The primary reason rich Indians are looking for an alternative passport is travel freedom.
In India, there is no dearth of wealth and the proof of this is the growing number of wealthy Indians. A common trend amid high net-worth individuals (HNWI) in India is that they find the opportunity to live or do business abroad very attractive.
A lot of countries are leveraging this by coming up with programmes that not only provide them with visa free access, but also lets them invest. Some of these programmes also give them access to permanent residency.
The known places where Indians prefer living abroad include countries like US. Going by 2018 data on the share of EB-5 visas, Indian nationals prefer US and the number of Indians receiving conditional green cards grew by an astonishing 236 percent, as compared to 2017.
Malaysia has a My Second Home Programme (MM2H), which allows those below the age of 50 to put up about MYR 300,000 (approx. $75,000) in a bank account, which then gives them access to a 10-year resident permit in the country.
To invest in Malta, the financial requirement is €900,000, through a combination of donation to the government, investment in stocks/bonds and a property transaction.
In a conversation with Moneycontrol, Dominic Volek, Managing Partner and Head of Southeast Asia, Henley & Partners, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm, said: "When it comes to residing overseas, US tops the charts, followed by UAE, UK and Canada. Canada had a very successful programme, probably the original high investment migration programme where you could do $800,000 non-interest bearing loans to the government in Canada and get permanent residence. The original programme is closed. There's a similar programme in Quebec. You give 1.2 million Canadian dollar on a zero interest loan to the government for five years and you get permanent residence."
Volek added that the above mentioned destinations are followed by places like Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, which have investment migration programmes and high net worth individuals can obtain permanent residency by just investing in these countries and create economic benefits within them.
"I welcome their investment but we also want them to come and live there and add their skills and talent to the local workforce," Volek added.
Last year in the second quarter, the UK issued 23 percent more Tier-1 entrepreneur visas as compared to the same period in 2017. And Indians made up the top 10 applicants (by nationality).
In London, three percent of buyers of properties worth $1 million or more are Indian nationals. Indians are also investing in real estate in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, New York, and Dubai.
But what is driving these HNWIs to live and invest in countries abroad?
According to Volek, people in India are looking to relocate and it's lot to do with education.
"It's a big driver here. Destinations like US, the UK and Australia are very popular. Half million Indians are in US, three million in the UAE, three million in the UK. So education is a big factor. Quality of life for which destinations like Canada, Australia are top destinations whether it is the quality of the transport system, the healthcare and then again tax also comes in. A lot of firms in order to become tax efficient have to physically relocate to destinations where taxes might be more friendly," he said.
Giving more details about popular residency by investment program Volek said there’s an interesting resident Greece Golden Visa Program which includes investment of EUR 250,000 into real estate to become a resident in Greece. With this amount of money high networth individuals get exposure to the European real estate with value added benefit of permanent residence.”
“This is interesting because with Indian passport you have visa free access to any of these 61 countries around the world but with residence in one of these European countries, the resident card increases to Portugal which gives you visa free access to the whole of Schengen areas.”
He added that there are twelve and half thousand Indians living in Greece.
Other such programmes include-
Canada Quebec Immigrant Investor Programme – applicants have an option of investing CAD 1.2 million at 0% interest to the government. And they can get a Permanent Residency from Canada.
Thailand Elite – can get a 5-, 10- or 20-year residence visa with a fee ranging from THB 500,000 to THB 1 million (approx. USD15K to USD32K)
Singapore Global Investor Programme (GIP). Volek said that Singapore doesn't particularly need FDI (foreign direct investment), but they are more focused on entrepreneurship.
Applicants need to invest either SGD2.5 million in a new business entity or expand an existing business operation, or invest SGD2.5 million in a GIP-approved fund.
"By getting applicants to come to Singapore, start a business and employ locals, Singapore is looking for more continued economic benefit from an investment migrant who would then get a permanent residence," said Volek.
Australia Residence-by-Investment programs – ranging from AUD 1.5 to AUD 5 million investment requirement. The applicant would typically move to Australia to enjoy the benefits those countries provide.
Apart from Residence-by-Investment programs, countries are also giving citizenship by investment programs but they are only handful said Volek.
Within the European Union, there are 28 member states. And two of them, Malta and Cyprus, have citizenship-by-investment programs. Their passports have good visa-free access but the real attraction is that they are EU members, meaning you can have settlement rights in the EU. So you can settle in all of the 28 countries in the EU.
"There are countries in the Caribbean which are very popular. Greneda is one particular country for a family of four for example they can either donate 200,000 US dollars to the Greneda government or they can invest 350,000 US dollars into real estate. So they can have an Indian passport with an access to 61 countries and then Grenadian passport with access to almost 150 countries and that includes the whole of European Schengen area, the UK, explained Volek.
"Greneda is quite unique because it has visa free access to China which a lot of countries don’t. So, free access and the ability of being able to acquire a stronger force from a travel perspective is driving the industry. When you look at the European Union, within the EU there are 28 member states and two of them - Malta and Cyprus - have a citizenship line investment programme and the real attraction here is EU members because if you have citizenship of any one EU member, you have the right to settle in all 28 countries," he added.
For Cyprus, applicants need to invest €2 million into real estate, we submit an application for citizenship and after 6 months, it will be approved. They don’t actually have to live in Cyprus but they can live, work or study in any of the 28 EU member states.
Volek said that the primary reason Indians are looking for an alternative passport is travel freedom.He said that the trend of global travel freedom is increasing year on year and more countries are realising the benefits of having visa waiver and it will continue in 2019.