Immigration is no longer restricted to poor individuals seeking a better life for their families. Increasingly, high net worth individuals internationally are pursuing economic citizenship and fast-track permanent residency schemes to acquire alternative residence and second passports. Some schemes are comparatively cheap costing a few hundred thousand dollars while other options require minimum investment running into millions of dollars.
Close to four out of every ten ultra high net worth individuals opting for investment immigration are from the Middle East region. Three nations out of the top four nations of origin for investment immigration applicants are unstable or war-affected nations—Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria.
Europe is the preferred destination for about 80% of all applicants. The remaining applicants choose between the USA and Canada or opt for Caribbean nations with citizenship by investment programs.
A survey covering more than 200 wealthy individuals who have either migrated to another country or plan to do so soon indicated similar motivations. Three out of every four affluent individual sought a better life through fast-track immigration. Around 65% wanted a safer environment while 42% of the applicants cited better educational and work-related opportunities for their children as a motivating factor.
Irrespective of the individual’s affluence, safety for family is a common reason why people migrate to another nation. However, the migrant’s financial status often has a significant impact on the welcome he or she enjoys. A migrant paying €300,000 is welcomed warmly in Hungary while poor refugees transiting through Hungary to Sweden or Germany are discouraged from staying on in the country.
This approach has led to criticism of investment immigration programs, which are already under attack for diluting citizenship by putting a price tag on the nation’s passport. Recognizing the importance of a pro-active approach, industry participants have sought greater self regulation through the Global Investor Immigration Council and the Investment Migration Council.
Nations offering such programs have been encouraged to levy a tax of 1-5% of the cost of the program on applicants to finance global humanitarian programs and related initiatives. European nations offering such programs have attracted investments in excess of €5 billion over the past two years. Imposing such a tax would generate more than €200 Million for humanitarian programs in a span of just five years.
Facilitating refugee migration through the migration of wealthy individuals will send an important message that such programs do not cater solely to the ultra rich. The biggest challenge would be convince governments to endorse this concept and impose such a levy, especially at a time when competition between nations is increasing as the supply of investment immigration programs is beginning to exceed demand from the world’s ultra-rich migrants.
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