As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the country, Americans have been forced to abandon all travel plans thanks to border restrictions across the globe – but there is a way around them that will cost a pretty penny.
A new report has revealed the wealthy are buying their way out of the COVID-19 travel ban through expensive investment migration programs that will allow them to travel more easily to other parts of the world at a time when the U.S. passport is virtually worthless.
The scheme offers foreigners permanent residency or citizenship – also known as ‘golden visas’ – if they are willing to invest substantially in the country’s economy.
While the programs have existed for decades, they have grown more popular since the start of the pandemic as the super rich make contingency plans.
A CNN Travel report revealed the number of people looking into these options have soared by 49 per cent between January and June from the same time last year, according to global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners.
Investment migration schemes offer foreigners permanent residency or citizenship – also known as ‘golden visas’ – if they are willing to invest substantially in the country’s economy
From the last quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020, the number of prospects who filed an application after receiving a consultation also increased by 42 per cent, the company said.
American applications have especially skyrocketed, soaring 700 per cent from the last quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020.
‘People really want the insurance policy of an alternative citizenship, which gives them a Plan B,’ Dominic Volek, the company’s head of Asia, told the outlet.
‘They are also concerned about healthcare and pandemic preparedness because, of course, this may not be the only pandemic in our lifetime.’
Depending on the country and program, foreigners are granted permanent residency or citizenship in exchange for pumping money into real estate, infrastructure, government bonds, or projects that lead to job creation.
Some countries could also require prospects to establish nonprofit organizations.
The United Kingdom tops the list for the highest price for citizenship under these programs, starting at $2.6million
Cyprus is one of the most popular – and expensive – destinations where the wealthy are looking to obtain citizenship through investments, with prices starting at $2.5million
Starting prices for these programs can range anywhere between $100,000 to $2.6million, and most applicants tend to have a net worth between $2million and $50million, according to the report.
WHAT IS A GOLDEN VISA?
Immigration investment programs, also known as ‘golden visas’ grant foreigners residency or citizenship at a host country if they are willing to invest in the economy.
Depending on the country and program, prospects may be required to establish a non-profit organization, a project that leads to job creation, or invest in real estate or infrastructure.
The programs are popular among the rich who are looking for tax benefits, better quality of life, more freedom to travel, or just a change in lifestyle.
The track to citizenship or permanent residency is expedited under these programs but the process can still take months or even years.
Golden visas are offered in countries across the Caribbean and Europe, with the some of the most popular – and expensive – choices being Cyprus, Montenegro, and Malta, given that they allow applicants freedom to settle anywhere in the EU.
The United Kingdom tops the list for the highest price for citizenship under these programs, starting at $2.6million, followed by Cyprus, where prices start at $2.5million.
The USA and Canada are also among the most costly, starting at $900,00 and $894,000, respectively.
Cyprus, albeit one of the most expensive, has also become one of the most popular destinations during the first quarter of 2020, with new applications increasing by 75 per cent, according the report.
Montenegro, where a golden visa can cost you upwards of $294,000, also saw a 142 per cent increase in new applicants.
For those with a net worth between $1 to 10million, Caribbean islands are the ideal choice as they are relatively cheaper and provide more incentives, Volek said.
‘For example, a wealthy Bangladeshi holds one of the worst passports in the world in terms of travel freedom – you need a visa to go anywhere.
‘If you donate $100,000 to the government of Antigua and Barbuda, plus fees, your family of four can get a second passport in about four to six months,’ he said.
Montenegro, where a golden visa can cost you upwards of $294,000, also saw a 142 per cent increase in new applicants
In Australia and New Zealand, the government offers permanent residency-by- investment programs, but are some of the most expensive in the world.
A golden visa in Australia can somewhere between $1 and $3.5million and $1.9 and $6.5million in New Zealand, according to CNN.
Although the track to citizenship or residency is expedited under these programs, the process can still take several months to several years and some countries can be more selective than others.
Malta, for example, which is among the most popular destinations, has a rejection rate between 20 to 25 per cent, according to Henley & Partners.
Applicants are required to disclose their net worth and sources of income – all of which should be legal – and pass a background check.
CITIZENSHIP-BY-INVESTMENT PROGRAMS STARTING PRICES AROUND THE WORLD
United Kingdom – $2,600,000
Cyprus – $2,530,000
USA – $900,000
Canada – $894,000
Bulgaria – $588,000
Portugal – $294,000
Montenegro – $294,000
St Kitts and Nevis – $150,000
Grenada – $150,000
Antigua and Barbuda – $130,000
St. Lucia – $100,000
Dominica – $100,000