With the Middle East region plagued by political instability, wealthy Arab citizens are seeking citizenship of other developed countries through investment immigration programs to enjoy the twin benefits of safety of investment and the right to reside in developed countries in Europe or North America.
Famous actor Robert de Niro preferred to invest US$250 million in a five-star hotel in Antigua and Barbuda solely as a financial investment. However, wealthy investors from the Middle East are investing in the Caribbean to enjoy accelerated citizenship that can help them enjoy global mobility without any hassles.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment program offers citizenship in lieu of a $200,000 donation in its National Development Fund. Holders of the country’s passport can travel to 131 countries, including Canada and other developed European nations, without a visa. This program is one of the four popular investment immigration programs that are witnessing steady demand from Arab investors and investors from other nations who do not enjoy unrestricted international travel.
While Western countries require investments running into millions of dollars, Dominica’s investment immigration program offers citizenship for just $100,000. Despite many US national opting to renounce citizenship to avoid high taxes, Arab investors, primarily from countries like Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, an Egypt, are searching for investment immigration programs that allow passport holders to travel without onerous visa restrictions to countries like the USA, Canada, the UK, and other European nations.
The Arab Spring has further contributed to the popularity of investment immigration programs as wealthy individuals seek protection from rampant economic and political instability in countries affected by the movement. Further, the speedy rise of ISIL in Iraq, the civil war in Syria, the instability in Yemen, and the regime change in Libya have led to citizens of these countries seeking a safer alternative for themselves and their families.
Further, growing awareness of the presence of such investment immigration programs has resulted in steady growth in the number of applicants. Most applicants, according to experts, want an option to escape the instability in their native countries.
Property firms in the UAE are building hotels in the Caribbean region, and are offering investors contributing to such properties the option of applying for investment citizenship. St Kitts and Nevis, which was the first nation to offer an investment immigration program, is witnessing the construction of a 134-room Park Hyatt hotel, which has resulted in inflow of investments worth $150 million. Investors who have contributed $430,000 towards the project have become entitled to obtain citizenship under the country’s investment immigration program.
The property development firm is seeking to finalize another project in the country that will enable more investors to obtain citizenship through investment. Another UAE-based property development firm is seeking to construct a $200 million hotel in Antigua, with investors contributing $400,000 toward the project entitled to instant grant of citizenship.
For such nations, these programs help the economy receive more foreign investment. Further, these nations benefit through increased tourism, job creation, and reduction in government debt. St. Kitts and Nevis has slashed its Debt to GDP ratio from 164% to 104% between 2010 and 2013. Granada, suffering from public debt to GDP ratio of 110%, too revived its program in 2013 to boost its economy. It has ended its previous program in 2001 citing security issues raised by the USA and money laundering concerns cited by Canada.
European countries that have been badly hit by the economic crisis are relying on investment immigration programs to overcome their financial difficulties. Malta and Cyprus offer citizenship against investment. Nations like Bulgaria and Hungary offering residence permits in exchange of investments.
However, there are nations that are limiting their investment immigration programs amidst concerns about rising immigration, misuse of passports, and cultural integration issues. Investors were forced to seek alternative options after Canada restricted its citizenship by investment program, and introduced a less-attractive Investment Venture Capital program in January 2015.
Canada’s decision to revoke its visa waiver for holders of St. Kitts and Nevis passports led to investors shifting to Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment program. This indicates that visa-free travel is a significant factor for such investors.
Not all investors are encouraged to apply for citizenship in countries offering such programs. Immigration law firms insist on a prudential approach when dealing with investment immigration programs. Iranians are not encouraged to apply due to international sanctions against the country. Law firms don’t work with countries offering such programs unless they match the due diligence practices of immigration law firms.
With growing fears that options may get restricted due to additional regulations and due diligence requirements, Arab investors are opting for multiple citizenships as a backup option. Apart from stricter rules, investors are also wary of nations imposing onerous residence requirements. The UK and Canada require immigrant investors to be physically present in the country for a specific period of time in a calendar year. This creates complications for those who are simply seeking an alternative residence option as a backup plan.
Further, developed nations are realizing that they are undervaluing their citizenships, and are hiking investment requirements. Australia and the UK have increased the minimum investment requirement for their residence against investment programs. As of now, the Caribbean region continues to offer attractive Citizenship by Investment programs to Arab investors without numerous onerous requirements or conditions.
Source: TheNationalGeneral Information: Contact us to receive more information about this article.
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