The meaning, structure, and scope of citizenship are evolving, as socio-cultural, economic, and political norms adapt and respond to modern times, says Amanda Smit, director, head of Henley & Partners Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.
Traditional means of obtaining citizenship comprise the familiar routes of birth, marriage, lineage or naturalisation.
But for wealthy individuals, including South Africans, there are two less traditional, but nonetheless legal options available: citizenship-by-investment and residence-by-investment.
Each of these investment options provides an alternative way for high- and ultra-high-net-worth individuals to obtain a second passport, Smit said.
In the current global landscape, there are good reasons for investing in an alternative citizenship, not least because it represents the most direct route to global mobility, travel flexibility, and market access. “Moreover, it offers a means of relocation, which for individuals from politically volatile environments, can literally prove the difference between life and death,” said Smit.
“As such, having alternative citizenship has become an essential part of many families’ insurance policy for the 21 st century. Families who have passports in multiple countries also benefit from each country’s best practices and are less vulnerable to each country’s risks and shortcomings. Equipped with a second or third passport, wealthy families are able to travel, trade, and settle far beyond their country of origin.”
Smit outlines some of the most compelling programmes for South Africans in the citizenship space.
These programmes, according to Henley & Partners, are generating the most interest among ultra-high-net-worth families around the world. “They have the best track records, and they score the most points for sustainability, credibility, due diligence, and efficiency,” Smit said.
The Malta Individual Investor Programme gives successful applicants the right to live, work and study in any of the 28 EU countries and Switzerland. Maltese passport holders can travel visa-free to 182 countries, including the US and Canada.
The island nation lies in the heart of the Mediterranean and boasts an excellent climate, friendly people, stability and safety, and a rich cultural history. Major industries include high-tech manufacturing, food and beverages, tourism, and international financial services.
For entrepreneurs, Malta has many existing strengths such as its strategic location, excellent international trade relations, and a highly qualified English-speaking workforce. The property market in Malta also offers strong opportunities for investors due to a decline in the number of new properties added to the real estate market each year.
Launched in the second half of 2018, the Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment (MCBI) programme has already garnered a lot of interested from South Africans. The programme offers visa-free access to 121 destinations around the world, including Russia, Turkey and the countries in Europe’s Schengen Area.
Moldova itself, has a continental climate, world-class wine industry, and picturesque landscape that includes forests and rocky hills. A reasonable contribution amount and a highly efficient application process make this the most affordable citizenship-by-investment programme to date.
Dependent children up to 29 years of age and parents (of either the main applicant or the spouse) from 55 years of age can be included in one’s application.
Attractively, Moldovan citizenship is also transferable to future generations without restrictions.
With its warm and stable climate and convenient geographical position, Cyprus is considered an attractive place both for doing business and maintaining residence. The country has a modern, free-market, service-based economy, where in conjunction with its effective and transparent regulatory and legal framework, it offers international investors and businesses the confidence to invest, grow and prosper.
Cyprus was ranked number 53 out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2018.
The benefits of the Cyprus Investment Programme include: access to the EU, the right to live, work and study in all 28 EU countries, and visa-free travel to 171 countries around the world. Furthermore, one can qualify by acquiring only assets in Cyprus, with no requirement to donate your wealth.
Citizenship-by-investment programmes allow individuals to drastically improve the strength of their passport and, in turn, their global access. By participating in these programmes, individuals are also able to make an exceptional economic contribution to often smaller nations that require foreign direct investment in order to support their populations and remain competitive and sustainable in the long-term.
“It is therefore a mutually beneficial exchange, and very much in line with the direction the world is heading, as globalization becomes an undeniable feature of modern life, and people seek ever greater freedom to create the lives they dream of,” said Smit.