The poor economic outlook, weak investment climate and concerns about property ownership are all reasons affluent South Africans are looking for a second citizenship as a matter of priority, says Nadia Read-Thaele, director of LIO Global, World Residence and Citizenship.
This year has seen a notable rise in emigrations and HNWI (high net-worth) individuals looking to shift some of their wealth into offshore destinations to secure a second residency or citizenship, said Read-Thaele.
“Many clients do not actually want to leave the country, but want a second passport as a security option,” Read-Thaele stressed, adding that a second passport is often sought as it allows freedom of travel as many of the top European and Caribbean Programmes offer visa-free access to top international markets.
While the UK, Australia and USA are top options for emigration, these have among the highest property prices in the world and many other draw-backs for South Africans.
It is also very difficult to get into these countries, the immigration expert said.
South Africans are therefore looking to ‘buy’ a second citizenship, either by a donation of sorts to the government or investment into property, or a combination , depending on what that government’s programme requires in order for investors to qualify.
For those who can afford to do so, Malta is a top choice for citizenship, but it requires a significant investment of at least EUR 1 million (R16.4 million), of which a substantial portion is a donation. Cyprus is another great choice, at EUR 300,000 (R4.9 million) for residence and EUR 2 million (R32.7 million) for citizenship.
Read-Thaele said that many South Africans are therefore turning to the Caribbean countries, especially Grenada and Antigua as these programmes start at just $100,000 (R1.4 million) and offer a cost effective, fast citizenship route with minimal requirements.
“You also do not need to reside in the country and there is no language requirement – however due diligence is quite strict,” said Read-Thaele.
The Caribbean countries offer tax friendly jurisdictions and attractive real estate investment opportunities which are fully managed and serviced. The idyllic setting and fabulous lifestyle are very attractive for wealthy South Africans, she said.
The route to citizenship is quick, between 4-6 months for a passport which means visa-free travel to sought-after destinations.
Programmes are now on offer from Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Dominica and St Lucia, and since most are ex-Commonwealth, the passports offer visa-free travel to the UK and Schengen countries.
Grenada citizenship also offers visa-free access to China, and in terms of the E-2 treaty ‘Investor Visa’ agreement with the United States, you could establish a business and reside in the US, making it a top choice among the Caribbean programmes, said Read-Thaele.