El Salvador unveils BTC ‘Freedom Visa’ — but it’s 10x the cost of others

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The same citizenship-by-investment schemes in nearby Caribbean nations start at $100,000, and one EU country has a citizenship pathway for just over $800,000.

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El Salvador unveils BTC ‘Freedom Visa’ — but it’s 10x the cost of others

El Salvador has launched a new citizenship-by-investment program that grants a residency visa and pathway to citizenship for 1,000 people willing to stump up a $1 million Bitcoin (BTC) or Tether (USDT) investment in the country.

The Central American country’s price tag for citizenship, however, appears far more expensive than those in neighboring Caribbean countries, which start at $100,000.

El Salvador’s government and stablecoin issuer Tether announced the program on Dec. 7, dubbed the “Adopting El Salvador Freedom Visa Program.”

It offers 1,000 citizenships to wealthy investors who pledge a “$1 million in Bitcoin or USDT investment,” starting with a $999 nonrefundable deposit credited toward the total.

It would raise $1 billion for El Salvador if all spots are filled and is a significant income source for countries with similar programs, such as Vanuatu, which earns millions annually from its citizenship-by-investment program.

Alistair Milne, the founder of crypto hedge fund Altana Digital Currency, posted to X (formerly Twitter) that El Salvador’s offering is “uncompetitive in the global market” and highlighted that citizenship in a European Union country could be purchased for less.

El Salvador offering Visas and citizenship to anyone investing $1million (in USDt or Bitcoin) in the country

Frankly uncompetitive in the global market (can get EU citizenship for less) so disappointing https://t.co/ALydiMAJRj

— Alistair Milne (@alistairmilne) December 7, 2023

Malta offers a 750,000 euro ($810,000) citizenship by investment, which gives access to the EU’s visa-free Schengen Area comprising 23 countries, according to data from investment migration consultancy Henley & Partners.

The firm also highlights El Salvador’s neighboring Caribbean nations of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Lucia, which offer citizenships in exchange for a $100,000 contribution to sovereign development funds.

Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis have similar programs, with contributions starting at $150,000 and $250,000, respectively.

Related: El Salvador’s Bitcoin portfolio swings to profit

However, crypto investors could be swayed to move to El Salvador due to the pro-Bitcoin policies enacted by President Nayib Bukele, which included recognizing Bitcoin as legal tender and scrapping income and capital gains taxes for tech companies investing in El Salvador for the next 15 years.

Bukele has also attempted to stem El Salvador’s murder rate, which was one of the highest in the world when he took office in June 2019. His crackdown starting in March 2022, while successful, has seen 66,000 mostly arbitrary detentions and “grave human rights violations,” according to an April Amnesty International report.

Bukele stepped down as president on Dec. 1 to focus on his reelection campaign ahead of the country’s general election in February 2024.

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