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Residence and Citizenship by Investment

Investment Migration: A Pathway to Accessing the World’s Wealthiest Cities

Dr. Juerg Steffen

Dr. Juerg Steffen

Dr. Juerg Steffen is CEO of Henley & Partners and author of definitive books on high-net-worth relocation to Austria and Switzerland.

The ability to move yourself, your family, or your business to a more favorable city, or having the option to choose from various residences around the world, has become a crucial element in international wealth and legacy planning for affluent individuals. Increasing numbers of global investors are utilizing investment migration as a mechanism to invest in, access, and operate across a range of wealth hubs worldwide.

And as people from all walks of life continue to flock to urban centers, there is mounting competition among governments and cities across the world to attract wealthy individuals by implementing tailored investment migration programs that offer both the investor and the host mutual gains. Seven of the world’s Top 10 wealthiest cities with the highest millionaire populations are in countries that offer residence by investment programs, presenting a pathway to residence rights and access to desirable jurisdictions for global investors and their families.

Skyline of Lower Manhattan in New York City, USA

The leading drivers motivating millionaire migration

Wealthy families gravitate to the world’s leading and fastest growing wealth hubs for a range of different reasons including their world-class healthcare, their proximity to top-ranking universities, their socio-political stability, or their investor-friendly incentives. In Europe the Swiss Residence Program has gained in popularity, not only due to the tax incentives on offer but also for lifestyle reasons, as access to cutting-edge private healthcare has become a priority for many affluent individuals — especially in the post-Covid era.

Dubai — the UAE’s crown jewel — ranks as the Middle East’s most favored city for millionaires, now hosting over 68,400. The city has established itself as a future-thinking hub that promotes business thanks to its streamlined tax and legal eco-system. In a bid to retain talent and entice even more affluent foreign investors, the government has expanded the UAE Residence by Investment program, whereby a 10-year renewable residence permit is granted to qualifying individuals.

Access America’s wealthiest cities

Out of the Top 10 wealthiest cities in the world, three are in the USA, a country that has been built on entrepreneurial hopes and dreams, especially those of immigrants. This is borne out by the National Foundation for American Policy, which estimated that 55% of billion-dollar start-ups in the USA have been founded by immigrant entrepreneurs. The USA Wealth Report revealed that America accounts for a remarkable 32% of global wealth, making it the world’s largest private wealth market by a significant margin.

Many foreign nationals gain access to America through the US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program if they meet specific criteria such as having a net worth of over USD 1 million. The program grants the optionality to live in the USA if the applicant invests an amount ranging from USD 800,000 to USD 1,050,000 in a business enterprise that can generate at least 10 permanent full-time jobs locally. Other foreign investors opt to venture further north and explore the Canada Start-Up Visa program that has also successfully lured investors and entrepreneurs from across the world to cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.

Centers of entrepreneurial innovation

Singapore is a burgeoning hub of wealth and entrepreneurialism, second in Asia only to Tokyo in terms of the number of resident millionaires. The dynamic city-state is home to 240,100 millionaires including 329 centi-millionaires with wealth of USD 100 million or more. Demand for the Singapore Global Investor Program is growing among next-gen business owners keen to live and work from one of Asia’s top wealth centers. In a similar vein, a growing number of well-to-do entrepreneurs and investors are exploring the various Hong Kong Visa Programs in a bid to pave their way into the Chinese market.

The UK Innovator Program is an alternative start-up incentive program for those who want to establish business operations in London, a city that is already home to 258,000 millionaires of whom 384 are centi-millionaires. On the other side of the world, vibrant Sydney continues to entice high-net-worth individuals and their families thanks to its safe environment, superb quality of life, business stability, and strong economy. It is ranked 10th in the Top 10 wealthiest cities in the world, with many millionaires opting for the Australia Business Innovation and Investment Program, one of several residence by investment programs on offer, as their gateway to Australia.

Playgrounds for the wealthy

Cities are not only shaped by those who live and invest in them but also by those who visit and return time and time again, attracted by their dynamism, cosmopolitanism, leisure activities and their business potential. According to our latest research, the most popular vacation hotspots of choice for the world’s centi-millionaires are chiefly located in the USA, France, and Portugal.

In peak months of the year, the beachfront metropolis of Miami entices over 800 centi-millionaires, which is over four-fold its usual resident centi-millionaire population of 160. At the height of summer, the Hamptons experience the most notable surge in their affluent populace which grows from 25 resident centi-millionaires to well over 700 who all gather at this high-end coastal community.

Across the pond, it is no surprise that dazzling Paris ranks as Europe’s top centi-millionaire hotspot, pulling in over 300 centi-millionaires in record months. The French capital is followed closely by Nice, and the picturesque Golden Triangle of the Algarve, each of which see over 200 centi-millionaires congregating during the peak season to enjoy the warm climate and high life that is on offer.

Despite all the environmental, socio-political, and economic disruptions occurring on the global stage today, cities will continue to thrive as they have done throughout the ages. And those that can attract forward-thinkers, innovators, and investors, and via investment migration programs, incentivize them to acquire real estate, set up homes, invest capital, and build communities, will remain at the forefront of the list of the world’s wealthiest cities.

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