With the UK set to leave the EU on December 31, and with no deal looking likely, citizenship firms have witnessed a spike in British HNWIs looking to obtain second passports or residency permits via economic residency or citizenship in order to secure easier access to the EU come 2021, with Malta, Portugal and even the Caribbean in demand.
Driven by Brexit and the increasing likelihood that Britain and the EU will not have a post-Brexit trade deal in place come December 31, resulting in British citizens losing their rights to freedom of movement across the EU and freedom to do business without borders within Europe, many British HNWIs are looking to maintain their EU membership via economic citizenship.
In the last quarter of 2020, and less than three months until the United Kingdom finally leaving the European Union at the end of the year, residency and citizenship solutions provider Astons reports to have seen increased interest from British citizens of 50% and 30% in obtaining citizenship of Cyprus and Greece, respectively; while global citizenship company Henley & Partners has seen a 15% year-on-year increase in engagement from July 1 onwards and an increase in the number of requests on investment immigration for Malta, Austria and Portugal, in particular.
But it’s not just the European CBI Programmes drawing interest from Britons keen to escape Brexit, a number of Caribbean islands offering CBI Programmes have witnessed increased interest from Brits. This is due to the fact that certain Caribbean sovereign states including Saint Lucia and Saint Kitts & Nevis, enjoy preferential access to the EU (thanks to close ties with EU members) giving British citizens who attain second passports of one of these Caribbean countries the ability to continue to move freely between European countries.
According to Konstantin Kaminsky, associate director of Astons, there had already been a consistent uplift in demand for many EU investment programmes this year, largely driven by UK demand as a direct consequence of Brexit and “this is a trend we expect to see accelerate over the coming months”, he explains.
Back in December 2019, Reuters reported that Cyprus government documents showed several of the UK’s ruling Conservative Party donors had secured citizenship of Cyprus since the Brexit referendum in 2016.
He adds: “Both Cypriot and Caribbean investments are proving very popular, primarily driven by high-net-worth individuals from the UK who have an eye on the future and life after Brexit.”
Cyprus’ CBI Programme has been suspended, however, with effect from November 1.
Caribbean CBI options
For those looking for visa-free access to Europe in the wake of Brexit, the time it takes to gain either residency or citizenship is an important factor, as is the cost of citizenship and the stability of the country to which they are applying for citizenship. And this is one of the reasons why Caribbean over Europe citizenships are popular. Not only are they likely to give British citizens better travel access to the EU than Britain will post-Brexit, but they all offer a much lower minimum investment than their European counterparts, as well as delivering quicker approval times.
Offering visa-free travel to 146 countries including the 28 EU member states, economic citizenship of Saint Lucia can be secured in just four months for a minimum investment of US$100,000, while a second passport from Saint Kitts & Nevis will give you visa-free access to 156 countries (including the EU countries) and takes just 60 days (the quickest of any CBI Programme) and costs US$150,000.
Europe’s CBI options
This is still quite a bit less, both financially and time-wise, than the European countries, though many of the EU countries with CBI Programmes offer more passport power.
Considered to be Europe’s best CBI Programme, according to the latest CBI Index 2020, Malta offers even better accessibility with freedom of movement to 184 countries but it takes 12-14 months to get citizenship (four months to residency and citizenship in a year after that) with a minimum investment of €880.
Portugal is offering one of the fastest and most affordable routes to European citizenship, allowing foreigners to gain residency in two to three months, so they can do border-free business in the EU within a short space of time. For a minimum investment of €350,000 in Portuguese property, foreigners can get residency for a family of four giving them access to 186 countries, which can lead to citizenship within five years. Investors need to renew the residency permit every two years and spend two weeks in the country every two years.
“The low cost of investing, the quick time frame to securing residency and the overall stability of each nation are the driving factors behind the likes of Malta, Spain and Portugal becoming very popular from a migration point of view,” explains Konstantin, adding “we expect this will continue to be the case as Britain approaches its final exit from the EU.”
While the Greek residency by investment programme has pretty much ground to a halt since Covid-19 hit, there is talk of it re-launching bigger and better post-pandemic. To secure second citizenship of Greece, British investors would need to invest in real estate, a minimum of €250,000, and would achieve a residence permit, renewable every five years, allowing them to travel visa-free to 184 countries and 26 European states. Residency can lead to citizenship after 10 years.
And with Greece since announcing in August 2020 an attractive flat income tax rate of 7% for overseas retirees who move their tax residency to Greece and reside in the country, gaining residency of Greece could be a big draw for many retired Brits seeking to leave Brexit Britain and retain access to the EU.