The recent credit downgrades by Fitch and Standard & Poor’s ratings agencies, and the potential effects of junk status, has wealthy South Africans seriously reviewing the available options for diversifying their personal interests and investment assets beyond the country’s borders.
“We’ve certainly noticed an increase in local enquiries in the last couple of weeks,” said Nigel Barnes, managing partner at citizenship planning consultancy, Henley & Partners.
“I think that concerns over the future growth and development of South Africa, and uncertainty about the sustainability of sectors, such as education, is finally driving South Africans to assess their alternatives in earnest.
“In short, they are now acting on their concerns, rather than just voicing them among family and friends.”
Citing Intergate Immigration consultancy, TimesLive earlier this month reported that inquiries about emigration shot up by 250% the day after president Jacob Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle announcement.
“There’s a definite increase in people that are leaving. Profoundly, in the last two to three weeks. The day after the reshuffle our inquiries went up by 250%.”
According to Barnes, the current trends are really just an uptick on what has been a steadily growing local interest in investment migration over the last few years.
He pointed out that it was this rising demand for alternative citizenship that prompted Henley & Partners to launch a regional branch in SA towards the end of 2016.
Barnes said that, of late, there has been a particularly significant increase in enquiries from High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) from other African countries.
“This is hardly remarkable given that the continent’s citizens are, on the whole, the most restricted in the world when it comes to movement,” he said.
Where are they going?
Of the several international investment-migration options currently endorsed by Henley & Partners, the Malta Individual Investor Program (MIIP) is the most successful of its kind in the world, and one of the most popular with South Africans, said Barnes.
A Maltese passport offers its holder the right of settlement in all 28 EU countries as well as Switzerland.
“For those seeking European citizenship that can be passed down unlimited family generations (even dependent parents aged 65 and older may be included in the application), this is a very attractive programme – and the only one of its kind to be sanctioned by the EU.”
The citizenship-by- investment programmes offered by some of the island nations in the Caribbean, which are among the most competitive in the world, have no residence or visitation requirements at all, Barnes said.
According to Henley & Partners, a St Lucian passport can be obtained from as little as US$100,000, and it grants visa-free access to 127 countries, including the EU’s Schengen area, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Grenadian citizenship, meanwhile, requires a capital outlay of between US$200,000 and US$350,000 (property investment), and offers unrestricted access to 124 countries, including the UK, the Schengen area, Brazil, China and other key markets.
The country also holds an E-2 Investor Visa treaty with the US, allowing citizens to be eligible to apply for a non-immigrant visa.
“Neither programme has any residency or visitation requirements, and processing for either passport can take less than four months. And, as with Malta, citizenship is transferable by descent,” said Barnes.