Emigration, access to foreign citizenship and dual citizenship are top of mind at the moment for many South Africans who are considering their options to make a new life for themselves and their families.
Sable International, who have over 20 years of experience in emigration and immigration, are offering a series of free and informative seminars to discuss opportunities available to South Africans for dual citizenship. Seminars will take place in Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Stellenbosch and Cape Town in July.
As long as you hold dual citizenship, a second passport gives you the freedom to live and work somewhere other than your country of birth, the right to travel and conduct business in other parts of the world, and the opportunity for you and your family to live a more global lifestyle. Andrew Rissik, director at Sable International looks at the concept and the options.
What is Citizenship-by-investment?
The usual grounds for acquiring citizenship are birth in a country, descent from a citizen parent, marriage to a citizen, or naturalisation. But if you are unable to gain a second passport through the traditional routes, citizenship-by-investment offers an alternative.
While residence is granted to investors and wealthy individuals in most countries, there are currently only a few countries which offer citizenship-by-investment programmes that provide a direct route to citizenship based on investment, such as Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Cyprus, Dominica, Grenada, Malta, Cyprus, St. Kitts and Nevis.
“Citizenship-by-Investment programmes offer you the opportunity to legally acquire a new citizenship relatively quickly and simply, without any disruptions to your life,” says Rissik.
There are also other countries that offer a route to citizenship following a reasonable period of residence, such as Australia, Portugal, the UK and the USA.
“The key to finding the right solution is to assess, stringently, whether the opportunity matches your personal lifestyle and business goals – and those of your family. The service around the process should ideally be all-encompassing, covering logistical and administrative tasks like opening bank accounts, tax advice, property selection and management, and your residency application and most importantly your budget,” says Rissik.
Grenada citizenship and the E-2 American visa
Grenada is a beautiful country of lush, tropical forests, stunning waterfalls and gorgeous sandy beaches. While it has much to offer residents, the Grenadian Citizenship-by-Investment Programme doesn’t require you to live in or visit the country to apply.
Grenada is the only Caribbean country with visa-free access to China. It also has a citizenship-by-investment programme and an E-2 Investor Visa Treaty with the US, meaning Grenadian citizens are eligible to apply for a non-immigrant visa.
Clients interested in acquiring Grenadian citizenship have two investment options with a number of additional requirements:
- National Transformation Fund (NTF) donation option: A minimum non-refundable contribution to the NTF of USD 150,000 for a single applicant and USD 200,000 for a family of up to four members
- Real estate option: A minimum of USD 220,000 as a co-owner in qualified real estate to acquire property from a government real estate project
Malta and Cyprus Individual Investors Programme
Malta and Cyprus offer two of the most attractive citizenship-by-investment programmes. Investing in Malta can grant EU citizenship within 18 months and visa-free access to 182 countries including the UK and US.
The Malta Residence and Visa Program (MRVP) offers non-Maltese persons the possibility of acquiring an EU residence card that offers visa-free travel within Europe’s Schengen Area.
Minimum requirements include:
- Investment in government bonds of EUR 250,000 retained for a minimum of five years
- Non-refundable government contribution of EUR 30,000
- Property purchase of EUR 320,000 or a property lease of EUR 12,000 per annum
Cyprus offers a fast route to EU citizenship – as little as six months. Its citizenship-by-investment programme is well-suited to families and, once granted, citizenship is valid for life and can be passed down for generations.
In line with the Cypriot government’s intention to increase foreign investment and to help its economic development, Regulation 6(2) of the Aliens and Immigration Regulations has recently been simplified by the Ministry of Interior in order to issue residence permits to applicants from non-European countries who intend to invest in the republic provided that the following requirements are met:
- The main requirement is the purchase of new immovable property of a total market value of at least EUR 300,000 plus VAT. The applicant must submit the application form accompanied with a contract of sale and proof of payment of at least EUR 200,000 plus VAT. The contract of sale must have been submitted to the Cyprus Department of Land and Surveys. The property can also be bought by a company provided that the company is registered in the name of the applicant or the applicant and their spouse. They must also be sole shareholders.
- The applicant must submit a confirmation letter from a Cyprus bank that they have deposited a minimum capital of EUR 30,000 from abroad into an account that will be locked for three years. After the expiration of this period, the money will be released without restrictions.
- The applicant must provide supporting evidence of a secured annual income of at least EUR 30,000 deriving from abroad. This income must increase by EUR 5,000 for the spouse and every additional child and EUR 8,000 for each dependent parent. The income may include, for example, salaries from employment, rents, pensions, and dividends from shares.
American EB-5 Investment Visas
The EB-5 Investor Visa offers one of the fastest and most robust routes to permanent US residency. This programme includes immediate family and, because it is a nationwide federal scheme, it offers the right to residency in all states, including Texas and Florida, which are free of state-level income tax.
The EB-5 visa gives the holder access to the public education system at all age levels, but the USA is also home to thousands of private schools, many of which are multi-lingual and provide a route to some of the highest-ranking universities in the world. It’s one of the fastest routes to permanent US residency and citizenship.
There are interesting immigration possibilities for investors, and under the EB-5 program you may be granted permanent resident status (a “Green card”) within a short period of time.
The EB-5 program requires that a foreign individual invests USD$ 1 million or USD 500,000 if the investment is made in a rural area or an area with high unemployment into a new commercial enterprise and create 10 new full-time jobs. Funds must stay invested and be at risk until permanent resident status is granted (usually about 4 years).
Portugal’s Golden Visa and NHR programmes
You can gain Portuguese – and European – residency for yourself and your family by investing in Portugal. This leads to a sound property investment and residency rights for you and your immediate family in a stunning European country, eventually resulting in Portuguese citizenship. Another advantage of this programme is the low minimum-stay requirements, averaging only a few weeks each year.
The Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) programme was introduced in Portugal in 2009. Its aim is to attract foreign investment to the country by offering attractive tax benefits to incentivise expats to consider retirement in Portugal. The programme offers a 10-year tax break on qualifying foreign income – including private pensions and company dividends.
The Golden Visa Portugal is a residency-by-investment solution that has proven to be particularly attractive for international investors with families. The solution has gained massive traction with South Africans with Sable International at the forefront of this initiative partnering with the best real estate professionals locally and in Portugal. If you have held the long-term desire to work in the European Union (EU) or own overseas property that earns you rental income in a foreign currency, the “Golden Visa” might be your most viable option yet.
The programme allows investors to obtain EU residency and can, if all criteria are met, lead to permanent residency and ultimately a right to apply for Citizenship subject to certain requirements and a basic Portuguese language test. Portuguese residency not only allows you and your family to live and work in Portugal, but also the right to visa-free travel throughout the entire Schengen Area, including Austria, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
One of the programme’s major drawcards is that investors can enjoy all that Portugal has to offer without having to live there permanently. If you hold a Golden Visa, you may also apply for family reunification, meaning that your spouse, children and parents can apply for residency too.
To qualify, you need to make an investment, either individually or through a company, in at least one of the following investment operations in Portugal for a minimum of five years:
- The acquisition of real estate with a value of at least €280,000
- A capital investment with a minimum value of €350,000
- There are other less popular investments which we can discuss with applicants
There are a number of routes for Australian immigration especially if you are looking for investment based options. A popular choice is the Business Innovation Visa, suitable if you own and run a successful business. It’s valid for four years and three months, and allows you and your family members to live, study and work in Australia, and eventually be eligible for permanent residence.
British citizenship and immigration
The UK remains a popular immigration destination for South Africans. “South Africans can apply for a number of investment based residence and citizenship visas, and they can relocate their business to the UK under certain conditions.
“Sable International has over 20 years of experience in British nationality, Irish nationality and UK immigration and we work under the guidance of Philip Gamble, the world’s leading expert on the subject, and I can tell you the options are there, but it’s complicated and you need to know how to navigate the system,” says Rissik.