By Moustafa Daly
Over the past decade, the global residency and citizenship by investment (RCBI) industry has been expanding rapidly. Global investors have poured billions of dollars into golden visa programs in Europe, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and other regions to pursue relocation, mobility or business opportunities.
The RCBI industry remains mostly accessible to those who can afford it, with most golden visa programs often coming with hefty price tags. Typically, a golden visa investor should have vast disposable wealth to afford and qualify for RCBI programs anywhere.
However, a lesser known fact is that some countries allow foreigners to apply for their residency visas via financed investments, meaning investments made from loans. That could make the golden visa’s financial barrier less strenuous to overcome for those who can’t afford it. But even for those who can, many can still choose to preserve their monetary liquidity and opt for financing.
Here are global RCBI programs that have financing or loan options.
The UAE golden visa was launched in 2019 as competition for talent and investments in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region intensified. It is the second golden visa program in the region after Turkey’s and one of the most successful. So thriving that, according to government figures, over 150,000 golden visas were issued between 2019 and 2022.
The UAE golden visa program comes with several categories; some to attract investors and entrepreneurs. Other paths cater to talents across different occupational and educational fields.
For investors in real estate, a property purchase of at least AED2 million ($544,505) is a must. The silver lining is that the investment can be totally financed via local banks on favorable terms. Overseas property buyers interested in the UAE can easily get loans from local banks for up to five years and with fixed-term interest rates, sometimes as low as 4.69%.
The Gulf monarchy also has a minimum document policy for housing loan applicants, making it more attractive for foreigners to pursue property and golden visas there. According to local media reports, this streamlined loan process has recently “doubled” the number of hopeful golden visa applicants.
The conditions that non-resident loan applicants must meet to qualify for a loan, include being a citizen of a country on the bank’s approved list, being a salaried or self-employed individual, and meeting a minimum monthly income requirement, which is often set by the bank. Additionally, some banks only give loans for property purchase in a limited number of bank-approved real estate projects.
Greece’s golden visa program proved one of the European Union (EU)’s most popular – with nearly 31,000 golden visas issued to applicants and their dependents as of 2023, per government figures.
Like Spain, the closure of the Portugal real estate golden visa is pushing interest into the Greek one even more, propelled by its relatively affordable prices. Until now, investors can get a Greek golden visa with an investment of €250,000. In touristic and popular areas like Athens, the threshold is at least €500,000.
According to local law experts and professionals, the source of funds for a real estate purchase in Greece can be personal wealth or loans. As such, property purchased in the country by way of loans still qualifies owners to apply for golden visas. The catch? The loan would probably have to be obtained from abroad, not locally, as Greek banks don’t typically offer real estate loans to non-residents.
Once they are residents, however, golden visa holders can take loans from local banks to purchase more property or investments, using their Greek property as collateral.
Canada is considered a pioneer in the global RCBI landscape since launching its Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) in 1985. The program underwent vigorous and repeated revamps, which included a four-year hiatus between 2019 and 2023.
However, the Quebec government recently announced that the program will come back online in January 2024. This time around, investors to QIIP must meet stricter criteria, such as French language proficiency and a C$200,000 ($147,546) non-reimbursable contribution to a government development fund.
The QIIP doesn’t come with a real estate option, but applicants qualify after investing C$1.2 million ($885,816) into the government investment fund. The sum can be paid in full, or applicants can opt to place a C$350,000 ($258,307) five-year, zero-interest deposit in government-approved Canadian financial institutions. The deposit is then invested by the institution on behalf of the applicant for five years, getting its value up to the required C$1.2 million.
This financing option has long been the most popular route for QIIP applicants and is projected to maintain its popularity after the program’s imminent relaunch.
After its 2013 launch, Spain’s golden visa often took a backseat to the golden visa of neighboring Portugal, with the latter providing lower pricing points and a faster route to citizenship. It did, however, remain a popular route for non-EU foreigners seeking permanent residency in the Schengen Area – even more so now after Portugal soon is scrapping its popular and affordable real estate golden visa route.
For real estate investments of €500,000, non-EU foreigners can qualify for golden visas. While the Iberian country doesn’t allow this amount to be financed, extra funding could be financed. For example, if an applicant seeks to buy a property valued at €800,000 for example, they would have to pay €500,000 out of their funds and finance the rest.
This is potentially useful for investors as the average property price in popular Spanish cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona, is typically much higher than €500,000. So the financing option could come in handy for those looking for better properties with less out-of-pocket investments.
Also, the Spanish law doesn’t restrict foreigners from obtaining real estate loans from local banks; however, the total value of the loan must not exceed 70% of the total property price.
With one of the oldest and most popular CBI programs in the Middle East, Turkey’s program was launched in early 2017 to attract investors from nearby regions and beyond. Recently, the threshold for the real estate route was hiked from $250,000 to $400,000, capitalizing on increasing market demand.
The Turkish CBI program offers many advantages, including a route to eligibility for the E-2 visa route, which enables investors to move to the United States by investing much less than they would have otherwise needed to invest in the EB-5 program.
Similar to Spain, property purchased for the purpose of obtaining a golden passport has to be paid in full via the applicant’s personal funds – $400,000 at minimum. However, any amount exceeding the $400,000 threshold can be financed by local or international banks, greatly expanding the property options foreigners can buy in Turkey in pursuit of their passports.
For local loans, applicants must submit evidence of income, taxes, and a valid passport. If they reside in Turkey at the time of the loan application, they also need to submit proof of residency. Mortgage interest rates in Turkey range from 5% to 15% annually, depending on the conditions and currency of the loan.
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