Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, St Kitts island Image Credit: Shutterstock

Whether it’s for wealth planning and tax benefits or creating long-term value for your family and business through enhanced mobility, a strong second passport can be an asset that serves both as an insurance policy against an unpredictable future and a tool to unlock new growth opportunities.

Scores of people from around the world are exploring the benefits of second citizenship and residency programmes to ensure future security and mobility.

Various benefits encourage people to invest in a second citizenship. For 50-year-old Indian national D.B., who has recently invested in Portugal’s Golden Visa, access to Schengen and European Union nations and the promise of a better future for his children were the biggest draws.

“With a Portuguese passport, my children will have access to better education, world-class healthcare system and job opportunities,” says D.B., a client of PTGoldenVisa, which specialises in Portugal’s Golden Visa programme. “This has also helped me protect my assets, while opening new markets for my business. Investments in Portugal have offered me the safety and stability that are very crucial for me and my family during these unpredictable times. The Portuguese investment migration programme has offered the freedom of living wherever I want with one of the strongest passports in the world.”

The pandemic-fuelled travel restrictions and the current socio-economic upheavals in many countries have driven significant interest in the sector. Experts suggest that the sector will grow further as governments around the world update existing programmes and launch new ones to draw investors and talents from across the world to support their post-pandemic recovery. The investment migration market was estimated at $21.4 billion (Dh78.59 billion) in 2019, with projections suggesting it will reach $100 billion in revenue by 2025 if the 23 per cent growth trend persists, according to Investment Migration Insider, a knowledge platform for the sector.

Drivers of growth

“Investment migration is a fantastic opportunity for anyone looking to expand their travel or business prospects,” says Ahmed Adel, Senior Executive at Second Passport Consultants. “The immense popularity of migration is due to the value of freedom as a commodity — freedom from travel bans and other movement restrictions — and the increased awareness about the benefits of CBI and RBI programmes.

Ahmed Adel, Second Passport Consultants

“Investors are also becoming aware of the benefits of growing their businesses with a passport of higher mobility score, which allows for greater ease of travel. We predict a steady rise in the number of people seeking out these investment opportunities. Investment migration will only continue to become more popular over time.”

Obtaining a second citizenship is straightforward, if you fulfil certain requirements or qualifications and have a clean record. Based on the programme, the application process and eligibility criteria vary.

Portugal offers one of the most competitive investment migration programmes in the European Union and its Golden Visa scheme has been growing in popularity globally since the pandemic struck.

Portugal’s stable economy and changes in investment rules have offered investors a safe haven to protect and grow wealth.

“It is the only scheme that allows foreign investors and their family members to claim citizenship without relocation,” explains David Machado, Partner, PTGoldenVisa. “With a minimum investment of €280,000 (Dh1.04 million), investors are eligible to apply for the Portuguese passport, ranking among the world’s most powerful and travel-friendly passports, after five years.

David Machado, PTGoldenVisa

“Portuguese passport grants visa-free access to more than 170 countries. The government has also introduced tax programmes and incentives for foreign businesses and investors, and the country offers stable political and economic situation.”

This year, the Portuguese government has introduced various new measures to redirect investments to the country’s interior regions. Currently, residential properties can be bought only in designated interior areas of Portugal and islands. However, in high-density areas, it is still possible to invest in commercial properties.

In Europe, Malta’s investment migration programme has also gained traction among GCC investors. “With a lower investment amount of only €125,000, it’s a good option for those seeking EU residency and citizenship through a stable and highly respected process,” says John Hanafin, Founder and CEO of Huriya Private.

John Hanafin, Huriya Private

“Malta passport holders benefit from an attractive tax regime. Citizenship in Malta also provides you access to all investments, education, and work opportunities across the European Union. In addition, investors will be able to travel visa-free to over 160 counties with one of the most powerful passports in the world,” he adds.

Although the price for the US EB-5 investor programme has increased this year, it continues to be in high demand owing to its range of benefits for children and families in the areas of employment, education and retirement, says Preeya Malik, Managing Director, Step Global. “It also comes with the security of obtaining US permanent residency and eventually a passport.”

The pandemic has also sparked intense interest in citizenship by investment programmes in the Caribbean islands, which greatly expand travel opportunities for investors.

While Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis have always been the preferred options for investors in the Caribbean, immigration consultants have witnessed a strong uptake in the investment migration programmes for Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and St Lucia. The application process for most of the Caribbean nations is quite streamlined and can be rounded up in just four to six months, say industry experts.

Bashar Daoud, Bluemina Citizenship & Residency

“Caribbean programmes allow investors to legally acquire an alternative citizenship without renouncing their current nationality or relocating to another destination,” says Bashar Daoud, Managing Partner, Bluemina Citizenship & Residency. “These programmes also offer the benefits of visa-free travel, tax advantages, the option to freely open offshore companies and bank accounts worldwide, and protection from economic and political volatilities.”

Pathways to residency and citizenship

There are several ways to secure a second passport in the European Union and the Caribbean nations. An applicant needs to park a specified sum in a particular area – usually real estate, bank deposits, or government bonds. For many people, investing in property is, however, the preferred route due to rental income and high capital appreciation.

“Demand in Portugal’s real estate market is growing in double digits,” says Machado. “The Golden Visa programme covers only 5 per cent of that demand. PTGoldenVisa has a wide variety of investment options in the city centre of Lisbon from €350,000, and a great range of off-plan projects of luxurious villas in Lisbon from €500,000. We have also identified several good value-for-money properties in the remote areas for €280,000, which qualify clients for the Golden Visa.”

Caribbean countries also have a host of pre-approved real estate developments, which include hotel shares, ocean side villas, and resort condominium units that offer a positive return on investment.

Michael Waechter, Abode Options

Investing in a growth fund is also a lucrative pathway to secure a second citizenship. For example, the sustainable growth fund option in St Kitts and Nevis is a stable and secure way to gain second citizenship, says Michael Waechter, Managing Director, Abode Options. “The idea behind this option is to provide resources to key areas like education, health, climate change and resilience, infrastructure, tourism and culture, and promotion of indigenous entrepreneurship to benefit all citizens of St Kitts & Nevis, including those obtaining citizenship through the CBI programme.

The fund helps St Kitts & Nevis to realise its potential as a prospering small-island nation with an accelerating economy. The investment in the fund starts at $150,000 for a single applicant and $195,000 for a family of four.”

Ritika Sinha, iKonnect Citizens

With so many programmes on offer, it’s not always easy to decide on the right scheme. “Choosing a wrong investment immigration programme can have serious repercussions on your business and family and lead to unwanted stress,” warns Ritika Sinha, Managing Partner, iKonnect Citizens. “This is why we offer a free consultation session to understand your requirements and then recommend the best programme for your lifestyle and needs. In addition to choosing an authorised partner who can help you during the application process, there are several other factors you must consider before signing up for a programme. These include the investment amount of the programme, location, benefits obtained upon acquisition of citizenship, visa-free travel options, tax optimisation facilities, commitment by the agency and the due diligence process involved in the programme.”

Why it’s worth investing in St Kitts and Nevis

In conversation with Paul Singh, Director, CS Global Partners

Paul Singh, CS Global Partners

What are the key benefits of investing in St Kitts & Nevis?

As the longest-running programme in the world, St Kitts and Nevis’ Citizenship by Investment Programme holds the Platinum Standard in the investment immigration industry. It has been acknowledged as one of the best in the world in the 2021 CBI Index.

The programme offers a wealth of benefits for economic citizens and their families. This includes a better quality of life, safety and security, enhanced global mobility, economic opportunities, and the invaluable option of passing down citizenship for generations to come, and establishing your family’s future legacy. Applicants also have the option to reside in the country with full living and working rights.

How does CS Global Partners help investors choose the right programme?

Our team of citizenship experts carefully guide clients through the application process, which begins with a free consultation. As each person comes with their own unique circumstances and needs, it is important to get to know them. This information allows us to recommend a programme that would suit them and their own personal circumstances.

US EB-5 investment programme: Things to know

Preeya Malik, Step Global

“The EB-5 programme was reauthorised this March with a host of new regulations. However, many of these regulations have been implemented for the security and benefit of the investors,” says Preeya Malik, Managing Director, Step Global. “A significant portion of the annual 10,000 EB-5 visa limit has been set aside for certain categories of projects such as rural and infrastructure projects thereby reintroducing the original purpose of the EB-5 programme, which was to bolster development in certain areas of the US and for projects with some type of national interest. This will fast track processing for projects falling into these categories. Although the price of the programme has now increased to $800,000 for a full family, investors can now take advantage of entering the US right away through a concurrent adjustment of status filing rather than waiting until the EB-5 application is fully processed.”

Tips for selecting the right programme

Tony Ebraheem, 111 Immigration

“Choosing an investment migration programme among a host of options is not easy. This is why investors must have a thorough knowledge of the pros and cons of various programmes, their application process, and they should be also aware of the consequences of their investments,” says Tony Ebraheem, Founder, 111 Immigration.

“Determine a programme after balancing the benefits, investment amount and the time frame,” adds Ebraheem, who is also a lawyer. “Also ensure that the programme complies with all legal standards. Choose an expert consultant — based on their years of experience and the number of cases they have handled in the past — who can guide you during this process.”