Imagine a year from now you receive a killer offer to join an exciting and growing financial firm in Frankfurt…where you stand to increase your income dramatically. The Head of HR has only one final question that was not clear from your résumé….do you have an EU passport that will allow you to start within a few weeks?
Well, do you?
If you don’t have one at this precise moment, don’t be alarmed. You could have an EU passport in time to answer YES a year from now, or be in a position to say you will have one soon…. [i]
Moreover, if you acquire your EU citizenship with the right forethought and planning, it could deliver so much more as part of a comprehensive back-up plan.
First, let me summarize the many benefits of an EU passport. The main benefits are:
Holders of EU passports can work full-time in all of the now-27 EU member states. A worker from the City without an EU passport who wants to work in the EU will need to get an employer sponsored visa and possibly some other permits, a process that can be convoluted and costly.
Holders of EU passports can reside in all the EU member states. No extra visas are required. EU nationals can also bring their non-EU national spouse and children to live with them.
3) Ease of travel
Holders of EU passports can travel freely between and reside in the 27 member states with no need for visas.
4) More ease of travel
You are probably already hearing City colleagues complaining about recent travel to Europe …COVID notwithstanding. With an EU passport, you can avoid waiting in those long “Non-EU Citizens” lines at ports of entry.
5) And EVEN more ease of travel
EU passport holders can access consular protection from consular missions of any EU member state.If your country of EU citizenship does not have consular representation in a country where you experience an emergency (loss of passport, illness, accident…or worse), you can request support from a consular authority of another EU member country.
6) Your Backup Plan
In today’s world of economic, political, social and environmental uncertainty, having a Backup Plan that addresses these uncertainties is more important than ever. And having an EU passport as a component of your personal Backup Plan can be a highly advantageous.
Depending on your personal and lifestyle requirements (single, married, children, career), there are numerous other “softer” benefits as well, some of which could be very important to you:
7) Ability to own property
As a worker in the City, the ability to invest in property could likely be of high interest. Holders of EP passports have the right to own property in all the EU member countries….and at the risk of sounding like a broken record….without a special permit.
8) Education opportunities
Education opportunities: Access to top universities and potential financial benefits (financial aid, subsidized academic degree programs, etc.)
9) Health care
Holders of EU passports have reciprocal access to the health care systems when they are travelling in other EU countries and experience a medical problem.
10) Starting a company
EU passport holders can easily, speedily and inexpensively register a company in one EU company and then open branch offices in any other EU country – and a few neighbouring countries as well. In addition, there are many funding, technical and support / advisory programs available to new small businesses.
11) Career opportunities
Let’s say in a few years, you decide to leave the financial industry and apply your skills and experience in a public service role. As an EU citizen, you can seek or be recruited for public sector positions under the same conditions as nationals of the EU country of the position – and yes, no special requirements in most cases.
12) Connecting with your family history and identity
Depending on your family background, the ability to explore and reconnect with one’s ancestry can be a very compelling and rewarding reason to secure citizenship of a particular EU country. Moreover, Brexit notwithstanding, many workers in the City see themselves as European…an EU passport can be a powerful symbol of one’s self-identity.
Let me boil down the many benefits of an EU passport to one word…control. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to have the tools that give you the ability to protect the most important things in your life – your family (if applicable), your assets, your lifestyle, your freedoms and of course your career or business – without unduly impinging on any of these things today.
If you invest a bit of time and energy to organize your residence, citizenship and domicile properly and integrate them with your other plans (career, financial, tax…and yes succession and estate planning), your ability to control your future path will be greatly enhanced. Yes, there will be a cost – but rest assured it will be far outweighed by the many different hard and soft benefits.
That said, if you want to be able to say “Yes, I have an EU passport” to a job offer in Europe in the near to mid-term, you will need to get moving….now.
How to get an EU passport
First step, consider a 2nd passport as just one tool in your Backup Plan
We don’t look at a 2nd passport – EU or otherwise – as the end goal. We consider it a critical component of a Backup Plan that will address a wide variety of issues – career or business planning, individual and security, mobility, business continuity, tax planning, estate planning and succession planning…
For that reason:
- Your Plan should reflect your unique personal and family situation, concerns and goals.
- Your Plan must make sense at both the boardroom table and breakfast table (if married).
- Where the investment vehicle for citizenship by investment is real estate, the selection of a property should be the LAST, not the FIRST decision.
- The negative impacts of poor advice last long after the glow of a low price is forgotten.
I will leave the full Backup plan analysis for another time….but it should consider:
Many countries incorporate into their domestic nationality laws a method for an individual to “earn” citizenship through naturalization.
Lineage citizenship can be acquired through family or religious means from some countries which offer excellent rights, visa-free travel and credibility.
Residence by Investment leading to Citizenship
For many families, acquiring Residence by Investment in a country where they could become naturalized citizens in the future is a viable pathway to an alternative citizenship.
Citizenship by Investment
Citizenship by investment is the process of obtaining a second citizenship by investing in the economy of the chosen country, that must be carefully selected because not all CBI programs are the same.
For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on the last three.
Step 1 to get an EU passport:
For every client, we always first review the client’s family backgrounds. You may be able to claim a European citizenship through religious and/or family lineage citizenship in another EU country. Prior to COVID, some of these paths took around a year. If nothing fits, we proceed to Step 2.
Step 2 to get an EU passport:
Consider Residence and/or Citizenship by Investment programs
Option 1: EU country Citizenship by Investment in less than a year
Until recently there were two EU countries that offered a direct and short path to citizenship through investment – Malta and Cyprus. Unfortunately, due to design problems and faulty execution, the Malta program was annulled. The Cyprus program has also been suspended.
- In late 2020, Malta introduced a new citizenship by naturalization for exceptional services program which grants the foreign individuals and their family members a Certificate of Naturalization after contributing to the country’s economic development. With this program, the applicant investor must, among other things, meets stricter criteria for eligibility and provide proof of residency in the country for 36 months. This program has annual limits and a total cap. An opportunity for our City workers, Malta will allow qualified applicants to shorten the naturalisation period to 1 or 3 years by paying additional fees.
- The Cyprus Citizenship by Investment Program was closed in late 2020 and a new program is reportedly in development. So our advice for the moment is “watch this space” since it is likely to be very competitive, even with stricter conditions.
- Finally, there are recent reports that Greece will launch a new Citizenship fund-based program as early as June 2021…so also “watch this space.”
- Based on the dynamism of the CBI sector, it probably makes sense to enlist a trusted expert advisor in this area – who will in turn keep you informed of any developments that might help you achieve your goals.
Option 2: Spanish residence through investment 8 to 12 months… with path to citizenship
- This option allows investment through two options. You may either invest €1M in Spanish investment fund, or €500K in real estate.
- Naturalization period shortened to 2 years if the individual is a citizen of a country of Ibero-America (including individuals with Puerto Rican citizenship), Portugal, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea.
- Naturalization requires Spanish tax residence and extensive physical presence…so appropriate for those who want to relocate to Spain.
Option 3: Portuguese residence through investment in 6 to 8 months…with path to citizenship
- Again this route offers two options. You may either invest €350K in Portuguese investment fund, or €500K in real estate. Note: There is in theory a cheaper option for fixer uppers properties …but these don’t really exist in the market.
- Naturalization period is 5 years BUT minimal physical presence and either no need to become tax resident or if actually moving to Portugal there is a 10-year holiday on non-Portuguese source income and capital gains.
- This solution is appropriate for the applicant who wants to spend minimal amount of money effort and time (or wants to live in Portugal) into getting an EU country citizenship and is willing to wait 6 to 6 1/2 years (including residence and citizenship processing).
Make yourself truly competitive in your field by having the flexibility of EU Citizenship.
The reason some City workers with EU passports don’t get tapped for those juicy European assignments could be that EU-based employers increasingly look for top performers who are multi-lingual, worldly and able to move quickly. They gravitate to those with EU citizenship. It makes their lives easier because they can avoid the work permit and visa application hassles.