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Residence and Citizenship by Investment

A Transformative Era for Investment Migration

Dominic Volek

Dominic Volek

Dominic Volek is Group Head of Private Clients and a member of the Executive Committee of Henley & Partners.

We are living through a time of transformation, both at the micro level within the investment migration sector and in the global arena. The paperback passport itself, a symbol and cornerstone of our business, will likely be phased out in the not-too-distant future as artificial intelligence and digital identification protocols make cloud-based passports a distinct possibility. On a macro level, we are confronting a climate crisis, the ongoing war in Ukraine, widespread socio-political unrest, and unprecedented tensions between East and West.

All these factors are creating an environment of relentless uncertainty which is fueling high-net-worth individuals’ demand for alternative residences and citizenships. This year, we forecast that 122,000 millionaires will relocate globally, and at the end of 2024, we expect another 128,000 to follow suit. This is a formidable migration of human capital and wealth that will impact the economic and societal fabric of the jurisdictions these wealthy individuals leave as well as invest in, underscoring the need for the development of more investment migration pathways for the benefit of both HNWI investors and nation states alike.

In pursuit of stability

Affluent individuals are predictably looking to unlock access to countries that offer a better quality of life, top-tier healthcare, and world-class academic institutions for their family, but above all, they want the option of being able to live or relocate to safe, politically stable jurisdictions that protect and preserve their wealth. This is why we saw a mass migration of millionaires from Russia and Ukraine in early 2022 as a consequence of the war. Further south, wealthy South Africans are also increasingly relocating or looking to secure alternative residence options in Canada, Europe, and the USA as the political and socio-economic situation at home deteriorates. Whatever the reason, the countries that offer a safe and constant environment with clear and attractive policies and legislation that protect their wealth and secure their legacy are likely to continue to outperform the rest, especially when it comes to attracting talent and capital.

Smiling businessman looking to the left in front of large glass airport window as a plane takes off from the runway in the background

Sizeable pockets of demand in Asia

Asia is home to various wealth hubs — in fact, Tokyo, Singapore, and three Chinese metropolises rank in the world’s Top 10 wealthiest cities. Many affluent individuals living in the region are now looking at investment migration solutions in a bid to safeguard their capital from government policies that could threaten their wealth. Just this year, the number of enquiries received from South Asia in the first four months of 2023 already accounted for 72.2% of the total number of enquiries recorded the previous year, which in itself was a record year.

The American paradox

Historically, citizens from jurisdictions with strong passports such as the UK and the USA were improbable candidates for investment migration programs, but in 2022, Americans were our largest single client nationality. This year the upward trajectory continues, with both American and Indian investors voicing the most demand for alternative residences and additional citizenships.

However, though many US-Americans are migrating abroad, this does not mean that USA has lost its allure. It is still one of the fastest growing wealth hubs in the world — home to over 5 million millionaires and almost 10,000 centi-millionaires. As of April 2023, we have already seen a record-high demand for the US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which grants foreign investors the opportunity to build their ‘American dream’ and live in the USA.

A post-Brexit exodus from the UK

There is also a sustained high level of interest from British applicants as they come to terms with the finality of Brexit and its consequences for global mobility. Although London maintains its title as one of Europe’s most affluent cities, housing over 250,000 millionaires, the UK is struggling to retain these well-to-do individuals. Pressured by the mounting cost of living in the UK and bubbling political tensions, many British nationals have started exploring greener pastures abroad. In 2022 we saw a net outflow of 1,600 millionaires from the UK, and this year that number is forecast to double to 3,200 — a veritable Brexodus.

Europe under pressure

Throughout 2022 we identified considerable demand for European programs, particularly for the Greece Golden Visa Program, the Spain Residence by Investment Program, and the highly coveted Portugal Golden Visa Program, which may now be in its sunset stage due to the country’s housing crisis and pressure exerted by the European Union. This year we are also seeing numerous enquiries about Austria Citizenship by Investment and the Italy Residence by Investment Program.

For several years the European Union, the OECD, and other regulatory bodies voiced their national security concerns, but with the war in Ukraine and political tensions at an all-time high, these voices became more audible, ultimately impacting on several European programs. These international bodies are also threatening to clamp down on Caribbean citizenship programs that offer visa-free access to Europe. Nonetheless, this has not dampened demand for real estate-linked citizenship by investment programs in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and St. Kitts and Nevis.

Henley & Partners has also picked up notable demand for other real estate-linked programs. Faced with economic uncertainty, many risk-averse individuals are keen to invest in brick-and-mortar assets that also deliver greater mobility and peace of mind. The most popular property-linked options in the Mediterranean are those offered by Malta, which allows for the granting of citizenship by a certificate of naturalization to foreign individuals and their families who contribute to the country’s economic development, Greece, which will be raising its minimum investment threshold later this year, and Spain.

Emerging magnets for talent and investment

Though Europe is tightening the drawstring, emerging markets have had to navigate the pandemic, endure the economic slowdown, and explore different ways of balancing their growing sovereign debt. Over the past few years, economies in Africa and the Middle East have begun implementing investment migration programs as innovative financing tools to bolster their growth. The UAE in particular successfully lured a net inflow of 5,200 millionaires in 2022 with its future-thinking, investor-friendly proposition, while Jordan, Mauritius, and Namibia, have focused on promoting their offerings in a bid to attract more talent and innovation.

We expect others to follow suit in the coming months and years, opening up even more options for global high-net-worth investors.

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