In the era of global challenges, people are more prone to secure safe havens for themselves and their beloved family members. Wealthy people from all around the world have long ago found out that obtaining alternative citizenship or residency rights in exchange for investment is an excellent way to diversify a wealth portfolio and, along with tangible benefits, gain a wide range of intangible advantages.
Nowadays, the investment migration industry, according to some estimates, has an annual turnover of around $25 billion, and this amount is expected to increase in the foreseen future. Governments are using opportunities to accumulate additional funds in the state coffers and overcome economic challenges by granting citizenship to foreigners in exchange for investment. First, the citizenship by investment program was elaborated in the Caribbean nation of St Kitts & Nevis back in 1984, and today more than ten countries have officially approved and structured citizenship by investment programs across the globe. The youngest on this list is North Macedonia.
According to article 11 of the North Macedonia’s Citizenship Act, the government can grant citizenship to a foreigner in the event of extraordinary merit. This may take various forms, including economic ones, and can include a capital contribution or other economic benefit brought to North Macedonia. Citizenship Act was amended by ‘defining the criteria for special scientific, economic, cultural, sports, or other national interest to acquire citizenship’ in January 2020. Amendments have also clarified a term of ‘special economic interest’ and imposed a threshold of EUR 400,000 on investment in order to be qualified as such. Plus, investors were required to create at least 10 jobs for a one-year period.
With another legislative initiative of March 2021, the government has established two designated funds – North Macedonia Economic Development Fund (MKED) and North Macedonia Industrial Innovation Fund (MKII), which are authorized by North Macedonian Security Exchange Commission (SEC), to accept foreign investment and in return, the state will grant citizenship to investors, if they comply to a certain criterion.
Investors will have two options, either to make an investment contribution of at least €200,000 or make a long-term investment of at least €400,000. Main applicants have to cover the processing fee as well, which stands at €50,000 for the first option and €100,000 for the second. Spouses of main applicants will be charged with around €20,000, while children – with around €10,000 each. There are no other hidden costs in the program. As these amounts are not refundable, they might be considered as donations rather than investments.
All investments and investment contributions must be paid strictly to the North Macedonian bank accounts of one of the two designated SEC authorized funds inside North Macedonia, notes the official website. It also underlines that the program is not about selling passports of North Macedonia, and investors are getting citizenship through naturalization.
The North Macedonian citizenship by investment program will have a cap of 1000 main applicants, 500 for each fund, and it will be limited in time. Such practice was used in Montenegro, where such a program was designed only for 2000 applications, with a duration of 3 years. As by December 31, 2021, the Montenegrin scheme will expire, the demand for the North Macedonian program will surge, note investment migration experts.
Sam Bayat, the founder of Bayat Legal Services, one of the authorized agents of the program, thinks that the North Macedonian citizenship by investment program will be successful. “With the news that Montenegro will terminate its CBI by December… Bulgaria’s CBI has been effectively a 5+ years adventure; and Malta an expensive proposition with a troubled past, North Macedonia is now the best proposition with the biggest potential gain, considering total cost, when becoming a member of EU/Schengen zone”, commented Sam Bayat.
Experts think that in terms of cost, the North Macedonian CBI program is a formidable competitor for the Montenegrin CBI scheme. Both countries have many similarities and are in one step to join the European Union. The official decision to start EU Accession Negotiations with North Macedonia was taken by the European Commission in March 2020. It is expected that North Macedonia will join the bloc by 2025, and by then, its passport will be even more alluring,
The application process for North Macedonia’s citizenship by investment program will last 3-4 months from the time the government receives a positive due diligence report on the applicant. According to the official website, the processing of applications, including due diligence and approvals, will be supervised and approved by the North Macedonian government agencies and processed by accredited and appointed professional law firm(s) in North Macedonia.
In order to qualify for the program, the main applicant must be at least 18 years old, make the required investment, and prove a clean criminal record. They also should not have entered or stayed illegally in the country. Certificate of Naturalization and Passport will be issued within 4 months from the moment of application submission.
The North Macedonian government welcomes long-term investments that will benefit the whole society. Two funds will invest in strategic, long-term, and capital projects in Macedonia, as well as start-up and innovation, and technology development. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), infrastructure, energy, environmental, and recycling projects will also be financed.
Authorities want to attract investors of a particular profile. They want highly successful people who can contribute to the local economy.
Acquiring North Macedonian citizenship and, therefore passport, gives a plethora of benefits, including visa-free access to 124 destinations worldwide, including the Schengen Area. The country is an official member of NATO, guaranteeing its long-run security.
North Macedonia boasts high economic growth, which is sustained by foreign direct investments and access to the European markets. Its currency is fixed to the Euro.
There is also a very favorable tax system in this Balkan country, with zero income tax for non-residents and the lowest corporate and income taxes (only 10%) in the European Union (10%).
Citizens of North Macedonia enjoy access to high-standard healthcare and affordable educational systems.
So far, as of March 2021, 103 foreign investors were granted North Macedonian passports under the citizenship by investment program, according to the reports from the European Parliament.