Dubai: More and more expatriates living in the UAE are looking to buy a second passport as they seek to travel freely and improve tax planning and security.
According to Dubai-based Citizenship Invest, there has been a spike in interest in acquiring residency rights from people originating from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine.
The increase in demand was observed after the European nations and United States implemented stringent immigration policies. It was back in 2017 when US president Donald Trump ordered a ban on travellers from Muslim-majority countries.
Second passports, which are being offered by countries like Cyprus, Malta and those in the Caribbean in exchange for an investment, have been rising in popularity among affluent individuals, as they provide visa-free entry to a number of states, including those in Schengen and European Union.
Many of such programmes also enable investors to legally obtain residency or citizenship rights in less than six months without having to move outside the UAE, but they come with a hefty cost, and in many cases, an applicant needs to set aside between Dh360,000 to more than Dh5 million.
Among Syrian expatriates in the UAE alone, the number of people looking to sign up for such programmes increased by 20 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016, while applications from Lebanese went up by 17 per cent, Iraqis by 10 per cent and Palestinians by nine per cent.
A similar trend can also be noted during the first few weeks of the year, and more than half (57 per cent) of those who are eager to get a new citizenship are families, according to Citizenship Invest, which assists individuals in obtaining residency rights in foreign countries.
Veronica Cotdemiey, CEO of Citizenship Invest, said it is the need for travel freedom, better security for family members and business interests, among others, that are driving a number of expats to secure a second passport.
“Visa-free travel, family security, expanding businesses, preservation of wealth and double tax agreements are some of the few benefits that these individuals wish to attain when looking for an alternative citizenship,” she said.
“The fact that investors can obtain a second passport in less than six months without having to move to any of these countries is essential for our clients when applying. This relieves them from needing to migrate and disrupt their lives and businesses.”
Citizenship Invest clarified that the increase in demand can also be attributed to the latest amendments in the citizenship legislation of countries with the most popular citizenship programmes among Middle East investors, such as Saint Kitts & Nevis and Antigua & Barbuda.
The new changes have effectively decreased the application costs by 50 per cent, which have made it a much more accessible process.
Here are some of the countries that offer foreigners a second citizenship:
One of the most highly recommended destinations, Cyprus can issue a European passport in only six months without requiring applicants to relocate. A Cypriot passport allows citizens to visit more than 100 countries visa-free and offers them a chance to live and work anywhere in the European Union.
Cost: Investment of 2 million euros in luxury real estate, which can be sold after three years.
Number of countries with visa-free access: 145
Those who are able to obtain a second passport from this Caribbean country can also enjoy residency in the United States. Grenada is said to be the only Caribbean state that allows citizens visa-free access to China – something that entrepreneurs can really take advantage of, especially if they have business operations and ties with China. Applicants are not required to relocate.
Cost: US$200,000 contribution to Grenada’s National Transformation Fund
Number of countries with visa-free access: 120, including China, Schengen states and the United Kingdom
The country has a citizenship by investment program established since 1991 and it allows full rights in exchange for a sum of US$100,000. Like a few other countries, Dominica doesn’t require applicants to live in the country.
Cost: US$100,000 contribution to Dominica’s government fund
Number of countries with visa-free access: 118