Residency & Citizenship by Investment Programs: An Overview

16 May 2017
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Laszlo Kiss
Managing Director at Discus Holdings Ltd

Laszlo Kiss is one of the panelists in our May 25th webinar on Non-Dom Tax Regimes in Europe. For more information on this event and a registration link, go HERE.

Taxlinked (TL): Why do you think citizenship and residency solutions have grown in popularity during the past few years?

Laszlo Kiss (LK): Certainly. Nowadays, more than ever before, wealthy individuals and their families are choosing to expand and secure their financial stability and improve their quality of life through alternative citizenship and residency programs. Meanwhile, there is also an increasing global geopolitical uncertainty, social and economic problems are getting deeper in certain countries.
Citizenship and residency solutions provide peace of mind and security when dealing with times of political instability or natural cataclysms. It provides tax benefits, wealth planning, the best educational opportunities, greater banking privacy and visa-free travel. In addition, most importantly, it grants you the mobility to fully attain personal freedom and a higher quality of life for you and your loved ones.

TL: What are some of the key issues you take into consideration when recommending residency solutions for HNWIs?

LK: It is a complex issue. Our solutions are designed for those whom are looking for exploring the benefits of global mobility, tax and lifestyle benefits through our programs. These solutions allow individuals the ability to plan for the future, protect their wealth and the opportunity to have greater international mobility. Generally, we offer bespoke solutions and assist in finding what suits our clients' needs better.

TL: Furthermore, what are some of the key issues you take into consideration when recommending citizenship solutions for HNWIs?

TL: As described above, it is quite complex. We need to understand the motivation of our clients, and also recognize what drives value for them. Moreover, citizens can confidently expect to be able to hold the status and rights given by this citizenship for life. In addition, children and grandchildren can inherit citizenship status. The only way to be certain of these is to make sure that all the right decisions are made and based on the current legislation in the chosen countries.

TL: In your opinion, how important is taxation when it comes to suggest citizenship or residency solution to one of your clients?

LK: Let us be honest about it, in general it is important. Having a second citizenship or residency is a significant part of international diversification, however solely having a backup passport or residency does not cease the clients’ tax obligations, if this is the aim beyond. Even though, no matter what the clients’ situation is, having residence in a low or zero-tax country gives you a lot of freedom. For example, nowadays almost every government agency and financial institution you deal with wants to know which country you are a resident of.

TL: In your opinion, what are the top three Citizenship by Investment (CIP) programs available and what makes them so innovative?

LK: I am not claiming that any of these programs are more innovative than the others. The most important factor is that they have a solid, sound governmental background, which provides stability for the client.
Actually, Malta's Individual Investor Programme is the top of the line among the Citizenship by Investment Programs. Malta is the only citizenship program that ensures access to both the European Union and the borderless Schengen Area. A Malta passport also guarantees you visa-free travel to the United States and over other one hundred and fifty countries. Recently, a Maltese passport is one of the most valuable travel documents.
The Cypriot citizenship is costlier than other alternatives, but unlike most other programs, there is an investment option instead of donation, whereby the client might expect to see most of his money back after a couple of years. It has a fast track citizenship process approved within 3 months following the submission of the application and there are no physical residence requirements.
Grenada is rapidly becoming a destination of choice for many high-net-worth investors. The benefits of the program imply visa-free travel to one hundred and twenty countries, including the United Kingdom, the EU and the USA. The citizenship is applicable for the whole family and there is no requirement to visit or reside in the country. Citizens of Grenada can also apply for enrollment into the E-2 visa program (U.S. investor program).

TL: What about residency programs?

LK: In Malta there is one of the top and, most probably, the best program in the EU. The perfect combination of political and economic stability puts Malta on a par with major European countries. The country's credit rating is A with a positive outlook. The program assures an indefinite residence in Malta, together with a complete set of EU citizens' rights, except for the right to vote and visa-free entry into the countries that are not part of the Schengen Agreement, along with its solid stability, as well as social security.
Portugal is offering investors the ability to not only receive temporary residency but also, by fulfilling the conditions of maintaining the investment and staying a minimum period of time in the country, investors can claim permanent residency and EU citizenship there. The Portugal program is based on real estate, and the housing prices continue to rise strongly in improved economic circumstances. Property prices in Portugal rose by around 3% in 2016 as of a year earlier. After more than three years of depression, house prices in Portugal started to recover in 2014.
Greece is a cheaper option with the minimum investment in property put at EUR 250,000, but there is still considerable economic uncertainty there. However, the real estate market might have a boost. The Greek economy is expected to grow by 2.7% this year and by another 3.1% in 2018, so after seven years of fall in real estate prices, things are turning around. Greek house prices are expected to increase by a meagre 0.6% every year from now on, therefore it is likely the right time to invest. What is more, in Greece applicants are not limited to only one investment object, which generates great opportunities for increasing the liquidity of their investments.

TL: Any other thoughts you would like to share with our community?

LK: Each year, numerous wealthy individuals, families and their advisors rely on our expertise and experience in this area. As globalization has expanded, residence and citizenship have become topics of significant interest among increasing number of internationally mobile entrepreneurs and investors. We understand the daily challenges of global citizens with rising global geopolitical uncertainty, social and economic problems. Our solutions are designed for those looking to explore the benefits of global mobility, tax and lifestyle benefits through our programs. These solutions allow individuals the ability to plan for the future, protect their wealth and the opportunity to have greater international mobility.
If you want a nearly 100% guarantee of obtaining citizenship or residency, we have the best programs for you and feel free to contact me for any help.