Denise Ng is the Director of Henley & Partners Hong Kong and Head of North Asia. She leads a team of dedicated advisory professionals based in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai who advise clients in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, South Korea, and Taiwan on their residence and citizenship planning options.
China’s unexpected strict and long lockdown in Q2 and latest wave of lockdowns in areas across the country, notably in Chengdu and Guiyang, have served as a wake-up call to many. Not only have Chinese nationals realized the urgency of having backup plans, but many expatriates who work, live, or study in China have also been alerted and are looking for alternatives for better security, to diversify risk, and to improve protection. Many clients who put their migration plans on hold in 2020 and 2021 due to the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in China have revisited their mobility needs and resumed their applications.
According to the Henley Private Wealth Migration Dashboard, China and Hong Kong (SAR China) are among the projected top five countries for net outflows of high net-worth individuals in 2022, which aligns with the large number of enquiries received and applications processed lately.
By the end of Q2, over 66% of East Asia web enquiries were from Chinese nationals, and Chinese enquiries increased by 134% between Q1 and Q2. There was a slight drop of 5% in enquiries from Hong Kong (SAR China), but enquiries from the rest of the region were up by 34%. Overall, enquiries received in the first six months of 2022 were 74% higher than in the same period in 2021.
In terms of applications, in Q2 we onboarded more than double the clients than in Q1, and May was a record-breaking month.
In terms of programs attracting the greatest deal of attention in East Asia, the Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program tops the chart in 2022 to date, followed by the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Program and Malta’s Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment. Greece’s Golden Visa Program, St. Kitts and Nevis’s Citizenship by Investment Program, and Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Program also received a fair share of requests.
International travel from China remains very restricted, with harsh quarantine requirements, and domestic travel was tightened in early September. And while Hong Kong (SAR China) announced a reduced quarantine in August, and eased certain restrictions for outbound passengers (but not those traveling to China) in early September, there is a rigorous testing regime and those who test positive must go to isolation facilities unless they meet the requirements of the StayHome Safe Scheme, which include wearing an electronic wristband throughout the quarantine period. Investment migration countries with minimal physical presence requirements are therefore attractive to clients. European countries remain many people’s favorites with their good education and healthcare systems, which explains why Portugal and Malta consistently remain top contenders — a trend that we forecast will continue throughout.