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Vietnam’s Millionaires Are Looking Elsewhere despite the Wealth Boom

Jacky Poh

Jacky Poh

Jacky Poh is Head of Southeast Asia at Henley & Partners.

Vietnam is experiencing a remarkable period of prosperity, with the country’s millionaire population growing by an impressive 98% over the past decade. Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s economic hub, is at the center of this wealth boom, fueled by a dynamic business environment and rapid economic development. Today, Vietnam is home to 19,400 millionaires, 58 centi-millionaires, and 6 billionaires — a testament to its economic progress.

However, amid this prosperity, a surprising trend has emerged. In 2024, Vietnam is forecast to experience a net outflow of 300 high-net-worth individuals, as the nation’s millionaires seek opportunities abroad. This exodus is driven by a desire for greater economic prospects, access to world-class education and healthcare, and a higher quality of life.

The appeal of investment migration

For Vietnam’s ambitious entrepreneurs, investment migration has become an attractive option. These wealth creators are looking to expand beyond the domestic market and tap into the potential of the global stage. Like their counterparts in other emerging economies, such as India, Vietnamese millionaires are turning to residence and citizenship by investment programs as a strategy for unlocking new opportunities.

The Ho Chi Minh City skyline at sunrise

Among the most popular destinations for Vietnamese investors are Malta, Portugal, and Antigua and Barbuda. Malta’s Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment process 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, while the Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program provides access to the Iberian Peninsula’s vibrant culture and thriving business scene. The Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Program offers an attractive tax environment and a desirable location.

As alternatives to Malta and Portugal in Europe, the Greece Golden Visa Program has no minimum stay requirement and unlocks visa-free access to the Schengen Area for Vietnamese investors. The premium Austria Citizenship by Investment offering provides access to the heart of the continent for ultra-high-net-worth families as applicants are required to make a substantial contribution to the Austrian economy, for example, in the form of a joint venture or a direct investment in a business that creates jobs or generates new export sales.

Vietnamese millionaires are also interested in the Canada Start-Up Visa Program, which offers a pathway to permanent residence in a stable and prosperous nation. The Grenada Citizenship by Investment Program is another popular choice, thanks to its visa-free access to China, Russia, Singapore, the UK, and Europe’s Schengen Area, among others. 

The education and opportunity advantage

For many Vietnamese millionaires, the desire for a better life begins with education. Despite the country’s development, its schools often lag behind international standards, prompting wealthy parents to seek better options abroad. Investment migration offers access to world-class education, opening doors to prestigious institutions.

The Henley Opportunity Index, which evaluates investment migration countries across six key parameters, including quality of education, earning potential, career advancement, employment prospects, economic mobility, and high livability, gives Vietnam a total opportunity score of just 24% compared to those of the 15 investment migration countries, which all score far higher. According to the June 2024 Henley Opportunity Index, Switzerland provides the highest total opportunity score of 85%, followed by the USA with 82% and Singapore with 79%. Such comparisons demonstrate how wealthy Vietnamese families are constrained by their lack of access to premium education and visa-free travel, and how investment migration can create significant opportunity for future generations by enabling them to grow their global networks and maximize their career and earning potential, as well as economic mobility, for greater success and prosperity across their lifetimes.

For example, a Vietnamese family that opts for education in Spain for their children could couple top-tier schooling with the Spain Residence by Investment Program, where the investment requirement is EUR 500,000. This provides access to Spain, which has a total opportunity score of 63%, an excellent education system, a route to citizenship, and the ability to live, work, and study across the European Union. It’s an investment with long-term benefits.

The passport power deficit

Another factor driving Vietnam’s millionaire migration is the country’s relatively weak passport. According to the Henley Passport Power Index, which ranks all 199 passports in the world in terms of their Henley Passport Power (HPP) score — an indicator of the percentage of global GDP each passport provides to its holders visa-free, Vietnam scores just over 6%. This means that Vietnamese citizens have visa-free access to just 6% of the world’s GDP. In contrast, Portugal has an HPP score of over 74%. Portuguese passport holders enjoy visa-free access to 74% of global GDP. 

To add to the passport power disadvantage, Vietnamese businesspeople often face challenging visa applications, long wait times, and missed opportunities when traveling to countries with restrictive policies. Investment migration programs offer a solution to these challenges. With a second, stronger passport, a Vietnamese entrepreneur can travel more easily to meet business partners in Europe without worrying about visa applications and rejections. They can access new markets, forge partnerships, and improve their business prospects.

A new era

As Vietnam’s millionaires navigate this period of wealth creation, investment migration has become a valuable tool for unlocking global mobility and greater opportunities as well as realizing a higher quality of life. By investing in programs that offer access to world-class education, healthcare, and greater economic mobility, these individuals are creating a brighter future with far more options for themselves and their families.

The country will no doubt focus on creating an environment that encourages these wealth creators to bring their acquired knowledge, networks, and resources back home. By fostering an open, dynamic, and globally connected ecosystem, Vietnam can harness the power of its millionaire migration to fuel longer-term economic growth and prosperity.

As Vietnam’s economic rise continues, the story of its millionaire exodus highlights the importance of global mobility. In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability to transcend borders and seize opportunities has become an invaluable asset. For Vietnam’s millionaires, investment migration is the key to unlocking that potential and realizing their goals on the global stage.

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