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As the astute American writer and mathematician John Allen Paulos put it: “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is – and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”

Today this sentiment is being played out by the surge in demand for immigration and second citizenship and residency to answer needs such as personal safety, visa-free travel, and a secure destination in times of crisis.

The numbers speak for themselves. Migrants – defined as people living outside their country of birth whether for work, to follow family, to study, or to escape adversity – numbered over 250 million in 2017, according to a Forbes report.

Even before the pandemic hit, the rise in searches for a so-called ‘Plan B’ destination was soaring.

Deepanshu Choudhry, Legal Manager at immigration consultancy firm Step Global, explains, “It was essentially driven by certain pull factors, or reasons for moving to a particular country. These include new opportunities in terms of career objectives, or something desirable like social security, a better climate, or more individual freedom.”

Choudhry adds that in the UAE his company has seen two main reasons for residents seeking out overseas migration. “First, business expansion into new territories, and secondly, educational and employment opportunities for children.”

Key trends

Step Global has seen a strong preference in the UAE towards politically stable and progressive nations in North America such as the US and Canada.

However, the coronavirus has had a profound impact on immigration, as Aishwarya Vijay, Senior Manager, Immigration Services, at Dubai-based Cosmos Immigration explains.

“Covid-19 has massively changed the way that business operates, both internationally and domestically, and the impact on immigration practice has similarly been dramatic,” she says.

“For many people around the world travel restrictions and trade wars have been an eye-opener and dealt a severe blow to migration plans. However, we have seen no negative impact on countries like Canada which has raised the bar with its positive approach to immigrants.

“Considering the economic fall due to the pandemic, having a backup plan is a major decision that families should be making,” she says. “Skilled immigration is one of the best backup options for those looking for a secure life considering the fact that countries like Canada and Australia provide social benefits to residents straight away.”

Living in the UAE

The UAE government is doing much to further boost this country’s appeal as a migrant destination. Visa regulations in the country have eased in recent times, with new legislation including the introduction of a five-year retirement visa for those aged over 55 years with an investment of Dh2 million or more in the property market, those with an income more than Dh20,000 per month, or those with more than Dh1 million in capital.

Other options include five-year visa terms for investors who purchase above the Dh5 million threshold. In addition, a range of business investment visas have also been approved. Those with capital investments of over Dh10 million in enterprise can obtain a 10-year visa, where up to 40 per cent of the investment can be related to property purchases, says Taimur Khan, Associate Partner at Knight Frank.

“Other entrepreneurs in the UAE with previous business investments worth over Dh500,000, or those with a business which is accredited by a business incubator, will be able to obtain a five-year visa with the possibility of obtaining the business investor visa, should they eventually meet the criteria,” Khan adds.

“Finally, the legislation also allows for a 10-year visa for high value talent in selected fields, as well as five-year visas for students who are studying in the UAE, and their families.”

Citizenship by investment
An offshoot in the demand for immigration is the boom in Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programmes, which is a way to secure a second citizenship in another country by investing in its economy – usually through real estate or establishing a business.
“The disruption in the global supply chain this year has spurred investors to expand their businesses in the global market through opening new companies abroad or expansion of existing businesses,” says Mimoun Assraoui, CEO of top advisory RIF Trust.
Assraoui says that since the pandemic started, Caribbean countries have notably implemented policy changes to further attract CBI investors.
“St Kitts and Nevis introduced an attractive limited time offer of $150,000 (Dh551,000)on their contribution option for a family of up to four and allowed the main applicant or spouse to add their siblings to their application.
“Dominica expanded their definition of dependents to include children aged 18 to 30 years and offer citizenship to the future children of the main applicant or spouse.
“Antigua and Barbuda allowed the main applicant or spouse to add their unmarried sibling to their application and lowered the age requirements for parents or grandparents from 58 to 55 years old, while increasing dependent children to age 30.
“Finally, St Lucia introduced a 50 per cent savings through their Covid-19 Relief Bond investment option which starts from $250,000.”
Get a second passport in Malta
Malta has just rolled out a new policy named the Maltese Exceptional Investor Naturalisation (MEIN). “Under this naturalisation policy, a family can qualify for Maltese citizenship by donating €10,000 (Dh44.600) towards an approved philanthropic cause and a direct investment of either €600,000 after a minimum of 36 months residency or €750,000 after a minimum of 12 months residency, and either leasing or purchasing a property from a wide range of real estate options,” says David Regueiro, COO of RIF Trust. “Spouse, children, and grandparents can be included by contributing €50,000 for each family member.”