Amanda Smit is the Managing Partner at Henley & Partners South Africa and a member of the Investment Migration Council.
South African entrepreneurs, businesspeople, and wealthy families are embracing investment migration as a strategy to improve their travel freedom and economic mobility, secure location optionality, and mitigate risk. Henley & Partners has seen a significant increase in interest in residence and citizenship by investment in Africa’s wealthiest country. Enquiries rose by a staggering 43% in 2023 compared to the previous year, putting South Africans in the top 10 nationalities globally in terms of applications for and enquiries about investment migration programs, where it ranked 7th and 8th, respectively.
The top programs that South African’s applied for last year were the Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program, the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program, the St. Lucia Citizenship by Investment Program, and the Dominica Citizenship by Investment Program. In terms of enquiries, the investment migration pathways offered by Portugal, Mauritius, Namibia, and Greece attracted the most attention.
Traditionally, our global high-net-worth clientele has favored real estate-linked investment migration as a secure asset class, but mindsets are shifting as the programs themselves change with the times. For example, the Portuguese authorities now permit only capital and fund investments and business options, but we anticipate that Portugal’s golden visa will continue to prove a success as these investment routes have already gained traction among investors.
For those who prefer to invest in bricks and mortar, an attractive option in Europe is the Greece Golden Visa Program, requiring an investment in real estate with a minimum value of EUR 250,000 (plus applicable taxes) apart from in Thessaloniki, Mykonos, Santorini, and most municipalities in Athens where the minimum is EUR 500,000. Alternatively, applicants can invest EUR 250,000 in a 10-year time-sharing or lease agreement for hotel accommodation or furnished tourist residences in eligible areas.
For South African investors looking for enhanced global mobility, a popular Caribbean option is the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Program, where the minimum investment required is a non-refundable minimum contribution of USD 100,000 to the National Development Fund. Its straightforward, transparent application process, estimated at three to four months, and the total investment required for citizenship make this program one of the best value citizenship options in the Caribbean. Investors can include a spouse, dependent children under 31 (as well as their spouse and children), parents and grandparents aged 55 and over, and their unmarried siblings (of any age) or those of their spouse. Additionally, they may add dependents after citizenship has been granted. An Antigua and Barbuda passport provides visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to approximately 150 destinations including Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK, and Europe’s Schengen Area, making this an excellent choice for businesspeople.
The majority of South Africans applying for investment migration programs are not looking to emigrate but rather to increase their mobility and to secure a plan B for their families that will give access to world class education and work opportunities for their children, and to diversify their domiciles. Having a geographically differentiated portfolio of residences and citizenships not only protects our wealth but also significantly enhances our prosperity, enabling us to leave a greater legacy for future generations.