Dominic Volek is Group Head of Private Clients at Henley & Partners.
Investing in your child’s education is universally acknowledged as one of the best ways to set them up for success in life. However, education alone cannot guarantee opportunities in the future job market or quality of life. That is why an emerging trend among investors, entrepreneurs, and wealthy families is to combine a premium international education with a portfolio of investment migration program options that facilitate alternative residence rights or citizenships across multiple jurisdictions worldwide.
As economist Branko Milanovic explains, “If you want to be rich, you’d better be born in a rich country — or emigrate there.” He estimates 50 to 60% of income inequality globally is simply due to differences in countries’ average incomes. Therefore, accessing opportunities in more developed economies can have an outsized impact on earning potential and standard of living.
This concept underpins the new Henley Opportunity Index, a proprietary benchmarking of how first-class education and expanded access drives success. Wealthy families are now laser-focused on securing their heirs’ fortunes. Yet truly future-proofing requires more than just financial legacies. Protecting children’s potential also means clearing pathways to allow access to the world’s best opportunities.
Upper classes have long strategized to prepare next generations for leadership by sending their youth abroad. Grand tours of continental Europe’s cultural capitals were a rite of passage. Sons of British aristocrats studied at Oxford and Cambridge before entering the foreign civil service; daughters of American industrial tycoons learned French at Swiss finishing schools.
Whether backpacking across Southeast Asia or working below deck in St. Tropez or Monaco, global exposure builds character, resourcefulness, and sophistication. Students return more informed global citizens, with relationships spanning borders.
Henley & Partners’ research shows future millionaires increasingly expect multi-jurisdictional lifestyles. Flexible residence rights enable attending leading universities in different countries. Yet education is only the beginning, with second passports and multiple residence rights opening access to varied business cultures, funding ecosystems, and innovation hubs necessary for young entrepreneurs to truly thrive internationally. Multiple credentials together with expanded personal access rights which they secure enable them to unlock a world of opportunities.
The data clearly shows that higher education levels correlate with substantially higher earning potential globally. According to Eurostat, those with tertiary qualifications in the European Union earn around 50% more than those with secondary education, and a massive 70% more than those with lower education.
This wage premium for university degrees and skills is even more pronounced in certain countries. In Portugal, the highly educated earn three times more than those with basic schooling. A similar pattern holds true across metrics in the USA, the UK, and in developing countries.
However, realizing this salary uplift requires more than just an isolated degree. Research shows over two-thirds of income variation between individuals globally is simply attributable to the country in which they live and work. So, combining world-class academics with related citizenship rights to access those lucrative job markets is key.
Consider a Chinese high-net-worth investor securing their child access to an Ivy League US college. The four-year degree could cost USD 250,000. But graduating with permanent residence rights in the US multiplies career upside, given that America’s median salaries are five times higher than China’s, and tech sector equity compensation potential is exponentially greater in Silicon Valley.
Gaining US work rights via the US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program requires an investment of USD 800,000. Compared to the lifetime earning potential for the family and future generations, that is an insignificant investment in residence and, potentially, citizenship privileges for capitalizing on the American Dream. The power of education and expanded access is clear.
Another excellent example is an affluent Filipino family opting for the Spain Residence by Investment Program, where the investment requirement is EUR 500,000. This might sound steep, but given that citizens of the Philippines (along with those of 25 other countries and anyone of Sephardic Jewish descent) are eligible for citizenship after two years of effective residence, and the extensive opportunities that arise due to their ability to live, work, and study across the European Union as Spanish citizens, it is an investment well worth making in the here and now on a property asset, which in addition to residence rights in Spain also generates multiple other yields.”
Through Henley & Partners Education services, families can secure the best international education for their children, and our complementary investment migration advisory services will help them acquire a portfolio of residence permits and citizenships that give them the right to study, live, work, and invest in countries of their choice. This approach future-proofs the next generation in an unpredictable world by maximizing their career prospects, resilience, and mobility freedom for greater prosperity across their lifetime.
Successful citizenship programs are increasingly found among societies balancing wealth generation with opportunity equality — characteristics that define ascendent economies. Our Henley Opportunity Index identifies America, Australia, Canada, several European countries, New Zealand, Switzerland and vibrant wealth hubs in Asia and the Middle East as prime locations for educators, entrepreneurs, and inheritors aiming to thrive in the coming decades.
Fortunately, many offer residence or citizenship pathways for global citizens committing to their continued success. While requirements and costs vary, applicants willing to invest can purchase access to societal stability, advanced infrastructure, global financial systems, and crucially — world-leading education.
The US remains the ultimate entrepreneurial destination, with unparalleled private universities, venture funding, and integrated expertise across science and technology disciplines. Meanwhile Canada offers more affordable credentials leading to Silicon Valley jobs. And the European Union’s unified digital single market confers free movement benefits across 27 member states to some of the world’s best tertiary institutions — whether securing computer science mastery or prestigious hotel management and gastronomy qualifications. The UK also provides access to London’s unmatched finance and tech hubs for launching ideas, with the UK Innovator Founder Visa available for entrepreneurs to set up businesses backed by leading accelerators and investors.
Asian regions also offer fantastic localization advantages. Singapore welcomes ultra-high-net-worth global citizens through the Singapore Global Investor Program, with bespoke visa categories promoting business formation and innovation. Investors praise its secure wealth-friendly jurisdiction and top academics. Neighboring Australia tempts student migrants to leading Melbourne and Sydney campuses with pathways to permanent residence and vibrant alumni links into southeastern Asia’s “century market” opportunities. Finally, the UAE offers 10-year renewable golden visas to those investing just USD 550,000 into local property and businesses, providing a strategic base for regional HQs tapping markets across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
The Henley Opportunity Index guides investment migration strategies maximizing flexibility through access to the places and skills where fortunes will materialize this century.