62% increase in enquiries for investment migration programs from Indians in 2020: Nirbhay Handa of Henley & Partners
Mar 11, 2022
Residence and citizenship programs have today become a significant option for internationally mobile entrepreneurs, executives and investors looking for alternative residence and/or citizenship.
London-headquartered advisory firm Henley & Partners said it fielded 62% more enquiries for investment migration programs from Indian nationals in 2020. In the first half of 2021, there was a 30% increase in enquiries. Globally, the first half of 2021 saw a 40% increase in overall enquiries.
Henley & Partners, which started its residence and citizenship planning services in the 1990s, now has 30 offices worldwide including three in India. The company advises high-net worth individuals (HNIs) and their families on gaining residence and/or citizenship by investment.
Nirbhay Handa, Managing Director of Private Clients and Head of Global South Asia, Henley & Partners, spoke with Moneycontrol.com about the Great Indian Investment Migration - the changing landscape, the key drivers, the biggest motivations, the dual citizenship debate and the most popular citizenship/residence programs among Indians.
Has investment migration from India changed in recent years?
Historically, this concept was limited to wealthy people, particularly in emerging markets and developing markets. But now a lot of people - even in the developed world - are looking for an alternative residence/citizenship opportunity to build resilience in the current volatile macro-environment. This concept has gained more global acceptance in the last two years than ever before, as people are starting to look at alternative residence as a bit of an insurance policy and a means to hedge their sovereign risk.
Up until a few years ago, India’s investment migration market was largely geared toward the US EB-5 program. However, its lengthy waiting period and increased investment amounts have led Indian families to consider other avenues for getting to the US such as applying for the Grenada citizenship-by-investment program as it includes eligibility for the US E2 Treaty Investor Visa.
Worldwide, nearly 30 countries offer residence- and/or citizenship-by-investment programs and Indian nationals and non-resident Indians (NRIs) are exploring all available routes.
These days there is a lot of buzz around Golden Visa. What is it?
A Golden Visa is a citizenship-by-investment or residency-by-investment program. It is directed to wealthy foreign nationals who want to acquire residency in a certain country by investing a substantial amount of money or by purchasing a property.
Globally, several countries offer residence- and citizenship-by-investment. Out of these, only nine countries are currently offering a direct route to citizenship-by-investment.
In the last few years, European residence-by-investment migration programs like Malta, Portugal, Greece, and other European Golden Visas gained a great deal of traction and interest. A few non-EU countries also offer the Golden Visa.
How long does it take to process?
Minimum investment, processing time as well as key benefits vary from one country to another. For example, the government processing times for residence-by-investment programs range from five to eight months (Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Spain) to a few years (Canada, United States). Meanwhile, citizenship-by-investment programs can take anywhere from three to six months for a Caribbean program (Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis), to one to two years for a European program such as Austria and Malta.
What are the new drivers of investment migration?
- An opportunity to invest abroad and diversify wealth
- Provide their children an opportunity to access Europe
- Travel across 26 Schengen States Visa Free
- Compared to EB5 of the US, lower investment and faster process
- Increase in appeal for Europe for education purposes
- The huge upside of investing 250K to 280K Euro in Mumbai, Delhi vs investing that in Europe and also getting a Residency card of a Schengen country along with it.
Is it also because the Indian passport ranks low in the Passport Index?
According to the Henley Passport Index, the Indian passport is currently ranked 85th, offering visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to just 58 destinations. In the last 10 years, India has only improved its visa-free score (the number of countries you can visit without a visa or get visa on arrival if you have an Indian passport) by five (from 53 in 2011). But a Greece or Portugal residency card could provide Indians visa-free travel across the Schengen countries, effectively upping their visa-free score to 84.
Isn’t India’s big no to dual citizenship a big dampener?
Between 2015 and 2019, as many as 676,074 Indians renounced Indian citizenship and took up citizenship of other countries. Overall, a total of 12,499,395 Indian nationals are currently residing in foreign countries, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Indians who renounce their Indian citizenship still have the option of applying for an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card, which would enable them to enjoy the benefits of residing, working or running a business in India. According to MHA, a total of 191,609 foreigners registered as OCI cardholders in 2020.
How different are the migration preferences of Indian nationals who reside in India and NRIs?
For Indian nationals based in India, our typical client profile are businessmen or C-level executives. Majority of our business in India is focused on residence-by-investment programs. In terms of actual applications put in by Indians, the top residence programs in 2020 and 2021 were:
1. Portugal Golden Residence Program
2. Thailand Elite Visa
3. Australia Global Talent Visa
4. Greece Residence by Investment Program
High-net-worth NRIs prefer European citizenship programs over the Caribbean citizenship programs. The top citizenship programs that were applied by mainly NRIs (based in UAE primarily) were: Grenada, Malta, St Lucia.
What are the most popular programs among Indian nationals?
1. Portugal: Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program. Minimum investment of Euro 280,000 in real estate. Possibility of applying for citizenship after five years.
2. Malta: The Malta Permanent Residence Program. Minimum contribution is Euro 175,000 for mixed capital requirements.
3. Greece: The Greece Golden Visa Program provides fast-tracked residency in the country. Minimum investment of Euro 250,000 in real estate.
4. Australia: Under Australia’s Global Talent visa program, successful applicants can obtain fast-tracked permanent residence for the whole family within six weeks. No investment required for this visa, only application, processing and other related fees.
5. Canada: Canada’s Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) requires an investment CAD 1.2 million for a period of five years at no interest (0%). The program which is at capacity at the moment, has a minimum processing time of 48 months. Successful applicants would be eligible for citizenship after three years of physical presence out of a five-year period.
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