When you buy a piece of property overseas
When you buy a piece of property overseas, it can sometimes come with an important bonus—it can open the door to foreign residency. When it does, you not only have a second home in the traditional sense, but you’ve got a second home in a broader sense as well… a place where, when you go there, they have to take you in (to borrow a line from Robert Frost).
And this overseas residency will also provide you a gateway into the host country’s banking system and financial services sector, along with, sometimes, a potential path to citizenship.
Obtaining residency can be a hassle, requiring you to provide extensive financial records and check stubs to show you qualify. But, when you qualify as a property owner, you often shortcut a lot of red tape.
Here are five of my favorite places where you can obtain residency by buying real estate.
#1: Colombia Provides The Easiest Process I’ve Found For The Property Owner
I gathered the required paperwork specified on their website and walked over to the Ministry of Exterior Relations in Bogotá. There was a line outside when I got there, but they let us into the building at 7 a.m. I took a number… waited my turn… and left the building at 7:55 a.m. with a permanent residency visa.
Less than one hour… no lawyer… that’s about as easy as you can get.
Colombia offers the property buyer two paths to residency. By simply buying a property valued at more than US$77,800, you can qualify for a temporary residency visa (Type TP7). This is renewable yearly, and, after five years, you can switch to permanent residency.
But, if you spend US$144,500 on a property, you can obtain permanent residency right off the bat as a resident investor. (“Permanent” residency today is actually renewed every five years.) Both quotes are at today’s exchange rate of 2,900 Colombian pesos per US$1.
One caveat: Make sure that the municipal value on your property deed reflects at least the investment threshold that you need, and that you have records of that same amount coming into Colombia. I’ve been audited, and they’re serious about all the numbers matching up.
#2: Ecuador Offers One Of The World’s Lowest Property Investment Thresholds
As one of the world’s most popular retirement destinations, Ecuador offers one of the easiest residencies for the property buyer; the minimum investment is just US$25,000. This will qualify you for the investment visa.
As with Colombia, the municipal value on your property title must reflect the minimum investment level of US$25,000, or more. This is normally not a problem nowadays. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for deeds to have very low municipal values on them. If the property you’re buying has such a deed, you’ll need an attorney’s help to bring the value up to the US$25,000 threshold without creating a big capital gains hit for the seller.
Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency, so these values do not fluctuate with any exchange rate.
One special requirement: Your US$25,000 investment gets you permanent residency in Ecuador. However, to maintain your status, you can’t be out of Ecuador for more than a total of 90 days per year during each of your first two years as a resident.
#3: Panama’s Friendly Nations Visa Makes Residency Easy For The Property Buyer
In May 2012, President Ricardo Martinelli issued a presidential decree that allowed the citizens of certain friendly nations to become permanent residents of Panama using a fast-track process. Originally, there were 22 friendly nations. Today there are 48.
The visa requires that you have an economic tie to Panama, and your real estate purchase can do that for you. It doesn’t need to be a personal residence, either. Lots of readers are using our current teak investment offer and the popular lime plantation investent to qualify.
Like Ecuador, Panama also uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency, so you’d be shielded from currency exchange-rate fluctuations here, too.
#4: Malaysia Is The Most Popular Choice In Asia
A perennial favorite for expat retirees, Malaysia offers a residency visa automatically when you buy a property there. Under new rules issued in 2014, the minimum investment level is 1 million Malaysian ringgits, which works out to just over US$259,000 at today’s exchange rate of 3.86 ringgits per US$1.
The fine print: You must also be over 50 and have 500,000 ringgits (US$129,500) in a local savings account. Plus, you have to show an income of 100,000 ringgits per year (US$25,900 today, or about US$2,160 per month).
This visa also allows you to bring any unmarried children under 21 with you as well as parents over 60.
It can be hard to obtain residency and own property in this part of the world, and Malaysia’s residency program gets you in the door on both counts.
#5: Malta Offers The Best Deal I’ve Found In The Eurozone
A British colony until the 1960s, Malta could be your gateway to visa-free travel in Europe. With English as an official language, Malta offers one of the easiest transitions abroad.
Under new rules initiated in 2013, the minimum investment in the southern Maltese Islands (including Gozo) is 220,000 euros (that’s US$242,000 at today’s exchange rate of 1 euro per US$1.10). In the more affluent northern sectors of Malta, the minimum is 275,000 euros (US$302,500 today).
Compare Malta’s minimums to Portugal’s real estate for residency program (which requires 500,000 euros) and to Spain’s Golden Visa program (which also comes in at 500,000 euros). Malta is a super deal at half the price… especially considering its good weather and relatively low cost of living.
In some parts of the world, even if you own a piece of property, residency can be hard to obtain. However, these five countries are not only great places to live overseas, but they also make it easy for the property buyer to stay on indefinitely.
Editor, Overseas Property Alert
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