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.