The Unsung IM Programs series
About two dozen “core” programs dominate investment migration marketing materials – and news sites like this one. But there are literally hundreds of money-based immigration programs out there. We intentionally use the term “money-based” because not all the programs covered in this series are based on investments. Many are, but others are based on donations, or your income, or your net worth.
But they are all, one way or another, based on money. Money that you must either invest, donate, earn, or just have.
Hence, money-based immigration programs.
The great bulk of money-based immigration programs rarely gets any attention. That’s regrettable because there’s a smorgasbord of high-quality ones in all price ranges; many practically free.
In this series, therefore, we’re highlighting a number of more obscure programs that we think have merit for some demographic groups.
We’ll go through programs in each of the IMI Program Pages categories:
- Direct Citizenship Programs
Programs that offer citizenship within months in exchange for investments or donations, with minor/no physical presence requirements.
- Semi-Direct Citizenship Programs
Programs that offer citizenship in exchange for investments following a 1-2 year period, with minor/no physical presence requirements.
- Golden Visa Programs
Programs that offer residence permits within months in exchange for passive investments, with limited physical presence requirements.
- Independent Means Visas
Programs that offer residence permits within months to those who can demonstrate income or personal wealth above a certain level, usually requiring that the holder not take up employment locally.
- Active Investor Visas
Programs that offer residence permits within months to those who physically relocate to start and/or run a business. Startup and entrepreneur visas fall under this category.
France’s Talent Passport – Business Investor Program
Successful applicants are awarded a residence permit with a four-year validity, renewable before expiration presuming the investment requirements are still met. Following five years of residency, the investor is eligible for permanent residency, at which point he may liquidate the investment without losing his legal status in France. Permanent residents are also eligible to apply for naturalization, though approval of the same is subject to an integration test, which includes a language component.
To qualify for the initial four-year visa, the applicant must – personally or through a company in which he has at least a 30% shareholding – invest or commit to invest EUR 300,000 in the fixed assets of a business in France.
The investment must create or protect jobs within the four years following the investment and the investor must own at least 10% of the shares of the company in which he invests.
The main applicant’s dependent spouse and children under 18 can apply immediately for the ‘Talent Passport – Family Permit’.
EUR 600 in processing fees apply, along with a EUR 269 spouse permit fee and EUR 99 for dependent children.
To understand why this program is “unsung”, let’s consider its advantages and drawbacks.
Path to French (and thereby EU) citizenship but only to those willing to become tax-residents
To naturalize as a French citizen, you must first become a permanent resident in France. To qualify for permanent residency, you must spend the majority of the year in France, which – by extension – implies that you must become a tax resident in the country. And France is a high-tax country. The top marginal income tax is 45%. Impositions on capital gains, inheritance, and wealth are considerable.
The visa requires a modest investment of capital but a major investment of time and attention
The EUR 300,000 minimum investment is relatively low in a Western-European context; it’s roughly on par with the minimums for the golden visas of Portugal and Greece and considerably more reasonable than for that of Spain. But unlike those programs, the Talent Passport Business Investor visa is an active investor visa; you’ll need to be on the ground in France and actively involved. You can’t just invest and forget about it for months on end. So while the capital investment isn’t very high, the time investment is.
High standard of living but also a high cost of living
France’s lifestyle prospects are second-to-none; the country’s architecture, art, food, landscapes, and historical sights are world-renowned. From skiing to swimming, museums to sporting events, very few aspects of what most people think of as “the good life” are unavailable in France.
But not at a low cost.
According to Numbeo, Paris is the world’s 25th most expensive city, a little ahead of Boston and a little behind San Francisco. Estimated monthly living costs for a family of four (with rent) are in excess of EUR 6,000.
You can invest in almost any kind of business but approval is up to individual assessment
Investors in the Talent Passport program have the freedom to pick the type and location of the business in which they invest but the decision on whether to approve your investment and immigration application is left to the discretion of the processing officer.
There’s no “approval in principle” system in place here either. You make your investment first and hope for approval later. The way to mitigate this risk to invest in a venture known by experienced local lawyers to have the implicit approval of the government.
For whom is the program suitable?
France Talent Passport Business Investor – and, indeed, any Active Investor Visa program – is primarily suitable for applicants genuinely interested in relocating to and operating a business in the country in question, in this case France. The relatively onerous physical presence requirement all but preclude applications from those who merely wish to invest but not move.
It’s also unlikely to be suitable for those unable or unwilling to speak French. While mastery of the language is not a formal requirement, in practice it’s difficult to own and operate a business in the country without at least a conversational grasp of French. About 235 million people speak fluent French and more than two-thirds of them live outside of Europe, mostly in North, West, and Central Africa.
This is definitely a program for all those investment migration firms entering Africa to keep on their shelves.