A draft government decision – formally issued on Wednesday but publicized only today by national media outlets (including the official state news agency) – has set out the specific criteria by which Armenia’s president may grant citizenship by decree to “persons who have provided exceptional services” to the country, including in the fields of sports, science, culture, education, and – crucially for investment migration purposes – economy.
While only 13 countries have formal citizenship by investment countries, scores of countries have provisions in their nationality laws that allow state leadership (typically the President or Parliament) to grant citizenship by decree to individuals deemed of particular merit. Such laws are often referred to as citizenship by decree or exceptional naturalization laws. These are what enable, for example, French President Emmanuel Macron to grant instant citizenship to baby-saving heroes.
Typically, these laws stop short of defining precisely what is considered “exceptional”, leaving it for national governments to use their own judgment on a case-by-case basis or to issue Decisions or Regulations to govern more detailed requirements. In most countries that have exceptional naturalization laws, however, the government doesn’t trouble to provide precise criteria for exceptionalism, at least not in the realm of exceptional economic contributions.
But this week, Armenia’s government – as it is its unilateral prerogative to do, according to the law on citizenship – defined what it will consider a “significant contribution in the areas of economy, science, education, culture, health, and sports,” going so far as to specify the precise investment amounts it will consider sufficient to warrant immediate naturalization on the basis of economic contributions.
The rules as set out have the effect of paving the way for a bona fide citizenship by investment program, i.e., a standardized and expedited route to citizenship in exchange for fixed investment amounts.
Prospective applicants will have 11 different routes to qualifying for citizenship on the basis of an economic contribution in Armenia:
- A contribution of at least US$150,000 to a foundation established to carry out activities in the fields of education or science;
- An investment of at least US$150,000 in the shares of a commercial entity for a period of no fewer than 10 years;
- An investment of at least US$150,000 in government bonds for a period of no fewer than 7 years;
- An investment of at least US$150,000 in real estate “with a cadastral value approximated to the market value of the property” for a period of no fewer than 10 years.
- An investment of at least US$150,000 in any government-approved investment fund for a period of no fewer than 10 years.
- The establishment of a company in a high-tech or IT business with a capitalization of at least US$1 million, “provided that the center of vital interests of the founder is located in the Republic of Armenia”;
- The establishment of a branch in Armenia for a foreign information technology company with a capitalization equal to US$100 million or more that has at least 500 employees in Armenia;
- The establishment of a venture capital fund with assets amounting to at least US$80 million in Armenia;
- An investment of US$100,000 or more in a high-tech or venture capital fund;
- Have at least 20 years of work experience in “high and (or) information technology companies listed on the New York, Frankfurt or London stock exchanges”; OR
- Having engaged in long-term activity (at least five years) in the “international structures of the postal sector, as well as making financial, material, and technical investments in the field amounting to at least US$250,000.
The draft decision, interestingly, is recorded as having been developed by Armenia’s National Police.
The government will make a final decision on the draft by October 27th.
Armenian citizens enjoy visa-free travel to some 65 countries. While none of them are in the Schengen area, visa-free (or visa-on-arrival and e-visa) destinations include China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Turkey.
“At this price point, and considering the potential invitation of Armenia to become an EU candidate country, Armenia should steal market share from Montenegro, Turkey, and the Caribbean CBI programs,” commented David Lesperance of Lesperance & Associates on the news of Armenia’s decision.
“It will be interesting to see if they are also open to the enormous market for non-sanctioned Russians fleeing conscription.”