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The History of Citizenship by Investment

The History of Citizenship by Investment

The History of Citizenship by Investment

While the concept of citizenship by investment may seem like a modern one that fits the globalization narrative of the 21st century, it is actually as old as civilization itself. 


In ancient times, Athenians would offer citizenship to those who contributed to the city state’s economy or military. The Romans would do the same, bringing in the wealthy noblemen of the new areas they conquered, but only if they committed significant funds or resources to the Roman Republic. The concept of citizenship has always been a political and economic commodity, and as more countries become nationalized, the concept of what a citizen is evolved, and for some time during the post-world-war era, the thought of gaining citizenship through an investment seemed surreal, but then came the modern framework of citizenship by investment.


The history of the modernized version of citizenship by investment starts in the 1980s with no other than Tonga, and it continues to this day.


Tonga 1982-1996

The South Pacific Polynesian kingdom of Tonga was the first to introduce citizenship by investment into the modern area. The practice started as selling Tonganese Protected Person Passports in 1982, but a year later in 1983, the King of the country decided to offer full citizenship through investment. The program lasted until 1996 when it fully shut down.


St Kitts & Nevis 1984-Present

The St Kitts & Nevis citizenship by investment program is the oldest running program of this nature, it has been in business for almost fourty years and is considered the father of the modern citizenship by investment framework. 


St Kitts & Nevis continue to operate their program to this day, but the savvy government continues to evolve it to meet the demands and requirements of an ever-evolving world. 


Belize 1985-2002

Shortly after St Kitts & Nevis introduced their program, Belize did the same. Albeit at a lower cost, offering their citizenship by investment at the low cost of just $40,000. The country continued its program until 2002, spanning an impressive 17 years before the government closed it down completely.

The Marshall Islands 1987-1996

The Oceanic nation of the Marshall Islands introduced their citizenship by investment program in 1987, pricing their citizenship at $100,000. The program naturalized over 2,000 people before it was shut down nine years later in 1996. 


Ireland 1988 – 1998

Ireland’s economic citizenship program lasted eight years, and it was the highest priced citizenship by investment program introduced at the time, with a set investment of £1 million needed to obtain its citizenship. It issued about 150 passports during that time.


Samoa 1991 – 1997

It is still debated to this day whether Samoa’s program was an official one, or just a loophole that was used by government officials to boost the country’s coffers. The suspicious pricing (around $11,000) for a citizenship, and the series of scandals that hit the program during its short-lived run, indicate that it wasn’t an intricate program at all. Still, it sold about 2,200 passports during its lifetime. 


Peru 1992 – 1993

One of the shortest-ever-run citizenship by investment programs was that of Peru. Launched in 1992, the program offered citizenship for an affordable $25,000 investment, but public outcry pressured the government to close its program less than a year after opening it, during which it was only able to naturalize 12 investors. 


Dominica 1993 – Present

Dominica runs the second longest standing citizenship by investment program which has been in business for thirty years now. The country’s program was a big hit when it opened and remains one of the most popular options to this day.


Grenada 1994 – 2001 then 2013- Present

Shortly after Dominica launched their program, neighboring Grenada did the same. The country started out its program at a pricing of $40,000, but it didn’t last long as it closed seven years later. That wasn’t the end of the story, however, as they would later re-open the program under a new structure in 2013 and the new version remains extremely popular to this day.

Cambodia 1996 – Present

Cambodia is home to one of the oldest citizenship by investment programs which remains in full force today. However, since the program remains unclear and the process vague, it never really caught on. The current citizenship laws keep it legal, but it is unclear whether the government currently puts any effort into working it. 


Nauru 1988 – 2003

Nauru launched its program in 1988 with an investment pricing between $15,000-50,000. The program didn’t last for long, as concerns regarding lax due diligence and systematic operational corruption led to the closure of the program less than five years after it was announced.


Comoros 2001 – 2011

One of the more stranger programs on the list is that of Comoros, a country with a weak passport and weaker economy. It launched its program in 2001 and it lived on for ten years, with some reports suggesting it sold about 50,000 passports during that time, mostly to stateless persons in the GCC region. 


Cyprus 2011 – 2020

One of the most famed citizenship by investment programs was that of Cyprus. The program lived on between 2011 and 2020, and it was priced on a €2 million investment in real estate, which made it extremely popular amongst investors. The program closed after the infamous Cyprus Papers were released by AlJazeera, highlighting some financial breaches by officials near the program. 


Antigua & Barbuda 2013 – Present

Antigua & Barbuda adopted the framework set by its neighboring countries of St Kitts & Nevis and Dominica to create its program in 2013. Since then, it has been a staple in the world of investment migration, and it is the only one that offers an investment route dedicated to large family compositions. 


Malta 2014 – 2020  then 2020 – Present

Malta introduced its Individual Investor Program in 2014 and it was a massive hit for investors looking to obtain an EU citizenship with access to the UK and USA. The program was a great success for the country, but in 2020, due to pressure from the EU Commission, Malta decided to close the IIP and replace it with the MEIN, a new program that offers citizenship but within a different framework.


Vanuatu 2014 – Present

The Pacific nation of Vanuatu launched its program in 2014 and quickly became one of the most popular in the world thanks to its simplicity and quick processing times. It remains a popular option to this day, and although its passport is weaker than its Caribbean counterparts, it still gets a lot of attention. 


St Lucia 2016 – Present

The country of St Lucia was the last of the Eastern Caribbean countries to open a citizenship by investment program, but since its launch in 2016 it has become a major player in the citizenship by investment arena. Recent changes to the program have made it even more attractive to investors, and its detailed statistic releases and public press announcements make it one of the more vocal programs out there. 


Turkey 2016 – Present

The Turkish program was announced in 2016 but didnt come into effect until 2017. Its pricing of $1 million in real estate was considered high though, so a year later the government slashed the prices and it quickly became one of the world’s most popular citizenship by investment programs. 


Jordan 2018 – Present

Jordan launched one of the world’s most expensive citizenship by investment programs, initially requiring a $3 million investment, which it then lowered to $2 million. Despite its high investment threshold and relatively weak passport, it naturalized over 200 people and remains in effect till this day.


Montenegro 2018 – 2022

Montenegro opened its program in what was a busy 2018 for investment migration. The program didn’t do well the first year of operation due to the country’s laggy processing, but once that was fixed it started garnering great interest. It closed on the last day of 2022.


Moldova 2018 – 2019

Moldova launched its program in 2018 amongst high excitement from global investors. The program wasn’t to be, however, as the government decided to end it less than a year of operation.


Egypt 2020 – Present

Egypt is home to the most recent citizenship by investment program, opening in 2020 with a $250,000 price tag. The program remains open to this day.