Skip to navigationSkip to content
A Polish border guard stands beside a European Union flag during a ceremony at the Czech-Polish border checkpoint in Hradek nad Nisou
Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
Breaking the barrier.

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

Aamna Mohdin
By Aamna Mohdin


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.

CountryVisa-free destinationsMinimum capital requirement ($)Time frame
Portugal177250,0003 to 8 months
Malta173671,9724 to 6 months
Thailand7515,902Less than 1 month
UK1772,789,108Less than 2 month
US176500,00012 to 18 months
Switzerland176Annual lump-sum tax payment of between 153,382 and 1,022,550 dependent on the canton of residence2 to 6 months
Canada176622,96024 to 48 months
Cyprus163366,4332 months

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.

CountryVisa-free destinationsMinimum capital requirement ($)Time frame
Malta1731,221,80012 months
Cyprus1632,443,600Approval in 3 months, passport in 6 months
Austria1779,774,40024 to 36 months
Antigua and Barbuda140100,0003 to 4 months
Grenada131150,0003 to 4 months
St. Kitts and Nevis141150,0003 to 4 months
St. Lucia132100,0003 to 4 months
Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.