Investor immigration: many opportunities as nations vie for funds

Investment-based immigration has gained steam especially after the 2008 financial meltdown, as a host of countries has come up with attractive programmes to attract foreign funds, says Ajay Sharma, president of immigration and visa consultancy Abhinav Outsourcings

Over the years, investor immigration programs have become extremely popular amongst businessmen and high net worth individuals who are seeking an alternate residency or second passport for various reasons.
Canada (Quebec) Immigrant Investor program was one of the first such initiatives and continues to be the most popular among eligible applicants. It is perhaps the oldest immigrant investor program in the world.
Most of the EU countries started offering these plans after the 2008 crisis. Investments (in almost all cases) to get residency or citizenship came interest free, the only requirement being refund after 5-6 years, depending on scheme parameters. This was normally through investment in government funds and/or schemes. Most also offer options for investments in property. This serves many purposes – generates employment, grows the economy because of movement through sale of all construction and use of linked equipment and material, and overall makes finances flow through the economy.
While many Caribbean countries, especially St. Kitts and Nevis, have had investment based passport programs for few years now, they slashed the investment amounts after last year’s cyclones that caused huge infrastructural and financial damage in these countries. They used the programs to get the funding to rebuild their countries.
The much talked about EB-Green card program has been in operation since 1990 but got fame only after the financial meltdown of 2008. No American banks were lending money to the crashed property segment and they started collecting funds through an interest free investment vehicle called EB-5!
Political upheavals, uncertainty and rise of fundamentalism and autocracies across the world also created demand for these investor immigrant products. Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran. Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – the list is long.
In the Indian context, the overall media hype — on account of aggressive marketing budgets of the regional centres and consultants — indicating that Indians are applying for these programs in hordes is misplaced and misleading. A few hundreds do not make it a flood in a country of the size of India.
Unlike other countries, Indians mostly opt for these programs for betterment of quality of life and the future of their children. Corruption, difficulty in doing business, pollution and kids’ education and lower or negligible taxation rates continue to be the main motivators.
More and more countries are realising the opportunities such programmes bring and cheap funds they generate for their government. Various countries across the globe have formulated attractive programs to attract the investor immigrants. The list is long – Canada, the USA, Singapore, UK, Bulgaria, Malta, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, the Baltics and Caribbean countries.
Applicants make their destination choice depending on careful assessment of many factors such as
  • Personal net worth
  • Investment budgets
  • Application processing time frames
  • Timeline to getting passports
  • Physical residency requirements to retain the residency status
  • Immigration destination
  • Number of countries for which visa-free travel convenience is permitted by the passport
  • Higher educational facilities for children
  • Business and personal taxation rates
  • Ease of doing business
  • Weather, especially preference for less polluted destinations
  • Social security benefits
  • Permission for elderly or non-dependent children to accompany the principal applicant
Though many times it has received its share of flak, investor immigrant programs still remain a very popular option and countries globally are now in a virtual race to attract the investor migrants.