As soon as I found out that Egypt was widening its citizenship by investment programme by opening it to investors who invest at least $300,000 in real estate in the country, I booked a flight to Cairo.

Why? Because Cairo, a city of over 20 million people in a country of over 100 million souls, has some of the world’s cheapest real estate. This graph below, though far from perfect with respect to some of the other markets, does make the point quite well.

So essentially, you can buy any real estate in one of the world’s cheapest capital cities and get a BRICS citizenship for you, your family, and that will go down your bloodline.

Of course there are risks, etc. But at these valuations the risk is baked into price.

So I went to Cairo to have a look at real estate. My agent also set up an appointment with the Egyptian government official in charge of the citizenship by investment unit. So I interviewed him to get a better understanding of the government’s perspective on the programme.

An interesting fact

A golden nugget that came out of this interview is that Egypt claims to not share the information of its new citizens with other countries. Unlike Caribbean programs that are (in my opinion) over-marketed, Egypt gives you privacy.

I’m not saying that people who come from countries that ban dual citizenship should do it; I’m just relaying the information.

Very affordable real estate

I have content coming up to help visualize how good value real estate is in Cairo. In the meantime, I’ve written a whole article on the real estate market in Cairo that also highlights many of the macro issues that Egypt is facing.

If you are interested in the Egyptian citizenship by investment programme, you can find more information here and get in touch with my agent Hany.

To a World of Opportunities,

The Wandering Investor.

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Transcript of “Why the Egyptian Citizenship by Investment? Deep dive with the Egyptian government.”

LADISLAS MAURICE: Hello, everyone. Ladislas Maurice from thewanderinginvestor.com. So today, we’re going to have a very interesting discussion at the Ministry of Investment here in Cairo with Mr. Sameh Sedky and then Hany. So Mr. Sameh Sedky is in charge of the Citizenship by Investment Program here in Egypt for the Egyptian government, and Hany has a law and real estate firm helping people process the applications. Gentlemen, thank you very much for having me over.

HANY: Welcome.

SAMEH: Thank you. You’re more than welcome any time.

HANY: Thank you very much.

Overview of Egyptian citizenship by investment program

LADISLAS MAURICE: So recently, there were some changes to the Egyptian Citizenship by Investment Program. And now, essentially, there are a few ways. You can invest in a local business, you can make a donation, you can make a $500,000 deposit in a bank, or you can invest $300,000 in any Egyptian real estate. So the program has suddenly become a lot more interesting.

SAMEH: That’s right.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So Mr. Sedky?

SAMEH: Yeah.

Why did the Egyptian government launch a citizenship by investment programme?

LADISLAS MAURICE: So why has Egypt launched this Citizenship by Investment Program?

SAMEH: Sure. You know, this is something not new for the world, have a program which is granting Egyptian nationality, so nationality with investments. It’s already been in the European and the Caribbean world. So we decided to help. We have here now more than 8 to 9 to 10 million refugees or people who had problems in their countries, like the Syrians, the Libyan, the Yemeni, the Lebanese, Iraqi, which have been born here and now since 20 years. And they are living here without being secured that this is their country. And there is difficulty to return back to their countries now due to the war, with the instability in their countries. So they are living here, investing here, happy to live here. The Egyptian welcomed them to live here. And they feel that they are at home.

So we thought about it, why not we start encouraging them to invest more in Egypt, to let them feel more stable by living here with the Egyptian nationality. So we created this law or programs to help them to, it’s win-win situation. You know that in Egypt, here, we are passing through hard time in finding hard currency because of a lot of things, like COVID, we have been revolution with the Brotherhood Muslims, and they created a lot of problems in Egypt. And after that, there was the Ukrainian War. And suddenly, the whole world has been changed. And we are looking now to find a new way for investments, to attract more investors to come and invest in Egypt.

One of these programs is granting the Egyptian nationality with investments. And it is not something new in the whole world. So we issued this law for them.

LADISLAS MAURICE: This is very interesting, because it’s something that we see that is recurring in other countries that offer such programs. People don’t just give out citizenship to be nice. At the end of the day, why is Egypt doing this? Egypt has a current account deficit, it has an economy that needs a lot of infrastructure development, and it needs capital inflows. So right now, it’s you come here, invest in Egypt, and then, as a thank you, as a token of our gratitude, we give you citizenship to you, to your family, and then that will go down the generations.

HANY: Yeah.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So it’s a smart way for countries to be able to attract foreign investment. Turkey has done it extremely successfully, as well as a lot of the Caribbean islands as well, who get flattened by hurricanes every five or six years. So they constantly need money for capex.

Where do applicants come from for the Egyptian citizenship by investment?

LADISLAS MAURICE: So you mentioned a lot of applicants from the region.

SAMEH: That’s right.

LADISLAS MAURICE: From countries that have instability, that have been living here for a long time. I was actually quite surprised because I’ve been coming to Egypt for a long time, and I see a lot of Sudanese people now because of the war in Sudan, the Civil War.

SAMEH: That’s right.

LADISLAS MAURICE: And it’s something that people fail to appreciate, countries like Egypt attract a lot of refugees. So we always talk of the refugees going to Europe, etc., but countries like Turkey and Egypt are actually the ones dealing with the biggest amount of refugees.

SAMEH: Absolutely right.

LADISLAS MAURICE: And that’s one way to make them, to legalize them, essentially, and encourage them to really have full roots.

SAMEH: Absolutely right.

LADISLAS MAURICE: So do you have applicants from other parts of the world?

SAMEH: Number one, applicants are, for sure, from the Arab world. Then, you will find a lot of now British who are living in Egypt or have interests to invest in Egypt. And with this nationality and open an Egyptian company, they are treated as pure Egyptians, 100%. So it’s much easier for them to invest and feel comfortable and feel secured for their investments. Also, you’ll find another group from Russia, from Siberia, from China, from Africa. And we have to do a lot of checking about their background, that there is no criminal records. This is the most important thing for us, we don’t want to have any ISIS, any Muslim Brotherhood, any people which are considered terrorist groups.

So first, we check about their background, from where they are, where they visited the last 5 or 10 years, and what kind of organization they are in. And plus, after that, we start looking at their performance as a CV, or is an added value for Egypt or not. This is also very important for us, that is an added value person with a clean clear records what he’s doing and what he plans to do in Egypt. And probably, from the Egyptian point of view, this is the most important thing, to make sure that there is no criminal records or is not part of any terrorist organization. You know that this world now there is a lot of complexes and a lot of problems around us, so we are very keen about keeping our applicants who will be accepted clean.

And from my point of view, nobody with bad records will come because, certainly, or 100%, it will be discovered, because we have here very good security system.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Interesting. And Hany, so you have a lot of applicants at your law firm, quite a few Westerners, increasingly, Europeans, etc.?

HANY: Yes, that’s true. So lately, we started finding people from America, from Canada, from Europe who already know about Egypt, and they come and visit Egypt, and they have some connection to Egypt in a way that being an Egyptian would be helping them. So, let’s say, if they have a business already in Egypt, why not be an Egyptian? If they have already properties in Egypt, or would like to invest in properties in Egypt, that would be also quite a motivation. We have more than 12 million tourists coming to Egypt every year. And a lot of them, they already like to purchase properties in Egypt and to invest in Egypt. So getting the citizenship is going to be something of an added value to them. Why not since they are already doing the investment?

So yeah, we have clients from different parts of the world, not just Arabs and Africans.

The most popular investment routes for the Egyptian citizenship by investment programme

LADISLAS MAURICE: And what investment route do your clients typically go for?

HANY: Some go for the companies, some of them go for the real estate. And I would like to surprise you with something that maybe complement what Mr. Sameh said. When the program started, a lot of the people who were already living in Egypt, like the Iraqis, the Palestinians, the Syrians went to the donation option as a way of showing their gratitude to the Egyptian government.

SAMEH: Yeah.

HANY: And these guys, some of them are here for 10 years, some of them are here 60 years. So they have generations here. And it was mentioned to me many times that they would go for the donation and they would like to be public about it, that they are happy to give donation to the Egyptian government.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Interesting.

HANY: And they are very proud of it. So if you are speaking about a typical investor, they will go for the real estate or the company formation. I didn’t see yet someone who’s interested in the bank deposit option, although it’s quite interesting, since the changes that happened now is allowing them to get their money back in the maturity exchange rate not at the deposit exchange rate, which is, of course, going to keep the value of the money until they receive it after three years. So yeah, that’s about it.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Yeah, the risk with the deposit is more related to forex control. So the money gets converted at the end of the three years.

HANY: Yes.

LADISLAS MAURICE: And then the question is, can you convert back into dollars, or do you have to invest the money again in the Egyptian economy.

HANY: Don’t ask me about future things. [laughs] Now, if we are waiting to see what’s going to happen in three years, for some people who are going to live actually in Egypt, that might be a good idea. For some people who has worse currency situation, this might be a good idea. Again, it depends on the budget, because this is $500,000. If you go for the real estate, it goes to $300,000. So again, it depends what’s the preference of each client.

Timeline to obtain the Egyptian citizenship by investment

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay. So, Mr. Sedky, one of the key worries that some people have, some potential applicants have is the timeline with regards to receiving the Egyptian citizenship, because they view the Egyptian bureaucracy as not being the most efficient. So what timeline can you commit to? So, one, let’s say, because the way it works is you, first, apply to be approved by the government, then you make your investment, then you show the proof that you made your investment, and then there’s the second phase. So for the first phase, which is mostly the security clearance phase, what timeline can you commit to?

SAMEH: The law is very clear in it, it’s three months to make the police clearance or the security clearance. Sometimes, it takes a little bit more, once there is a gray area in the applicant’s application. But usually, it is three months, and then we give the clearance or refuse. Then you have another three months to make your project, which allows you to apply for the Egyptian nationality. If you are sure, 100%, and because we have plenty who have been living here in Egypt for 5, 10 years, 15 years, and they are aware that there is no criminal records, because their residency has been renewed every year, or two, or three, depends on the tenure of the residency, they are sure, 100%, that they are clean and clear, so they make the project from day one while they are applying during the security checking.

And they take it immediately. They don’t have to wait for the security approval. So they do it both. And it takes something like four months. We are considered one of the shortest countries in the world in granting the nationality. It’s very simple. The documents are very simple, very clear. We don’t need a lot of papers or a lot of documents. And it is very simple procedures for them to apply for it and get the nationality. Some of them actually takes it less than three months. I have a lot of applicants which has been approved to the Egyptian nationality in three months, and others took six months. The maximum is six months.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay. And once they’ve made the investment, how long until they receive their passport?

SAMEH: I would say two weeks.

HANY: Yeah.

LADISLAS MAURICE: It’s quick.

HANY: Yes.

SAMEH: Ten days to two weeks.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay, very quick.

HANY: Yeah.

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay. Interesting.

SAMEH: Because they have to inform all the Egyptian governments and everywhere that they are Egyptian now. So once they have the Egyptian ID, it’s automatically they are registered everywhere in Egypt. So it takes 10 days only.

HANY: Yeah.

Christians in Egypt

LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay, fantastic. Thank you. So I have a question for the two of you. So coming from a Western perspective, another worry that some Westerners have when they consider a program like the Egyptian Citizenship by Investment Program is getting what they perceive to be a Muslim passport, becoming a citizen of a Muslim country as Christians. So, what would you tell to such people?

SAMEH: First of all, here, the Egyptian nationality program gives him the right to be classified as top secret and confidential for him that he has an Egyptian nationality. They can use it only inside Egypt and he has the right. Because there is a lot of countries which they don’t allow dual nationality. In Egypt, here, we respect these countries, so once you apply for it, you have the right to keep it confidential, just nobody will know at all, it will not be announced that he is Egyptian.

Second, here, in Egypt, we live together. Since millions of years, Egyptian and Christians are living together. Almost between 10% to 15% of our population are Christian. We never thought about Egyptian Muslim and Egyptian Christians. Some part we know there are, which, thanks God, we took rid of most of them. But the majority of the Egyptians– I’ve been educated in the English Mission School, which is Christian school, and a lot of people are my friends. We never thought about Egyptian Muslim and Egyptian Christian.

Also, when the foreigners come to us, or the tourists come to us here, they are happy, they feel that they are more than welcomed in Egypt. And they are living here in Hurghada, or in Sharm el-Sheikh, or in Cairo as if it is, and as one looks, you’ll find a lot of French people which they love the Egyptologist, old ancient Egyptian Pharaonic civilization. So they are quite happy to live, and very safe.

HANY: So, again, I am also a Muslim. And I was raised in the primary school in a Christian school. And I think I didn’t even ask about the religion of my friends by the time I was in university, maybe. And we started realizing that there are some differences between us when these guys, they go to church, we go to school. But again, it’s not that we have that much of a difference. By the way, the Christians in Egypt are mostly conservative, so we don’t even feel that there is a huge gap between us.

Completing also what Mr. Sameh was saying, Egypt, again, is one of the countries that accepts foreigners. We have a very high sense of hospitality. And we like having foreigners coming to us. Not just foreigners to come and visit and go, no. If they would like to live, you can see what happened in the Syrian crisis and the Iraqis crisis. They came, they thought they were going to stay for a few weeks and go back, but this didn’t happen. They stayed for a very long time until now. And I wouldn’t say about only the Arabic countries, also Westerners, they are very well treated in Egypt.

I don’t recall someone is complaining about his stay in Egypt if he was, like, we don’t have this word “racist”, when we hear it, it’s a laughable thing. We don’t care about it and we never looked at it in this way. So I would say if someone from the Western countries would like to have Egyptian citizenship, he is most welcome. If he just wants to have residency, again, most welcome. And he will see how hospitable we are to them.

LADISLAS MAURICE: There are a lot of misconceptions about Egypt in foreign media, so I really encourage people to come here and see it for yourself. And also, English is relatively widely spoken here in English, which makes it easier for foreigners to adapt themselves.

So gentlemen, thank you very much for your time today. I really appreciate it. So I wrote two articles, so one article on all the exact details of how you can obtain Egyptian citizenship by investment, and a second one on the real estate investment market here in Cairo for those who are interested in the real estate investment route.

Gentlemen, thank you.

SAMEH: Thank you.

HANY: Thank you very much.

SAMEH: Thank you very much for coming and hope to see you again with us in Egypt.

HANY: Thank you.