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GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP: HOW’S AND WHY’S?

A second citizenship or residency not just allows greater global visa free access, there are a number of other benefits too

There’s a rather unexpected new status symbol in town, and one comes with multiple benefits too. Move over gold, villas and yachts, a second citizenship is the new way to flaunt one’s wealth for an increasing number of Indians. With most countries’ passport allowing greater global access than the Indian passport, a second citizenship often entitles you to far greater visa free global travel, besides a host of other benefits.

Is it possible to be a citizen of more than one country? Yes, is the clear answer, though it may be termed resident in some nations, especially as India does not allow dual citizenship. While different countries have varying criteria, buying one’s way into a citizenship or residency of even some of the richest nations is not just possible, but by going the legal way, quite simple and fairly quick! St. Kitts and Nevis, in the Caribbean, has the longest running second citizenship program in the world, in operation since 1984, which takes just three to four months of processing time!

The potential out of India for these programmes is huge. After China, India is already the second largest nation by the number of people opting for these programmes, according to 2017 data. India has 3,30,400 HNWIs (individuals with US$ 1 million or more in net assets), including 20,730 multi-millionaires, according to a report by South Africa based global market research group New World Wealth. The Second Citizenship Survey 2017 by research firm CS Global Partners found that 89 per cent of those polled would like to own a second passport, and over 34 per cent said they had explored getting a second citizenship.

HOW DOES IT BENEFIT THE INVESTOR?

While the reasons for seeking a second citizenship can be multiple, a number of benefits are a huge draw for well heeled Indians. The biggest draw, residency usually allows unlimited right to stay and rights that a citizen of the host nation has. The most significant of these include right to work and study, as well as access to health benefits. For example, to study in a US university or get a scholarship to one, there are far more options as a citizen or permanent resident.

For many corporate elite, frequent travel is a work perquisite. With Indian citizens having visa-free or visa on arrival access to just 59 countries and territories, ranking the Indian passport 81st in terms of travel freedom, it can be an impediment to fast travel. Compare that to holders of the Singaporean or German visas, who can travel to 166 countries visa free, while citizens / residents of 11 other nations including the US allow visa free travel to 165 nations, according to Global Passport Index. Being a resident of Cyprus, one of the most sought-after citizenship destinations, for example, entitles you to visa free travel to 158 countries, including all of Europe as Cyprus is a member of the European Union (EU), points out Vimal Anand, Director, IREX Residency & Citizenship Conclave. A recent example of someone opting for a Cypriot passport - real estate magnate Surendra Hiranandani, cofounder of the Hiranandani Group, who said the ease of doing business was his motivation to opt for Cypriot citizenship.

Needless to say, this move also helps in international business. If you have a legal address abroad, and your work does not involve India, you could always transact directly among the other countries, which would save you from paying taxes and other fees in India.

Then there are programmes that allow people to manage their tax costs. A citizenship of another country where tax burdens are lower can lead to substantial savings. Certain nations do not have taxes, instead relying on income from programmes such as these. Look towards the idyllic Caribbean isles to explore such options.

Then there is the status that comes along with owning real estate around the world, which allows for multiple benefits of staying. That’s not counting cleaner air, or places ranked high on the liveable indexes! The superior quality of life is an often-overlooked benefit!

Another category of benefits is in education, where the children of the person taking up residency / citizenship can get access similar to those of citizens of the country where the citizenship has been taken. This includes subsidised education for dependent children and scholarships.

Another benefit is that as someone employed in say, the US, you earn in US dollars, which protects you against more volatile currencies, such as the Indian rupee, which has lost 15 per cent of its value between February and September 2018 against the US dollar.

Also, people of Indian origin, even if they do opt for another citizenship or residency, also have the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) status.

MIGRANT / RESIDENT / CITIZEN – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Migration means moving of an individual from one country to another or one place to another on a long-term basis or permanent basis. In this case person is still retains his or her Indian passport. This move could be a long-term employment. Most people living in UAE and the Middle East are migrants as they have long term work visa but no residency or citizenship from UAE government and holding Indian passport.

Residency means person has moved to new country permanently either for work or business but he or she is still holding Indian passport and hence he is an Indian citizen. Receiving the US green card means taking its residency but holding Indian passport.

Citizenship means person has taken a citizenship of another country. The citizenship can be by birth or in this case by naturalization. An Indian citizen taking US citizen means renouncing India citizenship and surrendering the Indian passport as India does not allow dual citizenship. Of course, taking up citizenship of another country does not mean cutting off links with India. People of Indian origin can opt to be an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Cardholder.

HOW TO GET A SECOND CITIZENSHIP

Unlike many other legal processes, getting a citizenship can feel like a breeze. Many nations offer citizenship by investment programmes (CIP), offering options within that too! The programmes, with costs usually starting from about $200,000 – though some could go into millions of US dollars, usually involve investment in real estate or government initiatives or even local businesses in the country where you are seeking citizenship.

There are other programmes which offer residency, which usually means an extended visa with perks, in exchange for similar investments, relevant for Indians as India does not allow dual citizenship.

The guidelines are clearly spelt out, and while they differ in details according to country, including the time taken for the process. Besides the core investment, there are legal and other fees involved.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR?

A residency, while entitling you to a number of benefits, is however not citizenship. So, no voting rights for example, or serving on juries. Also, despite popular perception, getting residency abroad is perfectly legal for Indian citizens.

Most countries offering such programmes will do their due diligence for applicants. An investor with a criminal record or one that has defaulted on bank loans or has been involved in tax evasion are not regarded to be eligible for these programmes.

An investor is usually allowed to take a spouse and unmarried dependent children along as well, though there is an age limit on children, which differs from country to country.

The risks of losing one’s investment is minimal, as the even when the investment is in the private sector, the funds are kept in the national government’s escrow accounts, which makes it safe.

Of course, money is what makes it happen. According to the report by New World Wealth, 7,000 Indians shifted overseas in 2017. For 2016, the corresponding figure was 6,000, while in 2015 it was 4,000.

The lure of major first world nations such as the US, Canada and Australia is still a top draw for most Indians, according to New World Wealth. The AfrAsia Bank Global Wealth Migration Review concurs, adding other major nations Indians are headed to include Switzerland, New Zealand, Singapore as well as Caribbean island havens such as St Kitts and Nevis, St Bart’s, Virgin Islands, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Cayman Islands and Grenada among others. Whatever your reason, it just might be less expensive and more beneficial to invest in such a programme than acquiring the sea front Goa home!

RESIDENCY/ CITIZENSHIP PROGRAMMES AROUND THE WORLD – AN OVERVIEW

The rules of investment and costs for residency or citizenship differ from country to country, and looking at the small print is important. However, here is a broad stroke sampling of residency / citizenship programmes and what it could cost potential investors:

USA

The US offers the EB-5 investor programme, under which the options include:

  • Make an investment of $1 million in a new business and create 10 jobs or
  • Make an investment of $500,000 in a new business and create 10 jobs provided this business is in a TEA area or high unemployment area.
  • Investment can be in form of Debt /Loan, Equity or fund. Good projects can secure your principal amount as well as a good return. The processing time is as short as three to 13 months for the first I-526 petition approval.
CANADA

Canada offers the skilled worker immigration:

You can qualify under this programme if you have –

  • A Master’s degree
  • Minimum of three years of work experience
  • Are preferably under the age of 35 years or better still, under 29 years of age
  • Have an IELTS score of 8 in listening and 7 in each of the other three categories

Start Up immigrant visa:

You can qualify for this visa if you have started a company that can be –

  • Incubated by Canada government approved incubators or
  • If angel investors make an investment of CD$75,000 in your company or
  • If a VC makes an investment of CD$200,000 in your company
  • And if you have the required IELTS score and post-secondary education

There are 10 different business immigration programs of Canada:

In general, you need to fulfil the following basic criteria for all of them –

  • Possess net assets of CD$500,000 and above
  • Have 2 to 3 years of business experience or senior executive experience
  • Have a viable business plan to start a new business, purchase an existing business or enter into a joint venture with another company
  • Have an IELTS score of at least 5 band in each category
UNITED KINGDOM

UK Tier 1 immigration

To qualify under this programme you need to have:

  • Net assets of £200,000 or more
  • IELTS band of 4 to 5 in each category
  • A viable business plan which will create two jobs
PORTUGAL

Portugal, a member of the European Union, offers residency. You will need to:

  • Purchase real estate worth €500,000 or more. Children under 18years of age and parents can be included under this programme. There are no language, minimum age and education requirements. Applicant can work as well as operate their own business.
CYPRUS

For citizenship of Cyprus, an EU member country, you will need to:

  • Purchase real estate/property worth €2.5 million
  • Permanently maintain a residential property of €500,000 (you can sell other assets after 3 years)

For residency of Cyprus, you will need to:

  • Purchase real estate/property worth €300,000
  • Make a bank deposit of €30,000
  • The applicant must provide proof of secured annual income of at least €30,000 outside of Cyprus. This income
  • Must increase by €5,000 for every additional child and €8,000 for each dependent parent.

For both schemes. children under 25 years of age and parents can be included under this programme. There are no language, minimum age and education requirements

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