Wealthy South Africans are increasingly taking up foreign citizenship by investment offers as an easy path to a second foreign passport. 

What is citizenship by investment?

The usual grounds for acquiring citizenship are birth in a country, descent from a citizen parent, marriage to a citizen, or naturalisation. Citizenship-by-investment offers an alternative, if you are unable to gain a second passport through the traditional routes.

While residence is granted to investors and wealthy individuals in most countries, currently the handful of countries that offer a direct route to citizenship based on investment include Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Cyprus, Dominica, Grenada, Malta, Cyprus, Saint Kitts and Nevis. 

Countries such as Australia, Portugal, the UK and US offer a route to citizenship after a reasonable period of residence.

“The key to finding the right solution is to assess whether the opportunity matches your personal lifestyle and business goals, and those of your family. The service around the process should ideally be all-encompassing, covering logistical and administrative tasks such as opening bank accounts, tax advice, property selection and management, your residency application and most importantly your budget,” says Rissik.

Grenada citizenship and the E-2 US visa

Grenada’s citizenship-by-investment programme does not require you to live in or visit the country to apply. Grenada offers visa-free access to China and has a citizenship-by-investment programme and an E-2 investor visa treaty with the US.

Grenadian citizenship applicants have two investment options:

  • National Transformation Fund (NTF) donation option: A minimum non-refundable contribution to the NTF of $150,000 (R2.25m) for a single applicant and $200,000 (about R3.01m) for a family of up to four members; and 
  • real-estate option: a minimum of $220,000 (about R3.3m) as a co-owner in qualified real estate to acquire property from a government real-estate project.

Malta and Cyprus individual investors programme

The Malta residence and visa programme (MRVP) offers non-Maltese people the possibility of acquiring an EU residence card that offers visa-free travel access to 182 countries including the UK and US. 

Minimum requirements include:

  • investment in government bonds of €250,000 (about R4.1m) retained for at least five years; 
  • non-refundable government contribution of €30,000 (about R494.6k); and
  • property purchase of €320,000 (about R5.27m) or a property lease of €12,000 (about R197.8k) a year 

Cyprus offers a fast route to EU citizenship, well-suited to families and, once granted, citizenship is valid for life and can be passed down for generations.

The main requirement for Cyprus is the purchase of new immovable property of a total market value of at least €300,000 (about R4.94m) plus VAT. The applicant must provide supporting evidence of a secured annual income of at least €30,000 derived from abroad. This income must increase by €5,000 (about R82.4k) for the spouse and every additional child and €8,000 (131.8k) for any dependant parent. 

US EB-5 investor visa

The EB-5 investor visa offers a fast, robust routes to permanent US residency. This programme includes immediate family and offers the right to residency in all states.

The EB-5 is a programme under which entrepreneurs — and their spouses and unmarried children under 21 — are eligible to apply for a green card if they make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the US.

It requires that a foreign individual invests $1.8m (about R27m), or $900k (R13.5k) into a new commercial enterprise in a rural area or an area with high unemployment, and creates 10 new full-time jobs.

Funds must stay invested and be at risk until permanent resident status is granted. The EB-5 visa gives the holder access to the public education system at all age levels. 

Portugal’s golden visa and NHR programmes

A property investment in Portugal ensures residency rights for you and your immediate family in a European country, eventually resulting in Portuguese citizenship. There are low minimum-stay requirements, averaging only a few weeks each year.

The non-habitual residence (NHR) programme also offers attractive tax benefits to incentivise expats to consider retirement in Portugal, such as a 10-year tax break on qualifying foreign income — including private pensions and company dividends.

To qualify, you need to make an investment, either individually or through a company, in at least one of the after investment operations in Portugal for a minimum of five years:

  • the acquisition of real estate with a value of at least €280,000 (R4.6m);
  • a capital investment with a minimum value of €350,000; and
  • there are other less popular investments that we can discuss with applicants.


There are a number of routes for Australian immigration especially if you are looking for investment-based options. A popular choice is the business innovation visa, suitable if you own and run a successful business. It’s valid for four years and three months, and allows you and your family members to live, study and work in Australia, and eventually be eligible for permanent residence. 

British citizenship and immigration

The UK remains a popular immigration destination for South Africans. “South Africans can apply for a number of investment-based residence and citizenship visas, and they can relocate their business to the UK under certain conditions.

“Sable International has more than 20 years of experience in British nationality, Irish nationality and UK immigration and we work under the guidance of Philip Gamble, the world’s leading expert on the subject, and I can tell you the options are there, but it’s complicated and you need to know how to navigate the system,” says Rissik.

Sable International is offering a series of free and informative seminars to discuss global citizenship by investment, residency and offshore investment options and considerations:  

  • Johannesburg: Southern Sun Hyde Park, Sandton, Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26 
  • Pretoria: The Regency Conference Centre, Menlyn, Thursday, February 27
  • Bloemfontein: Protea Hotel Willow Lake, Tuesday, March 3 
  • Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch Golf Club, Friday, February 28 
  • Cape Town: Marriott Hotel Crystal Towers, Century City, Wednesday, March 4 and Thursday, March 5

For more information visit www.sableinternational.com, e-mail: info@sableinternational.com or call +27 21 657 2120.

About the author: Andrew Rissik is director at Sable International.

This article was paid for by Sable International.

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