March 22, 2024
Citizenship by investment programs

What is a Residence Permit: Differences with Permanent Residency

While it would be perfect to live anywhere in the world without the need for additional paperwork, unfortunately, this isn’t possible. At least for now.

So, you're thinking about moving to another country, or maybe you're just curious about how it all works. Either way, you've probably come across the term "residence permit." But what exactly is a residence permit, and how does it differ from permanent residency? How does permanent residency compare to citizenship? 

In this article we will clarify these questions, providing a clear understanding of each term and the distinctions among them.

What is a residence permit?

A residence permit is essentially your golden ticket to living in a new country for a certain period of time. Think of it like an official document allowing you to stay, work, or study somewhere other than your home country. 

Now, residence permits differ depending on what you're planning to do in your new home away from home. Are you going there to work, to study, or perhaps you're joining family members who are living in that country? There's a permit for all these situations. 

Along with the opportunity to live in a new country, holding a residence permit often comes with a set of rights and privileges. These can vary widely depending on the country and the specific type of permit you have. Generally speaking, you might be granted the right to work, access education, and use healthcare services.

It's important to note, though, that these rights are tied to the conditions of your permit. For example, a student permit might restrict the number of hours you can work, while a work permit could come with specific employer or sector limitations. Understanding these rights and restrictions is crucial, as it helps you organize your new life abroad more effectively and ensures you stay on the right side of local laws.

However, a residence permit is usually temporary. Before it expires, you'll either need to renew it, leave the country, or switch to a different type of permit that fits your situation better. 

What is a permanent residency?

Moving on to permanent residency. Ultimately, it gives more stable and long-term status in your new country, without the constant need to renew or worry about your permit expiring.

Permanent residency grants you the right to live, work, and study in the country just like any other resident. But it comes with a bit more security and a few more perks. For instance, you often get more freedom in terms of employment and might not be tied to a specific job or employer. Plus, accessing public services and benefits becomes easier, making life in your new home more comfortable and secure.

Now, you might be thinking, "Sounds a lot like citizenship, doesn't it?" Well, yes and no. While permanent residency offers a stable and secure status, there are key differences from being a citizen of a country.

For starters, permanent residents usually don't have the right to vote in national elections or hold a passport from the host country. There might also be restrictions on certain jobs, especially those requiring high-level security clearance, since these are often reserved for citizens.

Another significant difference lies in the permanence of these statuses. Permanent residency can be revoked under certain circumstances, emphasizing its conditional nature. For example, in Canada, if a permanent resident hasn't been in the country for at least 730 days in the last five years, they may lose their status. Additionally, committing a serious offense or becoming inadmissible to the host country for reasons such as security threats, human or international rights violations, or criminality can also lead to the revocation of permanent residency.

On the other hand, citizenship is for a lifetime and can even be passed on to children. It represents a deeper commitment to and integration into the country, providing a level of security and belonging that permanent residency does not.

8 common types of residency permits

While living abroad might be an exciting experience, it comes with some paperwork, namely residence permits. So as we’ve said it’s your legal authorization to stay in the host country for a certain period. Nonetheless, the purpose of your stay significantly influences the type of residence permit you'll need.


  1. Student Residence Permit

Students who wish to pursue their education abroad will need a student residence permit. This permit allows them to live in the host country for the duration of their academic program. Typically, it also grants students the right to engage in part-time employment. For instance, in France, international students may work up to 964 hours annually, equating to 60% of the full allowable working hours.


  1. Work Residence Permit for Skilled Professionals

These are specifically for skilled professionals whose expertise fills important employment gaps. Upon securing employment, you are granted this permit, which authorizes you to live and work in the country. It's important to note that the permit might be tied to a specific employer or sector, limiting your ability to change jobs freely without reapplying for a new permit. Also, holders of this permit generally aren’t eligible for governmental positions, due to the sensitive nature of such roles. 

  1. Family Reunification Residence Permit

This permit allows citizens or resident permit holders to bring their family members to live with them in the host country. They are ultimately required to be able to financially support their family members and provide adequate housing. Also the definition of "family" can vary but typically includes spouses, dependent children, and sometimes other dependent relatives.

  1. Freelancer/Self-Employed Residence Permit

Designed for professionals working online for themselves or companies outside the issuing country, this permit enables them to legally reside in the host country, assuming they meet several conditions. Requirements vary but typically include proof of funds, local accommodation, sometimes expertise evidence, and potential client commitments. The sufficient income threshold differs by country, reflecting local living costs. 

  1. Humanitarian/Refugee Residence Permit

This permit offers protection and a new beginning. It’s granted to those who are fleeing persecution or serious harm in their home country. Applicants must typically undergo a detailed assessment process to determine their eligibility under international or national protection guidelines. 

  1. Retirement Residence Permit

Targeted at retirees who wish to spend their retirement years in the host country, this permit often requires proof of a stable and sufficient income, such as pensions or savings, to cover living expenses. Some countries might also impose requirements regarding health insurance coverage.

  1. Medical Treatment Residence Permit

This permit offers a way out to those who seek long-term medical treatment that is unavailable in their home country. The requirements usually include detailed medical documentation and proof of financial ability to cover treatment and living expenses during the stay. The length of the permit is typically tied to the duration of the treatment.

  1. Entrepreneur/Investor Residence Permit

There are a couple of ways that lead to this permit,  a significant investment, setting up a new business, or investing in existing ones. Some countries basically allow investors to reside there in exchange for contributing to economic development. 

5 European countries offering residency by investment programs


The Spain Investor Visa lets you live and work in Spain, and, by extension, travel in the Schengen Zone. Here's the deal:

If you invest at least 2 million euros in Spanish government bonds or put down 1 million euros in Spanish company stocks, funds, or bank deposits, you're in the running for this visa. Alternatively, if you buy real estate worth at least 500,000 euros, that also qualifies you. 

But there's more. If you've got a business idea that could create jobs, have a strong socio-economic impact in its area, or bring in innovative science and technology, Spain might give you a visa for that, too. 


Portugal represents another appealing option to quickly obtain a temporary residence permit, with the potential for permanent residency and citizenship. Three types of investments qualify for the Portuguese Golden Visa:

  • A capital transfer of at least €1 million into Portugal,
  • The creation of at least 10 jobs in Portugal,
  • Or the purchase of real estate.


With a minimum investment amount of €200,000, you can be eligible for Germany’s Independent Means Residency Program. This program may lead to a permanent residence permit in 5 years if you demonstrate sufficient financial means, have intermediate language skills (B1), and of course no criminal record.

And after 8 years you can apply for citizenship. However, upon meeting certain additional requirements the eligibility period may be reduced to 6 years. 


The Malta Permanent Residence Programme (MPRP) opens the door to permanent residency in Malta for non-EU, non-EEA, and non-Swiss citizens. It's an attractive option for those with financial stability, excluding individuals from sanctioned countries or those already benefiting from similar schemes in Malta.

Applicants must prove they're financially secure with no criminal record. Participants can choose between renting or buying a property in Malta, with specific commitments based on their choice. Additionally, they're expected to contribute to a local NGO, ensuring they're not just residing but also positively impacting the Maltese community.


An investment of €250,000 in the Greek real estate sector will secure a renewable five-year residency permit for you. If you’re more into government bonds, a €400,000 allocation represents a secure investment with a three-year maturity requirement. Alternatively, a more substantial investment of €800,000 in shares or corporate bonds grants similar residency privileges. If not you can go with a direct capital contribution of €400,000 into a Greek enterprise. Each of these paths will endow you with residency and the privilege of mobility within the Schengen Area, offering a blend of lifestyle and travel freedom.

While these European residency by investment programs offer a streamlined path to obtaining a residence permit, they come with their fair share of paperwork and intricacies. Understanding the nuances and specific requirements of each program is essential to identify the option that aligns best with your needs. This is where the expertise of Mirabello Consultancy becomes invaluable. Our specialists will help you deal with the complexities, ensuring complete compliance and a seamless process from start to finish. Book a free consultation with us to discuss your objectives and ascertain the most suitable program.

Choosing the Right Path: Factors to Consider

Choosing between citizenship, permanent residency, and a residency permit hinges mostly on your 

  • long-term goals 
  • mobility needs
  • financial implications

Citizenship offers full rights, including voting and passport benefits. You should opt for it if you’re seeking permanent roots. Permanent residency allows living and working indefinitely, with fewer obligations than citizenship. So it’s suitable for those who want stability without full commitment. Residency permits, temporary and often tied to employment or investment, cater to those exploring opportunities or requiring short to medium-term relocation. Hence assessing personal, professional, and lifestyle aspirations is crucial in determining the best fit.


What is a biometric residence permit?

It’s an identity card, containing personal details and biometric information, such as fingerprints and a photo of the face of the holder. It ensures the cardholder's identity and provides proof of their right to stay, work, or study in a country. Essentially it indicates the holder’s immigration status and any conditions of their stay. 

What is a residence permit number?

It’s the unique identifier assigned to the residence permit. This number is crucial for administrative purposes as it helps governmental authorities access the holder's immigration records and verify their legal status. It's usually found on the residence permit card itself. You’ll need it when filling out official forms, accessing public services, or during any process that requires verification of your legal status in the country.

What is a residence permit in the USA?

A residence permit in the USA, often referred to as a Green Card, is an official document that grants a foreign national the authorization to live and work permanently in the U.S. It serves as proof of their lawful permanent resident status. Holders of a Green Card have the right to apply for jobs. They’re also protected under U.S. laws, and after meeting certain conditions, may eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.


We hope our article has helped you to clearly distinguish between a residence permit, permanent residency, and citizenship. While they are somehow interconnected, understanding the differences is crucial before you decide to opt for one. In this regard, our experts at Mirabello Consultancy offer their help during the complimentary initial consultation.


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