Wealthy investors seeking investment immigration options can now choose among more than 50 nations offered permanent residence permits or citizenship against investment in property, bonds, and other eligible asset classes. Popular programs offering Golden Visas or permanent residency permits include the USA’s EB-5 program, the UK’s Tier 1 Investor Visa, the Golden Visa programs of Portugal, Spain, and Greece, and the citizenship by investment programs of Cyprus and Malta.
The last three years have witnessed the launch of 15 new investment immigration programs that have offered around 20,000 permanent residence permits. According to international real-estate brokers that handle property investments of investment immigrants, applicants look beyond potential returns when comparing investment destinations.
Russians focus on nations with a common cultural background. Latvia is a popular destination among Russians with seven out of every ten successful applicants belonging to this country. Low investment requirements, a common culture with shared history and language, and easy access to the Russian homeland make this program a popular choice among Russian investors.
However, Portugal’s Golden Visa, with just 3% successful applicants from Russia, may represent higher interest now that it has lowered the minimum investment requirement to €350,000.
Chinese applicants focus on destinations offered quality education, attractive returns, and lenient permanent residency norms. This is why the US EB-5 program is particularly popular amongst these investors.
Demand for investment immigration is fueled primarily by China, which has around 2.8 million high net worth individuals and 63 million affluent citizens. Further, around 60% of all Chinese viewing foreign investment as a preliminary step towards escaping economic instability through migration.
Developed real-estate markets witness a wide range of demand with residence-permit applicants contributing a small part of the total demand. However, specific programs have had significant impact on certain markets like Vancouver, Latvia, and Malta due to very high demand from affluent investors. Small nations offering citizenship or residence witness greater volatility due to demand from foreign applicants.
The most popular destination for applicants is the USA, which offers 10,000 green cards to investment immigrants every year. Applicants are required to invest $500,000 or $1 million in commercial enterprises that create at least ten jobs in the country.
While other factors are also considered, most investors focus on programs with low investment limits. France, which is a developed European nation, has issued just 14 residence permits since the launch of its program in 2011 primarily due to the high investment requirement of €10 million.
Ireland requires minimum investments of €1 million and issues around 25 permits every year. Offering permits against investments of just €142,000, Latvia issues around 1440 permits every year. Greece, on the other hand, is not popular amongst investors despite its low requirement of just €250,000. It is evident that applicants consider immediate cost as well as long-term prospects before finalizing their choice.
Demand for popular programs like Portugal and Latvia has resulted in significant increase in real estate valuations in the country. In Portugal, applicants invest around €580,000 in properties despite the fact that the minimum limit is lower at €500,000. In Latvia, around 75% of all eligible property investments exceed the minimum investment requirement.
However, it is evident that a program’s popularity depends primarily on its cost. Demand for the Latvian program, the Australian SIV, and the UK Tier 1 Investor visa nosedived after the minimum limit was hiked. It remains to be seen whether the US EB-5 program will experience a decline in demand when its minimum investment thresholds are raised when the program comes up for re-approval in December 2015.
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