Seen through a South Asian prism, Citizenship and Residency by Investment Programmes are looking an increasingly attractive proposition.
A snap shot brief for PIOs considering Citizenship by investment and residency.
Life is hard for many people of the Indian diaspora. From the riots in South Africa to the racial tensions in many Caribbean islands, many South Asians are turning to Citizenship by Investment as an insurance policy, if things go south. Here is our guide expressly designed for South Asians.
Bulgaria Contemplates Ending ‘Golden Visa’ Scheme
In February 2022 came news that Bulgaria passed a bill ending ‘golden visas,’ a scheme whereby investors can become citizens for a substantial financial contribution.
The European Commission has had grave concerns about the practice and indeed launched infringement proceedings against Malta and Cyprus over it. Its argument is this: the practice, which has grown into a very lucrative source of income for many countries, is open to corruption, tax evasion and money laundering.
In 2021 Brussels called on Bulgaria to get rid of their scheme but it fell on deaf ears.
The scheme has been not without its detractors in Bulgaria too. A Government investigation unearthed evidence of irregularities that almost 50% of investors. In some cases, it would appear that investors resold titles or a property recently acquired months after their naturalisation.
At present, foreigners investing the minimum sum of one million leva (€500,000) can obtain a permanent resident title. For the trifling sum of a million Euros, you can be granted citizenship without the red tape and waiting times.
Question Marks Over Portugal
The are question marks over whether Portugal’s almost universally lauded Golden Visa scheme will continue.
Since its introduction in 2012 the Portuguese Government has issued 10, 000 visa yielding €5.3 of investment. Its chief purpose was to attract wealthy Non-EU nationals to live and work in Portugal. It was amended in 2015 to include property worth €350,000 needing renovation, with the price dropping to €280k if also located in a low-density area. However, henceforth residential properties in Lisbon, Porto and high-density coastal areas will be excluded from the arrangement.
This might make you think twice about opting for Portugal’s much-vaunted scheme. It, too, has drawn criticism for alleged tax evasion and money laundering. One Portuguese politician, Ana Gomes, says of the practice: “It’s the sale of citizenship by instalment.”
It is worth noting that this scheme was briefly suspended
2015. Operation Labyrinth found evidence implicating several Portuguese officials. It led to accusations that some of them had taken bribes in return for granting golden visas to Chinese investors. At least 11 senior official were arrested, including Manuel Jarmela Palos, the head of the SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras). Portugal’s interior minister Miguel Macedo fell on his sword three days later.
That said, Portugual’s scheme is in many respects first rate. What is more, it is a delightful country and because is a former Portuguese Colony, there are many links with Portugal and the Sub-Continent. All the indications are that Portugal does an excellent job in welcoming People of Indian Origins to its shores. So, all in all, Portugal, despite some of its problem, remains a front-runner for South Asians.
Is the Clock ticking for CBI in Europe?
If you are considering investing in a scheme in a EU country, we suggest you do so soon. The political mood music suggests that Brussels may well bring practice to an end. Since EU passports have proven proper with Indians, not to mention the Chinese and Russians, time may be of the essence. So we suggest yoy get your applications as soon aspossible.
If the Golden Visa is on borrowed time in the EU, what other paths to citizenship are there? Even if CBI stays in some shape and form and a blanket ban does not come to pass, it is well to consider your options.
The Caribbean: Sun, Sea and Crooks?
The Caribbean has long proved popular and where better to start than with St. Kitts and Nevis, the first country in the world to set up a CBI programme in 1984. Located in the Leeward Islands chain of the Lesser Antilles, it is the smallest sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere, in both area and population.
At the time of writing, passport holders enjoy visa free travel to over 80 countries, including to all EU Schengen countries, Switzerland, UK and Ireland.
The scheme is well regarded and rightly so. Curiously, no one, including the Government of St. Kitts can agree on how many countries citizenship allows you to visit. Some sources say 156, some 140 and one 80. Henley & Partners ( one of the leading firms specialising in what it euphemistically calls ‘Investment Migration’) puts the figure at 156. Curious and curiouser, as Alice might say. Still, there’s no denying this scheme is held in high regard.
In 2021, four new visa waivers have been signed bringing the total visa on arrival access to 161 countries, Saint Kitts and Nevis passport ranks the number one Caribbean passport tied with Barbados ranked 24th in terms of travel freedom.
Nor at $150 000 is it dear by European Standards. If you choose to go down the property road, then you must buy a property worth a minimum $ 200,000 (resalable after seven years) or $400,000 (resalable after five years) from an approved real estate development. In short, the more you pay, the faster you can become a citizen.
Without being drawn into a debate about the rights and wrongs of effectively commodifying citizenship, the fact is money talks in a deafeningly loud voice.
Honourable mentions should also go to Antigua and Barbuda’s scheme and that of Dominica – however it should be noted that both have faced high profile issues surrounding its own program, and doing business in Antigua is far from easy. The former charges $100 000 in return for a three to four month processing time, plus access to 150 countries, including Hong Kong, Russia, Singapore, the UK, and Europe’s Schengen Area, while the latter will set you back the same and gives you access to 144 countries.
At the time of writing, the St. Lucian Government is at pains to be point out that its programme is fit for purpose.
Rocked by scandal, Beset by Corruption
However, it has been not without its problems since its introduction in 2015. In December 2021, for example, the government revoked the passport of a Nigerian man arrested for fraud by the anti-graft agency, EFCC. They did so because he had allegedly committed “ acts that may bring Saint Lucia into disrepute.” Here the Government is alluding to his arrest in Nigeria for alleged Internet fraud and money laundering.
The Lucian Government insists that it has set its house in order. Whether this is the case, remains to be seen. We’re not saying give St. Lucia a wide berth, but exercise caution.
Turkey’s Scheme has much to recommend it, too. Straddling Asia and Europe, Turkey occupies a key strategic position, bordering as it does three seas: The Mediterranean, The Sea of Marmara and the Black sea.
With a minimum contribution of $250 000 it is significantly more expensive than its Caribbean brethren. A Turkish passport will enable you to visit 110 countries. In addition, it has the merit of being relatively near to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Residency by Investment
You may of course want to up sticks and move to another country. In which case, you are faced with a veritable embarrassment of riches.
USA: The Gold Standard
One of the most sought-after passports for people of Indian origin is that of the USA. The damage is not as bad as one might think at $500 000.
The USA tantalizes you with the prospect of citizenship after 5 years of residence-the hallowed ‘green Card.’ There are two ways to pay:
• $ 1 million into a non-targeted employment area project
• $ 500,000 into a targeted employment area project in a rural area or an area with high unemployment
You must in addition create or preserve 10 permanent full time jobs for American workers.
Canada’s scheme is also excellent.
Turning to Europe, the first thing that will strike you is how much the price tag varies. In Austria it is set at 40 000 Euros, Italy’s is 250 000 Euros, while that of the UK stands at an eye-watering £ 2 million.
Naturally, they are pros and cons with all of them. The UK’s processing time is the fastest and London is the financial capita of the world, Austria’s is the cheapest.
Note too that Serbia and Slovakia are regarded as two of the worst countries in Europe for racial equality: https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/most-racist-countries
Ironically, when one combines at he much respected 2016 Business tech Survey with the Wasington Post Survey of 2013 India was ranked the most racist country in the world.Approximately 43.6% of all Indians who took the survey said that they would not be comfortable with neighbors who were of a different culture, ethnicity, or race. 64.3% of Indian participants also reported that they were either discriminated against or had witnessed discrimination unfold in their home country.
Much depends on why you want up take residence in a country. Whether it is the quality of education, the standard of life or the business prospects, you’re spoilt for choice. All we would say is this: do your homework, set a budget and work out the benefit calculus for you and your family.
Ditto for Citizenship by Investment. Having a second or even a third or fourth passport definitely make sense, and if you can afford it, it comes with numerous benefits. Wealth gives you the luxury not only to shop around but also to take risks. However, if the country in which you invest blots it copybook by failing top root out corruption, tax evasion and organised crime, the value of passport and therefore you investment will suffer.