The (Nearly) Free, Entirely Remote, 3-Year Path to Armenian Citizenship

Nerses Isajanyan

For but a few thousand dollars, you can get permanent residency in Armenia, which places you on a three-year path to citizenship without any minimum stay requirements.

This article details the practical steps, costs, and timelines involved in getting your Armenian citizenship.

Why would you want Armenian citizenship?

While not as valuable as an EU or Mercosur citizenship in terms of settlement rights or visa-free travel, Armenian citizenship offers a number of distinct advantages.

Armenian passports afford visa-free travel to 69 countries and territories, including China, Russia, and most countries in South America. Moreover, thanks to the country’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union’s Supranational Settlement Bloc, Armenian citizens can freely move and settle permanently within the territories of all other member states, which include Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus, subject to having employment.

You can also pass Armenian citizenship to your children. Armenia also offers citizenship by descent to those who can demonstrate Armenian origin, no matter how many generations ago, but this only applies to those who are of Armenian ethnicity, and not those of other nationalities who have naturalized.

There are no restrictions on dual citizenship and, should the need arise in the future, renouncing your Armenian citizenship is a simple procedure.

But there is another process afoot that could see the value of Armenian citizenship rise sharply in the not-too-distant future:

This March, the European Parliament passed a resolution confirming that the country meets the Article 49 requirements of the Maastricht Treaty, which officially qualifies Armenia to apply for EU membership.

Should Armenia become an EU member, its citizens will have the same settlement rights as the other member countries of the EU/EEA Supranational Settlement Bloc, allowing them to live permanently anywhere within the bloc's 30 member countries.

Of course, Armenia's ascension to the EU remains hypothetical, and a great deal needs to happen before this can take place.

Armenian permanent residency through minimal investment

The first step on the path to Armenian citizenship is to obtain permanent residency.

Armenia offers a straightforward residency process for business owners and investors through the Armenia Permanent Residency Program. Notable advantages include the ability to apply remotely, a streamlined application process, and no minimum stay or investment requirements.

Permanent residence permits, which require renewal every five years, allow sponsors to bring immediate and extended family members. Residents enjoy access to social services, affordable health insurance, and a favorable path to citizenship after three years, which we'll discuss in detail below.

In Armenia, residency is accessible to those engaged in business activities, which the Armenian Civil Code defines broadly to include both active ownership (such as sole proprietorship or holding a majority stake) and passive ownership (holding a minority stake).

While many clients opt to register a business in Armenia to capitalize on the lower tax rates (0-10% for small businesses), those who prefer not to manage their own business can, for example, invest just a few thousand dollars in a social business to qualify for residency.

Investors (business owners) can apply directly for a long-term residence permit. While formally termed "permanent," it requires renewal every five years. 

In 2022, Armenia issued residence permits to 16,659 foreign nationals. Among these, 12,878 individuals received a 1-year temporary residence permit, 3,279 a 5-year permanent residence permit, and 502 a 10-year special residence permit.

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Armenia stands out for its simple residency qualification process. Specifically:

  • Applications can be submitted remotely using a power of attorney.
  • Applicants need only provide a valid passport and, for remote submissions, a medical certificate.
  • Authorities process applications within 90 days.
  • There are no minimum stay requirements.
  • There is no minimum investment requirement.

Holders of permanent residence permits can sponsor their spouse, children, siblings, parents, and even grandparents and grandchildren for residency. Upon obtaining residency, family members gain access to Armenian social services, including healthcare, education, and social security.

The steps involved in obtaining permanent residency in Armenia through business activity include:

  • Document submission
    Initial registration as a shareholder or investor is typically completed within 2-3 business days.
  • Residence permit application
    After registering as a shareholder, the residence permit application process takes approximately 45-50 days, culminating in the issuance of the residence card.
  • Appointment scheduling
    Due to high demand, appointments with the Immigration Office may require scheduling several weeks or even months in advance.

Tax Implications of Becoming a Resident in Armenia

Օbtaining a residence permit in Armenia does not automatically confer tax residency. Tax residency is primarily determined by the duration of stay within a calendar year. The critical threshold is 183 days or more within the country.

Individuals who do not spend more than 183 days in the country but still wish to establish tax residency in Armenia - for example, due to substantial personal or business connections that centralize their economic interests in the country - may apply for a tax residency certificate. 

Notable tax benefits and regulations include:

  • No tax on capital gains
    Armenia doesn't typically tax individuals on capital gains from the sale of securities, real estate, or other assets, regardless of whether these gains are generated domestically or internationally.
  • Tax-exempt income types
    Certain types of income, such as insurance and pension payouts, are exempt from taxes, making this an advantageous option for retirees.
  • No inheritance, gift, or wealth taxes
    Armenia does not levy taxes on gifts, inheritance, or net worth.
  • Favorable taxation of foreign income
    Tax residents must generally pay taxes on global income at flat rates: 20% on business income, 10% on interest, and 5% on dividends. However, Armenia has double taxation agreements with approximately 50 countries, which can significantly reduce tax liabilities for foreign income.

Gaining Armenian citizenship after three years of residency

Armenian nationality law allows for the naturalization of individuals who have held permanent residency for three years. In practice, the residency status of the individual need not have been permanent for those three years; the Migration Service will accept applicants who have maintained a residence permit in the country for three years.

Moreover, there is no formal or informal requirement to have spent a certain amount of time physically in the country. The formal requirement is that the applicant must have been a "permanent resident" for three years. As a consequence, an individual who has never set foot in the country can still apply for citizenship as long as they have held a residence permit for three years.

Note, however, that while the Migration Service currently does not count the number of days—focusing instead on the presence of a residence permit over the last three years—this practice could change. For example, they might later interpret "permanently resided" to mean actual residence for a certain number of days. Moreover, even if the Migration Service's interpretation is favorable now, we cannot guarantee that the judiciary would uphold this view if an applicant's rejection were appealed in court.

And - unlike many countries with nationality laws that formally allow naturalization after being a resident for a certain number of years but in practice often take more than a decade to grant citizenship [e.g., Panama] - Armenia actually grants citizenship to foreign residents within a reasonable time.

While rejections based on unexplained national security concerns are common, many applicants successfully gain citizenship. If a rejection occurs, the applicant can challenge this in court. Judges typically rule in favor of the applicant if the government fails to substantiate the national security threat claims. However, such court proceedings may add another year or two to the process.

Even what most consider the biggest obstacle to naturalization in Armenia - the requirement that applicants pass a civics exam administered in the Armenian language - is not as insurmountable as it may seem at first glance:

The test is a 33-question multiple-choice exam, where the questions appear in a predictable order. This allows applicants to memorize the answers.

Applicants must also fill out a short form in Armenian.

While these elements require some familiarity with the written language, there is no requirement to speak or verbally understand Armenian.

Disadvantages of Armenian citizenship

All males ages 18 to 27 must, in principle, take part in 24 months of mandatory military service. And, in Armenia, the prospect of armed military conflict is not merely hypothetical. On various occasions in recent years, the country has been at war with its neighbor Azerbaijan.

However, after age 27, males who have not completed their mandatory military service, for example, if they have been living abroad, can obtain an exemption from service in exchange for a variable fee, typically amounting to several thousand dollars.

After 37 years of age, the military service requirement lapses permanently.

Another hypothetical disadvantage is that Armenian citizens are not admitted to Azerbaijan. But there's nothing stopping you from traveling there on your original passport. Relations with Turkey are also not the best.

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Nerses Isajanyan AuthorSubscriberParticipant
Partner , Vardanyan Law

Nerses Isajanyan is a partner at Vardanyan & Partners, a leading immigration law firm in Armenia established in 2012, offering a comprehensive range of services tailored to the needs of global citizens and businesses seeking opportunities in Armenia.

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