What is the Difference Between CBI and Golden Visa Programs?

What is the Difference Between CBI and Golden Visa Programs?
Published on: 27 May 2023

As the world becomes increasingly connected and globalized, many seek to gain citizenship or residency in a country offering more international opportunities than their home country. Two programs that allow foreign nationals to obtain citizenship or residency in another country are Citizenship by Investment (CBI) and Golden Visa. Both programs offer means of obtaining lawful permission to live and work in another country to foreign nationals who make a notable contribution by investment or donation to a host country, but with different outcomes. CBI programs are designed to give second citizenship and a second passport, while Golden Visa programs offer permanent residency.

CBI programs are a great option to give investors dual citizenship and access to new international opportunities. Golden Visa programs are ideal for applicants who want to retain their original citizenship or who already have enough international mobility and simply want to expand their business or personal reach to one country. CBI and Golden Visa programs have unique benefits and limitations, and choosing the right program depends on an individual’s goals, business plans, financial assets, and geographical preferences. This article will go through the attributes of each program, the differences between the two, some general requirements for applicants, and examples of existing programs.

What are CBI Programs?

Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs, or “golden passport” programs, allow a foreign national to obtain citizenship by investing in that country. This can be done through a donation to the government, a real estate or business investment, a bank term deposit, or a combination of different investments. CBI programs attract individuals from higher income brackets who want a second, more powerful passport that expands their opportunities for traveling, doing business, and obtaining better tax benefits. 

What are Golden Visa Programs?

Golden Visa programs, or Residence by Investment (RBI) programs, also require an investment of some form but offer residency as the first step instead of a direct path to citizenship. This is a good option for individuals who want to live as residents in another country but don’t necessarily need or want to become citizens. Types of required investments or donations for a Golden Visa program include a donation to a governmental or non-governmental fund, a real estate or business investment, the purchase of government bonds, a bank term deposit, or a contribution to an investment fund. Obtaining residency in a country through a Golden Visa program offers applicants access to more visa-free destinations. It also expands tourism, business, and education opportunities for investors and dependents in the country where they apply for residency. 

CBI and Golden Visa Programs

Differences Between CBI and Golden Visa Programs

The most apparent difference between the two types of programs is the end result of the application. While CBI programs are designed to allow wealthy individuals to obtain citizenship, Golden Visa programs offer residency, with the possibility of obtaining citizenship later on. The investment required for a CBI program tends to be less than that of Golden Visa programs, but this will vary from country to country. 

Another critical difference between the two types of programs is the application process, especially the required “due diligence” level. Due diligence refers to the steps the relevant authorities take to ensure the applicant is of good moral character and does not pose any threat or potential for criminal activity. Typically the level of due diligence will be higher for CBI programs than for Golden Visa programs.

It’s more common for Golden Visa programs to have a longer minimum residency requirement for applicants. Only a few CBI programs require investors and their dependents to spend a few days as residents, while most other programs do not require any physical residency at all. On the other hand, Golden Visa programs may require a longer stay ranging from days to months.

A key difference between CBI and Golden Visa programs, and a deciding factor that may sway individuals to choose one option over the other, is the amount of international mobility granted by the two programs. CBI programs offer a direct pathway to citizenship. Applicants who qualify for a CBI program and receive a new passport will likely have upgraded from a less powerful passport to one with more mobility. In this case, CBI programs offer greater visa-free movement internationally, with access to more countries.  

Golden Visa programs only offer the option of citizenship if the applicant is willing to go through the naturalization process. Otherwise, they only receive a residence permit which allows them to engage in regional travel. In other words, they can only cross international borders with their original passport. For some, this will improve their situation or give them the mobility they need. However, all individuals applying for a CBI or Golden Visa program should consider how much international travel they would like to do, or need to do, after they invest. 

Eligibility Requirements for CBI and Golden Visa Programs

The eligibility requirements for applying for a CBI program differ from that required by a Golden Visa program. Eligibility characteristics will also vary from country to country, so applicants must review all options before beginning the application process. However, there are some general guidelines that applicants for both types of programs must follow. 

Applicants for most CBI and Golden Visa programs must meet the following requirements:

  • Prove they are over 18
  • Be in good financial standing and possess adequate investment funds
  • Pass the due diligence process and be of good moral character
  • Be able to sustain themselves and any dependents 
  • Prove the investment money was acquired lawfully 

In general, however, the requirements for both programs will be highly varied and different for each country. Applicants must review all required documents and procedures before starting the application process. They should ensure they have all the necessary funds to sustain their investment and their livelihood for the duration of their time in the program or as long as they are residents in their new home country. 

CBI programs are available in diverse locations, including the European Union, Turkey, and the Caribbean. Golden Visa programs are also available internationally but are more popular amongst EU countries than CBI programs. Some countries that offer Golden Visa programs are Portugal, Greece, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates. Countries that offer CBI programs include St Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Malta, and Turkey. 

Some examples of popular CBI programs include: 

  1. Dominica Citizenship by Investment Program: This program offers investors a pathway to citizenship through an investment or donation to the government fund or investment in real estate. The minimum amount is $100,000 through the government fund option.
  2. St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program: This program offers citizenship to individuals who invest at least $200,000 in real estate or make a $125,000 donation to the Sustainable Growth Fund.
  3. St. Lucia Citizenship by Investment: This program offers various investment options to obtain citizenship, including a minimum investment of $100,000 through the government fund option or $200,000 investment in pre-approved real estate.

Some examples of popular Golden Visa programs include:

  1. Portugal Golden Visa Program: Applicants can obtain Portuguese residency by making a minimum real estate investment of €500,000 or €350,000 for properties requiring renovation.
  2. Spain Golden Visa: Foreign national applicants can obtain residency in Spain by investing a minimum of €500,000 in real estate in Spain.
  3. Greece Golden Visa: This program grants residency to foreign investors through several investment options. The minimum investment amount is €250,000 in real estate in Greece.

Considerations When Choosing a Program

Several factors should be considered when choosing the right program.

First, application processing times vary significantly. How long your application takes depends on your specific circumstances, how many family members you include, the complexity of your case, and the country you’re investing in. Some programs are simple and only take 3 months to approve. Others are complex and can take much longer, requiring additional documentation.

Second, the minimum investment requirements differ. Each program has its own investment threshold based on the country offering the citizenship or residency. Some nations ask for lower investments while others require larger sums. The investment amounts can range from $100,000 to several million dollars for a CBI program and between $250,000 to $500,000 for a Golden Visa program. However, many individuals with the means to invest in a CBI program find it is worth the money to obtain citizenship and a highly-rated passport. Their investment grants them access to a whole world of new opportunities. 

Being able to get dual citizenship is another key factor to consider. CBI programs seem like an easy way to gain more opportunities and mobility abroad. However, many people are unable or unwilling to give up their original citizenship. Even if they want to live and work in another country, they need to keep their existing passport.

CBI programs work best for those who can legally have dual citizenship. They get a second, potentially stronger passport while still keeping their first nationality. However, some nations, like India and China, do not allow dual citizenship at all. Individuals from these countries can opt for a Golden Visa to live and work in another country while retaining their original citizenship. Golden Visa programs are also great for those who want to access a new country for lifestyle or business reasons while still enjoying the mobility of their original passport. 


In conclusion, CBI and Golden Visa programs offer different means of gaining local or international access to more opportunities. The optimal program for each individual will depend on their personal or business goals and financial situation. The CBI program may be more appropriate for individuals who have the financial means and the desire to obtain citizenship in a foreign country quickly.  The Golden Visa program may be more appropriate for individuals who want to obtain residency in a foreign country but have a lower investment budget or want to keep their original citizenship. Whatever the reason for investing in one of the many excellent CBI or Golden Visa programs, the outcome will undoubtedly lead to increased mobility and exciting new ventures ahead!

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