A growing number of citizens of Asian countries are considering European residency. This is evidenced by governments of European countries such as Portugal, Malta, Greece and Cyprus offering so-called “golden visa” schemes. In essence, these initiatives, which seem to be becoming increasingly attractive particularly for those from China, India and Pakistan, among others, are residency-for-investment programs.
Required investments, typically real estate, start from €250,000 (US$284,000) in Greece to €300,000 in Cyprus and €500,000 in Portugal. Each country will have different criteria that need to be met, such as how many days need to be spent in the host country. Some requirements are common to all such programs, including having a clean criminal record and being able to prove the legal source of funds.
There have been some critics within the European nations that are offering these schemes. But it is generally accepted that they have been positive for their domestic economies.
In February, for example, Cypriot Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said his country’s scheme contributed 1.2% to economic growth in the past three years. He added: “The construction and real-estate sector has clearly recovered and part of this recovery is owed to the program.”
For his part, Eurico Brilhante Dias, Portugal’s secretary of state for internationalization, said in an interview with the United Arab Emirates newspaper The National recently that his country’s program was attracting “wide interest.”
What, then, is proving so appealing about European residency for Asian citizens? There are many different reasons, each one having differing compelling factors for each individual’s or family’s circumstances.
One of the most cited reasons is international mobility. In many countries, citizens have limited visa-free options. China for example only offers 58 visa-free countries, whereas Portuguese residency offers access to all Schengen countries, and with citizenship after six years of residency, up to 165 visa-free countries. A lack of visa-free travel is extremely inconvenient for businesspeople as visa applications are notoriously onerous and lengthy.
There is also the issue of the security “insurance” offered by European residency – as the host countries are stable, secure and peaceful, whereas the investors’ country of origin may not necessarily be so. As such, these residencies provide invaluable peace of mind for investors.
Residency in the host countries will also allow businesses to be set up by the holder, giving them access to enormous potential new markets. In addition, there may be tax advantages, giving investors the opportunity to manage their wealth more efficiently.
Another significant draw is that residency can be granted to family members, on the back of the primary applicant. This means that one’s spouse and children can also enjoy the many different associated benefits of being a European resident, especially in terms of having access to some of the best educational and health-care facilities in the world.
Public institutions and private enterprises are clear that an ever-greater number of Asian citizens are exploring the possibilities of obtaining European residency. These applicants regard themselves as global citizens. Not bound by national borders, they are keen to have the opportunities for themselves and their families to live, work and/or retire outside their country of origin with all the advantages this brings.
And with the world becoming ever more globalized, this, I believe, is a trend that is set to gain momentum in coming years.