Pandemic passport buying rises in COVID times

The investment migration (residence and citizenship by investment industry) practice is now a multibillion dollar industry. Ultra High Networth Individuals (UHNWI) and High Network Individuals (HNWI) have increased and are continuously purchasing additional passports as investment migration increases in the times of COVID. In the past years, individuals purchased second passports through citizenship programs for the ease of business travel, education for children or leisure. But this year of COVID has led to a different need for passports: access to healthcare, pandemic responses and potential safe havens to ensure they have a backup plan for the future.

Investment migration programs offer residence or citizenship in exchange for substantial investment in a country’s economy, usually in the form of real estate, job creation, infrastructure development or government bonds. The cost of these programs range from $100,000 in Antigua, EUR 350, 000 for Montenegro, EUR 1.1 million in Malta, and EUR 3 million for Cyprus.

Henley & Partners Group, is Swiss based, a citizenship and residency advisory firm that works with the wealthy individuals to acquire second passports. The firm has opened two offices in Africa: South Africa and recently opened an office in Nigeria this year. The two countries provided about 85% of the more than 100 Africans that purchased Henley’s services in 2019, according to the firm.

Marios Rafail, the Head of the Geneva office for Henely & Partners discusses the business of investment migration. 

If you compare 2019 to 2020 has there been a significant increase in the purchase of second citizenships? 

An alternative citizenship always remains a safety pillar for different reasons for potential investors due to different parameters, such as the ability of entrepreneurs to have additional mobility tools, geopolitical turmoil in different regions, such as in the Middle East and Hong Kong and of course the pandemic that enhanced the desire for alternative citizenships, has boosted the demand.

Do all countries permit dual citizenships? 

It depends on the country for example, countries such as the Netherlands, China and Kazakhstan do not allow dual citizenship. On the other hand, most of the countries have no restrictions on the number of citizenships an individual should own. 

Service de Moët Impérial dans une pyramide de verres – Trianon – Salon Doré

What is driving the purchase of passports during COVID? 

Mobility is a key factor when it comes to obtaining another citizenship or residence. The global pandemic has basically torn down the possibility of travelling and in that aspect clients want to have solutions, in case another pandemic comes into place. To be clear, this is not about escaping the current pandemic, but being ready for the next one pandemic. A new parameter that is now defining their choice of program is heavily correlated to its health system. Clients are for example thoroughly checking the number of COVID cases per country before they make their choice of preference.

Which are the top five countries that are ‘hot’ in COVID? 

The main focus of our business and industry is obtaining an alternative citizenship or residence through investment. In terms of citizenship, the highest demand always remains for Malta and Cyprus, whilst there is an increased demand for Montenegro (candidate for the EU), a program that requires a lower investment. In the Caribbean, Saint Kitts & Nevis and Antigua & Barbuda always remain on top of the list, especially for clients from Africa and the Middle East.

In the covid times, for Africans, which countries have been your top clients? And which passports are they interested in, and why?

In sub- Saharan Africa the countries that have increased in demand for additional passports in COVID: Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Globally, Nigerian and South African nationals entail the biggest percentage of our African portfolio.

According to our Geneva office, North Africa is one of the key drivers for demand for our services, namely Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

What is the basis of the decision for their purchase for pandemic passports? 

Desire for easy access to good healthcare especially if the individuals are from markets with challenged healthcare systems. EU passports grants the applicant and their family unlimited access and settlement freedom throughout the European Union zone. 

Which is the most popular Individual Investor Program in the citizenship schemes?

The Maltese program is the most popular and on high demand program. The requirements include approximately EUR 1 million but for a family of 4 people it would cost EUR 1.2 million and a significant portion of this amount is non redeemable because it is a donation to the local economy. In return, the individual has the right to live and work in Malta and in the European Union, with visa free access to 183 destinations in the world including Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Europe’s Schengen Area, the UK, US and the United Arab Emirates.

The Maltese passport is the 7th strong passport in the world in passport ranking. 

For further information on investment migration programs, you may contact me on: maryanne.njeri@gmail.com

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