LONDON (Reuters) – The number of UK entrepreneurs seeking to ‘buy’ citizenship from countries offering visa-free access to the European Union has risen sharply, according to investment migration firms, as the prospect of a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the Darken bloc.
Immigration investment firm Astons said it saw a 50% and 30% year-over-year increase in the interest of clients seeking Cypriot or Greek citizenship respectively this quarter, less than four months before UK passport holders likely lose their right to liberty. movement across the EU.
Henley & Partners also reported an increase in requests for advice on investment migration applications to Malta, Portugal, Austria and several Caribbean islands, which offer a range of residency rights, visa-free travel within the ‘EU and citizenship to investors in local businesses or property. .
Citizens of some sovereign Caribbean states, including Saint Lucia and Saint Kitts and Nevis, also enjoy privileged access to the EU, thanks to the close ties with EU members due to agreements historical, diplomatic and modern trade.
“These are not tourists. This is the wealthy UK community with a constant need to travel and spend time in the EU, ”said Henley & Partners Director Paddy Blewer.
“This is the migration of investments as a hedge of volatility and a component of a high net worth portfolio defense strategy,” he said, adding that client engagement volumes were higher. higher now than immediately after the 2016 Brexit vote.
Interest in additional citizenships is growing even as the European Commission examines possible measures to prevent EU states from selling passports and visas to wealthy foreigners, as it could aid organized crime groups.
Cypriot residence can be guaranteed in two months with a property purchase of 300,000 euros ($ 351,870). Obtaining citizenship takes six months and requires a minimum real estate investment of 2 million euros.
Reuters reported in December how some donors to the ruling British Conservative Party had applied for Cypriot citizenship, including hedge fund manager Alan Howard.
“Cypriot and Caribbean investments are proving to be very popular … mainly driven by high net worth individuals (HNWI) from the UK who have an eye on the future and life after Brexit”, said the spokesperson for Astons, Konstantin Kaminskiy.
DREAM OF THE CARIBBEAN
Henley & Partners said its volume of engagement with clients seeking citizenship or alternative residency by investment climbed 40% in Q1 2020 compared to Q1 2019, before leveling off during of the COVID-19 lockdown in the second quarter.
But interest has picked up since July 1, with a 15% year-over-year increase in engagement through September 10, as the transition phase of Brexit approaches.
Blewer of Henley & Partners said clients are increasingly drawn to applications for Caribbean citizenship – which will likely give them better access to travel to the EU than Britain – but who have more minimum investment. low and faster approval process.
Citizenship of Saint Lucia, offering visa-free travel to 146 countries, can be obtained in about four months for a minimum investment of 76,152 pounds, according to data provided by Astons.
For less than £ 40,000 more, investors can obtain citizenship of St. Kitts and Nevis – and travel visa-free to 156 countries – in about 60 days.
In contrast, Malta offers citizenship in exchange for around £ 1million of investment, but the process takes up to 14 months.
Portugal, on the other hand, typically processes investment migration applications within three months, but only grants EU residency to investors and travel for a visa fee to just 26 countries.
“With HNWIs, time is often more of a factor than what is essentially a small fluctuation in costs and many are looking to gain additional citizenship as quickly as possible in the pandemic landscape,” said Arthur Sarkisian, CEO of Astons.
EU authorities are under pressure to crack down on member states’ investment migration programs.
Sven Giegold, a member of the European Parliament from the German Green Party, said this type of sale of citizenship “poses a serious threat to EU security and the fight against corruption” in the bloc.
“European passports and visas are not a commodity. Money should not be the criterion for citizenship and the right to stay in the EU, ”he said.
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