Photo: iStock
While a UK passport allows for travel to 173 countries without a prior visa, an Indian passport provides access to just 71. Photo: iStock

Citizens of Asian countries are driving the global demand for second passports, citizenships and overseas residencies as the world looks toward a post-pandemic future.

Research from many firms specializing in this area, including deVere, over the past year shows that interest is soaring and that most of the inquiries are coming from high-net-worth individuals in India, East Asia and the Middle East who are seeking alternative options in Europe and the Commonwealth.

This is not simply because Asia is the world’s most populous continent with some of the richest families, it is also because many national passports do not offer similar benefits to others.

For instance, Indian passports provide visa-free access to 75 countries and territories across the globe, including Thailand and Hong Kong. While such access is higher than most of its neighboring nations offer, it covers less than a third of the globe and does not include any European countries, the UK, the US, or China.

As such, Indian passport holders have access to only around 9% of global gross domestic product.

Should an Indian citizen obtain a second passport from Grenada, for example, he or she would have access to more than 160 destinations worldwide, including the UK, the EU Schengen area, China and Russia.

Traditionally, a second passport, citizenship or residency was perceived by many as the ultimate luxury item, a status symbol like yachts, supercars and original artwork.

This does still hold true, but there has also been a shift due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Whether it be for personal reasons, such as to stay with loved ones overseas or be able to visit them, or for business reasons, a growing number of people are seeking ways to secure their freedom of movement as they have faced travel restrictions that are, typically, based on citizenship.

The pandemic has served as a major catalyst for demand, which skyrocketed this past year. It has focused minds on securing that second passport or elite residency.

But once we move into a post-pandemic era, I believe the attraction will remain, as the positives serve a greater purpose than solely to get through the public health emergency.

In today’s world, people seem to favor the notion of being a global citizen, instead of just being tied to the country of their birth.

There are also many associated benefits including visa-free travel, world-class education, optimal health care, political and economic stability, reduced tax liabilities and wider business and career opportunities.

Every host country has different criteria for granting citizenship, including time spent in the country, being able to prove a legal source of funds and no criminal records.

Increasingly countries around the world are launching citizenship-by-investment initiatives, in which people invest an amount of money in a country typically in quality, modern real-estate developments in exchange for permanent residency, citizenship, or both.

They are doing this to meet demand, as in these highly unusual times the jump in demand for second passports continues unabated.

It would appear that the pandemic has hammered home what really matters: family, freedom and security.

Nigel Green founded deVere Group in 2002 from a single office in Hong Kong after discovering a niche market for expatriates in the financial services sector. Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest independent financial advisory organizations in the world with offices and clients across the globe.