Demand for second passports and Citizenship by Investment programmes (CIB) has spiked since level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown, says Nadia Read Thaele, managing director of LIO Global, a specialist firm in second residency and citizenship by investment planning.
Thaele said Grenada in the Caribbean currently tops the list with an increase in applications of 120% compared to last year. She said that most investors are choosing to invest in real estate for the added benefits, but many families opt for the cheaper donation option. The success rate to date is 100%, she said.
Grenada is one of the few countries with both an active CBI programme and a bilateral investment treaty that will allow you to live and work in the USA via the USA E-2 Treaty Investor Visa programme.
This is a massive drawcard for South Africans to gain access to the US, one of the hardest countries to get into, Thaele said.
“Property investment starts from as little as around R3.6 million, about R5.37 million for a family inclusive of costs, not particularly high compared to what you will pay for a home in South Africa’s upper-income areas.
“It equates to what you will pay for a basic one-bedroomed apartment in Mouille Point or Melrose Arch, and you get fast-tracked second citizenship in under six months,” she said.
While many South Africans are actively looking to emigrate with FNB for example recently noting that emigration related property sales account for some 17% of all current sales, Thaele said that rather than emigrate, many wealthy South Africans are investing in offshore property in areas where they can secure a second citizenship.
The attraction of the Grenada E-2 Visa option also tops the USA EB-5 investor visa, she said, as the cost is substantially less and the process much simpler.
The processing time for the E-2 visa is usually around two months compared to five-years for the EB-5 visa and it takes about 24-months before you can move to the US with the EB-5 visa.
“Investor confidence in South Africa is at an historic low and wealthy South Africans are concerned about the economy and future of the country.
“Finance minister, Tito Mboweni’s budget speech has not inspired much confidence and, she says the desire for a “Plan B” option has accelerated, especially due to high crime levels and future uncertainty.
“The benefit of a CIB programme is that you do not need to sell up and emigrate quite yet and wealthy South Africans are taking advantage of this opportunity.”
Thaele said that Grenada offers additional benefits other than easy access to the US.
Aside from the enviable Caribbean lifestyle, it is politically stable and offers excellent tax advantages and an investment friendly regime, she said.
As a Caricom (Caribbean Community of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies) member this also proves advantageous, offering freedom within the Caricomgroup of countries, including places such as the Bahamas and Jamaica.
It also offers one of the fasted routes to second citizenship (under six-months) and a passport with visa-free travel to over 143 countries in the UK, EU Schengen countries, Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
“If you invest in the real estate option, you can resell after three years (or 5 years if to another CBI investor) and still keep the passport,” said Thaele.
She said that the E-2 Investor Visa is valid for 5 years, and can be renewed without any limit on extensions, provided that the underlying investment still qualifies.
Spouses and dependents will normally be granted the same period of stay as the principal. Another significant benefit is that the principal’s children under 21-years can go to school (public or private) in the USA and are eligible for in-state tuition.