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Prior to Covid-19, the convenience and privileges of visa-free travel and second homes were considered nice-to-have assets for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs). However, in the pandemic alternative residence and citizenship are rapidly becoming must-have assets, not just to survive but to thrive, as evidenced by the spike in interest.

Henley & Partners saw a nearly 50 per cent increase in enquiries over the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year, says Dr Juerg Steffen, the CEO of the global residence and citizenship planning firm. “While the surge in interest shown by citizens of emerging economies such as India and Nigeria is expected, a fascinating turn of events is the growing attention from nationals of leading developed nations. Most notable is America, with a dramatic 100 per cent increase in enquiries from US citizens in the six months to June compared to the same period in 2019, along with significantly greater interest shown by Canadians and UK citizens.”

The Great Lockdown brought on by Covid-19 has made people re-evaluate their lives. Those fortunate enough are reconsidering where they want to live and an increasing number are opting for investment migration. “Many are taking stock and ensuring they are better prepared for the next pandemic or major global disruption,” explains Dr Steffen. “The volatility in terms of both wealth and lifestyle has resulted in a significant shift in how alternative residence and citizenship are perceived by HNWIs around the world.”

The volatility in terms of both wealth and lifestyle has resulted in a significant shift in how alternative residence and citizenship are perceived by HNWIs around the world.

- Dr Juerg Steffen, CEO, Henley & Partners

Surge in interest

In terms of total enquiries in the first six months of 2020, Indians outstripped all other nationalities. Henley & Partners received 96.5 per cent more enquiries from Indians than Nigerians, who were placed second, followed by Pakistanis and, startlingly, US citizens.

“We recorded an astonishing 185 per cent increase in enquiries from Nigerian citizens between the first two quarters, and increases of 48 per cent, 46 per cent, and 40 per cent from South African, Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals respectively, while the growth in enquiries from Indians was an impressive 28 per cent — all on the back of healthy first-quarter enquiry levels,” says Dr Steffen. “Perhaps the most remarkable Covid-related shift, however, was the huge spike in enquiries from Americans along with growing interest from Canadian and UK nationals.”

For decades, visa policies were designed to keep out illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and terrorists. Citizens of wealthy and democratic countries including Canada, the US and Western European nations were not considered risks and enjoyed extensive visa-free travel. In the current crisis, a new category of risk has emerged: the spreader. Since the US and Western Europe were among the world’s hardest hit areas, their citizens faced stringent mobility restrictions. “While this situation is temporary, in the long run it could well erode the prestige of EU and Western passports,” explains Dr Steffen.

Nineteen of the G20 nations offer residence rights in exchange for inward investment. The 20th member is the EU, and 60 per cent of its member states offer investment migration options. Several countries that host these programmes rank highly on indexes such as the 2020 Global Peace Index (GPI), which measures the level of peacefulness in 163 states; the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business ranking of 190 economies; and Deep Knowledge Analytics’ updated Covid-19 Regional Safety Assessment rank of 250 countries, regions and territories released in August. New Zealand comes out on top in these rankings. Other secure alternatives include Singapore, Austria, Australia and Montenegro. Among the Caribbean small-island nations, St Lucia is the programme of choice for HNWIs.

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Futureproof your family

As we plunge into the worst recession since the Great Depression, proactive HNWIs who have invested in alternative residence or citizenship are best placed to weather the prolonged storm. Many business owners and investors have realised that they can operate remotely and don’t need to be based in or close to the financial city centres. In the post-Covid era, investment migration programmes will be a reliable back-up plan, providing investors with safety, security, stability and opportunity, including access to major money markets. “As a tried-and-tested hedge against volatility, securing alternative residence or citizenship is probably one of the safest, smartest, most sustainable investments you can make right now — an indispensable asset for many generations to come,” explains Dr Steffen. “As the industry pioneer, we are best placed to guide you and your family on your residence and citizenship options.”

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