Purchasing a 700 ft.² apartment with two bedrooms and an attached terrace in Riga, Latvia will cost around Rs. 2 crores. While Riga may not be a hot real estate destination, purchasing an apartment in Latvia will entitle you to the right to reside in the country for a period of five years. You can also apply for permanent residency on the basis of your real estate investment.
Since Latvia is a part of EU’s Schengen area, acquiring temporary residence will entitle you to travel and live in 26 year European countries with minimal restrictions and formalities. As compared to those seeking residency visas in France or Germany, you can obtain the right to reside in such countries in a significantly shorter time frame.
While Indians have been immigrating to developed countries for many centuries now, the idea of investing in less popular destinations for obtaining the right to reside in other developed countries is attracting the attention of wealthy Indians. Latvia is not the only country offering investment immigration as a route to residency in Europe.
Other countries like Greece and Spain have their own Golden Visa programs to attract wealthy investors seeking residency permits. Hit by the recent recession, European countries are offering residence in exchange of investment of just 250,000 to 300,000 Euros, which works out to around Rs. 1.6 to 2.2 crores. Further, the money is safe as it is invested in government bonds or projects approved by the government.
The Greek investment immigration program offers temporary residence for a period of five years in return of investment of 250,000 Euros. The investment must be maintained for a period of five years. The investment can be redeemed after the lock in period comes to an end. Further, the individual becomes eligible to apply for permanent residency in Greece. Apart from the investor, European countries allow the immediate family of the immigrant, the wife and children below the age of 18 years, to reside in the country without any additional investment.
There is growing demand for immigrants in developed as well as developing countries. Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, and other countries encourage immigration to attract highly-skilled individuals. These countries seek to enhance their technical capabilities by attracting immigrants from all over the world. Countries like the USA and Canada seek manpower for their service sectors. Developing and developed nations hit by the recent recession rely on immigrants to attract more foreign direct investment.
Currently, individuals seeking to migrate have three options. The most popular option, until recently, was to go abroad for higher studies. Obtaining a steady job after completion of studies ensured a smooth path to long-term residence permits. However, there is growing emphasis on localization and more and more employers are being encouraged to prefer local residents over migrants. Today, students who chose to get a degree from popular educational destinations like the UK are finding it difficult to get a good job after completing their education.
The second option for immigrants is to obtain a foreign job. Individuals considering this option are facing the same obstacles faced by students with foreign degrees. Unless one has highly-valued technical skills, finding a permanent assignment in a foreign country can be a very difficult task.
This option is not very popular because there is no assurance that one will qualify for a permanent residence visa in the long run. Foreign employees are sponsored by employers, meaning employees cannot stay in the country for more than three months after being dismissed. Unless one finds a new job with an employer who is prepared to sponsor the work visa, the individual may have no choice but to return home.
As compared to these options, the third option available for wealthy immigrants is the simplest and most convenient one. Investing a few crores in a foreign country, which is approximately the cost of a small apartment in India’s biggest cities, will entitle you to the residence permit without onerous conditions or procedures.
Even developed countries have investment immigration programs designed to attract wealthy investors. The EB-5 immigrant visa program targets high net worth individuals from all over the world. Investors under the EB-5 program can choose between two investment options.
The first method is to make a minimum direct investment of $1 million, around Rs. 6.3 crores, and set up a business that creates at least 10 full-local jobs in the country.
The other method involves becoming a limited partner in a Regional Investment program and investing a sum of $500,000 in a government-approved project. Apart from guaranteed redemption after a period of five years, investors can look to earn a profit of around 0.5-1% from a profitable venture. The immigrant and his or her immediate family are granted green cards with a validity of five years.
With experts offering assistance in identifying viable unified projects, most Indian investment immigrants opt for the second cheaper option. As compared to just 38 applications in 2013, around 100 out of the 10,000-odd EB-5 applications received under the program were made by Indians. Experts opine that easy access to the green card is the biggest attraction for immigrants from India.
However, obtaining a residency permit in exchange of investment does not mean the immigrant can escape background checks. Those with criminal backgrounds, those who cannot prove their source of funds, or those suspected of having illegal funds may find it difficult to qualify for the residence permit.
The holder of a green card is eligible to apply for a US citizenship after a period of five years. The individual will enjoy all the rights of a US citizen except for the right to vote and be a member of a jury panel. Until grant of US citizenship, the immigrant is permitted to use his or her Indian passport for foreign travel.
Investment immigration is popular amongst young Indians who want to secure their right to reside in the US by the time their children start attending college. Students holding green card status enjoy access to cheaper education with more financing options. Further, green card holders find it easier to obtain jobs after graduation.
Apart from the USA, countries like Canada, Germany, and Australia too offer investment immigration programs with minimum investment ranging from Rs 75 lakhs to Rs.3 crores. This makes the US EB-5 program a comparatively expensive proposition. However, the USA continues to enjoy high demand due to the the opportunities enjoyed by immigrants in the country.
Apart from the UK, Ireland, Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, and New Zealand have policies designed to attract entrepreneurial talent through immigration. Apart from individuals owning successful small and medium enterprises, there is no significant demand for the entrepreneurialism route amongst Indian immigrants.
Apart from developed countries, there are many developing countries in Africa and Latin America that offer Citizenship by Investment programs. Many Caribbean nations offer citizenship in lieu of investment. Brazil offers a residency plan for foreign entrepreneurs with minimum investment of around $65,000. Developing countries witness significant interest from entrepreneurs because of the business advantages available in growing economies.
However, experts advise interested Indians to analyze the idea carefully before proceeding ahead with the process. While immigration may seem attractive at first, moving to a different country has its own challenges and difficulties. Immigration experts recommend that interested individuals should mull over the idea for a few years before taking a decision.
Source: Business World