Citizenship and Residency Schemes Receive Boost Thanks to COVID-19
Citizenship and residency-by-investment schemes throughout the world have been unlikely beneficiaries of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As travel restrictions start to ease for plenty of countries following a period of strict quarantine, many high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and businesspeople have opted to secure a second (or third) passport in jurisdictions that have been deemed relatively safe from the coronavirus.
Furthermore, as a result of the increased prevalence of remote work, people are no longer confined to a specific location from where to carry out their professional obligations, a condition that offers people greater flexibility and mobility and boosts the importance of having a secondary residence or alternative passport.
Henley & Partners, a leading company offering these kinds of services to its clients, says that they’ve witnessed a 42 percent increase in applications for these types of programs.
“'Investment migration' has shifted from being about living the life you want in terms of holidays and business travel to a more holistic vision that includes healthcare and safety,” said Dr. Christian Kalin of Henley & Partners to Robb Report.
Furthermore, as reported by the Investment Migration Council, according to Bluemina, a firm operating in this sector, “the Corona Virus crisis facilitated the process of obtaining a second citizenship or a permanent residency card since most programs are now accepting online applications and are requiring fewer official documents to lodge applications.”
Europe & New Zealand Attracting HNWIs with Citizenship & Residency Schemes
In search of a safe haven with top-notch health services for their families, HNWIs and businesspeople during the past several months have been looking at acquiring citizenship or residence in places such as Portugal, Switzerland and New Zealand, to list a few.
According to the New Zealand Herald, during the pandemic, close to 250 thousand Americans have ran searches on how to move to New Zealand, one of few countries that has effectively tamed COVID-19 and somewhat returned to normal within its borders.
Furthermore, Immigration NZ statistics show that “nearly 10,000 residence applications were accepted from across the globe in the past two months alone,” primarily “from India and South Africa - with 7,085 people who had applications approved.”
Ollie Williams, a Senior Contributor for Forbes, writes that Switzerland witnessed a three-thousand-application spike for residency permits from May to June 2020, while Portugal had record numbers of requests for its Golden Visa in May with 270 applicants sending close to 146.2 million Euros into the state’s coffers.
Patricia Casaburi, the CEO of Global Citizen Solutions, said, “The lockdown period for us was abnormally busy,” as more and more people reached out to acquire Portuguese residency thanks to its admirable handling of the pandemic.
Programs offered by Montenegro and Cyprus have seen added interest; during the first quarter of 2020, applications to the two countries have shot up by 142 and 75 percent, respectively.
Talking to CNN Travel, Dominic Volek, Head of Asia for Henley & Partners, said, “Many people in this ultra-high net worth bracket are interested in Cyprus and Malta, because it grants the applicant and their family unlimited access and settlement freedom throughout the European Union.”
“They not only have greater freedom of movement but also better education and healthcare (than in their home countries),” he added.
Caribbean Island Nations & Digital Nomad Visas Take Flight
Another region of the world that has received plenty of attention for its citizenship-by-investment (CBI) offerings has been the Caribbean.
St. Kitts and Nevis, the first country to come up with a CBI scheme, has reduced its rates during the pandemic, offering passports for 150 thousand dollars for families of four, with Saint Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda following suit in May.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Les Khan, who heads the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship Investment Unit, said, “In these days of Covid, when tourism is not happening, we have to find ways to create revenue to sustain our economy.”
Furthermore, as explained by Kathleen Peddicord for Forbes, Saint Lucia issued a COVID-19 Relief Bond that is valid until December 31, 2020, and valued at 250 thousand dollars.
Additionally, the island’s CBI program was reformed, lowering the amounts to be contributed by applicants to 140 thousand dollars as a donation to the National Economic Fund, 150 thousand dollars for the usual family-of-four contribution, and 15 thousand dollars for any additional co-dependents.
More interestingly, Barbados has developed a 12-month “Welcome Stamp” in an effort to attract digital nomads to work from the island for the duration of a year.
The application, which costs 2 thousand dollars for individuals, is done electronically, and applicants must prove that they will be making over 50 thousand dollars in income for the year or have sufficient funds to sustain their stay on the island.
Similar to Barbados, Estonia has issued its own Digital Nomad Visa, one that permits travel within the EU and the Schengen zone and has a cap of 1,800 per year.
As explained by Peddicord, besides showing that you will make over 3,500 Euros per month in income, successful applicants must fall under one of the following rubrics: 1) “have a contract to work for a company registered in a foreign country;” 2) “work for a company that is registered in a foreign country and for which you are a partner or shareholder,” and; 3) “offer freelance consulting services to clients whose permanent residences are in a foreign country and with whom you have contracts.”
Despite all the economic and health hardships wrought on the world by COVID-19, it seems like the future is bright for citizenship and residency by investment programs as HNWIs and businesspeople look for safer and more stable homes for their families and businesses.