‘Great SE Asian migration’ under way
As the political landscape in the West continues to face uncertainty—thanks to events such as Brexit and the Trump administration—a new travel trend among entrepreneurs and business magnates has been observed by a leading international residence and citizenship planning firm: that of “the great Southeast Asian migration.”
“Global mobility is on the cusp of massive change,” says Dominic Volek, managing partner at Henley & Partners. “Travel bans, visa restrictions and growing support for nationalization—these are just some of the trends that are emerging from the recent shifts in the global political, economic and business landscape. The effects are trickling down to this side of the globe where travel freedom, a much sought-after commodity, is already facing challenges.”
As the firm which introduced the concept of residence and citizenship planning back in the 1900s, Henley & Partners consults with the world’s high net worth ($1 million in liquid financial assets) and ultra-high net worth (investable assets of at least $30 million, excluding personal assets and property such as a primary residence, collectibles and consumer durables) individuals and their families on such matters, as they view alternative residence and citizenship as a worthwhile investment.
“For many wealthy individuals, the decision to pursue alternative investments extends past personal and business benefits and is based significantly on increasing opportunities for their families. Diversifying their citizenship portfolios provides themselves and their loved ones greater international opportunities, stability, freedom and security,” Volek says.
It is in Southeast Asia where investor migration has seen a steep rise in recent years, Volek says, with Singapore becoming increasingly popular among members of the high net worth and ultra-high net worth club—who range from successful young entrepreneurs to mature multiventure investors—as the ideal location to pour in their investments, thanks mainly to the stable infrastructure provided by the city state.
“In addition, there has been a rise in Russian, Indian and Chinese nationals living in Singapore who are now also looking for alternative citizenships. We have also seen a growth in the interest from Korean, Japanese and US nationals, whose passports rank well, but are seeking alternative options in more tax-efficient jurisdictions,” he adds.
Traditionally, it has been the US and Canada which came on top of the list of primary options for international investors, but, as the song goes, the times, they are a-changin’.
“With recent geopolitical events such as Brexit and the US administration under President Donald Trump posing possible limitations to global mobility, there has been a significant shift in popular destinations,” Volek says.
Ultimately, what governments need to realize is that “by offering greater choice, opportunity, freedom and security to talented and wealthy individuals from other countries, [they] in turn benefit from the much-needed foreign investment and enrich their own citizens by attracting individuals with proven business success and valuable networks,” Volek explains.
And it’s not just about physical relocation, Volek adds.
“For many, the main advantage of obtaining an alternative citizenship is for greater travel freedom and convenience. For instance, Philippine passport holders, whose passport allows for visa-free travel to only 61 countries, will not be able to seamlessly expand their business operations to key global markets. To avoid the time-consuming and often painful process of obtaining visas, these individuals might consider an alternative citizenship option in Grenada,” he says.
An island country located in the southeastern Carribean Sea, Grenada has a citizenship-by-investment program that allows investors and their families to become a Grenadian citizen by significantly contributing or investing into the country, therefore achieving visa-free travel to 124 countries including the UK, the European Schengen area, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. This additional passport allows members of the high-net worth club to experience greater travel mobility, and focus their time on financial growth, business opportunities and travel freedom.
Such policy is just one example other countries may follow to keep up with world’s ever-changing and competitive business climate, so as to attract those whom Volek describes as “cash-rich, time-poor, and on the lookout for alternative investment and migration options.”
“More opportunities are now available for high net worth individuals to not only grow and diversify their financial portfolio, but also their citizenship and/or residence portfolio,” he says. “With the near endless list of positive outcomes, it is not a surprise that more governments around the world will look to provide programs catered to the increased migration of the wealthy in the near future.”
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