Citizenship for cash: What are the best countries for buying residency?
Malta’s investor programme requires an investment of 650,000 euros (Dh2.6 million). (Gov.Mt)
It’s the stuff of Hollywood films: the hero opens a box or a suitcase filled with passports and makes a quick escape.
Second passports are being sought after not just in the movies, but in real life as well.
The world’s ultra-rich, in particular, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to buy a second citizenship that offers them a whole lot of benefits, from visa-free travel to better quality of life.
Due to a growing demand from wealthy individuals, residence and citizenship planning is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and several countries today have immigrant programmes in place, granting passports to foreigners in exchange for a certain amount of investment.
The costs, however, don’t come cheap.
One country requires applicants to buy a property worth at least Dh1.4 million and contribute Dh2.6 million to the national development fund, in exchange for a new passport.
“From ‘cash-for-citizenship’ to incentives to invest in private sector businesses or property, the market for investor immigration has become increasingly diverse,” noted Madeleine Sumption, director, Migration Observatory, University of Oxford.
To help investors decide where they should acquire secondary passports from, Henley & Partners looked at some of these countries and ranked them according to a broad range of factors, including quality of life, investment requirements, tax, visa-free access, total costs, time to citizenship and citizenship requirements, among others.
If you have enough money to invest in a second passport, the best place to consider this year is Malta, which topped Henley and Partners’ Global Citizenship Programme Index (GCPI).
Earning a score of 76, Malta’s Individual Investor Programme is ahead of the pack, higher than that of Cyprus (63), Austria (61), Antigua and Barbuda (60), St. Kitts and Nevis (59), Grenada (48) and Dominica (45).
Malta’s investment programme for foreigners has been rising in popularity. As of January this year, the programme attracted 400 applications since its launch in early 2014, which will result in more than $530 million in foreign direct investment.
Malta consistently ranked in the top three across all indicators, but it was rated highly for compliance and profiling the backgrounds of applicants.
Malta’s investor programme, however, requires applicants to contribute 650,000 euros (Dh2.6 million) to the country’s national development and social fund. For those who are married, a 25,000 euros contribution for each spouse and minor children is also required.
In terms of reputation, quality of life and visa-free access, Austria ranked first, although it didn’t score well in terms of residence and investment requirements.
Cyprus is also a strong contender, performing consistently well across the indicators considered, emerging as the leader on “relocation flexibility”, ahead of Malta and Austria.
Following the same benchmarking process, Henley also looked at 19 residence programmes offered by different countries. Topping the Global Residence Programme Index (GRPI) is Portugal, followed by Austria and Belgium in the second and third place, respectively.
Portugal was rated highly in terms of “total costs” due to the fact that the total investment requirement is significantly lower than other residence programmes.
Foreigners who can afford to buy a property worth at least 500,000 euros will be granted the right to stay in Portugal. They will also earn the privilege of traveling without a visa to the rest of the Schengen and European Union countries, as well as the chance to apply for a Portuguese citizenship after six years.
The country shared first place with Malta, Monaco and UAE for the lighter tax burdens placed on residents on both personal and corporate levels.
In terms of visa-free access, Portugal also topped the list, along with Malta, Monaco, Switzerland, Latvia, Austria, Spain, Belgium and Greece. The United States came in second place.
In terms of processing time and quality of processing, Portugal shared the number one position with Malta, Switzerland and Austria, because they have “straightforward and efficient processing procedures.”
By Cleofe Maceda
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