When retirement approaches and high net worth individuals (HNWIs) are looking for a dramatic change in scenery — as well as adjusted lifestyles — many want to expand their citizenship portfolio, real estate holdings and more.
For these reasons and others, countries around the world offer second passports and/or foreign residency geared for retirees. Sometimes these are part of an overall investment package. Many of these programs also stipulate that the recipients rely on their investments or other holdings for income.
For HNWIs looking to broaden their horizons, here are some destination options based on the lifestyles they offer, potential investment opportunities, tax-friendly regimes and highly developed infrastructure.
The Cayman Islands are no stranger to the world's popular imagination. The British Overseas Territory is about as tax friendly of a jurisdiction as one can find: no income, capital gains, property, estate, inheritance, wealth, sales or corporate taxes. There are also no restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate.
Buck Grizzel, head of local business for Stuarts Walker Hersant Humphries, a law firm based on Grand Cayman, noted that the Cayman Islands are the ultimate retirement destination for a variety of reasons, namely low crime rates, first-world infrastructure with up-market commercial and residential developments, first-class healthcare and a financial services center operating on the EST time zone.
There are also ample recreational opportunities, from diving to sportfishing.
"Real estate values continue to rise as international investors seek a safe jurisdiction for their monies and their retirement," Grizzel said. "The Cayman Islands is arguably the most popular place to live and work in the Caribbean."
Sue Nickason, vice president of real estate marketing and sales at Dart Real Estate, said the Cayman Islands also offer diversity.
“With over 135 nationalities represented by a population of approximately 70,000 people, new residents feel welcome in this multi-cultural jurisdiction and often make friends while enjoying the many land- and marine-based recreational pursuits and the vibrant cultural and culinary scene,” Nickason said. “A 25-year residency through investing in real estate program makes the process of relocating to the Cayman Islands a smooth one.”
Cayman Islands residency options fast facts:
- HNWIs can get a certificate of permanent residence for persons of independent means, which grants a 25-year resident permit. Requirements include proving an annual income of about $150,000 from outside the islands, maintaining a local bank account with about a half-million dollars in it, and investment $1 million Cayman Islands dollars (of which half must be in real estate). Those figures are smaller if living on Little Cayman or Cayman Brac.
- For HNWIs who may not want to fully retire, they can also get a certificate of direct investment, which is good for 25 years. This requires a $1 million Cayman Islands dollar investment in a new or existing venture. It also requires living in the Cayman Islands at least 90 days a year.
Life in Athens, within view of the Parthenon, is another idyllic option that may appeal to many HNWIs or others who are looking for an affordable European destination that can make their money stretch far. And if cosmopolitan Athens isn't their thing, Greece has countless island and countryside locales to call home.
Greece recently approved an FIP (financial independent persons) visa. Vasiliki Papaloi, an attorney with Athens-based Papalois & Associates, noted that the FIP visa has easy requirements. These include a minimum monthly income of 2,000 euros a month (or more for people with dependents), which is easily attainable for HNWIs.
"Greece provides many qualities, like an inexpensive lifestyle," Papaloi said. "Main applicants can add their family members and can travel freely. The only restriction is to stay at least six months of the year in Greece. Also, there are many investment opportunities, especially in the real estate market."
Greece FIP visa fast facts:
- FIP visas are good for two years and must be renewed every three years.
- They do not allow for working in the country.
- They do not need a larger investment like the Greek Golden Visa, which requires purchasing at least 250,000 euros worth of real estate. This means they're more affordable, allowing retirement dollars to stretch even further.
Grenada is one of a few Caribbean island nations offering a citizenship-by-investment (CBI) program, which grants a second passport in exchange for buying local real estate or making a government donation. Though what sets Grenada's CBI program apart from its island neighbors is its slightly better passport. It has historically offered visa-free travel to both China and Russia, a privilege even American passports don't have. It also grants visa-free access to the Schengen Area and even provides a route to the United States through the E-2 visa treaty.
Grenada CBI program fast facts:
- Donation options start at $150,000 USD for individual investors. The funds go into the country's National Transformation Fund, which help a range of tourism, agriculture and infrastructure developments.
- Another CBI option is getting the passport through a real estate purchase for a minimum of $220,000 USD. These are through approved projects that are usually hotels and condos.
- A third CBI option is a bona fide business investment, with a minimum of $1.5 million USD.
St. Kitts and Nevis
Like Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis offers a CBI program. Applicants and their families receive full citizenship to the Caribbean nation, whose passport provides much of the same visa-free travel benefits as Grenada’s.
One notable strength of the St. Kitts program is its longevity and sustainability. Founded in 1984, it is the world’s longest-running CBI. This equates to a well-established governmental process that can be a smooth one achieved in a matter of months (with the right help). Should retirees want to relocate to the islands, that has plenty of its own advantages, said Stacey Ann Aberdeen, managing partner of Aberdeen Law, based in Basseterre, St. Kitts.
“St. Kitts and Nevis can be described as a tranquil gem nestled in the Eastern Caribbean,” she said. “It’s a very laidback and easy-going place, which is perfect if you’re looking to have a fun, but relaxing retirement. In addition to this relaxed environment, St. Kitts and Nevis has a strong nature-driven community, as well as sports and leisure activities, such as golf, cricket, tennis, sailing, hiking and more. Once there, you can spend your time strolling along the beaches or hiking the Mount Liamuiga in St. Kitts or Nevis Peak on the island of Nevis. There is no such thing as traffic or rush hour, which are a norm in the metropolitan cities.”
St. Kitts and Nevis CBI program fast facts:
- Passports are granted in these primary ways: $400,000 in government-approved real estate (which can be resold in five years); $200,000 in government-approved real estate (which can be resold in seven years)
- Another CBI option, which is not an investment, is a $150,000 donation to a government sustainable growth fund.
- Retirees in St. Kitts do not have personal income taxes, nor wealth, gift foreign income or capital gains taxes.
- St. Kitts has regular flights from the U.K. and United States, making it an easy travel destination.
HNWI will appreciate this Central America country's status as a tax haven, but they may not know just how highly developed and urban it is to live there. It's also affordable, making retirement dollars go far. Panama has long offered its pensionado program, which needs only $1,000 USD income a month. For citizens from certain countries, Panama also offers the Friendly Nations program for a two-year resident permit (which can later become a permanent resident permit), provided that applicants have at least $200,000 in a Panamanian bank account or $200,000 in Panama real estate.
United Arab Emirates
The UAE, for those who don't mind the sand and the heat, is the ultimate HNWI destination where money can buy most anything, from luxury goods to incredible views atop a high-rise tower. It's also a tax-friendly country, with residents earning exemptions from income, wealth, gift and inheritance taxes. It has a well-developed healthcare and infrastructure system to boot, and its location in the Middle East makes it an easy jumping-off point to other top destinations. While getting UAE citizenship is, for the most part, difficult for foreigners, getting residency is not. A renewable three-year permit (that doesn't grant any work privileges) can be granted through buying real estate worth a minimum amount of 1 million dirham (about $270,000 U.S. dollars).
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