Mehdi Kadiri is Managing Partner and Head of North America at Henley & Partners.
Henley & Partners Americas’ Q1 2022 results were once again very strong, both in terms of the quality and volume of new enquiries we received. The USA remains one of the world’s largest consumers of residence and citizenship by investment programs, and the number of applications we received in Q1 was significantly higher than numbers we have previously processed in full years, such as 2018 or 2019. This is thanks to what has been a paradigm shift in how citizens of developed countries such as the USA perceive the value of a portfolio of alternative residences and citizenships in multiple jurisdictions.
No longer about mobility or security alone, investment migration has become an essential element in high-net-worth individuals’ financial and insurance planning models. Wealthy American investors are diversifying their passport portfolios in the same way they diversify their investment portfolios, hedging themselves against country-specific risks. The residence and citizenship planning model has become a mainstream investment product, with many trust and estate planners, wealth managers, bankers, accountants, and lawyers including it in their clients’ goals as a form of insurance policy that brings peace of mind.
Canadian nationals represent the second-largest market in the Americas in terms of the applications we received in Q1. They also made the second-highest number of enquiries, with 17% of total enquiries from the Americas in Q1, compared with 69% from the USA. There was also a healthy number of enquiries from citizens of Latin American countries – especially Brazil, Mexico, and Cuba, for which the numbers of enquiries we received in Q1 was higher than those we received in the whole of 2021.
Canada is and always has been an extremely popular inbound destination for global citizens, and ranks third in terms of web enquiries received by Henley & Partners in Q1 2022. One of several ways to become a permanent resident via the Canada Start-Up Visa Program, which is the fastest way for entrepreneurs and wealthy individuals to access Canadian residence as well as the North American market. Successful applicants can acquire a work permit within a short time or permanent residence within one to three years for a minimum contribution of USD 275,000 towards business structure, document processing, and immigration. This path has the least limitations for country of origin, age, or education.
There were changes made to four investment migration programs in Q1: those hosted by Portugal — the most popular program among investors in the Americas — Montenegro, St. Lucia, and the USA.
On 1 January 2022, the Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program increased the minimum requirement to subscribe to venture capital investment funds to EUR 500,000. It also increased the minimum capital transfer requirement to EUR 1.5 million. The real estate investment requirement remains unchanged, eligible residential properties for investors are limited to designated areas in the country’s interior. The option to invest in Portuguese real estate is by far the top preference among Henley & Partners’ clients in the USA, especially commercial property, which has the lowest real estate investment threshold of EUR 280,000 and was the best seller among American investors in Q1 2022.
The Montenegro Citizenship by Investment Program is one of the 10 programs most enquired about by citizens of countries in the Americas, who may be pleased to hear that the Government of Montenegro has extended the program for a further 12 months until 31 December 2022. The original investment requirements remain in place, but applicants are now required to donate a further EUR 100,000 to a newly introduced government fund: the Innovation Fund of Montenegro. Applications from unmarried and same-sex couples are now also being accepted.
The St. Lucia Citizenship by Investment Program has extended its Covid-19 Relief Bond offer until 31 December 2022. It requires a minimum investment of USD 250,000 for a single applicant or USD 300,000 for a family of four. Applicants must hold the bonds, which provide 0% interest, for five years. Although the initial outlay is higher than the USD 100,000 required by the donation route, investors can redeem all of their capital after five years have passed. St. Lucia introduced this refundable bond in 2020 to raise emergency funds to support the country during the pandemic and it has proven a popular choice among investors and raised valuable funds for the island.
A much-awaited industry development took place on 15 March, when US President Joe Biden signed the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022. Under the updated US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, investors (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) are eligible to apply for a Green Card (which provides permanent residence in the USA) when they invest USD 1,050,000 in a venture that creates 10 jobs. If the business is in what is referred to as a Targeted Employment Area (an area with high unemployment or a rural region), the minimum investment requirement is reduced to USD 800,000.
The outlook for investment migration in the Americas for Q2 and beyond looks promising as we are seeing exciting momentum and an interesting trend of high-net-worth investors acquiring multiple citizenships in parallel. The average Caribbean citizenship by investment offering trades at between USD 100,000 to USD 150,000, typically less than 10% of the average European equivalent, most of which cost at least EUR 1 million. This has resulted in Caribbean programs becoming an attractive ‘bridging strategy’ for investors from both a timeline and a budget perspective.