Citizenship-by-Investment for Asia’s Elite


The majority of the world’s wealthy elite have traditionally hailed from those parts of the world with advanced Western economies; most notably from Europe and North America. This trend is, however, shifting east as Asia now mints more new high net worth- and ultra-high net worth individuals than any other part of the world. At the end of 2015, there were 5.1 million high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in Asia Pacific with a combined wealth of US$17.4 trillion.

A growing trend amongst these wealthy individuals is the desire to obtain an alternative or second citizenship. As demand drives supply, the number of Citizenship-by-Investment Programs (CIPs) available to HNWIs and their families has steadily increased over the last few years and is expected to continue to do so.

In exchange for a significant financial contribution or investment to the domestic economy, CIPs offer the world’s wealthy elite with the opportunity to obtain citizenship and in so doing provide them with something that is less tangible and more desirable than any material object – the ability to transcend into a Global Citizen with access to all the benefits which that affords. There are a multitude of reasons why wealthy people apply to these CIPs including personal security, tax planning and mobility.

In Asia, the primary motive behind obtaining a second passport has been driven by the limited ‘travel-ability’ of the majority of Asia-domiciled passports. The biggest market being motivated by the ability to achieve greater mobility is China, whose nationals hold a passport that allows visa free access to just 50 countries around the world. Other key markets whose Nationals have limited visa free access include Thailand (71), the Philippines (61), Indonesia (58), Vietnam (47) and Bangladesh (39)2. HNWIs in these countries therefore look to the CIPs in the Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda3, Dominica, Grenada4 and St. Kitts and Nevis, amongst others, which provide wealthy foreign nationals who invest into these countries with visa free access to up to 134 countries including those in the European Union (EU).

The CIPs in the Caribbean offer applicants the opportunity to become citizens either by making a contribution to a National Development Fund or by investing into an approved real estate project. The contribution amount can range from USD 100,000 to USD 250,000 while the minimum real estate investment required ranges from USD 200,000 to USD 400,000 depending on the country of application. There is also government due diligence- and processing fees in addition to this. Processing times vary per country but typically range from 3 to 6 months with limited to no physical presence required in the country either during the application process or once citizenship is obtained5

Text: Dominic Volek,
Managing Partner Henley & Partners Singapore, Head South East Asia
Photo: Dmitriy & Liudmila Kharitonova

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