Top 3 EU Residency and Citizenship by Investment Programs for South Africans


Wealthy South Africans looking to hedge against a volatile economy, weak currency and lack of global mobility are opting for a number of residency or citizenship-by-investment programs in Europe.

Andrew Rissik, Managing Director of Forex and Investment Migration at Sable International, offers three programs that meet the needs of most South Africans seeking second residency and/or citizenship.

What are residency and citizenship by investment programs?

Residency by Investment (RBI) and Citizenship by Investment (CBI) are terms for a number of programs offered by governments around the world that allow someone to invest in a country’s economy in exchange temporary/permanent residency or citizenship.

Whether it is residency or citizenship depends on the country’s program. Each country has different requirements and different investment options.

The Benefits of the Top Three Choices of Residency and Citizenship by Investment

While each program offers unique benefits, all of the programs on this list share some benefits, such as:

  • Fiscal advantages
  • Global mobility
  • Financial protection – you can open an offshore bank account and diversify your investment portfolio
  • Immediate family members may be included in all program applications
  • All countries on this list allow dual citizenship and will allow you to retain your South African citizenship

Factors that influenced this list include:

  • Global Mobility – these programs can all lead to a strong passport, promising visa-free access to up to 187 countries.
  • Physical presence – these countries require a low physical presence in the country to obtain or maintain residency, so there is no need to relocate if you do not wish to.
  • All programs offer some form of return on investment (ROI)
  • Other monetary factors – besides the return on investment, these programs have other financial benefits, such as favorable tax and wealth laws.

The Immigrant Investor Program – Irish Investor Visa

Ireland has become an attractive destination for many multinational companies, which have chosen it as the location of their European headquarters. Indeed, Ireland has one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union (EU) and maintains a high position on the list of top European destinations for foreign investment.

Ireland has a high standard of living and ranks among the best in terms of income, education, safety and health.

The Irish Investor Immigration Scheme, also known as the Irish Investor Visa, is a residency-by-investment scheme and not a citizenship-by-investment scheme. However, this program remains attractive for two reasons: its low residency requirements and business expansion opportunities.

Investors receive a Stamp 4 visa (Irish permanent residence) which grants you full residency and work rights and you can also set up a business in Ireland. If you are not yet ready to move to Ireland, you can keep this Stamp 4 visa with only one day per year spent in Ireland. The Irish Investor Visa also includes dependent children up to the age of 24, provided they are financially dependent on you and are studying full time.

To benefit from the Immigrant Investor Program, you can make a donation of €500,000 or make an investment from €1 million. Irish residency by investment can be converted to full Irish citizenship if you move to Ireland. The Irish passport is now the only one that offers holders the opportunity to live and work both in the EU and, through a joint travel arrangement, in the UK.


Portugal’s Golden Visa Program

Portugal tops many impressive lists, such as being the fourth best place to retire, fifth on UNICEF’s 2019 list of family-friendly countries, and fourth on the 2021 World Peace Index of the Institute for Economics & Peace. This is in addition to Portugal’s high standard and low cost of living, stunning views of golden beaches and stunning mountain scenery.

While Portuguese winters may be reminiscent of a Cape Town winter, Portugal enjoys a long, hot, beautiful summer and an overall climate similar to that of South Africa.

The Golden Visa, Portugal’s residency-by-investment program, allows holders to live and work in Portugal and travel for 90 days without a visa throughout the European Schengen area. After holding the Golden Visa for five years, you may be eligible for Portuguese permanent residency and citizenship.

As a Portuguese national, you can apply for a Portuguese passport – one of the strongest passports in the world. Citizenship can be applied for in tandem with permanent residency. The physical presence requirement of the Golden Visa is only 35 days over the entire five years. Portugal also has a range of tax advantages.

Those who spend more than 183 days in Portugal can enroll in a non-habitual residence tax program, which exempts them from almost all taxes on foreign-source income. Nor is there
wealth or gift tax.

Golden Visa investment options start at €280,000 for a property rehabilitation project in a low density area in Portugal. Other investment options are available at €350,000, €400,000 and €500,000.


Malta Citizenship by Investment Program – Outstanding Services by Direct Investment

Malta’s Citizenship by Investment scheme, also known as the Exceptional Service by Investment Direct (ESDI) scheme, allows applicants to apply for Maltese citizenship after 12 or 36 months of Maltese residency.

Malta is a beautiful island in the Mediterranean with one of the most stable economies in Europe. Malta offers dual nationality and Maltese nationality can be passed on to future generations by descent.

The Maltese passport is currently ranked as the seventh strongest passport in the world and allows visa-free travel to 185 destinations. Malta also sits comfortably as the eighth best place to retire.

Maltese residency can be processed and approved in as little as 60 days and your application for Maltese citizenship will be approved in 36-40 months depending on the time frame you choose. This program requires a large non-refundable government contribution which starts at €600,000 for the principal applicant based on a citizenship application after 36 months.

This amount is increased to €750,000 if the main applicant chooses to apply for citizenship within the accelerated 12-month period. In addition to your government contribution and residency requirement, other ESDI requirements include:

  • A real estate lease or a real estate investment
  • A one-time charitable donation

  • By Andrew Rissik, Managing Director Forex and Investment Migration, Sable International

Read: More South Africans are moving to this island as it targets skilled tech and finance workers

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