Which country’s passport offers more opportunities for visa-free travel? The annual Henley & Partners’ Passport Index makes a thorough analysis of world passports; in 2018, they studied 200 nations. Find the curious conclusions below!
Germany places first
Germany’s passport has been crowned as champion by H&P the fifth time in a row. Germans can cross the borders of 177 countries visa-free, or easily obtain a visa upon arrival.
Germany doesn’t have a citizenship by investment program, but it is possible for a financially independent person to obtain the country’s residence permit after submitting proof of available capital. The minimum investment amount isn’t set, but experts say applicants are expected to have resources in the amount of at least €1 million, own real estate and business shares, among other assets.
Together with the main applicant, their spouse and children under the age of 18 can also apply for the status acquisition. Family members of financially independent persons obtain the status automatically. Residents from anywhere in the world are eligible to apply, and documents processing takes from two to six months.
The permanent residence ID is issued for one year – and for two years if the size of the capital is especially considerable (€10-20 million). As a rule, the residence permit is renewed for two years the second and third time. To get the permit extended, one would have to prove they own residential property (sales contract, or lease/rental agreement), have health insurance, and provide a bank statement proving they have sufficient funds to support themselves and their family.
It is possible to obtain the status of a permanent resident after holding the residence permit ID for 5 years. Permanent residence permit is issued for an infinite amount of time. In 7 years’ time after registering permanent residence status, one can apply for German citizenship.
Singapore is runner-up
In the H&P 2018 ranking of 200 countries, Singapore ranks second, pushing last year’s winner of the silver medal, Sweden, one step down. Sweden, in its turn, together with the UK, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Finland, France, Japan, ranks third.
Holders of Singaporean passports can visit 176 countries visa-free. To apply for a residence permit through the Global Investor Program, one must have at least 3 years of experience as an entrepreneur and submit a completed 5-year business plan. The annual turnover of the company should average at least SGD50 million (US$40 million) over the last three years. The investor must own at least 30% of company shares.
Together with the principal applicant, their spouse and minor children can also apply for a permanent residence permit. The applicant is expected to invest at least SGD2.5 million (US$1.9 million) either in a new/operating business, or invest in a venture fund.
The Singaporean permanent residence status is issued for life. Citizens over 21 years of age who have resided in the country for at least two years may apply for citizenship status acquisition. The process lasts 6-8 months. Dual citizenship is not recognized in Singapore.
Malta and Cyprus passports: 9th and 17th positions
Malta and Cyprus offer the opportunity to exchange investment for citizenship.
Malta’s passport allows one to visit 169 countries without bothering to obtain a visa, among them the United States, the UK, Australia, Canada, and South Korea. The whole family can apply for the citizenship of Malta, including the spouse, children under the age of 26, and parents of the investor aged 55 years and above.
The program provides for several stages of investment:
- a donation to the national development fund, €650,000;
- purchase of government bonds, €150,000;
- investment in real estate, at least €350,000; rental at the rate of at least €16,000/year.
Case reviewing takes up to 14 months. It is not necessary to reside in Malta prior or after obtaining the status. The citizenship status is granted indefinitely and can then be passed on to descendants.
Cyprus passport grants its holder the possibility of visa-free entry into 159 countries. It is possible to obtain the status for the whole family, including the spouse, children under the age of 29 years, and parents, in up to six months. To do this, the applicant is expected to either invest at least €2 million in residential and/or commercial real estate objects, or establish a new or invest in an existing business in Cyprus. It’s possible to combine these options: invest €500,000 in government bonds and €1.5 million in other assets.
Note: Regardless of the investment option selected, the investor must also own residential property worth at least €500,000.
It is not necessary to reside in Cyprus before or after obtaining citizenship, and this status can be passed down onto descendants.
The Caribbean passport
Some of the Caribbean Basin countries also have citizenship by investment programs.
St. Kitts and Nevis has the oldest CBI program in the world. The Kittitian passport has already been issued to 11,000 people. Citizens of Saint Kitts can visit 125 countries and territories visa-free. The citizenship can be exchanged for a $150,000 donation to the Sustainable Growth Fund, or purchase of real estate worth at least $400,000.
Antigua and Barbuda attracts fans of sailing and yachting. Silvio Berlusconi, Oprah Winfrey, Giorgio Armani all own property on the islands, and Robert De Niro is building a hotel complex on Barbuda. It takes from 3 to 5 months to obtain an Antiguan passport. It gives the holder the opportunity to travel to 136 countries visa-free, including the UK, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The investment threshold stands at $100,000.
If you are especially interested in visa-free access to China, pay attention to the Grenadian citizenship by investment program. Citizens of Grenada can visit 136 countries visa-free, and also apply for the E-2 type visa that gives its holder the right to live and work in the US. Grenada’s passports for the whole family can be obtained in exchange for a $200,000 donation to the state fund, or at least $350,000 investment in an approved real estate project
Thusly, a good number of countries allow wealthy individuals obtain a residence permit or full citizenship in exchange for investment in the host country’s economy – all of these options open many opportunities for visa-free travel.