Understanding the difference
Historically residence programs have been very popular amongst investors as they offer benefits ranging from travel access, to real estate investments to tax planning. However, something we have noticed is that residence and citizenship are often words used interchangeably, and they most certainly should not be confused.
In recent months we have seen a dramatic increase in new companies offering residence and citizenship by investment programs, however, very few clarify the difference between the two. Given the investment criteria and reasons why clients are choosing to acquire a second residence or citizenship through investment, we feel it is vital to understand what each offers.
We will use Malta as an example:
What it offers:
The Maltese Global Residence Program offers investors and their families access to residence in Malta. This means they can enjoy the benefits, which include the freedom to travel 90 out of every 180 days in the Schengen zone countries (this excludes the UK), live, work or study in Malta.
What it does not offer:
Holding residence does not mean one is a citizen of that country and as such does not have the legal right to live anywhere in the EU, only in Malta.
It also means that the residence is subject to renewal and whilst unlikely, Governments can change the rules. For example, physical stay requirements as well as language requirements could change.
What it offers:
Maltese citizenship means the holder is a full EU citizen and as such can enjoy the protection, security and benefits afforded to European nationals. This includes the freedom to live, work and study anywhere within the EU, including the UK (the June 2016 referendum may affect this).
The holder also has the freedom to travel to over 165 countries with a Maltese passport including the UK, European Union countries, and the USA.
EU citizens are also protected by not only Maltese law, but EU law.
Malta's passport was recently voted as one of the top 10 most powerful passports to have, this is according to the number of countries one can travel to visa free.