Dominic Volek is Group Head of Private Clients and a Member of the Executive Committee of Henley & Partners
We are living in the eye of a storm — a relentless storm. No one knows when it will end, but we do know that when we finally emerge on the other side, nothing will be the same. Past pandemics have affected the structure of communities and nations, permanently altering the economic and social fabric of society, and the current one is likely to have similar consequences.
The past 18 months have ushered in many changes, both in the world and in the investment migration industry. Along with seeking out new domicile options for their families, more and more investors are considering relocating their businesses, for a variety of reasons. This trend had begun pre-pandemic, but it is accelerating. The increasingly challenging global business environment is leading business owners to actively seek out strategic locations where they can centralize business operations. Residence-by-investment programs are an ideal mechanism, enabling investors to select from a range of options to identify the best possible places for their businesses to be situated.
The Best Residence-by-Investment Cities for Business Index showcases the 25 capitals and other major cities of the countries that host the world’s most important residence-by-investment programs. It uses over 40 different parameters and over 1,000 different data points to score and compare these world-class cities according to key considerations such as Covid safety, general law and order, tax rates, quality of education and healthcare, property markets, lifestyle offerings, security, sustainability, and stability.
The key takeout from this fascinating research is that there are abundant opportunities. Each of the 25 cities is proactively welcoming foreign investors, and while some are clearly leading the pack, each has its strengths.
The five cities that take the top spots in the index — London, New York, Sydney, Singapore, and Zurich — illustrate perfectly the wide geographical range of available residence-by-investment program options, emphasizing that no matter what your business requirements may be, there is an option that will suit your needs.
In 1st place with the highest score by an impressive margin is London, the world’s financial capital. Performing well in many parameters, London’s three highest scores are in education, security, and stability. London also scores the highest overall in the index for real estate thanks to the high potential of the local property market. Investors who are eyeing London can rest assured that the UK Investor Immigration Program, introduced in 1994, is one of the longest running, most established residence-by-investment options, providing access to a dynamic business environment and world-class education.
Like London, education, security, and stability are also New York’s top strengths, galvanizing its 2nd spot on the index. Another global center for finance and commerce, New York is home to no less than 130 higher education institutions and scored highest overall in the index for education. The US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is another longstanding option that was created in 1990 to stimulate the economy by allowing foreign entrepreneurs to reside in the country permanently after investing in an American business. Alternatively, participants in Grenada, Montenegro, or Turkey’s citizenship-by-investment programs are then eligible to apply for the E-2 Investor Visa that allows applicants to live, work and study in America as these countries hold E-2 Investor Visa treaties with the USA.
Sydney, Singapore, and Zurich, in 3rd, 4th, and 5th places, respectively, all have security, infrastructure, and stability as their highest scores. Australia’s financial hub Sydney takes the number one spot overall in the index for security. Australia has been focusing on attracting the brightest and best to strengthen its economy and grow its future-focused sectors. Successful tech entrepreneurs can apply for any of Australia’s residence-by-investment options to obtain permanent residence. The Global Talent visa was specifically designed to attract dynamic, highly skilled individuals to relocate to Australia’s safe shores and benefit from a high quality of life.
Southeast Asia’s powerhouse Singapore scores highest overall in the index in terms of Covid safety, lifestyle, and infrastructure. Renowned for its low crime rates and ease of conducting business, the city-state houses the headquarters of over 35,000 global companies. Affluent investors have been flocking to Singapore during the pandemic, with many opening family offices, and Singapore recorded USD 24 billion in real estate sales in the first six months of 2021.
In Europe, with its high standard of living and burgeoning healthcare sector, Switzerland’s capital Zurich is the top performing residence-by-investment city in terms of healthcare and stability and is perennially a highly sought-after option for ultra-high-net worth investors and entrepreneurs.
Joint-first in terms of Austria’s and Portugal’s residence-by-investment offerings are Vienna and Lisbon, which both also score highly in security and stability — increasingly important drivers for investment migration and business relocation. Both European cities are popular choices for multinational firms to base their headquarters — Vienna’s appeal lies in its highly skilled labor force and excellent productivity levels, while Lisbon has a flourishing tech sector thanks to Portugal’s business-friendly policies and the top talent emerging from its universities.
While just missing out on being in the top 10, Dubai in 11th spot is not to be overlooked. The Middle Eastern emirate’s pioneering capital scored highest overall in the index in tax, owing to its zero corporate tax, as well as ranking 2nd in Covid safety — making it a highly appealing option. Dubai has been focusing on attracting investors and endeavors to be the start-up capital of the world.
If we take a step back from the Covid chaos, it is interesting to consider what history shows us, and use this to inform our next move. The first bubonic plague of 541–544 led to the end of Roman rule and the formation of culturally distinct groups, which evolved into medieval European nations. Europe’s 14th century Black Death plague resulted in food and labor shortages that saw village laborers able to demand higher wages, diminishing the class barrier and ultimately resulting in a new middle class arising. These changes instigated by pandemics are still with us today.
When the storm subsides, everything will be different. By making good choices now and investing in strategic residence-by-investment program options, you can be the agent of your change and define the future — for your family and your business. In addition to the cities that stand out thanks to their high scores there are many other attractive metropoles to consider, all are vying for foreign direct investment in the present climate. Explore the data and find the best residence-by-investment city for you.