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"Isn’t it strange how a lamb can feel like a lion when comparing itself to a mouse, whereas a lion feels like a lamb when measuring itself against dragons?" - Richelle E. Goodrich
In terms of status, usability and even prestige, there are two types of fast-track (investment) citizenships. Namely, we think we should make clear distinction between the following categories:
- Citizenship of well developed, internationally respected countries, with strong institutions and sustainable democratic values. Ideally the country should be part of a Union that would provide residence rights to all of its citizens within the whole territory of the Union. Obviously, the citizenship of such countries should also ensure worldwide visa-free travel, among other things. Nothing comes closer to that than the citizenship of the EU. Apart from Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta are the other EU countries to offer investment citizenship programs;
- Citizenship of little known tropical islands that are selling passport to international buyers in order to raise capital. Such citizenship should definitely ensure visa-free travel to some important for the applicant countries, as this is obviously its only virtue. Such citizenship provide many countries in the Caribbean, the South Pacific, etc.
Below we will outline the main differences between the Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program and the similar programs of Malta, Cyprus and the tropical island states (from the Caribbean and from other distant corners of the world).
Bulgarian vs Cypriot investment citizenship programs
The main differences between the Bulgarian and the Cypriot fast-track citizenship programs are in the amount of the required investment, the associated costs, the type of the investment, the term to obtain the citizenship and the validity of the citizenship (as there is very significant difference between the two programs in terms of the irrevocability of the citizenship status, as will be explained below).
The Bulgarian fast-track citizenship procedure requires an investment in the amount of 1 024 000 EUR, while in Cyprus the amount required is 2 000 000 EUR.
In terms of associated costs, both programs come with certain price tag for legal fees. You can expect though to pay 3 to 4 times more in Cyprus. The real difference in the cost however comes from the fact that in Cyprus, there is a VAT due on real estate transactions, making the total cost not even comparable (in Cyprus, the investor will be charged VAT ranging from 5% to 19% on the 2 000 000 EUR property purchase so we will come easily to an additional cost of 200 000 to 300 000 EUR, in the best case scenario).
As to the type of the investment, in Bulgaria one has the option to choose among different financial instruments, while in Cyprus the choice is in general limited to real estate. Real estate in Cyprus comes with the VAT load as explained above, but also with huge spread between buy and sell prices, often reaching 60% (we know it sounds scary).
When it comes to the speed of the citizenship application process, Cyprus is the forerunner here. The Cypriot law foresees 6 months waiting period while the Bulgarian process requires 12 months.
Last, but not least, is the citizenship status one will obtain in both countries. While in Bulgaria, the citizenship by investment becomes fully irrevocable only 24 months after the citizenship decree has been signed (during these 24 months the candidate is only required to hold his investment positions), in Cyprus, the citizenship is conditional for lifetime. In other words, if you sell your residential property in Cyprus (which must be bought for at least 500 000 EUR), your citizenship will be cancelled. We find this outrageous as we can hardly imagine how one can be considered a full-right citizen of a country if he is under the constant (for life time) thread of loosing his status. You can read more about the Bulgarian citizenship’s irrevocability.
You can read very informative and in-depth article, comparing the Bulgarian and the Cypriot investment citizenship programs. You can also read more details about the real cost of the Cypriot fast-track citizenship program.
Bulgarian vs Maltese investment citizenship programs
While there is some room for comparison between Cyprus and Bulgaria, the Maltese citizenship program is simply ridiculously expensive. On top of that, the Maltese program is considered to be a passport for sale scheme by many high-ranked EU officials, which makes its legitimacy questionable, least to say. We wont go further into its details, but will strongly recommend you reading the article Malta vs Bulgaria. How the two countries’ citizenship investment programs compare.
Bulgarian vs Caribbean and other similar investment citizenship programs
It’s hard to compare apples to oranges. EU (Bulgarian) citizenship simply provides way too many benefits to be even put on the same table as the tropical island citizenships. Still, these are good for visa-free travel and some added peace of mind by having a second citizenship in the back pocket.
One important virtue of these citizenships can be that if you are EU citizen and are willing to obtain Bulgarian passport (most probably for tax optimization purposes within the EU), you will be not allowed to apply under the fast-track citizenship program (as the program is intended for non-EU citizens only). Obtaining one of the Caribbean citizenships in advance however, will qualify you by Bulgarian law to apply as (already) non-EU citizen under the Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment Program.