The pre-conceived notion that many of our clients held about the security and status of their citizenship has irrevocably changed in the last few years.
Almost every consultation starts with a client wanting to make a good investment while simultaneously resolving future travel, education and business opportunity challenges. During COVID-19, freedom of travel and protection of civil liberties became the most prominent driver globally.
Before COVID, “Brexit” was the well-known catalyst for investment migration. Many investors from the UK and EU countries started investing in a second residency to maintain freedom of movement and rights to be employed or permanently in a second country. More recently, we have seen significant changes in the volume of enquiries from developed western countries with traditionally strong passports. We also received many enquiries from the US. Political reasons mainly drove this, along with increased taxes and travel restrictions.
In the past, many investor migrants hailed from countries with weak passports, economic instability, civil unrest and sometimes war-torn countries. For them, the decision is twofold – where can I invest in securing a better travel document, or where can I invest where I can re-establish my family home and ensure better business opportunities?
Today, investors want freedom of movement, better tax dispensation, suitable civil structures, health care and education. Sometimes it is as simple as being closer to nature, a healthier climate, and a more scenic environment than your home country can offer.
Portugal is the most diverse and flexible European golden visa programme, which makes it attractive for multiple types of investors. We would be remiss to focus only on the benefits of the golden visa program structure and not mention the attractions of Portugal as a destination.
Portugal offers a vibrant lifestyle, fantastic climate, good infrastructure and health care, good international schooling and connectivity to the rest of the EU. The Portugal residency program offers flexible investment options to qualify for residency: Real estate has traditionally been the most popular route to obtaining a residency permit, as you can make an excellent investment, choose the next family home or invest in commercial or touristic real estate.
We have investors looking at the lowest entry level of Euro 280,000, and simultaneously investors relocating to Portugal, buying sprawling estates, and high-end apartments in Lisbon and Cascais and along the coast. Business investment options are multiple routes for entrepreneurs to invest in businesses and create Portuguese jobs.
Portugal has become one of the top 5 logistics hubs in the EU. The tourism sector is rapidly expanding and creating jobs, seafood companies and global technology businesses are relocating to Portugal, and many digital nomads have made Portugal their new home. Funds – this is the fastest-growing category in the Portuguese market. It offers the discerning investor diversification of risk, lower cost than real estate, and zero tax on the yield if you live outside Portugal.
Low stay requirement vs relocating permanently: It is not only the diversity of investment options that makes Portugal a popular destination. It is about the flexibility of the program. You can spend as little as seven days per year in Portugal and still qualify to apply for citizenship after five years. On the other hand, you and your qualifying family members can permanently relocate, live, and work in Portugal if you wish.
Investors globally have always searched for a more favourable personal tax regime. The Non-Habitual tax regime attracts retirees and any investor who can prove passive income earned outside of Portugal. This includes income earned from dividends, crypto-shares and investment income.
Ask yourself: “where can I see myself spending more time in the future/where should I invest (ask your GSB adviser!)/where do I want to retire?” The Malta Permanent Residency Program offers the lowest cost entry point into the EU, where you can include your family (adult dependent children) and receive permanent residency (for life). Malta, just like Portugal, offers all family members the ability to work/be employed in the country. It is a predominantly English-speaking country known as a financial and business hub.
Greece remains one of the biggest golden visa programs globally. And is often cited for the ease of application, 5-year renewable permanent residency, relatively low cost of investment (only Euro 250,000 investment into real estate required) and, of course, the lifestyle and natural beauty. Similarly to Italy and Spain, Greece has a longer route to citizenship (about ten years) and requires you to learn the language.
Although significantly more expensive than many residency programs, the Montenegro citizenship program has just been extended for 12 months. If an immediate 2nd passport is important, 9% personal and corporate tax is attractive. And, if reluctant to learn another language, Montenegro offers an excellent alternative to EU residency or Caribbean citizenship programmes.
Diversifying your residency and citizenship is a key part of wealth management strategy, global asset allocation and legacy planning.
Ilana Van Huyssteen-Meyer
Ilana is the Managing Director of Latitude South Africa and Regional Director of RIF Trust in the EMEA. She has been resident in the Middle East since 2005 and spends her time between South Africa, the UAE and the most popular investment migration markets in Europe. Latitude World and RIF Trust are industry-leading global citizenship and residency by investment consultancies.