A Singapore ‘golden visa’ company is about to build on its success selling Maltese and Moldovan passports by putting Montenegrin citizenship on the international open market in October.
Having a second or even third passport can be advantageous for some people for many legitimate reasons, especially if the passports are European ones that grant holders visa-free access to more than 100 countries and other benefits.
A citizen of Moldova, for instance, has a passport ranked 44th in the world by the TravelFreedom website because it allows travel to 113 different countries and territories without a prior visa.
In early July Singapore-based Henley & Partners announced it had won a public tender issued by the Republic of Moldova “to design, implement, and internationally promote the much-anticipated Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment (MCBI) programme”.
Later in the month Montenegro announced it would follow suit and, also working with Henley & Partners, announced plans to launch its own citizenship-by-investment programme this coming October.
For €250,000 (about US$289,000) invested in a national fund, government bonds, or property, a foreigner can now be eligible for Moldovan citizenship.
That, according to Henley & Partners, brings numerous benefits such as visa-free access to many countries around the world, including in Europe’s Schengen Area.
After the applicant passes a ‘stringent vetting and due diligence process’ to ensure he or she has a clean personal background and no criminal record and is awarded citizenship, the same rights are extended to his or her children under 29 years of age and elderly parents.
Montenegro will launch a similar Henley-designed programme next month, charging passport-seekers a total of €350,000: €250,000 of it as an investment and €100,000 as a fee to be deposited in a special fund for use in underdeveloped areas.
Montenegro passport #39th globally
However, unlike Moldova — which initially set a ceiling of 5,000 passports, but afterwards lifted it — Montenegro says it will run the programme for three years and grant a maximum of 2,000 citizenships. TravelFreedom ranks Montenegro’s passport 39th in the world,with its holders able to visit 120 countries without a prior visa.
“With Moldova and Montenegro, these two new attractive European programmes will significantly diversify and expand the global citizenship-by-investment market,” said Henley & Partners’ chief operating officer, Dr. Juerg Steffen.
“These programmes have the potential to create a series of genuinely significant liquidity injections into an economy, both in and of themselves, and as pathfinders for more strategic investments that can help modernize and diversify the economy of often smaller nations, creating a better life for their citizens.”
Henley & Partners is one of a growing number of firms, such as Canadian company Arton Capital and La Vida Golden Visas of London, England, that facilitate the arrangement of expensive preferential visas and the outright buying of citizenships from many countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Kitts and Nevis — all countries in the Caribbean.
Elsewhere, Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean offers citizenship for an investment of US$200,000 for a family of four However, while Canada used to sell citizenship for a C$800,000 ($607,000) investment, it cancelled the programme because the government said it undervalued the country and did not offer significant returns. However, while it ended nationally in 2014, a smaller version remains in effect in the province of Quebec.
Prior to Moldova getting into the business three European countries were already selling citizenships: Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta. All charge the highest prices in the world. A fast-track Bulgarian citizenship costs BGN 2 million ($1.18 million) in investments over two years and requires one year of residency.
A Cyprus citizenship requires a €2 million real estate investment and is delivered within six months. Maltan papers cost just over half that price, but they require a five-year residency in the country. All three grant ‘European citizenship’ and ‘the ability to live, work, and study anywhere in the EU’ to most members of a family.
“For applicants, it is all about the increased access that alternative citizenship can provide the holder,” said Dominic Volek, managing partner of Henley & Partners Singapore. “This can take shape in the form of flexibility, travel freedom, and business opportunity.”
Moldova expecting €1.3 billion windfall from passport sales
Mr Volek added that what makes Moldova extra attractive is that it has entered into an association agreement with the European Union and is aiming to become a candidate country for EU membership.
|Dr Christian Kälin, CEO of Henley & Partners responds to media reports accusing the firm of colluding with the government of Malta and having a connection to the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese freelance investigative journalist. Video Investment Migration Insider|
On the other hand, he explained, for a country such as Moldova it is about generating much-needed foreign direct investment and capital, which can help boost economic development and growth. He said this is especially important for smaller sovereign states that might otherwise struggle to compete globally.
According to Moldovan Economics and Infrastructure Minister Chiril Gaburici, as quoted by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in July, the government hopes the citizenship sales will reap €1.3 billion in investments over five years.
“The government has worked out this instrument, having at the basis good international practices and relying on the identification of a good partner”, Minister Gaburici said.
Meanwhile, Henley & Partners’ chief executive officer, Christian Kälin, who has close personal ties with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, has been downplaying the connections his company has to a controversy that recently arose in Malta involving Cambridge Analytica and the death of an investigative journalist.
“Malta has a very politicised environment and politicians get attacked for everything, including the way they dress”, Mr Kalin said. “We don’t have anything to do with this vicious environment except that we know these guys very well.”
Henley & Partners has also attracted the attention of Britain’s Parliament and of American special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian attempts to influence the recent US presidential election.
- Chinese investors have poured $24 billion into ‘golden visa’ markets in the US and across the world (Business Insider UK)
- Malta faces competition as Montenegro enters the passport race (Times of Malta)
- The ten least visited countries in Europe (Traveler’s Digest)
- These 3 visa programmes are generating the most interest among ultra high net worth families (BusinessTech)