- The latest Henley Passport Index ranks the best passports for visa-free international travel in 2023.
- Eight countries with citizenship by investment programs made the top 50, including Austria and Malta.
- The programs allow foreigners to receive so-called “golden passports” in exchange for investments.
One of the most powerful assets money can buy in today’s turbulent world isn’t a mansion or sports car — it’s a passport, preferably a good one.
This week, immigration firm Henley & Partners released its latest global passport index ranking 199 passports by the number of countries they allow you to access without needing a visa, per data from the International Air Transport Authority.
Of the top 50 best passports for international travel, only eight countries offer citizenship-by-investment programs. More commonly known as “golden” passports, the controversial immigration schemes allow foreigners to receive citizenship in a country in exchange for making substantial investments in the local economy.
Austria, whose passport allows visa-free access to 188 countries, was ranked fifth on the list — above the UK, Canada, and the US — making it one of the most powerful passports in the world. Unsurprisingly, it’s also one of the most difficult passports for foreigners to receive — but it’s not impossible.
Under Article 10, Section 6 of the Austrian Citizenship Act, the Austrian government is able to award citizenship to foreigners who show “extraordinary merit” and contribute significantly to the state’s interests — either scientifically, culturally, or economically.
Unlike in other citizenship-by-investment programs, applicants must invest directly into the Austrian economy. This can include setting up a business, creating jobs, or introducing new technologies, according to Austrian law experts. The exact investment amount required for the award is not clear, but is estimated to be around $9.5 million, Forbes reports.
If you can’t afford Austria’s multi-million dollar price tag, Malta, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and North Macedonia offer less-stringent golden passport programs and are ranked lower down on Henley’s top 50 list, each allowing visa-free access to over 100 countries.
Out of the eight, island nations Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Lucia have the least expensive golden passport programs, granting citizenship in exchange for a minimum investment of $100,000.
On the other end of the spectrum, Malta — the most popular golden passport program thanks to the nation’s EU membership — requires applicants to own or rent local real estate for five years, contribute between €600,000 and €750,000, and donate an additional €10,000.
Golden passport schemes were initially created for struggling nations to attract foreign talent and investment with the hopes of boosting the local economy. The EU has recently cracked down on the programs, arguing that they pose a security risk to the union while creating havens for sanctioned individuals.
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