February 18, 2020
The outbreak of the coronavirus, coupled with record valuations in equity markets, has triggered a global sell-off of high-risk investments and a significant shift in sentiment among global investors. Accompanying the dip is a well-reported surge into traditional safe-haven monetary assets such as gold. As global investors remain concerned that the virus could become far more globally significant, inflows into gold exchange traded funds are 30% higher than last year. Other low-risk investments have reported similar inflows of capital.
Henley & Partners CEO Dr. Juerg Steffen says there’s is also growing interest in residence- and citizenship-by-investment programs among wealth managers and high-net-worth (HNW) individuals as a result. “Investment migration programs enable countries to grant residence or citizenship rights to individuals in exchange for a substantial investment. Savvy investors are embracing investment migration – the newest option in the safe-haven asset class – as it unlocks novel risk management and optimization options for the HNW portfolio.”
Over 100 countries have some form of investment migration legislation in place, and there are over 60 different programs active around the world. In terms of the industry’s size, citizenship-by-investment contributes about USD 3 billion a year to the global economy, while the residence-by-investment sector contributes about USD 15 billion a year, putting the industry as a whole at around USD 18 billion. Increasing demand indicates that the industry will soon reach USD 20 billion annually.
Henley & Partners Chairman and pioneer of the modern investment migration industry, Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, says visa rules and governments can and do change, but citizenship is for life and can normally be passed down to future generations. “On the one hand, holding additional residence and/or citizenship provides security, reliably diversifying risk through greater protection from volatile markets and political instability. It also prevents individuals from being dependent on a single country. On the other hand, investment migration programs permit access to a significantly expanded suite of opportunities for travel, investment, and access, creating substantial value. In either case, the benefits that accrue from multiple citizenships and residencies generate unique value for the investor that goes beyond simply providing political risk insurance.”
For an investment of between EUR 1 million and EUR 2 million, Malta and Cyprus offer the most sought-after citizenship-by-investment programs in the EU, and along with most other EU member states, the two countries also offer residence-by-investment, at lower price points. The minimum real estate investment requirement for the Malta Residence and Visa Program is EUR 270,000, while the most affordable qualifying investment for the Cyprus Permanent Residence Program is purchase of real estate with a total market value of at least EUR 300,000 plus VAT. The minimum real estate investment requirement for the popular Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program is EUR 350,000, and the permit enables one to apply for full citizenship after five years.