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What is Investment-Based Immigration?

The majority of the countries around the world significantly rely on foreign investment to drive their economies. Because of the importance foreign investment plays in stabilizing and improving the global economy as a whole, most countries have taken measures to attract wealthy foreign nationals and to encourage foreign investment into their own economy. To do so, many countries offer significant tax breaks or benefits to foreign investors.

Additionally, in recent years more and more nations have established investment-based immigration programs designed to attract wealthy foreign investors with promises of the country’s permanent residency or citizenship. Although every nation’s program is different, investment-based immigration programs can be classified into two broad groups: investor visas and entrepreneur visas.

Investor visas are visas that can be obtained if the foreign national invests a required minimum amount of money into the country. Depending on the country’s particular program, either the investor has the control over where the money goes or the country’s government manages the investment. In some nations, the investment has to be shown to create new employment positions for the country’s citizens before the investor will be granted citizenship. In other countries, the investment is really a donation because the foreign national will not receive any kind of return or profit – but will receive citizenship.

Many investor visa programs are tied to developing real estate in the particular country and require the national to choose a targeted area or specific piece of property that will benefit from the investment. Others are put to use in developing the country’s school systems, a specific industry, or needed facility such as a stadium or concert hall. Most investor visa programs do not require the foreign national to play an active role in managing or overseeing the investment.

Conversely, many entrepreneur visa programs do require the foreign national to manage and oversee the investment because the investment must be used to either grow an existing business in the country, or to establish a completely new commercial enterprise in the country. Under most entrepreneur visa programs, the foreign national is still required to make a minimum investment into the country, but this amount is typically smaller than that which is required under investor visa programs, and is used to establish and operate the entrepreneur’s own business.

A common characteristic of both investor and entrepreneur visa programs is that the foreign national can bring a spouse and minor children to the new country as well. Moreover, most (but not all) investment-based programs lead to permanent residence in the country, and after the national has spent a certain amount of years as a permanent resident, the national can apply for citizenship (through a legal process known as naturalization). It is important to note that there are a number of countries who offer a direct citizenship route through investment and do not require the foreign national to be a permanent resident before completing the naturalization process.

Since every country’s program is different, it is highly advisable that interested investors contact knowledgeable attorneys who can explain the benefits and disadvantages of each program and help the investor choose which program to pursue.

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