The poor economic outlook, weak investment climate and concerns about property ownership are all reasons affluent South Africans are looking for a second citizenship as a matter of priority, says Nadia Read-Thaele, director of LIO Global, World Residence and Citizenship.
This year has seen a notable rise in emigrations and HNWI (high net-worth) individuals looking to shift some of their wealth into offshore destinations to secure a second residency or citizenship, said Read-Thaele.
“Many clients do not actually want to leave the country, but want a second passport as a security option,” Read-Thaele stressed, adding that a second passport is often sought as it allows freedom of travel as many of the top European and Caribbean Programmes offer visa-free access to top international markets.
While the UK, Australia and USA are top options for emigration, these have among the highest property prices in the world and many other draw-backs for South Africans.
It is also very difficult to get into these countries, the immigration expert said.
South Africans are therefore looking to ‘buy’ a second citizenship, either by a donation of sorts to the government or investment into property, or a combination , depending on what that government’s programme requires in order for investors to qualify.
For those who can afford to do so, Malta is a top choice for citizenship, but it requires a significant investment of at least EUR 1 million (R16.4 million), of which a substantial portion is a donation. Cyprus is another great choice, at EUR 300,000 (R4.9 million) for residence and EUR 2 million (R32.7 million) for citizenship.
Read-Thaele said that many South Africans are therefore turning to the Caribbean countries, especially Grenada and Antigua as these programmes start at just $100,000 (R1.4 million) and offer a cost effective, fast citizenship route with minimal requirements.
“You also do not need to reside in the country and there is no language requirement – however due diligence is quite strict,” said Read-Thaele.
The Caribbean countries offer tax friendly jurisdictions and attractive real estate investment opportunities which are fully managed and serviced. The idyllic setting and fabulous lifestyle are very attractive for wealthy South Africans, she said.
The route to citizenship is quick, between 4-6 months for a passport which means visa-free travel to sought-after destinations.
Programmes are now on offer from Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Dominica and St Lucia, and since most are ex-Commonwealth, the passports offer visa-free travel to the UK and Schengen countries.
Grenada citizenship also offers visa-free access to China, and in terms of the E-2 treaty ‘Investor Visa’ agreement with the United States, you could establish a business and reside in the US, making it a top choice among the Caribbean programmes, said Read-Thaele.
“When considering a second residency and citizenship, it is very important to know what you want to achieve and who you work with. There are many new programmes cropping up and not all of the governments have the established infrastructure to manage programs making the application process very frustrating. So, it is important to do your research,” Read-Thaele said.
- From $150,000 as a donation, or $350,000 in real estate.
One of the most attractive citizenship programmes and the only Caribbean country with visa-free access to China. In terms of US E-2 treaty ‘Investor Visa’, allows citizens to establish a business and reside in the US. Visa-free travel to 140 countries incl. UK, China and Schengen region. Citizenship in 4-6 months.
- Non-refundable contribution to National Transformation Fund (NTF) of $200,000 ($150,000 for single applicant);
- Property purchase of $350,000 into government approved real estate development. Property to be held for 3 years.
Antigua & Barbuda
- From $100,000 as a donation, or $200,000 in real estate (reduced option until 31 October 2018).
Favoured over St Kitts for exclusivity and reputation. A popular holiday destination for celebrities purchasing holiday houses, which has greatly boosted real estate values.
Visa-free travel to 140 countries including UK and Schengen countries. Citizenship in 4-6 months.
- Economic donation of $100,000. Additional amounts for spouse, dependent children and parents. Antigua has currently reduced the amount for the donation option for a limited time (to assist in their hurricane relief fund) to $100,000 for a family of four and $125,000 for a family of more than four members;
- Real estate purchase of $400,000 into government approved real estate development. Property to be held for 5 years, but can be placed in rental pool offering investors a dollar rental return. Also a reduced option currently available, where two investors can share by paying $200,000 each.
St Kitts & Nevis
- From $150,000 as a donation, or $200,000 in real estate.
Recognised for well-known offshore banking sector and a tourist hotspot.
Visa-free travel to 149 countries including UK and Schengen countries. Citizenship in 6-9 months.
- Economic donation of $150,000. Additional amounts for spouse, dependent children and parents;
- Real estate purchase of $400,000 into government approved real estate development. Property to be held for 5 years, but can be placed in rental pool offering investors a dollar rental return. Option to pay $200,000 if property held for 7 years.
- From $100,000 as a donation, or $220,000 in real estate.
One of the cheapest citizenship programmes, starting at just $100,000 for a single applicant. Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic.
Visa-free travel to 135 countries including UK and Schengen countries. Citizenship in 3-5 months.
- Economic donation of $100 000 (single applicant) and $200 000 (family of 4);
- Real estate purchase of at least $220 000.
- From $100,000 as a donation, $300,000 in real estate, a $3.5 million enterprise investment, or $500,000 in government bonds.
A recent addition and fabulous island location with reef-diving sites, luxury resorts, fishing villages and trails in the interior rainforest that lead to waterfalls.
Visa-free travel to 142 countries including UK and Schengen countries. Citizenship in 3-6 months. Applicants must be in good health and have no criminal record.
- Economic donation of $100 000 (single applicant) and $190,000 (family of 4);
- Real estate purchase of $300,000 in government approved real estate development. Property to be held for 5 years;
- Enterprise Project investment of $3.5 million, which must create at least 3 jobs;
- Government Bonds of $500,000 (single applicant) and $550,000 (family of 4).
- From EUR1 million;
- This is the combined financial requirement, including applicable government donation, bond investment, legal fees, citizenship application fees etc. These costs will increase slightly depending on the family size. Twelve months residency to be completed as well as visits applies;
- Visa-free travel to 173 countries including EU and USA. Full rights as any EU citizen, to live, work and study anywhere in the EU.
- From EUR500,000;
- The Golden Visa is very attractive to South Africans as it offers an attractive route to EU residency and gives visa-free travel to all the Schengen countries. However, investors must be cautioned that this is a residence programme and is not necessarily geared towards citizenship, however investors can apply subject to meeting certain criteria including a language test;
- Starts at EUR350,000 investment in property.
- An attractive option as it gives access to live, work and study in all 28 EU countries. Offers fast and straightforward route to residence in 2-4 months;
- Visa-free travel to 171 countries around the world;
- Residence starts at EUR300,000 property investment, but citizenship from EUR2.5 million.