Is citizenship by investment illegal [Explained]

Citizenship by investment (CBI) has emerged as a compelling avenue for individuals seeking global mobility and diversified opportunities. As its popularity surges, so do questions about its legitimacy. This article aims to demystify the legality of CBI, distinguishing between sanctioned programs and potential pitfalls.

By the end, readers will be equipped with a clearer understanding of CBI’s legal landscape, enabling informed decisions about pursuing a second citizenship through investment.

Is citizenship by investment illegal?

Citizenship by Investment (CBI) is not illegal. Many countries have established and officially sanctioned CBI programs to attract foreign investment. However, the legality of these programs varies by country and is determined by national laws and international agreements.

Definition of legality in the context of international law and national laws

Legality, in this context, refers to the adherence of CBI programs to the host country’s national laws and any international agreements or conventions the country is party to. A CBI program sanctioned by a country’s government and operating within its legal framework is considered legal.

Countries that have officially sanctioned CBI programs

Several nations, including St. Kitts and Nevis, Malta, Cyprus, and Dominica, have established and officially recognised CBI programs. These programs are designed to attract foreign investors in exchange for citizenship, often accompanied by specific investment criteria such as real estate purchase, business investment, or a donation to a national fund.

The difference between legitimate CBI programs and fraudulent schemes

While there are legitimate CBI programs, there are also fraudulent schemes masquerading as genuine opportunities. These scams may promise citizenship without a genuine investment or bypass necessary legal processes. It’s crucial for potential investors to differentiate between the two to avoid legal complications.

Benefits of legal citizenship-by-investment programs

Citizenship-by-investment programs, when implemented and managed correctly, can offer a range of benefits to the individual investor and the host country. Here’s a closer look at some of these advantages.

Economic growth and foreign direct investment

CBI programs can be a significant source of foreign direct investment (FDI) for host countries. The influx of funds can stimulate the economy, leading to growth in various sectors, from real estate to infrastructure development.

Creation of jobs and infrastructure development

The investments made through CBI often go into sectors like real estate, tourism, and business ventures. This can lead to the creation of new jobs, boosting employment rates. Additionally, a portion of the funds might be allocated for infrastructure projects, enhancing the country’s overall development.

Enhanced global mobility for investors

For many investors, one of the primary attractions of CBI is the enhanced global mobility it offers. A second passport from a country with a robust visa-free travel portfolio can provide easier access to numerous countries, reducing the need for lengthy visa application processes.

Diversification of nationalities for personal or business reasons

Holding dual or multiple citizenship can be beneficial for personal and business reasons. For business, it can facilitate trade, investment, and networking in different regions. On a personal level, it offers a sense of security, especially if one’s home country faces economic or political instability.

How to differentiate between legal and illegal CBI programs

Navigating the world of citizenship by investment can be complex, especially with the existence of fraudulent schemes. For potential investors, understanding the difference is crucial to ensure a successful and legal investment process.

Recognising official government-sanctioned programs

Always start by verifying whether the CBI program you are considering is officially recognised and sanctioned by the government of the host country. Official government websites, embassies, or consulates are reliable sources for this information.

Red flags: overly aggressive marketing, lack of transparency, and too-good-to-be-true offers

Be wary of programs or agents that employ high-pressure sales tactics, make promises that seem too good to be true, or lack transparency in their operations. For instance, if a program promises citizenship within an unrealistically short timeframe without a clear due diligence process, it’s a potential red flag.

The importance of due diligence and consulting with immigration experts

Before committing to any CBI program, conduct thorough due diligence. This includes researching the program’s history, its success rate, and any potential controversies. Consulting with immigration lawyers or experts who specialise in CBI can provide valuable insights and guidance. They can help verify the legitimacy of a program and guide you through the application process.

The future of citizenship by investment

As the global landscape continues to evolve, so does the realm of citizenship by investment. With increasing demand, technological advancements, and changing international regulations, the future of CBI is poised for transformation. Let’s delve into the trends and potential shifts in this sector.

Trends in global mobility and the increasing demand for multiple citizenships

The desire for enhanced global mobility, better quality of life, and economic security is driving more individuals towards multiple citizenships. As geopolitical situations change and new economic opportunities arise, the demand for CBI programs is likely to grow, with more countries potentially introducing their own initiatives.

Potential changes in international regulations and perceptions

As CBI gains prominence, international bodies might introduce regulations to standardise and oversee these programs, ensuring they adhere to global best practices. This could lead to a more universally accepted framework for CBI, addressing many of the criticisms and concerns associated with current programs

The role of technology and digital identities in shaping the future of CBI

With the rise of digital technologies, the way we perceive identity and citizenship is shifting. Blockchain and other digital ledger technologies might play a role in streamlining the CBI application and verification processes.

Additionally, the concept of digital or e-residencies, as introduced by countries like Estonia, could intersect with traditional CBI, offering new avenues for global entrepreneurs and investors.


Citizenship by investment offers a unique intersection of personal aspirations and national economic goals. While it presents numerous advantages, it’s essential to approach the process with awareness and due diligence. As the landscape of CBI evolves, staying informed and seeking expert guidance will be paramount.

Whether you’re a potential investor or a policymaker, understanding the intricacies of CBI ensures a beneficial and legally sound experience for all parties involved.