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The Great Lexicon of Investment Migration

Stephane Tajick

Last updated: July 2, 2019

The Great Lexicon of Investment Migration


Many readers looking for information on investment migration are baffled by some of the words and terms used in the immigration literature. For many of them English is their second or third language and even for a native speaker, some of the terms are not very explicit. I’m going to try to make a lexicon of all the terms one might come across when trying to get information on residence- or citizenship-by-investment programmes.


Active investment: an investment that requires active involvement from the investor. Usually refers to investing in a business as an entrepreneur.

Approval-in-principal: this means that your application has been approved, pending completion of the investment. It’s usually issued when the government body has finished the due diligence on your application and you are asked to make your investment and then show proof.



Belonger: a term used in the Caribbean to describe the unique status of those that have roots for generations in the islands. It can confer more rights than citizenship of the country.



CBI or CIP: the abbreviation of citizenship by investment and citizenship-by-investment programme.

Citizenship by investment: implies applying for citizenship in a country by investing in it. These are exceptional naturalisation processes that fast-track foreign investors towards citizenship.



Escrow account: accounts used by licenced law firms or financial institutions to hold the funds of a client before they are invested. Its purpose is to provide security to the investor as he remains in control of the funds.



Dependents: represent the family members who depend on the main applicant. They can include spouse, children, parents, and grandparents.

Due diligence: the process of verifying the information provided in the application for residence or citizenship. It generally applies to background checks on criminal activities and proof of funds being obtained legally.



Global citizen: the individuals that live and work across the globe, without staying only in one country. They can have multiple residences and citizenships.

Golden visa: a synonym of residence by investment. It’s been used fluently since Greece launched its Golden Visa programme and since has been commonly used in Europe to describe real estate investment options.



High-net-worth individual (HNWI): generally refers to a wealthy individual with a net worth of $1,000,000 in investable assets. This typically excludes the main residence of that individual.

Holding period: usually refers to how long you need to maintain an investment when investing for residence or citizenship. E.g. the holding period of a real estate investment may be 3 years.



Immigrant entrepreneur: a business person applying for residency to operate a business, either by starting one or buying one. Entrepreneurs usually differ from investors by the fact that they are actively involved in the running of the business.

Immigrant investor:  a synonym of residence by investment. It’s actually the first term to be used since 1986 and the creation of the Canadian Immigrant Investor programme.

Immigrant self-employed: an individual applying for residency that produces their own employment. It can be a wide category that can include artists, consultants and business people.

Indefinite leave to remain: used in the UK to define permanent residence.

Investment migration: the name of the industry involved in residence and citizenship planning by investment.

Investor visa: a synonym of residence by investment.



Long-term residence: a legal status that allows a foreigner to reside for a long time in a country, usually for 5 to 25 years.



Naturalisation: one of the processes of becoming a citizen of a country. It usually applies to foreigners after a few years of residence.

Naturalisation by merit or exceptional contribution: the process of naturalising a foreigner based on his merit or contribution to the country. These are clauses in the Nationality Law that give birth to citizenship by investment programmes. Many countries have naturalisation by merit or exceptional contribution, but only a dozen have citizenship by investment programmes.



Passive investment: an investment that doesn’t require active involvement from the investor. Usually used to define investing in government bonds, real estate, bank deposits or shares of companies.

Permanent residence: a legal status that allows a foreigner to reside indefinitely in a country. It’s usually obtained after a few years of residence. Permanent residence might sound permanent but in many cases can be revoked if the holder is away for a long time.

Physical presence: the number of days you are physically present in a country out of the year. Usually used to determine tax residence status and if you have stayed enough days in a country to apply for citizenship or permanent residence.



Quota: limits on the number of immigrants placed on all programmes. In some case they are precise and explicit: e.g. 300 for the year. In other cases they are vague as they can fall to a more general category or where the total number of immigrants for the year is capped.



Residence by investment: implies applying for a residence permit in a country by investing in it. These are immigration programmes set up by the government to attract investors.

RBI: the abbreviation of residence by investment.



Schengen area: an area consisting of 26 European countries that abolished borders between each other.

Startup visa: an immigration path for entrepreneurs usually specialized in innovative technologies.



Temporary residence: a legal status that allows a foreigner to reside temporarily in a country, usually from 1 to 5 years.

Tax residence: the legal requirement of paying tax in a jurisdiction. When you are tax resident of a country, you are liable to pay tax to its tax agency.



Visa: the process of getting authorisation to enter a country. Some countries require certain nationals to request an authorisation to travel to a country, while others don’t. This affects your passport. The fewer visas needed for you to travel, the better your passport.

Visa-free: this means no visa is required. Used in relation to the visa policy of a passport.

“Our purpose is to provide information, so feel free to contact us if you need more. If you need professional help, let us know, and we will direct you toward a trusted expert in your area.”

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