The easiest places in the world to get citizenship or residency, from Thailand to St. Lucia

Breaking the barrier.
Breaking the barrier.
Image: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
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Not everyone gets to be a global citizen.

That’s one takeaway from Henley & Partners’ annual report on the world’s most powerful nationalities and passports. The report, released last week, ranked France as the country with the most powerful nationality, and Somalia as the weakest. The overall index factored in the number of countries citizens can travel to visa-free and the other countries they can settle in relatively hassle-free, as well as the nation’s GDP, peace and stability, and development of human rights.

All is not lost, however, for those who hail from nationalities near the bottom of the index. To improve your ability to move and settle around the world with ease, the report points to another option: Simply buying residency or citizenship in another country by investing in a property or government fund, or paying some other kind of fee. But with costs ranging from $15,900 on the low end to $8 million (Austria), it’s an option available to a select few.

Thailand is the cheapest place to buy residency. For just $15,902, customers can secure residency that gives them visa-free travel to 75 destinations. The UK is the most expensive residency option; people interested in getting a residency in the UK and access to visa-free travel to 177 destinations need to spend over $2.7 million. These so-called “golden visas” (paywall) are particularly popular among wealthy Chinese citizens, who were the dominant recipients of the visa last year. The golden visas give recipients the right to work in the UK for three years, and if they invest even more money, they can settle permanently.

Buying citizenship isn’t necessarily more expensive than buying residency. In the Caribbean islands Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia, citizenship can be bought from between $100,000 to $150,000. Once paid for, citizenship is issued within three to four months. Citizenship in these islands offers visa-free travel to more than 130 destinations.

Those interested in getting citizenship from a European Union member state—and thus having the right to live and work across the bloc—will pay a lot more money. Malta offers citizenship to those who invest $1.2 million, usually after 12 months. For double that amount, Cyprus issues citizenship within three to six months.