The world got off to an extremely shaky start in 2021 with the grim realization that the turmoil that began last year appears to be with us for the foreseeable future. In a matter of months of the decade beginning, the world was upended, violently shaken, and given the reality check of a lifetime.
The warning signs may have been ignored for decades, but the coronavirus pandemic has confronted us directly with our own fragility and precariousness, and, perhaps most of all, our utter unpreparedness.
In ironic contrast to the coronavirus on its haphazard trip around the world, unhampered by border checks, most of the world’s population was grounded almost overnight when the Great Lockdown commenced, and by early 2021, many countries were in their second or third lockdowns, which have become a way of life. In unprecedented circumstances such as these, with entire families’ home lives and school, business, and leisure activities merging in single, claustrophobia-inducing locations, many individuals have had more time, if not space, to contemplate than ever before.
As a result, people from all walks of life across the globe are re-evaluating their situations and reconsidering how they wish to conduct their lives. More importantly — for those fortunate — many are rethinking where they want to live.
Along with the global devastation it has caused, the pandemic appears to have triggered a sharp increase in demand for alternative residence and citizenship among high- and ultra-high-net worth individuals (HNWI and UHNWI) worldwide. Competent crisis management and access to first rate healthcare have become important drawcards.
This shift was predicted by FutureMap founder Dr. Parag Khanna, who wrote that as the coronavirus curtain lifted, people would seek to move from poorly governed and ill-prepared places to more proactive countries with greater resilience and better medical care. Many individuals have realized that they can work remotely with success, giving them unanticipated options. Despite travel restrictions, many people have moved, while many others have now begun to research and prepare for their post- Covid-19 lives.
Reports have emerged from developed countries such as the UK and the USA of people leaving cities in search of a quieter life. The same desire for new beginnings is playing out on an international scale, with investors actively seeking out relocation options so that, once global mobility has been reinstated, they and their families can live in more peaceful, far-flung locations that offer a better quality of life and cleaner air.
The investment migration industry has been growing steadily for more than 15 years, but while in the past alternative residence or citizenship may have been ‘nice-to-have’ assets of convenience that enhanced travel freedom and provided vacation homes, Covid-19 has prompted a noticeable shift. Now they are ‘must-have’ essential assets because of the undeniable benefits they bring.
Astute investors recognize that by extending their wealth planning and legacy management strategies to include investment migration, they can catalyze the transition to new lives in countries of their choice that host investment migration programs. In these countries, they can feel more comfortable and secure, and can envisage a future that is better aligned with their aspirations, not just for now but for generations to come.
Before Covid-19, people chose where to reside based on fairly predictable factors such as quality of living, access to education, clean environment, and safety; in future, they will also consider factors such as reliable infrastructure, self-sufficiency, access to good healthcare, reliable air links for hasty repatriation, and effective handling of crisis scenarios. In short, countries that have handled the current crisis well will gain in popularity.
This goes some way to explaining the unprecedented and significant upturn in interest shown in residence- and citizenship-by-investment (RCBI) by Americans. It is an understatement to say that the USA has been hard hit by Covid-19, and its healthcare system’s deficiencies have been put under the spotlight. Notably, the surge in interest shown by USA citizens predated the EU’s release in late June 2020 of a list of ‘safe countries’ whose visitors would be welcome from July onwards. The USA was controversially excluded, emphasizing the serious repercussions of the country’s ill-preparedness for the pandemic.
Investment migration has also captured the attention of several new wealth markets in recent times. Since the end of 2019, there has been a notable increase in the number of enquiries from citizens of Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan. In times of such uncertainty, global demand for dual citizenship and investment migration is expected to increase, and it is predicted that the number of applicants from countries that have struggled to adequately control the spread of the virus will rise even further.
Through investment migration, affluent investors can overcome the limitations of being restricted to a single jurisdiction. For UHNWI investors, while a single alternative residence or citizenship will always create value, strategic yield can be created only through strategic advisory and a portfolio investment approach to investment migration.
To cover all eventualities, an integrated portfolio of complementary investment migration options will create optimal value by permitting UHNWI and their families to live, work, and invest in a suite of locations worldwide, thereby hedging manifold levels of volatility and creating enhanced yield.
When catastrophes such as a pandemic strike, and in the wake of other climate emergencies and natural disasters, the countries that host RCBI programs can rely on program inflows to recover their economies, build capacity, reduce debt, and make capital investments.
RCBI programs are designed by sovereign states as an alternative, debt-free, capital-raising platform to diversify their economies, thereby creating societal and sovereign value, or ‘sovereign equity’. Just as UHNWI demand for RCBI programs has been growing in recent years, so has supply. Over 100 countries have investment migration legislation in place, and there are over 60 active programs globally, of which about 30 are relevant and successful.
As more governments set up investment migration programs, and those with programs introduce more options to mitigate the destruction caused by the coronavirus, RCBI programs will continue to be invaluable both to investors intending to futureproof their families and change the trajectories of their legacies, as well as to sovereign states in desperate need of alternative revenue streams. Participating in any investment migration program is therefore not only an investment in the future of one’s family, it is also a sustainable investment, as host nations depend on RCBI program inflows to support progress.
Investment migration will act as a hedge against the significant macro-economic volatility that is predicted, creating even more sovereign and societal value across the world. The industry continues to boom despite Covid-19, and there is a wide range of competitive and desirable options, particularly to investors looking to start afresh and relocate their families to safer shores.
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Harpaz, Y. ‘Coronavirus temporarily reduces global mobility gap’ (2020) in the Henley Passport Index Q3 2020
Rapoza, K. ‘Start spreading the news, New Yorkers are leaving today’ (June 12 2020)
Tapper, J. ‘Tired of London: Thousands flee capital for a quieter life’ (29 June 2019)