In the current economic climate, South Africans are hedging their bets by investing abroad and by acquiring a second citizenship or residency overseas at an unprecedented rate. Immigration experts Sable International say they have seen 70% increase in enquiries and 45% increase in clients over the past year.
Andrew Rissik, Group Commercial Director at Sable International, says that South African high net worth individuals are internationalising themselves, their wealth, and often their businesses as fast as they can.
“The reasons vary tremendously, from concerns about our country’s policies, to wanting to school children abroad, to wanting to diversify their investments offshore or simply wanting to travel more easily without challenging travel visa requirements – they want to become global citizens,” says Rissik.
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He lists the current top residency and citizenship options as ranging from citizenship by investment programmes in Grenada, Cyprus or Malta, to the EB-5 USA investment visa, to the popular range of options for Australia, Portugal and the UK. There are complex tax, wealth and money transfer implications involved in most of the deals, but many offer both a beautiful environment and a safe haven for investment.
“A key issue is that if you’re planning on relocating, you need to review the tax implications and exchange control regulations before you make your move. You need plan how and when you access and transfer your financial assets and if you need to financially emigrate or not,” says Rissik.
“Most people have to understand how to buy or rent property, open bank accounts, understand the tax laws and other fiscal implications. You need to do your homework or you’ll have a nightmare, so many South Africans embark on this complex and risky journey with the guidance of smooth real estate sales people preying on the fact that South Africans are fearful about their future, buyer beware!”
The top citizenship and residency options globally
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.
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.
Cyprus offers an even faster 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.
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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.
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 making you eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship, subject to meeting some requirements which include a basic Portuguese language test. Another advantage of this programme is the low minimum-stay requirements, averaging only a week 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.
Australian immigration options
Australia is a popular choice for immigration from South Africa thanks to its high quality of life, prosperous economy and diverse population. The country is already home to tens of thousands of expats from all over the world. Offering a similar climate and lifestyle to South Africa, this destination can make an international move feel less daunting.
There are a very wide range of visa routes and options for Australian immigration. 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. British nationality law is extraordinarily complex and many people who have claims to British citizenship are unaware of their rights.
“Many South Africans are trying to a claim British ancestry citizenship at the moment. We have over 20 years of experience in British nationality, Irish nationality and UK immigration and work under the guidance of Philip Gamble, the world’s leading expert on the subject, and I can tell you it’s complicated and you need to know how to navigate the system,” says Rissik.
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