that in mind, many countries have made it easy and even affordable for people to buy their way in.
The cheapest option is the Caribbean island of Dominica [dah-mee-NEE-ka], where citizenship can be purchased for just $100,000 dollars or a real estate investment of at least $200,000 dollars.
This program has existed for more than 20 years, however it became particularly important to Dominica in 2015, after a tropical storm wiped out roughly 90 percent of the country’s GDP. Today, citizenship sales are one of the country’s primary sources of revenue, however the program is said to be mismanaged, and public officials have been accused of pocketing much of the profits. A similar program exists nearby in St. Kitts and [KNEE-viss] Nevis— two tiny Caribbean islands that form one nation.
Like Dominica, St. Kitts’ relied on citizenship sales after a series of hurricanes decimated their economy in the late 1990’s.
Today, citizenship can be procured for a $250,000 dollars flat rate or a $400,000 dollar real estate investment. The deal also includes visa-free travel to the roughly 130 countries that accept a St. Kitts passport. At one point, St. Kitts was selling an estimated two thousand passports a year, and as a result, the country was seeing rapid development.
However, sales have plummeted since 2014, when Canada and the US issued warnings about the program.
For example, businesspeople have reportedly used visa-free travel through those passports to avoid international sanctions or flee a country where they were wanted for a crime.
This concept is not unique to far-flung island nations. In fact, a dozen other nations, including the US, offer permanent residency, or “golden visas”, to foreigners who invest in property, businesses or public assets.
However, the price tag is usually much higher. The United Kingdom, for example, requires minimum investment of nearly $3 million dollars. Golden Visa programs are extremely popular among wealthy Chinese nationals seeking to invest in offshore real estate.
So, what makes dual citizenship so attractive? Well, for people from countries that face travel restrictions, an alternative passport opens up an entirely new world of visa-free travel.
For wealthy Americans, citizenship in St. Kitts or Dominica can mean huge savings, as neither country taxes foreign income or capital gains.
So, despite the high cost of citizenship, it may be more financially beneficial that it seems. But having citizenship is not infallible, nearly every country has strict rules about when they can strip you of your citizenship.