In an unsettled, ever-changing world, acquiring alternative residency or citizenship is a wise decision and an insurance policy for the future. This market sentiment continues to drive the demand side of the investment migration industry around the world, notably in north and southeast Asia.
THE POWER OF A SECOND PASSPORT
Visa-free travel has historically been a core motivation compelling many wealthy Asian individuals and their families to seek second or alternative citizenship. This is a continuing trend, particularly in Asia, where aside from Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore, the general ease of travel allowed by Asia-domiciled passports is relatively poor.
The 2018 edition of the Henley Passport Index provides a ranking of all the passports of the world according to the number of destinations their holders can travel to visa-free. The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association, which maintains the world’s largest and most comprehensive database of travel information and is enhanced by extensive in-house research.
According to Henley’s latest data, Japan has the highest-ranking passport in 2018, with visa-free access to 189 destinations. Coming in second was a tie between Germany and Singapore, at 188 destinations. For Asia, South Korea’s passport remains strong, coming in third place (along with Finland, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden) at 187 visa-free destinations. Other key Asian countries, however, do not perform well. Thailand is ranked 64th with visa-free access to 76 destinations, Indonesia is 67th with 71 destinations, China is 68th with 70 destinations, the Philippines is 70th with 66 destinations, and Vietnam is 84th with 51 destinations.
Most countries in Southeast Asia have shown an improvement in their visa-free access in 2018 compared with the prior year. Indonesia was a very individual climber in the region, rising in the ranks by an impressive 12 positions over the past year. Thailand climbed three positions and the Philippines by five. Other countries that improved their ranks include Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Timor-Leste.
WORLD ECONOMY IS GLOBALIZED
As the world economy is becoming increasingly globalized, the need for greater visa-free access is growing steadily. Across the economic spectrum, individuals want to transcend the constraints imposed on them by their country of origin, and access business and financial, career and lifestyle opportunities on a global scale. Today, a person of talent and means doesn’t need to limit his or her life and citizenship to only one country. Making an active decision regarding citizenship gives more personal freedom, privacy, and security.
On the supply side, there is only a limited number of countries that offer citizenship-by-investment programs, but this number has consistently increased over the years. Now, clients can potentially become citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, Cyprus, Grenada, Malta, or St. Kitts and Nevis to name a few, or they may follow a clear route to citizenship after a reasonable period of residence in countries such as Australia, Canada, Portugal, Singapore, the United Kingdom, or the United States.
Whether it’s residence- or citizenship-by-investment, whichever route is chosen at the outset, or later, there are immense additional benefits of safety and security for successful applicants and potentially for their families. Overall, having a second residence or citizenship is a valuable safeguard against the possibility of political or economic upheavals in one’s country of birth.
THE CITIZENSHIP AND RESIDENCE OPTIONS
The decision to apply for residence- or citizenship-by-investment cannot be taken lightly – it must be carefully considered and professionally managed. Those interested in applying should seek expert advice and assistance in identifying the best solution for themselves and their families, given their unique personal circumstances and future objectives. This includes conducting an in-depth analysis of the various options available followed by advising on the appropriate course of action and then guiding clients through what is often a very complex process.
Residence-by-investment is the less complicated option, while citizenship-by-investment is, understandably, the choice that involves more rigorous processes. While Europe is generally the preferred location for clients from countries in Asia who seek alternative citizenship, due to its social and legal infrastructure and excellent security, it comes at a higher price than the Caribbean, which offers an appealing – and less expensive – alternative for citizenship-by-investment.
For those solely seeking visa-free travel, it is generally advisable to opt for one of the Caribbean programs, while those with family relocation or retirement in a different country in mind should look more towards Europe.
In Europe, the three key destinations for citizenship are Austria, Malta, and Cyprus due to their combination of regulatory accessibility, cost, and the reasonable demands placed on applicants. In the Caribbean, Grenada is currently in high demand due to its attractive and unique benefits, including the fact that Grenada has an E-2 treaty with the U.S. and visa-free access to China.
Wealthy individuals are more cosmopolitan and transnational today than ever before, with roots, networks, assets, properties, and even citizenship spanning multiple countries. In many ways, global connectivity has become an indispensable feature of wealth creation and wealth preservation, and its value will only grow as regional volatility and instability increase.