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Top Residency and Visa Options: Bulgaria, Thailand, Malta, DR, and St. Kitts

Top Residency and Visa Options: Bulgaria, Thailand, Malta, DR, and St. Kitts

In the past couple weeks, we have been examining popular 2nd residency programs around the world. In Week #1, we compared residency in Belize and Panama. Week #2, we looked at residency options in Chile, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. This week, we are going examine how to obtain residency in several more countries of the world.   Let’s talk about the top residency and visa options: Bulgaria, Thailand, Malta, DR, and St. Kitts.

The chart right below this introduction is a simple and easy way to see the major requirements for some of the best 2nd residency programs in the world. After the chart, you’ll see a detailed description of 2nd residency requirements in Malta, the Dominican Republic, St. Kitts, Bulgaria, and Thailand.   

Keep the feedback coming. We are pleased to see that so many of you are inquiring about the Panama 2nd residency program. Having worked in the region and industry for 24 years, the Panama 2nd residency program when paired with a teak investment is one of the best to obtain because it’s inexpensive, simple, and fast to get. 

However, far more important is that it is the easiest 2nd residency in the world to maintain. To keep a 2nd residency in Panama, you only need to visit one day every 2 years. For people looking for a Plan B  2nd residency, this is as good as it gets.   

There are lots of reasons to get a 2nd residency. Thus, the variety of programs in the marketplace. Read on to see the chart and details about other popular 2nd residency programs around the world.   

Snapshot Comparison Chart

Country Residency Program(s) Requirements Estimated Expense
Panama Friendly Nations Visa Bank Account, Corporation

Land ownership.

To maintain:

Must visit Panama at least one (1) day every two (2) years.

Fee for Friendly Nations Visa (bank account, corporation, including legal and administrative fees for residency) is $4,680

An additional $1,900 is required per dependent.

Belize Qualified Retired Persons Program Proof that applicant is receiving $2,000 per month from a pension, annuity, or other retirement income


Proof that an investment made in Belize will generate a minimum of $2,000 per month.

Minimum age of 45.

Must spend at least 30 days per year in country.

Application fee ranges from $250-$5,000.
Chile Three temporary residency tracks that lead to permanent residency:

  1. Rentista
  2. Lump sum investor
  3. Business owner
Permanent Residency is good for 5 years and may be renewed indefinitely. If Chile is left for longer than 1-year, permanent residency will be revoked.
Ecuador 9-I Pensioner Visa

9-II Real Estate Investor Visa

9-II Certificate of Deposit Visa

9-III Industrial Investor Visa

9-IV Legal Representative, Work, or Religious Visa

9-V Professional Visa

9-VI Dependent Visa

Various requirements depending on Visa chosen. Requirements range from:

Proof of a monthly guaranteed income of at least $800 per month.

An investment in local real estate or a CD in an Ecuadorian bank of at least $25,000, or a spouse who is an Ecuadorian citizen.

For Main Applicant:

$50 for the application and $500

once approved

For Dependents:

$30 for the application and $300 once approved.

Note: applicants 65 and over can receive a discount on fees.

Dominican Republic Qualified Investor Residency:

  • Retiree / Pensioner
  • Independent Investor
  • Lump Sum Investor
No age requirement for retiree / pensioner.

Minimum $200,000 local investment for Lump Sum Investor

St. Kitts Investment Program One-time contribution of $125,000 into the Sustainable Growth Fund or an investment of $400,000 into local real estate $7,500 for the due diligence and processing fees for the main applicant.

$4,000 for due diligence background checks and processing fees for each dependent over 16 years.

Potentially other fees if real estate investment is made.

Malta Malta Individual Investor Program Note: there is a cap of 1,800 applications which will be approved. As of June 2018, 1,101 have already been filled. €7,500 due diligence fee for main applicant as well as €500 Malta passport fee. Fees will increase with more dependents.
Costa Rica Pensionado Residency

Rentista Residency

For Pensionado: Proof that you receive at least $1,000 per month from a pension or annuity.

For Rentista: Proof that you receive at least $2,500 per month from a guaranteed source. This can NOT come from a salary.

For both:

Must visit Costa Rica at least one (1) day per year.

Thailand Retirement Visa

Business Visa

Marriage Visa

Permanent Residency

Investment Option

Each option requires application through embassy with valid passport.

With the permanent residency, applicant must hold non-immigrant visa for at least three years.

Financial responsibility ranges from $1,200 monthly income requirement to $305,000 investment, depending on the visa.
Bulgaria Extended Residence

Long-Term Residence

Permanent Residence

Citizenship Investor

Requirements range from visa to visa. Most require application through embassy with valid passport. Each visa upgrade requires more time spent in country. Investment option requires an investment of at least $609,236 in Bulgarian Government Bonds.

*All prices in U.S. dollars, except Malta, which is in euros and is subject to change.


Why Malta?

The Malta Individual Investors Program is a fast-tracked permanent second residency and citizenship program for high net-worth individuals. What makes this program particularly attractive is that Malta is a member of the European Union, meaning that obtaining citizenship through the Malta Individual Investor Program will grant one citizenship in the EU.

The Program requires a significant, one-time contribution to the National Development and Social Fund of the Malta Government. This investment must be €650,000 for the main applicant, as well as an additional €25,000-€50,000 for each dependent.

The program is capped at 1,800 applicants. As of June 2017, 1,101 applications had already been issued.  

Due Diligence fees:

  • Principal applicant: €7,500 
  • Spouse: €5,000 
  • Minor dependents (aged 0-12): no fee 
  • Minor dependents (aged 13-17): €3,000 each 
  • Adult dependents: €5,000 each 

Malta Passport fees:

  • €500 for all candidates

Resources for further review:

116: How To Move To Panama Or Use It As Your Plan-B Residency – Expat Money Show’s most watched episode

Dominican Republic

Why the Dominican Republic?

The Dominican Republic offers some of the most affordable real estate in the Caribbean. If you are considering purchasing property in the Caribbean, either for a second home or for retirement, you may want to consider the Dominican Republic over more pricey options, such as Bermuda.

The Dominican Republic is a mere 3 ½ hour plane ride from many places in the United States, making it easily accessible to most North Americans. In addition, there are many international flights to and from the Dominican Republic from many European and Latin American cities.  

The Dominican Republic has two main residency types: Ordinary Residency and Qualified Investor Residency.

Ordinary Residency

This residency path has no investment requirement. This is a huge deal for those looking to get a second residency without spending a lot of money. To obtain permanent ordinary residency in the Dominican Republic, one must first obtain provisional (temporary) residency in the Dominican Republic. This process is fairly quick. It requires some paperwork, but not too much.

Some requirements for Provisional Residency in the DR are:

  • Completed visa application form
  • Complete a medical examination with a medical doctor at the Department of Immigration
  • Copies of birth certificate notarized and translated
  • Copies of passport
  • Letter of Good Conduct from your local police department, notarized and translated
  • Proof of a local bank account
  • A background check by Interpol

Provisional Residency must be held for 5 years before one can obtain Ordinary (Permanent) Residency. To go from Provisional Residency to Permanent Residency, and after holding Provisional Residency for 5 years, one must complete all of the background checks once again. Once this process is completed, one can have their Provisional Residency switched to Ordinary (Permanent) Residency. Note that there is no significant cost associated with this process (such as a with a Qualified Investor Residency). The costs associated with the Ordinary Residency are those required to complete all forms and procedures to apply, and an application fee. As a permanent resident, you must renew your residency card after the first year. Subsequent cards are renewable once every four years.

Qualified Investor Residency

There are three types of Qualified Investor Residencies available in the Dominican Republic. They are:

  1. Pensionado Residency
    • Requires proof of a pension, annuity, or retirement income of at least $1,500 per month, plus $250 per dependent.
    • Eligible to skip the 5-year provisional residency period and receive permanent residency.
  1. Rentista Investor
    • Requires proof of income from a non-salaried source of at least $2,000 per month.
    • Eligible to skip the 5-year provisional residency period and receive permanent residency.
  1. Lump Sum Investor
    • Requires a local investment of at least $200,000 (may be an investment in real estate, as well as a financial instrument or a business enterprise).

Note: in the Dominican Republic, there is no minimum age requirement for the Pensioner or Retiree Residency. This is different from many other nations, which require one to be a certain age to apply for a retiree or pensioner residency.


For Main Applicant: $50 for the application and $500 once approved.
For Dependents: $30 for the application and $300 once approved.

Applicants 65 and over can receive a discount

Can residency lead to citizenship? Yes, and the Dominican Republic does recognize dual citizenship.

St. Kitts

Why St. Kitts?

A second permanent residency or even a second citizenship from St. Kitts is one of the absolute simplest to obtain in the entire world. This convenience, however, comes with a price tag. Obtaining permanent residency or even a second citizenship in St. Kitts requires an investment of $400,000 into real estate, or a contribution of $150,000 into the Sustainable Growth Fund (SGF). And that’s it. Once either of these investments has been made, and the proper paperwork is filled out, you can have your new St. Kitts permanent second residency or citizenship in as little as 90 days!

The simplicity of the Citizenship by Investment Program makes it one of the absolute simplest and quickest second residency and second citizenship programs in the world. This certainly has its advantages.

We should note, however, that in addition to the initial investment, there are several government fees.

The real estate investment option, for example, comes with a $50,000 government processing fee for the main applicant and any dependents over 18, as well as an additional $25,000 for the main applicant’s spouse and any dependents under 18.

For the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund route towards second residency and citizenship, we should note that the cost of the contribution goes up with the more applicants.

SIDF Contribution Based on Number of Dependents

Single Applicant $150,000
Applicant plus spouse $175,000
Applicant with up to 3 dependents $195,000
Applicant with up to 5 dependents $205,000
Applicant with up to 7 dependents $215,000

For both investment routes, there are some sizeable due diligence and processing fees which must be paid.


  • $7,500 for due diligence and processing fees for the main applicant.
  • $4,000 for due diligence background checks and processing fees for each dependent over 16 years.

All in all, a second residency or citizenship from St. Kitts will end up setting you back quite a bit (minimum of a quarter million dollars), however, there are very few restrictions on the applicant if they can afford this. In addition, the process is fast and simple, meaning if you have the money, and are looking to get second residency or citizenship quickly and easily, St. Kitts may be a good option for you.

Resources for further review:


Why Thailand?

Thailand is a tropical destination that offers a lower cost of living than many European and North American countries. The food is great and the wonderful weather adds to the extensive list of reasons to seek residency in Thailand.

There are many ways to spend time in the country including visas, permanent residency, and residency by investment options.

Residency Options

90-Day Non-Immigrant Visa

This visa is intended for those who are involved in official duties, religious activities, those conducting business, work, study, or visiting family for a period of 90 days. This will be the visa that you will need to acquire before obtaining any other kind of visa listed below. You can apply to convert this to a longer term visa after 90 days.  


    • Application submitted to Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
    • Passport with at least 6-month validity from date of intended travel.
    • Provide invitation or confirmation letter to clarify the purpose of travel.
    • Proof of financial funds ($700 for individual or $1,500 for a family) and travel itinerary.
    • Embassy fees: $80 USD for single entry visa, $200 USD for multiple entry visa.

Retirement Visa

This is for the individual that is looking to spend their retirement in Thailand. The visa lasts for one year and must be renewed annually. Renewal of the retirement visa can be made while in Thailand.


    • 50 years of age or older.
    • Valid passport.
    • Currently holding a non-immigrant visa.
    • Must meet the following financial requirements:
      • Deposit 800,000 THB into a Thai bank account ($24,834 as of October 2, 2018) for 2 months prior to visa application; OR
      • Monthly pension of at least 65,000 THB ($2,017 as of October 2, 2018) including an affidavit from the embassy or consulate that must be obtained as proof; OR
      • Combination of Thai bank account and yearly income with a total of 800,000 THB.
    • Must prove the absence of a criminal record.
    • Obtain a re-entry permit.
    • Must report to immigration every 90 days to verify current address.

Business Visa

With this visa, you can apply for a work permit which allows you to work in Thailand or start a business in Thailand. This visa is valid for one year and can be regularly renewed.


    • Passport valid for at least 6 months
    • Letter of approval from the Ministry of Labor
    • Copy of Thai work permit
    • Corporate information of hiring company/employer. This information can include: Business license, list of shareholders, company profile, list of foreign workers and their nationalities, map with location of company indicated, income and business taxes visible on balance sheet.
    • A document indicating the number of foreign tourists or export transactions issued by banks for tourism or export related businesses.

Marriage Visa

Specifically for those who have spouses who are Thai nationals and wish to visit and live with their Thai spouse in Thailand. You must first obtain a 90-day visa or 1-year non-immigrant “O” visa in your home country prior to application for the Thai marriage visa.


    • Legally married to a Thai national.
    • No criminal background.
    • Meet financial requirements:
      • Security deposit of 400,000 THB ($12,000) in a Thai bank account for at least two months OR
      • Monthly income of at least 40,000 THB ($1,200). A letter from your own country’s embassy must be supplied to verify this income amount.

Permanent Residency

Allows residents to live permanently in Thailand. There are no requirements to apply for an extension of stay.


    • Hold a non-immigrant visa for at least three consecutive years including at time of application.
    • Meet one of the following categories:
      • Investment category, investing 3-10 million THB ($93,125- $310,425 as of October 2, 2018) in Thailand.
      • Business or Employment
      • Support of Family or Humanitarian – must have a relationship with a Thai citizen who is in possession of a residence permit (spouse, parent, or guardian of Thai child under 20).
      • Expert / Academic Category
      • Other categories as determined by Thai Immigration.

Resources for further review:


Why Bulgaria?

The simple, quiet, and inexpensive nature of Bulgaria draws many foreigners who want to live in Europe without the big price tag that comes with many of Europe’s more well-known countries. Bulgaria offers a low cost of living and easy access to the rest of Europe.

Residency Options

  • Extended Residence: With extended residence, you have all the rights and obligations of a Bulgarian citizen. The permit is valid for one year and can be renewed. The permit holder may change his or her place of residence and leave and re-enter the country.
  • Long-Term Residence Permit: This is issued for one year for non-EU citizens and can be renewed. As a non-EU citizen looking to obtain long-term residence, you must submit your application in your home country to the Bulgarian consular representative.
  • Permanent Residence Permit: After five consecutive years of long-term residence, you can apply for permanent residence abroad in Bulgaria. This earns you the same rights as a Bulgarian citizen, other than the right to vote. You will need to submit your application to the National Migration Directorate in Bulgaria no later than 60 days before your long-term residency permit expires.
  • Citizenship: In agreement with the EU, citizens of Bulgaria have unrestricted access to live, work, and study and Europe. You can also own land in the EU. Having citizenship in Bulgaria can be an inexpensive tool to live out your other European dreams.

Investor Programs

This is the easiest way for foreigners to gain residency in Bulgaria. There are two options:

  • Full Investment: Invest BGN 1 million ($609,236) in a Government Bond Portfolio. After five years of residence, the full amount is returned to the investor.
  • Financed Investment: Investor pays BGN 380,970 ($231,786) to finance a BGN 1 million loan. The investment is not returned after the five-year period.

Resources for further review:

I hope you enjoyed reading this article: Top Residency and Visa Options: Bulgaria, Thailand, Malta, DR, and St. Kitts. If you have any questions, please contact our office HERE.

I’ve included some great articles for you to read, enjoy!

Getting Residency In the Dominican Republic

Move Out Of The US In 5 Steps

6 Countries Where It’s Easy To Get A Residency Visa

Malta – A Perfect Expat and Holiday Destination

Top 10 Things to Do in Thailand


Michael K. Cobb is the CEO and co-founder of ECI Developments which has properties throughout Latin America. He speaks all over the world on international real estate and is a board member of the National Association of Realtors.

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