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Wealthy Filipinos’ guide to living in sought-after territories

BusinessWorld logo BusinessWorld 5/7/2017

THERE IS AN easier way for wealthy Filipinos who want to live in countries with strict visa requirements -- by acquiring a residence permit or a “strong” second passport that allows entry into coveted destinations around the world.

It is not as hard as it seems. There are consulting firms that can do the job faster, at a fixed rate and without risks. Wealth is the operative word.

Henley & Partners has been offering this service for years, and is now looking at the Philippines -- because of its newfound wealth -- as a place to widely offer residence and citizenship planning.

“We advise high net worth individuals and ultra-high net worth individuals on obtaining either citizenship, so getting a passport, or obtaining residence in other countries and doing it through investment,” said Dominic Volek, Southeast Asia head at Henley & Partners Singapore Pte. Ltd.

Mr. Volek, a managing partner at the firm, said his clients are mostly wealthy individuals -- which he said the Philippines has now more of -- who are neither looking for a skilled worker visa nor relocating to another country as an expat.

He said the concept of residence and citizenship planning was created by Henley & Partners. These two topics have become of interest to wealthy individuals as globalization required mobility and ease of travel for them.

RESIDENCE, CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT

Residence by investment means that an individual or family invests into a certain country to gain residency. This becomes a sensible move especially for those who live in countries with limited options for tax and estate planning, or those who are simply looking for better lifestyle choices. Residence by investment is also attractive for those living in countries with an unstable political or economic situation.

Citizenship by investment is when an individual or family seeks to acquire citizenship of another country for a number of reasons, such as financial, security or lifestyle choices, by significantly investing or contributing to that country.

“Citizenship is if you are a citizen of a country, you’ve got a passport for that country. You’re entitled to vote. It’s not subject to conditions. No one can take your Filipino citizenship away from you. And residence is you have a residence permit and that’s always gonna be subject to conditions,” Mr. Volek said.

Henley & Partners recently held a seminar in Manila, where attendees were advised on the citizenship-by-investment programs in the Caribbean and Europe as well as residence-by-investment programs in the UK, Europe, the United Arab Emirates and Asian.

Mr. Volek said in the Philippines, he is not aware of any other firm offering the same services as Henley & Partners, which in other countries also runs a government advisory practice that has raised more than $6 billion in foreign direct investments.

The firm has been involved in strategic consulting and the design, setup and operation of some of the world’s most successful residence and citizenship programs. It has 25 offices worldwide.

FIXED FEES

Asked about the length of time to get a foreign passport and the fees required for the services, Mr. Volek said: “It varies on the program.”

“If you look at the Caribbean, the whole process from start to finish will usually take three to five months... We charge a fix fee. Our fee there is starting at $35,000 for a single applicant and that increases as you add in dependents and parents, and obviously the work increases,” he said.

“If you look at Malta, we are basically working for 18 months. There, fees start at €70,000,” he said. “We charge a fixed fee, but we do everything. So it’s a complete handholding, A-Z. If you’re buying real estate, we’ve got a real estate team, we’ve got in-house legal, there’s no other or hidden cost that’s gonna pop up down the line,” he said.

He said the last Filipino client advised by Henley & Partners bought a property in Antigua.

“We do a lot of Antigua here. They (clients) bought a property... the whole process was probably three months but it was because the actual application was very straightforward,” he said.

DIFFERENT PROGRAMS

Here are some of the residence-by-investment programs and citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programs offered by Henley & Partners:

• Thailand Elite Residence Program

This visa allows foreigners to live in the country for around $3,000 a year, and is aimed at capitalizing on increased global uncertainty over borders and immigration. It costs $60,000 for 20 years’ residency along with a $600 a year membership fee.

• Singapore’s Global Investor Program

It is aimed at wealthy entrepreneurs and investors interested in making substantial financial investments in Singapore, and who wish to make Singapore their home.

• Malaysia My Second Home Program

Successful applicants and their dependents are granted a 10-year multiple-entry visa. This is effectively a residence permit, enabling the successful applicants and their family to live in Malaysia.

• UK Tier 1 Investment Visa -- Residence and Citizenship for Non-EU Citizen

BusinessWorld Photo: Skyscrapers, including 20 Fenchurch Street, known as the “Walkie-Talkie” building, and The Shard, are pictured in London at sunrise on Jan. 18. -- AFP © Copyright 2016, BusinessWorld Publishing Corporation Skyscrapers, including 20 Fenchurch Street, known as the “Walkie-Talkie” building, and The Shard, are pictured in London at sunrise on Jan. 18. -- AFP

The investor category is designed to allow wealthy individuals who make a substantial financial investment in the UK to obtain permission to enter as an investor under the Tier 1 category. The applicant must invest a minimum of 2 million British pounds in the UK.

• Portugal Golden Residence Permit

All holders of the permit may enter the Schengen for up to 90 days without a visa. Residence permits for non-EU nationals are granted after making certain investments under the Portugal Residence by Investment Program.

• Malta Residence and Visa Program

The requirements include an investment in government bonds of €250,000 to be retained for a minimum period of five years; a non-refundable government contribution of €30,000 and a property purchase of €320,000/270,000 or a property lease of €12,000/10,000 per annum.

• Cyprus Residency by Investment

Permanent residence can be obtained in just two months through the purchase of new immovable property of a total market value of at least €300,000 plus value-added tax and submission of a confirmation letter from a Cyprus bank that the minimum capital of €30,000 has been deposited from abroad that will be locked for three years.

• Antigua and Barbuda CBI Program

To qualify for citizenship, the person must be over 18 years of age, meet the application requirements and select one of the following three options available:

1. An investment of at least $400,000 into one of the approved real estate projects, which cannot be disposed of within a five-year period or before the proposed development has been substantially completed.

2. A contribution to the National Development Fund of a minimum non-refundable amount of $200,000 (for a single applicant).

3. An investment of a minimum $1.5 million directly into an eligible business as a sole investor or a joint investment involving at least two persons in an eligible business totaling at least $5 million and each of those persons individually invests at least $400,000.

• Granada CBI Program

Two investment options are offered for individuals who want to acquire citizenship:

1. National Transformation Fund donation option: a minimum non-refundable contribution to the fund of $200,000.

2. Real estate option: To acquire property from a government real estate project for a minimum of $350,000. The real estate must be held for a minimum of three years.

Grenada passport holders travel visa-free to 124 countries, including the UK and Schengen area, China, Brazil and other key business and lifestyle destinations. It is the only CBI program that holds an E-2 Investor Visa Treaty with the US, allowing Grenadian nationals the opportunity to enter and work in the US, and it is the only investor migration program in the Caribbean that offers successful applicants visa-free access to China.

• Cyprus CBI Program

Full Cypriot citizenship is granted to those who invest at least €2 million into qualifying assets (typically real estate) and who meet other requirements. Successful applicants gain the right to live, work and study in all 28 EU member countries. A Cypriot passport provides visa-free travel to 158 countries and is automatically given to the next generation. Dual citizenship is permitted. The investor’s parents are also entitled to apply for Cyprus citizenship provided they own a permanent residence valued at €500,000, excluding VAT, or more.

• Malta Individual Investor Program

It is the most exclusive CBI program in the world and will accept only 1,800 applicants. The program, which Henley & Partners was contracted in 2014 by the government of Malta to design and implement, offers clients the opportunity to gain Maltese, and therefore EU citizenship. The benefits of Maltese citizenship include the right to live, work and study in any of the 28 EU countries and Switzerland; and visa-free travel to 167 countries, including EU nations, Canada, the US and Australia. It is the world’s strictest due diligence standards and vetting of applicants, thus ensuring only highly respectable applicants will be admitted.

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