Eastern EU Citizenship by Investment

I see many Western and Southern countries offering attractive and low-cost citizenship programs: Portugal, Spain, Greece, etc.

But the Eastern European countries that can potentially offer a path to EU Citizenship aren’t mentioned much. For example, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova.

Why is there such a disconnect here? I would have expected the Eastern countries where cost of living is lower to also have a lower barrier to entry for golden visas, but it seems like the opposite is true (see Bulgaria’s program for an example, with an investment of over 1 million euros). Am I missing something that could explain this?

How many people are eager to move to those places? It’s already a fairly heavy lift to want to go Lithuania (or is it Latvia?), and while those places are cheaper, they also have a heck of a lot less to offer. Sure Romania has the black sea resorts but the rest of it’s pretty poor, and no one’s going there for the healthcare or the lifestyle.

Also, as more recent/provisional members of the EU, their room to maneuver or take risks is rather more limited; Portugal or Spain are core members of the EU and are simply going to be able to get away with a lot more than Romania when it comes to the EC getting all tetchy about a visa programme.

Frankly, I expect relatively soon that even Portugal is going to get forced to roll back the citizenship requirements on ARI. D7 and 5 years in country maps reasonably well to other countries’ requirements; ARI + a few weeks in country over 5 years doesn’t. I imagine you’ll still get permanent residence in 5 years since that maps to what others are doing but citizenship will get harder. (I imagine existing ARI will get grandfathered; my understanding is that portuguese politicians are smart enough to know not to change the rules on folks already in the stream.)

(tapping toes waiting for lawyer to do paperwork)

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You know nothing about Romania. Nobody (even from Romania) prefers to go to the Black Sea resorts which are sub-par and also considering the very short summer season. Most people like Romania because of the many mountains, forests and beautiful landscapes, historic cities in Transylvania, cultural life in these cities, nightclubs in the capital. And many come to Romania for the healthcare in the private sector which is pretty good and cheap.

That’s very true, most of what I know about Romania I learned from Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear special. I apologize for any insult. I have on various years debated riding my motorcycle that direction to take the <road whose name I can’t possibly type correctly>, but alas it is a long ways from Germany and it just never works out.

Though that illustrates another problem - if a place isn’t well known or known for the wrong things then it’s not likely to draw the interest or investment either.

There are fairly good reasons. By way of example, I grew up with German culture and can speak passable German. Nonetheless, I would not pursue German citizenship because it is too difficult and expensive and the weather is not worth it. Also, I visited Munchen several times – it is very boring there and the food is soooooo heavy.
If Germany made it easy to pursue citizenship or permanent residence I would still consider it.

Long story short, countries that want to attract investment need to MARKET and make their program appealing. Otherwise, good luck. There is too much competition for investment dollars/euros these days.

Hello ZZZ,

There are a total of 5 countries in Europe if we include Turkey (3% of Turkey is located in the European continent and 10% of its citizens) offering official government ‘Citizenship By Investment’ programs. These are: Bulgaria, Malta, Montenegro, Turkey and most recently North Macedonia who has just launched a new program. All of which excluding Malta are located in Eastern Europe. Moldova also had a citizenship by investment program briefly. However the new government cancelled this.

The countries that you mentioned in Western Europe and Southern Europe: Spain, Portugal, Greece all have popular Golden Visa programs with the latter two being particularly well publicized. However they should not really be considered ‘Citizenship Programs’ since investors do not automatically obtain citizenship by investment. Investors obtain residency and must first live in the country for a number of years before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship. In Greece and Spain, the investor would be expected to be physically living in the country, whereas Portugal is unique in that Golden Visa investors who spend just 1 week per year living in Portugal for a period of 5 years become eligible to apply for citizenship (basic Portuguese proficiency is required). Portugal therefore offers the most convenient route to citizenship in an EU country of any other European Golden Visa programs.

Montenegro, Turkey and North Macedonia can be described as ‘direct’ citizenship by investment programs since applicants with successful applications will immediately be granted with citizenship in the country. Whereas, in Bulgaria and Malta applicants must meet pre-residency requirements before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.

Montenegro Citizenship By Investment Program
The Citizenship By Investment Program in Montenegro requires the main applicant to make a donation of 100,000 EUR to the government AND invest into a ‘government approved real estate project’. If the applicant invests in a project in the Northern (Undeveloped) region of the country the minimum investment required is 250,000 EUR whereas if the investor choose the Southern Coastline of Montenegro OR The Capital, Podgorica then the minimum investment to qualify is 450,000 EUR.

Turkey Citizenship By Investment
There are a number of investment options under the Turkish Citizenship By Investment including depositing money into a local bank, purchasing government bonds or setting up a local company and creating jobs. However by far the most popular option is to invest into real estate (Istanbul’s real estate market is particularly attractive). The minimum investment required is $250,000 USD and investors must hold their investment for at least 3 years.

North Macedonia Citizenship By Investment
This is a brand new program which officially launched about a month ago which has two investment options. The first option is to make a contribution of 200,000 EUR into the North Macedonia Economic Development or the North Macedonia Industrial Innovation Fund. The second option is to make a long-term investment of 400,000 EUR into a local business that has at least 10 employees.

Bulgarian Residency & Citizenship By Investment Program
As you rightly pointed out Bulgaria has an option to invest just over 1,000,000 EUR and acquire citizenship. This is the Fast-track option. They way it works is that the investor must first invest at least 500,000 EUR in Bulgaria to acquire residency (eg: investment of 500k into UCIT’s or Alternative Investment funds). The investor then has the option to apply for citizenship after 5 years of residency (slow-track) OR after 1 year of residency they can make an additional investment of 500,000 EUR and become instantly eligible to apply for citizenship (fast-track).

Maltese Citizenship By investment Program
The Maltese Citizenship By Investment Program has recently be relaunched. It now requires a government donation of 750,000 EUR under the fast-track option OR 650,000 EUR under the slow-track option. Those who opt for the fast-track option can apply for citizenship after just 1 year of residency, whereas the slow-track option requires at least 3 years of residency. There is an additional donation of 10,000 EUR with must be paid to a charitable organisation in Malta and applicants must either buy property to the value of 700,000 EUR or rent property for at least 16,000 EUR per year over a period of 5 years.

So to summarize, there are some great options in Eastern Europe in the Citizenship By Investment Industry and while Bulgaria is the only Eastern European nation with a citizenship by investment program in the region, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Turkey are all EU Candidates with the first two having particularly strong passports. Montenegro is becoming very popular choice among Westerners, especially the luxury yachting marina called Porto Montenegro where a large number of Americans and Brits are investing . To add one final Eastern European country into the mix, it is worth noting that Latvia also has a Golden Visa program in which investors can acquire long term residency with an investment of just 50,000 EUR into a local company (which must be paying taxes of 40,000 EUR each year) + 10,000 EUR in government fees.

Anyway, I hope you find this useful/interesting! I run an immigration consultancy firm and we specialize in investment migration, so if you ever require assistance it would be a pleasure to help you.