What Is a Golden Visa?
A golden visa is a residence visa that you can obtain primarily by using money. It is also known as an investor visa.
There are many variations of golden visas. Some allow you to move to a country temporarily, some permanently, and some require an up-front payment that cannot be retrieved, while some require an investment that can eventually be withdrawn in one way or another.
Oftentimes, all of these variations are simply called "golden visas" or "investor visas", which can cause quite a bit confusion considering how similar yet different they can be from one another.
In this post, I'm breaking down 4 types of golden visas, which should help as a starting point for you to do your research.
1. Golden Visa via Payment
When you pay for a golden visa, what is paid cannot be retrieved. It is a payment to the government in exchange for the visa.
For example, in countries like Thailand 🇹🇭, Golden Visas are usually called Elite Visas, which can be purchased from USD 17,000–65,000 with validities ranging from 5, 10, and 20 years. You won't get that money back once you receive your residence visa.
2. Golden Visa via Investment
On the contrary, there are golden visas you can obtain via investments.
When you invest for a golden visa, the money invested can be retrieved (with returns or minus losses, if any) after a number of years.
Many European countries such as Greece 🇬🇷, Turkey 🇹🇷, Spain 🇪🇸, Portugal 🇵🇹, offer golden visas via investments. This investment can take the form of:
- Government bonds
- Real estate
- Starting a business
- Investing in an approved local business
- Investing in one or more stocks listed in the country's stock exchange
- Depositing a sum of money in local banks
The types of investment offered in a golden visa program varies by country. Some investment are definitely more liquid or riskier than others, so you could technically lose money (but you might turn a profit too—aside from the residency itself, of course).
3. Golden Visa Leading to Permanent Residency
In countries like Australia 🇦🇺 or New Zealand 🇳🇿, approved "golden visas" typically take form of a permanent residency right away from the get go.
This means that if your application for a golden visa is approved in these countries, you will be allowed to reside there permanently.
However, some programs only allow temporary residency (which are renewable), and it can eventually be converted into permanent residency after a number of years. For instance, holders of Spanish golden visas 🇪🇸 are not granted permanent residency right away, although they may be eligible for it after 5 years. And then, it takes some more time after that to qualify for citizenship.
4. Golden Visa Not Leading to Permanent Residency nor Citizenship
Thailand's Elite Visa 🇹🇭 mentioned above, which can be obtained via payment does not lead to permanent residency nor citizenship. However, it is indefinitely renewable as long as you stay within the right side of the law and are willing to pay for the visa.
Another example is Malaysia 🇲🇾, which offers 10-year and 20-year multiple entry visas via a combination of payment and investment which are also renewable. However, these visas cannot be converted into permanent residency.