WHAT IS CITIZENSHIP?
For most of us, the word ‘citizenship’ evokes perceptions of a robust national identity determined by birth, ethnicity, history, culture, and upbringing– so the idea of second citizenship may be difficult to apprehend. However, in a legal sense, ‘citizenship’ expresses the relationship between an individual and a nation-state. Usually, the individual is bestowed protection by the state, in return for the attainment of obligations owed by the individual to the state. It is, therefore, likely to obtain second citizenship from another country if the second citizen meets the criteria set by that country’s government.
Residence and citizenship are two legal statuses that affect your ability to live and work in a country. While the two are closely related – and at times confusing – there are fundamental differences between them.
Generally, when you are a legal resident of a country, you:
- Can live, work, travel or study within that country without restrictions (though this may depend on the conditions of your resident visa category)
- Retain your foreign passport, and hold an international travel document from your country of residence
- Must usually provide biometric information
- May leave and re-enter your country of residence, but you may at any point be denied re-entry by an Immigration Official should you have failed to fulfil any of the conditions attached to your residence status
- Must meet minimum stay requirements, or face losing your residence status
- Need to be free from serious criminal convictions, or risk losing your residence status
- May access more job opportunities, such as in the USA, where specific jobs require a security clearance that only Green Card holders and US citizens can obtain
- Improve your naturalization eligibility, allowing you to apply for citizenship later on
As a citizen, you can benefit from the unique rights and obligations that exist between a nation and its citizens. Generally, as a citizen, you:
- Retain your citizenship for a lifetime
- Usually, pass on your citizenship to your children
- Have all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities defined by your country’s law, such as the right to vote, participate in politics, work, access education, and obtain healthcare
- Need not fulfil any minimum stay requirements – you can be a citizen of a nation and never even set foot on its territory
- Can call upon your country for assistance and protection, and access any embassy, consulate, or another diplomatic establishment when traveling abroad
- Have stability and certainty
- Have the right not to be deprived of your nationality (according to Article 15 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
- Hold a passport identifying you as a citizen of your country and allowing you to travel visa-free to all the nations with whom your country has signed a relevant travel agreement
There are many significant differences between the terms ‘residency’ and ‘citizenship’. A citizen of a country, nation or state has rights that are not conferred on a resident. Citizens can confidently expect that they will hold that status, and those rights, for life. Besides, citizenship status can be inherited by children and grandchildren merely by proving, if they were born outside of that country, that they are close filial relatives of the citizen.
Residents have no such clear-cut security. Residency status can also, depending on the laws of that country, be separated into temporary and permanent residency. Each division may have different responsibilities, conditions, and rights attaching to it. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom (UK), do not even acknowledge the term ‘residency’ but define it as ‘indefinite leave to remain’.
It is common for residents to have to renew their residency permits by continuing to satisfy that country’s legal requirements. These may include continuing to hold the initially-required investment, maintain clean health and criminal records, and meet physical residency requirements. How often a residency permit has to be renewed, and the conditions to be fulfilled will depend on each particular country.
Some countries, after a specific period, say five years, may require that immigrant investment residents only have to be of good health, have no criminal record, and continue to show they will not become a burden on the state, instead of also having to maintain the investment.
Some countries, such as the island of Cyprus, do not offer a period of residency. Successful investors become naturalized citizens in a single process of a few months.
A high-net-worth individual (HNWI) who is considering attaining global citizenship or obtaining a so-called ‘Golden Visa’ should know enough about the differences between residency and citizenship, the qualifying requirements, and the laws of a country before finalising that country as their destination of choice.
Residency by investment is achieved when an applicant, and their approved family members, satisfies certain conditions.
Those conditions vary by country and, typically, involve such criteria as:
- Having a certain net worth
- Investing required amounts in approved enterprises or institutions, and holding those investments for as long as the immigration program demands
- Meeting appropriate clean health and clean criminal background checks
- Passing cultural and language tests
- Paying all legal, governmental and processing fees
- Providing documentation, in predetermined formats, to prove that required conditions are met
Most countries which offer immigration through investment want to encourage entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals to choose their country, and so they wish to enable such residents to become citizens. In most cases, citizenship follows an approved period of residency. In addition to Cyprus, mentioned above, other countries which omit the residency phase, include Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda which offer citizenship within weeks, as opposed to years.
DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, DIFFERENT STATUS, DIFFERENT RIGHTS
Residents of many countries are immediately able to travel, either visa-free or visa-on-arrival to other countries. This is valuable to anyone who wants to, for example, travel throughout the Schengen Zone. Residents can live, work and study in their country of choice, and in other countries who have specific international arrangements with those countries.
The significant differences between residency and citizenship, though, are that citizens have all the rights of residents and, depending on the country, can also:
- Vote in elections
- Petition the government
- Know they will receive embassy or consular protection wherever they may travel in the world
- Be called on to act as jury members in criminal trials
- Hold public office (it should be noted that, in some countries, only natural-born citizens are eligible to stand for election to become head of state)
- More easily sponsor distant family members to achieve residency.
- Benefit from more lenient tax laws, especially those governing inheritance (the United States of America is an example)
The enormous privilege of citizenship, as has already been mentioned, is the right to pass on the citizenship of the chosen country to their offspring.
There are many specific elements associated with both residency and citizenship as they pertain to different countries. The only way to be sure that all the right decisions are made, and are based on current law in those countries, is to contact us for an initial, free consultation.