Dubai: When people consider immigrating to a new country, the most important factors to consider are high levels of safety and security in the country.
The other elements to look for are a clean environment, business expansion opportunities, ease of travel, access to high-quality education for children, healthcare facilities for the family, and low or no tax schemes on corporate or personal income.
The well-known places to look for when considering citizenship by investment are St Kitts and Nevis, Austria, Malta, Montenegro, Turkey, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Jordan and more.
Migrating through a residency by investment program requires the investor to invest in another country to seek residence. The investor will then be eligible to take up residence in the place to live, work, etc., but the investor will need to stay in that country for a specific number of years to apply for permanent residence.
Several places offer attractive residency by investment programs, including Austria, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Canada, USA, Switzerland, and more.
Mimoun Assraoui, CEO of Dubai-based citizenship and residency by investment specialist RIF Trust, said that several expats in the UAE come from countries with weaker passports.
Hence, they seek to obtain a second citizenship or European Union (EU) residency, which provide greater visa-free travel flexibility when travelling for leisure or looking to expand their business outside the UAE, added Assraoui, who also serves as chairman of Latitude, a UK-based investment migration consultant.
“It is easier for certain nationalities to open a bank account, hold a tenancy agreement or redistribute their wealth worldwide under their second citizenship,” he added.
Here are investment migration advisories top picks and advice on the nations that offer the best residency and citizenship by investment programs.
1. St Kitts and Nevis
Why St Kitts and Nevis? The beautiful two-island state of St Kitts and Nevis, located in the Eastern Caribbean to the west of Antigua and Barbuda and the south of Anguilla, is ideal to obtain a second citizenship by investment.
"It is an affordable place to live, a serene island lifestyle amidst the calm nature. You will get optimal wealth planning benefits with no tax on worldwide income in this idyllic location," said George Eid, Vice President at Dubai-based financial consultant Arton Capital.
Assraoui said that this place is famous for its pristine white beaches, clear water, warm weather, and relaxed lifestyle. The majority of visitors are arriving from North America and Europe. "Tourism attracts over 600,000 visitors every year and contributes to a significant portion of the island's $1.5 billion (Dh 5.51 billion) annual income."
What must I know about cost of living?: He added that as the islands are becoming increasingly developed, living costs are somewhat higher than other less developed Caribbean islands. The average monthly price of living for a single person is $2,000 (Dh7,346) and for a family of four $5,000 (Dh18,365).
What about taxation? St Kitts and Nevis do not impose any personal income tax, estate, succession, inheritance, or net worth tax even if citizens reside in the country, he said.
"The corporate tax rate is set at 35 per cent in St Kitts and Nevis, although attractive provisions are in place for offshore companies. Additionally, there is an annual property tax in St Kitts and Nevis, which is minimal and calculated on the property's market value. There is also Value-added tax (VAT) of 17 per cent."
What investment programs does the place offer? St Kitts and Nevis have no restrictions on dual citizenship, and the government offers an accelerated application process option, which reduces the processing period to 60 days or less. This makes the place one of the most efficient citizenship by investment programs in the Caribbean.
St Kitts and Nevis offer citizenship by investment through two different options, the Sustainable Growth Fund or investing in a government-approved real estate development.
Eid added, "For the Sustainable Growth Fund, a $150,000 (Dh550,950) investment is needed for a single applicant, or a $195,000 (Dh716,235) for a family of up to 4 people, the investor would qualify for citizenship within three months."
"Alternatively, investors can purchase government-approved property or shares of a property valued at a minimum of $400,000 (Dh1.5 million) and maintained for a minimum of five years. A $200,000 (Dh734,600) investment in a government-approved project held for seven years is another option."
Why Portugal? Portugal is the leading European destination with a stable political and social environment, clear and transparent tax regime, good infrastructure, a favourable investment climate and an excellent quality of life for individuals and families seeking residence.
"If an investor and their family are looking to obtain EU residency that leads to Citizenship in the shortest time while having minimum stay requirements – then Portugal is their best option," said Richard Soderlund, Regional Director, Migratio Dubai.
What must I know about cost of living? Portugal's cost of living is generally lower than other European countries. "A couple can get by on $2,500 (Dh9,182) per month. Rent depends on budget, the quality required and location, but a furnished two-bedroom starts at $600/month (Dh2,203) in a suburban area close to capital city Lisbon," he added.
"Education is very affordable, and being a Portuguese resident, you are eligible for further discounts. A semester at the top law school in Lisbon would be $2,000 (Dh7346)."
What investment programs does the place offer? Soderlund said for the Golden Visa; investment starts at 280,000 euros (Dh1.2 million) for real estate. "There is also an investment fund option that starts at 350,000 euros (Dh1.5 million) minimum investment; however, from Jan 1, 2022, this minimum will be increased to 500,000 euros (Dh2.2 million)."
"For the ‘Portugal Passive Income Visa’ or ‘D7’ visa, the applicant needs to demonstrate that they receive regular 'passive' income, which may be derived from a pension, rental, dividends, or certain categories of investment income. For a single applicant, this amount needs to equal the minimum average salary of Portugal –7,620 euros (Dh33,995)."
You can apply for citizenship after holding EU Residency for only five years with a minimum stay requirement of 35 days during the five years. "This means that investors can live in their primary country while maintaining residency in Portugal and receive Citizenship after five years," Soderlund added.
"For a family sponsorship, for the Golden visa, there are additional government fees to be made. Children up to the ages of 18 are eligible, and those older need to provide proof of studies," he said.
What about taxation? "Personal taxation for non-residents on Portuguese-sourced employment and pension income is charged at a preferential rate of 25 per cent, although interest and rental income, dividends and capital gains are taxed at 28 per cent," said Assraoui.
Assraoui further explained that personal taxation for non-residents on Portuguese-sourced employment and pension income is charged at a preferential rate of 25 per cent. The interest and rental income, dividends and capital gains are taxed at 28 per cent, he added.
"For new residents wanting to stay for longer periods and reside in Portugal, the Non-Habitual Residents (NHR) tax regime is more beneficial. Once NHR tax status is obtained, income derived from a foreign source and employment income, pension income and business and professional income can be subject to tax exemptions.
“Any income derived from a Portuguese source will be subject to income tax at a flat rate of 20 per cent, though some surcharges may apply. Furthermore, Portugal does not apply a wealth, gift, or inheritance tax."
Why Canada? Anwais Arif, Managing Director at Dubai-based Continental Migration Services added that citizens could avail themselves of old-age benefits and retirement plans. Moreover, he said lenient procedures, hassle-free migration process, and world-class lifestyle further draw immigrants to this place.
Arif further pointed out that investments in Canada give an excellent return on your investment. "Investing in property is a good option as the price is always appreciated. However, don't invest in business startups, stocks and bonds until you have current market know-how. So, seek expert advice before considering the investment."
Shahrukh Abbas, Founding and Managing Partner, Ace Luxury Immigration Services said that Canada offers the best of security of life, public healthcare system, welfarism, free education for your children and access to the North American business market, and provides a lenient immigration policy.
What must I know about cost of living? The cost of living indices shows that it's slightly expensive to live in a city like Toronto or Vancouver. Residing in the outskirts or other cities can be somewhat less costly, Abbas pointed out. "It also depends whether you are renting a house or owing a property. Average family expenditure would be anywhere from $4,000-$7,000 (Dh14,692 – Dh25,711) every month.
What about taxation? Canada is a progressive taxation country. "The tax you pay is reflected in the form of the welfare the state provides in return for it. Canadian federal and provincial governments spend tax money on unemployment benefits, kids benefits and on civil works. During COVID-19 pandemic, C$115 billion ($95.16 billion or Dh349.5 billion) relief package has been unveiled. The allocation includes relief for hard-hit business sectors, investments in long-term care homes and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine."
“In Canada, both federal and provincial governments levy taxes on one’s income either from job or investments. Each province, for example Ontario, have their own tax rates and brackets, which is called Graduated Tax. This means a taxpayer falls in one of the brackets and each bracket is taxed at a different rate. If someone’s income increases and he enters a new bracket, the excess amount that falls in the higher tax bracket gets taxed at a higher rate.”
What investment programs does the place offer? Abbas added that business immigration programs could start from as low as $25,000 (Dh91827), giving you a work permit to Canada. Some permanent residency options can start from $50,000 (Dh183,655) or so, Abbas added.
"There are also options of buying a business in Canada as an entrepreneur, which can lead to permanent residency. One needs to be watchful of getting the file processed through the right professional. One should also be careful of misrepresentation in their file, as it can lead to a ban to enter Canada," he added.
Abbas further said that there is nothing called citizenship by investment in Canada that means you cannot buy Canadian passport, as you can do for Caribbean countries. "All the routes lead to Residency by Investment. To become a citizen, one needs to live in Canada for three years. However, children born in Canada are Canadian Citizens," he explained.
Why Malta? "Malta is a Mediterranean island with a significant historical and cultural legacy spanning over 7,000 years. The country is well-respected and a member of the European Union. It is one of the most exceptional places to do business that has fastest-growing economies and the top GDP growth rates in the EU," Assraoui added.
"Malta boasts some of the world's leading medical services and facilities with over 60 per cent of its population already vaccinated against COVID-19. The place offers several high-quality educational opportunities for children."
What must I know about cost of living? The average cost of living per month in Malta for an individual is 750 euros (Dh3,345), and a family of four is 2,700 euros (Dh12,045), he said.
What about taxation?: Assraoui added that individuals considered Malta residents but not domiciled only pay tax on income earned within or remitted to Malta. "If individuals stay over 183 days per annum in this place or make the country their primary place of residence, they are taxed on their worldwide income with a personal tax rate up to 35 per cent."
"This country does not have levy estate or gift taxes but does collect a capital gains tax on various assets, and the standard VAT in Malta is set at 18 per cent. While the corporate tax rate is 35 per cent, certain exemptions do exist for non-resident companies."
What investment programs does the place offer? Following the overwhelming success of the Malta Individual Investor Programme, the Maltese Exceptional Investment Naturalisation (MEIN) has just been established by the Maltese Government, Assraoui added.
"It allows for the granting of Maltese citizenship following a period of residency. Successful families enjoy being a citizen of a stable and safe EU country with a strong economy and visa-free travel to 184 countries, including the USA," he explained.
"Malta has very high due diligence standards ensuring only the most reputable applicants are approved. Requirements for individuals and their families include making a direct investment to Malta's National Development and Social Fund starting from either 600,000 euros (Dh2.7 million) after a minimum of 36 months residency or 750,000 euros (Dh3.3 million) after a minimum of 12 months residency."
If you want to include spouse, children, parents, and grandparents in the application, an additional 50,000 euros (Dh223,065) each is required, Assraoui said.
"In addition to a 10,000 euros (Dh44613) charitable donation, applicants must also lease a residential property in Malta for 16,000 euros (Dh71,380) each year for a least five years after naturalization or purchase a residential property in Malta for 700,000 euros (Dh3.1 million) and hold it for five years after naturalisation."
Citizenship is for life and can be passed on to future generations and affords the right to work and live in Malta and a wealth of other intangible benefits, he said.