How to Become a Permanent Resident in a Foreign Country
People leave their home country for many reasons — for better opportunities, better living conditions, to get the best education, to be with family, and more.
In times past, leaving your home and moving to a different part of the world was as simple as picking up your bags and heading out — no questions asked. Of course, you had to deal with perils that came with the primitive mode of transportation that was available.
Fortunately, international travel is easier and more affordable, today. However, with greater mobility comes stricter migration policies. You can't just pick up your bag and fly to another country unless you meet certain requirements outlined by your potential host country.
Cue in the era of visas, temporary and permanent residency permits, and dual citizenship.
For the purpose of this post, however, we will focus on permanent residency (PR).
What are the Advantages of Permanent Residency in a Foreign Country?
Permanent residence permits provide numerous benefits, including the fact that they do not expire and are valid indefinitely (provided the holder meets certain conditions).
With PR, you are free to live, work, and study in your host country. You will also save money on the costs of renewing your visa and temporary residency.
Furthermore, you will no longer need to keep track of visa and passport expiration dates. Permanent residency provides you with a sense of security because it eliminates the uncertainty that comes with temporary residency.
The best part? PR automatically makes your family members eligible to apply for permanent residence as well — either concurrently or after your permanent residence permit is issued.
Pathways to Permanent Residency in a Foreign Country
Before we begin, please keep in mind that not all countries grant permanent residency and that applications and rights vary. But in general, you have the following options:
1. Essential Workers Track: For economic reasons, some countries provide permanent residency paths to skilled professionals in essential occupations. What is considered 'essential,' as well as the qualifying requirement for this option, is determined by the country in question.
2. Recent Graduate Track: In order to retain young, top talents, some countries grant international students who are recent graduates from a post-secondary institution and have completed a qualifying program permanent residency eligibility status if they choose to stay and work in the country.
3. Extended Temporary Stay (Naturalization): Some countries, such as Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland, offer permanent residency after a qualifying period of time — in most cases, five years. Other countries, such as Belgium, offer eligibility after five years.
However, the simplest by far (if you have the means) are residency-by-investment programmes.
What Are Residency by Investment Programmes?
Residency by investment programmes, as the name implies are immigration track programmes set up by a country to attract foreign investors dollars, by offering permanent residency with the freedom to travel for extended periods, as an incentive in exchange for investments.
Criteria to qualify for these programmes are usually pegged to a minimum investment value in real estate, government bonds/stocks, or business/ capital transfer.
These programmes are especially popular with investors who want the flexibility around their residency status in a country. That is, they have the option to stay permanently if necessary, but they also have the freedom to travel for extended periods of time without negatively impacting their residency status.
If the investor and their family take up permanent residency, they can usually apply for citizenship, though this is not always the case.
The 5 Most Popular Permanent-Residency-by-Investment Programmes
There is no number one residency by investment programme. However, the programmes listed below are among the most in-demand and intriguing offerings available anywhere in the world, and are well worth a second look.
The Golden Visa Scheme for Greece is one of the more sought after residency by investment programmes in the EU, following its introduction in July 2013. It is issued to foreign nationals who make a sizable investment in the Greek economy.
There are several investment options, but the most popular option is through real estate worth a minimum of a quarter of a million (€250,000 or nearly US$300,000). This is the lowest investment requirement for this type of program in Europe.
Turkey's residency-by-investment program is one of the world's best-selling programs of its kind. It allows foreign nationals to obtain permanent residency rights in Turkey if they purchase property worth at least R799,000 (US$250,000) inclusive of fees.
This investment has a three-year lock-in period, but permanent residency permits (renewable after eight years with no expiry) and ID cards are issued within two months of the purchase of the property. There is also no annual residency tax or minimum stay requirement.
The best thing about this program is that it is upgradeable.
That is, the investor can obtain Turkish citizenship by investment as well. All they have to do is make a US$500,000 fixed capital investment as well as a US$500,000 local bank deposit.
Cyprus has one of Europe's longest-running residency-by-investment programmes. The programme offers foreign nationals the opportunity to reside in Cyprus and travel within the EU for a minimum property investment of €300,000 (approximately US$350,000). It is also considered the first step towards citizenship.
PR holders are not required to live on the island; however, they must visit at least once every two years.
Unlike the other countries on this list, Switzerland does not accept passive investments such as real estate through its residency by investment scheme.
An investor must have a share capital of at least CHF 200,000 (around US$215,000) in the country to qualify for permanent residency.
Andorra is a tax haven located between France and Spain, with no capital gains, wealth tax, income tax, dividend tax, or estate duty. As a result, its residency by investment scheme is highly sought after.
A €400,000 (around US$460,000) investment (in shareholding or real estate) is required to qualify, as is a minimum stay of 90 days.
Explore Your Options
Becoming a permanent resident in a foreign country is not as difficult as it may appear at first.
Many countries around the world have opened their doors in order for foreigners, including expats, to enjoy greater global mobility. The ones mentioned here are a good place to start, but it's also fine to look into other possibilities.
And, if you require additional assistance, don't be afraid to contact a migration expert.
Enjoy your travels!