Global “Pay-Per-Passport” Industry Generates $2.4 Billion
The prospect of getting citizenship by investments or proof of wealth is part of a rising trend estimated to be generating more than $2 billion per year. Economic citizenship, more commonly known as “citizenship-by-investment,” is a practice that involves taking advantage of certain programs offered by countries that provide a path towards naturalization or permanent residence to wealthy foreigners.
Business is booming for international law firms such as Next Generation Equity, based in Dubai, which provides strategic advice and assistance to people who would like to get a second passport in a manner that is more expedited than traditional immigration programs. In some cases, citizenship or permanent resident status extends to the immediate members of the foreign investors’ families.
Searching for Sunny Places and Socioeconomic Development
Among the countries offering citizenship by investment these days, three Mediterranean nations stand out: Cyprus, Malta, and Portugal. Individuals from China, the Middle East, Russia, and even South Africa are showing great interest in these three countries, which also happen to be member states of the European Union.
The three countries above have two things in common: sunny beaches and high socioeconomic development. In the past, Caribbean island nations such as Antigua, Dominica, and Saint Kitts attracted wealthy foreigners with the prospect of making a lump sum contribution to the national economy, but these programs are not as appealing as actually investing in stable EU economies.
Making Sense of Economic Citizenship
It is not surprising to learn that people from China, the Middle East, and South Africa are increasingly interested in citizenship by investment programs. Passports from Middle Eastern nations, for example, have fallen considerably on the global ranking of widely accepted travel documents. A businesswoman from Syria, for example, will have a hard time getting visas to travel abroad because of the protracted armed conflict in that nation.
Favorable taxation is another factor applicants of economic citizenship programs consider. Countries that court foreign investors will try to sweeten the deal by offering special tax rates on their business projects; however, this advantage may be offset by requirements such as job creation and maintaining a competitive payroll.
Real estate is another enticement. Countries that make it difficult for foreigners to acquire properties will soften their stance when dealing with seekers of economic citizenship. There is also the prospect of being able to acquire fabulous real estate; in Portugal, for example, elegant Mediterranean villas right on the beach are reasonably priced for permanent residents and citizens.
Surprising Countries Attracting Foreign Investors
Australia, Canada, and the United States surprisingly offer some level of immigration by investment. Ever since the Great We officially declared Recession in 2008, U.S. immigration officials expanded the EB-5 visa program for investors willing to inject $500K to $1 million into certain regional economies at a disadvantage.
Note that the American EB-5 visa program does not offer citizenship, only “green card” status; however, permanent residents can petition for naturalization after five years of lawful permanence in the country.