Portugal and Malta have become the most popular European residence and citizenship options for South Africans.
This is according to Nigel Barnes, managing partner of emigration consultants Henley & Partners, who said that both options offer opportunities to visit other EU countries.
“Portugal’s Golden Residence Permit program provides successful applicants visa-free access to Europe’s Schengen area as well as the EU member states,” said Barnes. “It is also considered very safe, and has excellent healthcare and education systems.”
“Successful applicants of the Malta Individual Investor Program also enjoy access to the EU and Malta’s many benefits — settlement in a safe and stable environment, world-class childcare, education and medical facilities, and an attractive tax regime,” he said.
Outside of Europe, the Caribbean has also remained a popular choice for South Africans – specifically Grenada, said Barnes.
This is because it provides visa-free travel to China, Brazil, Hong Kong and Europe’s Schengen area, and is the only Caribbean country with a citizenship-by-investment program that provides the opportunity to apply to live and work in the US through the E-2 Investor Visa, he said.
“Further, we have also seen wealthy South Africans flocking to Asia for retirement — and increasingly to Southeast Asia,” said Barnes.
“Thailand has earned its reputation as one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Southeast Asia and is also becoming an increasingly attractive option for individuals looking for a second home or retirement destination.
“Through the Thailand Elite Residence Program, successful applicants have access to exclusive VIP privileges and are granted the right to live in the country for up to 20 years.”
How many South Africans are actually leaving?
“While we have seen an increase in inquiries from South Africa, the majority of citizenship program applicants have no intention to emigrate, but rather to have a ‘Plan B’ option available, and hedge against future uncertainty,” said Barnes.
“South Africans are interested in an alternative citizenship to increase their global mobility – visa-free access to destinations worldwide – both for travel and business purposes. But, they are also looking for safety and security for their families,” he said.
Jacques Scherman, of Arton Capital, which specialises in investor programmes for residency and citizenship, told IOL that the current political administration had led to a rising interest in attaining second citizenship in countries including Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Bulgaria and the Caribbean islands.
“Ninety-percent do not want to emigrate but want to have a safe plan should the situation get worse.”
He said that a second citizenship by investment is no longer something only reserved for the super-wealthy. “For example, Grenadian citizenship for the main applicant, spouse and two dependants can be purchased via a donation of $200,000 (R2.74 million) to Grenada’s National Transformation Fund,” he said.
Scherman noted that the application process takes about three months, while no physical residency requirements are needed, and an additional benefit is visa-free travel to more than 100 countries including those in Europe’s Shengen zone.
A Grenadian citizenship also enables entry into the US with an E-2 Investor Visa, where individuals are able to reside and work, provided they have an investment under their control, Scherman said.
Craig Smith & Associates, told IOL that most popular destinations for South Africans wanting to move abroad are Australia, the US, UK and New Zealand.
“The US is considered to be the highlight, and the investment is normally part of a state-funded project in property and is currently at $500,000; and the cheapest destinations are just over $100,000,” said Craig Smith.