Have A Weak Passport? Perhaps Buying A Second Citizenship Can Help

Money Matters / Planning

Have A Weak Passport? Perhaps Buying A Second Citizenship Can Help

If you’ve always wanted to be an American or European citizen for the advantages it brings, here’s some good news – you can buy your way to it.

Written by Xiou Ann Lim on 17 May 2017

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor – Jared Kushner – recently made the news when his sister leveraged his White House connection to attract Chinese investors for their family business’s real estate development. Potential investors were told that they could obtain US residency through a visa programme called EB-5, which has also been dragged into the limelight for being a controversial vehicle through which foreigners are buying a second citizenship (in the US).

What is the EB-5?

The EB-5 is a programme that allows foreign investors (and their families) to apply for US green cards if they invest in a commercial enterprise in the US and create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for US citizens.

Set up in 1990 to create jobs and encourage foreign investment, the EB-5 programme requires investors to invest a minimum of USD1 million [or USD500,000 – if the money is invested in a high unemployment or rural area, also known as a targeted employment area (TEA)].

According to the Department of Homeland Security, about 97% of all EB-5 investments are targeted at TEAs – which carries the reduced amount of USD500,000.

However, the US has put a cap on how many EB-5 visas are granted each year – which currently stands at 10,000. This includes family members of investors. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service – a public policy research arm of the US Congress – about one-third of these visas go to the investors while the rest are given to their family members (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age).

eb-5 visas by immigrant origin (2016)

In 2016, the top three country of origin for EB-5 investors were China, Vietnam and South Korea.

Are there any other similar programmes?

The EB-5 is just one of many types of citizenship-by-investment programmes. If you’re looking to obtain citizenship in other countries, it is possible.

According to Dominic Volek – Managing Partner at global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners Singapore – citizenship in the Caribbean Islands (Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, etc.) can help investors gain easy access into the US, whereas citizenship in Malta or Cyprus creates smooth entry into EU countries.

If you’re wondering how strong your passport is, here’s a quick look at the Asian countries listed in Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index 2016.

henley & partners visa restrictions index 2016

The bottom line – Why consider citizenship by investment?

Citizenship-by-investment programmes are popular among the wealthy in Asia. “There are several reasons why,” says Volek. Investors can receive benefits and privileges from both countries, work, start a business and their children can attend school in either country. Apart from that, it also provides ease of both travel and property ownership. Simply put, he concludes: “It’s about having more options.”

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