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Wealth, Mobility and the Diversification of Assets: Residence Programs in Southeast Asia

13 January 2016

For wealthy individuals and families, business owners and investors, today’s globalized world offers tremendous opportunity to optimize personal and business planning. Investing in multiple residences or citizenships can significantly increase freedom of travel, security, quality of life, and financial and estate planning options.

The concept of residence and citizenship planning was created by Henley & Partners in the 1990s. As globalization has expanded, residence and citizenship have become topics of significant interest among the increasing number of internationally mobile entrepreneurs and investors. The firm also runs a successful government advisory practice, and was instrumental in the creation and ongoing operation of the only citizenship program endorsed by the European Union, the Malta Individual Investor Programme.

Having the option to reside in more than one country is desired by most affluent families, and providing children with future options of living, working and studying in several countries can help them achieve international success.

Two of the key options in Asia are the residence programs in Singapore and Malaysia. Both these programs offer significant attractions and benefits to those interested in diversifying their lives and assets.

Singapore’s Global Investor Program

Singapore is considered one of the world’s best places to live, and is frequently voted as the top Asian city to live in, due to its excellent infrastructure and public services. It is also one of the wealthiest countries in the world measured by GDP per capita. Its Global Investor Program (GIP) allows investors and entrepreneurs to apply for a permanent residence permit.

The GIP is specifically aimed at wealthy entrepreneurs and investors interested in making substantial financial investments in Singapore, and who wish to make Singapore their home.

Applicants may apply for in-principle approval for a residence permit by submitting an application before they enter Singapore, provided they satisfy the relevant criteria. The advantage of obtaining residence status is that the person is entitled to live and work in Singapore for at least one year. However, the approval of residence is at the sole discretion of the authorities and no reasons will be given in the event of a rejection.

Malaysia’s My Second Home Program

Malaysia’s My Second Home Program (MM2H) has accepted more than 27,000 applicants since its inception in 2002. Malaysia is one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant economies, and has seen continued industrial growth and political stability over the past few decades. It is a highly open upper-middle income economy, and the third largest economy in this region.

Applicants for this program are required to demonstrate the capability to support themselves financially in Malaysia without seeking employment or government assistance. Specifically, they need to show proof of bankable assets of at least MYR 500,000 (USD 118,000) and proof of income of at least MYR 10,000 per month.

Successful applicants and their dependents are granted a 10 year multiple-entry visa. This is effectively a residence permit, enabling the successful applicant and their family to live in Malaysia.

In general, while many countries are able to offer wealthy individuals residence in exchange for an economic investment, most individuals searching for alternative residence are motivated beyond money, instead looking to improve their lives from a family, social and cultural perspective. The abovementioned programs are able to offer the quality of life and security these individuals seek.