New Delhi: Wealthy Indians are increasingly looking for a potential escape to foreign countries, with Covid-19 likely playing a role in their hunt for alternative abodes.
According to leading global citizenship and residency advisory firm Henley & Partners, from January 2020 to date, there has been a 111 per cent increase in the number of inquiries from Indians about investor-related visas and citizenship programmes as compared to the same period last year.
Henley & Partners, which opened its first Indian office in Mumbai this month, was replying to queries from ThePrint about a new global trend that has seen many wealthy people seek foreign shores on the basis of their Covid preparedness even if it costs a pretty penny.
The company caters to high-net-worth (HNW) and ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals and deals with “investment migration”, which refers to citizenship and residency programmes that countries offer to individuals in exchange for crores in investments.
Their clients include entrepreneurs and investors, top-level managers, and celebrities from the fashion, entertainment and sports worlds. It also frequently provides services to other consulting and law firms, private banks and other professionals in the private wealth management industry.
Dominic Volek, the global head of sales at Henley & Partners, said in a phone interview that it was a “dramatic increase” in Indian clients that had led the company to set up base in India. The company also has two offices in Singapore and Dubai.
“When we started dealing with Indian clients four-five years ago, the country was not even in the top ten source markets. Now it is in the top three,” Volek added.
According to Henley & Partners’ public relations director Paddy Blewer, Covid-19 “has slowed down the actual execution and processing of applications, but engagement numbers are still good, so we anticipate that more applications will be filed once the lockdown eases”.
Investment-related visa and citizenship programmes allow applicants to live, work, and study in a particular country with some conditions.
For example, in New Zealand, different kinds of residence permits can be obtained through investments of NZD 3 million-NZD 10 million (approx. Rs 14.91 crore-Rs 49.71 crore) over a three-four-year period.
In Malta, an island located in the Mediterranean Sea, one needs to invest in government bonds of €250,000 (Rs 2.16 crore) to be “retained for a minimum period of five years” and needs to purchase property worth €320,000 (Rs 2.77 crore)
The pandemic connection
Speaking to ThePrint, Volek said clients are specifically looking at the pandemic response and preparedness of different countries before choosing which one to invest in.
Blewer added, “Countries like New Zealand, Australia are most sought-after across the globe. Based on actual India applications received, the top five most popular programmes have been Portugal, Malta, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Canada.”
Grenada has had no positive Covid cases over the last two weeks. St. Kitts and Nevis just had one positive case, and Malta had four cases. However, Portugal has had 4,039 cases and Canada 5,139 cases in the past two weeks.
Asked about the major reasons people opt for such investment programmes, Volek said the motivation can be lifestyle-driven, or just aimed at securing a “plan-B”, in case the citizens do not want to give up their original citizenship but want a safe option in the face of difficult situations in the future.