Turkey’s citizenship-for-homes sales hit roadblock

Local inhabitants rarely benefit from these schemes apart from developers and realtors:

Record sales of homes to foreigners in Turkey, driven by a sharply falling currency and the promise of citizenship, are starting to slow after a new government rule aimed at tackling inflated prices, property experts say.

Property sellers and real estate professionals told Reuters that before the rule change some cheaper homes were being marked up and sold to foreigners for at least $250,000 – the minimum price for Turkey to grant foreigners a passport.

Some sellers were working with selected appraisal companies to inflate prices and secure citizenship for buyers, they said, with the difference between the market value and the price paid in some cases later returned to buyers.

But under a regulation adopted last month, the land-registry authority now automatically assigns appraisers to properties, thwarting collaboration that could lead to abuse.

GIGDER, an industry body that promotes Turkish home makers abroad, said that since Sept. 20 when the regulation was adopted, prices of some homes sold to foreigners have dropped by 30-45%, prompting some prospective buyers to walk away.

“This difference between construction companies’ sales prices and new valuations has led to distrust among foreigners,” said the head of GIGDER, Omer Faruk Akbal.

“We have since seen sales offices emptying out and presale contracts getting cancelled,” he said.

A construction boom has helped drive economic growth through much of President Tayyip Erdogan’s nearly two decades in power and, under the citizenship scheme, cash from abroad helped offset Turkey’s usually heavy trade imbalance.

Some 7,000 foreigners received Turkish citizenships via home purchases between 2017 and 2020, the government said last year.

The General Directorate overseeing land registries said it adopted the regulation in September to address “certain observed irregularities in the appraisal reports”.

Foreign home sales – mainly to Iranians, Iraqis, Russians and Afghans – reached an all-time high of 6,630 last month, official data shows, as a sharp falls in the lira made Turkish property more attractive to foreign buyers.

Last year net foreign investment in real estate was $5.7 billion, central bank data shows.

GIGDER’s Akbal expects construction companies to sell a record 50,000 homes to foreigners by year-end, though the new regulation might reduce that.

The sales have contributed to a broader rise in living costs for Turks that has weighed on Erdogan’s opinion polls: housing-related inflation was more than 20% last month, reflecting soaring rents, valuations and mortgage rates.

INFLATING PRICES

Ankara adopted the citizenship-for-homes scheme in 2017. A year later it cut the minimum price to $250,000, from $1 million, to attract foreign buyers and help alleviate the currency the crisis.

One property industry representative who requested anonymity said that before the regulation, properties worth only $150,000 could be reported to the land registry authority with a $250,000 price tag in order to secure citizenship for the buyer.

After the sale, the construction company would transfer $100,000 back to the buyer, the person said.

Ibrahim Babacan, chairman of Babacan Holding which works mostly with foreign buyers, said the new regulation was likely to lead to the cancellation of six of his 10 recent sales to foreigners.

“The customer buys the property with the aim of citizenship but when the appraiser reports a lower valuation, he cancels the contract,” he said, adding appraisers and builders often use different measurements in valuations.

While Babacan says the new rules will cool sales in October, the lira depreciation will keep foreigners interested. “You can buy a property in Turkey at a fifth the price in Dubai,” he said.

Source: Turkey’s citizenship-for-homes sales hit roadblock

Syrian’s Vanuatu passport cancelled after revelations about ‘honorary citizenship programs’ – 18-Aug-2021 – NZ International news

Of note:

In the midst of the pandemic, Vanuatu’s “cash for passports” scheme is helping to keep its economy afloat.

With its tourism industry smashed, the Pacific nation last year generated $175 million — 35 per cent of total government revenue — from its “honorary citizenship programs”.

However, after a Guardian investigation discovered that recipients included a “slew of disgraced businesspeople and individuals sought by police” — including Australians — the government is facing a tough choice between potential international sanctions or domestic economic pain.

Vanuatu’s first citizenship by investment scheme, known as “cash for passports” locally, was introduced in 2014 and has had several iterations since, including one intended to raise money after Cyclone Pam caused widespread devastation in 2015.

Many countries have similar schemes, including Australia, but usually, applicants are required to become permanent residents first and then only after a number of years do they become eligible to become a citizen.

Under Vanuatu’s scheme, successful applicants can become citizens within a matter of months and there is no requirement to reside in the country or even set foot on Vanuatu soil at all.

It costs around $US150,000 ($200,000) for a single application and more for couples and families. Most of the passports, which allow free access to any EU country, are sold to people from mainland China.

It has long been controversial, but the scheme came under increased scrutiny in July after the Guardian investigation was published.

Last week, the Vanuatu government revealed that the Vanuatu citizenship of a Syrian businessman referred to in the report, Abdul Rhama Khiti, had been revoked.

Vanuatu’s Citizenship Commission chair Ronald Warsal told the ABC’s Pacific Beat program the US government had imposed sanctions against Mr Khiti’s businesses just weeks after he had made his application.

“After the article came out in The Guardian and during the course of the investigation by our Financial Intelligence Unit [FIU] it was decided to have it revoked and money he has paid to be forfeited into government coffers,” Mr Warsal said.

He said the government was investigating more of those mentioned in the article and others that were not.

“It’s an ongoing thing,” he said.

“We want to ensure that people who come to Vanuatu, who obtain Vanuatu citizenship, are not wanted abroad [and] are not fugitives.”

Transparency International Vanuatu chief executive Willie Tokon said it was worrying that the Syrian businessman was able to get approval in the first place and that his citizenship was only revoked when the matter was raised in the media.

“My worry is how come we have all these allegations but the screening by [the] Citizenship Commission and Financial Intelligence Unit didn’t come up with this allegation,” Mr Tokon said.

He said if Vanuatu did not have the capacity to thoroughly vet applicants, it should seek help from Interpol and other agencies.

“If there’s no other way to do it, do it properly. If we don’t have the capacity, we have very strong support from the Australian government in terms of the AFP, they’re providing a lot of support. It needs to be done properly,” he said.

But Mr Warsal said the government had systems in place to do character checks.

“We do [make] the final decision but … it goes through certain processes,” he said, saying it was down to teamwork between immigration, the FIU and the police.

Economics professor Stephen Howes, from the Australian National University, said mishandling of the citizenship programs could have a couple of negative consequences for Vanuatu.

Mr Howes said Vanuatu could become seen as a “risky” country for banks to operate in, or even get added to international money laundering grey or blacklists, which would threaten the country’s ability to access international finance.

“That would further isolate the country and make it harder to form international financial links,” he said.

It could also diminish the value of Vanuatu passports, making it more difficult for Vanuatu citizens to travel.

“Vanuatu citizens might suffer as well if other countries decide that they don’t trust that someone with a valid Vanuatu passport is actually a bonafide Vanuatu citizen,” he said.

On the flip side, if Vanuatu did decide to scrap the citizenship schemes, then they would lose the revenue the country needs to support the population during the pandemic-related economic crisis.

Mr Howes said it was more likely the government would bring in reforms and tighten up the application process.

He said actions like cancelling the citizenship of those like Mr Khiti would show they “won’t take just anyone”.

“If they can show [they have a serious vetting process], that will instil more confidence into the scheme,” he said.

He said abandoning the “unorthodox” source of revenue would be a “really extreme step”.

Not everyone who wanted citizenship of another country and could afford to buy it was necessarily of bad character, he said.

“Think about the uncertainties in China, some people just want a safety net,” he said.

“The world’s a very uncertain place. So I don’t think it means you’re a criminal [if you want to buy citizenship].

“I think it could also mean you’re worried about the future of your country.”

Source: Syrian’s Vanuatu passport cancelled after revelations about ‘honorary citizenship programs’ – 18-Aug-2021 – NZ International news

Fleeing Hongkongers boost overseas property markets from UK to Canada

Of note from the citizenship-by-investment industry:

Hongkongers moving abroad have bought at least US$100 million worth of property since 2019, a year marked by unprecedented social unrest, according to a Hong Kong-based law firm.

The Harvey Law Group (HLG) found that Hongkongers’ preferred destinations are the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Their interest in finding a residency overseas or a scheme that paves the way to citizenship through investment has increased fourfold in the last two years.

“From our clients worldwide, since 2019, they have bought about US$1 billion worth of properties under various residency or citizenship-by-investment programmes, and Hong Kong contributed about 10 per cent of that,” said Jean-Francois Harvey, global managing partner and founder of the firm. Since 1992, HLG, which has 18 offices worldwide, has served about 12,000 clients and families who sought mobility via residency or citizenship schemes.

“This demand had been sustained. Pre-1997 we had a small wave of Hongkongers, but in 2019 we had a perfect storm, and easily there was fourfold growth,” he said. Each time the city faced a political crisis, there was a marked uptick in inquiries.

The type of person seeking a second passport or a residency abroad has shifted over the years too.

“The profile has changed a lot. Before 2019, a typical Hong Kong client would be in their 50s with kids aged in their late teens. Now, we’re looking at young 40s with kids between two and seven years old,” Harvey said.

“Before 2019, Hong Kong was never a passport market, because the Hong Kong passport is quite convenient to travel with, but lately we’ve seen a very big increase in the number of people asking for a new passport and to acquire new citizenship because they want security.”

The alternative passport option became more popular still after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law seen by many as an erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and the freedoms afforded its citizens under the Sino-British treaty.

The various residency and citizenship schemes on offer have boosted the housing markets of destination countries, as buying property is typically one of the ways to gain permission to stay in a country.

“There are many benefits to the host country, including to the property market. In fact, since the outbreak of the pandemic, many more countries have been designing and setting up residence and citizenship-by-investment programmes to attract affluent investors and talent,” said Denise Ng, head of North Asia at Henley & Partners.

For Hongkongers, the top residency programmes are those offered by Thailand, the UK and Canada, while for citizenship, the preferred schemes are in Malta, Grenada and Dominica, according to the immigration consultancy.

“For international investors, wealthy families and entrepreneurs based in Hong Kong, citizenship diversification through investment migration will continue to be a robust solution to navigating ever changing circumstances. [It is] a win–win for sovereign states and investors alike.”

It is estimated that about 50,000 Hongkongers chose to leave the city in 2020, though this year the number is likely to decline by 4.6 per cent, according to UK-based Astons, which helps clients buy real estate and obtain residency and citizenship via investment.

“For many Hongkongers, emigration is being considered with a long-term view and so the real estate component of residency or citizenship through investment can be particularly preferable,” said Arthur Sarkisian, managing director at Astons.

“It provides a tangible asset that can bring a further return on their investment in addition to residency or citizenship. Or, in the case of the residential path, it can provide them with the firm foundation of a home when starting their new life.”

Source: Fleeing Hongkongers boost overseas property markets from UK to Canada

Savory & Partners advise on investment migration to empower women all around the globe

I always enjoy sharing these promotional puff pieces, this one with a new shameless tack of “empowering women:”

The 21st century may not be a utopian era when it comes to gender equality, but it is slowly getting better; we are seeing more women leaders, high-ranking politicians, academics, professionals, CEOs, and more.

Women are playing an immense role in driving change and evolution throughout our communities, and as more companies, households, and communities are run by women, it is only logical they seek the tools necessary to do so – enter investment migration.

Women empowerment through investment migration is a two-phase process. The first phase comes in the form of the decision-making process when considering investing in investment migration. The second phase is using it to enhance their success.

The Decision-Making Process

As someone looking to invest in global mobility assets such as a European Union residency or a new passport from the Caribbean or Turkey, it is essential that this venture is thought through to ensure they and their family gain maximum benefits from the second citizenship.

Savory & Partners can help by giving the best options available, but it is up to individuals to ultimately decide what it is their family needs, what tools any children require to fulfil their potential, and what option suits a person’s lifestyle most.

Studies show that women have great cross-signalling when it comes to the thought process, which enables them to get a better holistic view of matters and predict how any given decision can affect the people involved. That wholesome view is greatly needed in the decision-making process when considering investing in residency by investment or citizenship by investment, and it is that mindset that can greatly benefit your entire family.

Mothers have a huge role to play, as getting the right type of residency by investment or citizenship by investment is critical for the future of the family. Kids may attend the best universities in the fields they desire, they may find better work opportunities, and families can rely on a second home as a Plan B in case of any political turmoil back home. Considering children is key in deciding which residency or citizenship by investment program suits a family the most.

Enhancing Success

Succeeding in today’s corporate world is no simple feat, be it for a man or a woman, yet we see an abundance of women CEOs and Presidents throughout the global business landscape.

Managing a business or career can be a daunting task, but luckily, investment migration can make it a lot easier. Many savvy investors pursue residency or citizenship by investment to elevate their global mobility and create a stronger foundation upon which to expand their business.

Getting a residency by investment in Portugal, for example, allows women to expand their business into the EU market, taking advantage of one of the world’s highest-functioning economic areas. Gaining Portugalresidency through the Portugal Residency by Investment Program, dubbed the golden visa, also leads to Portuguese citizenship, which can open up even more opportunities for global business.

While obtaining a second passport from, say, Dominicasignificantly improves global mobility capacity, allowing visa-free travel to the world’s hottest economic hubs such as the United Kingdom, EU, Singapore, Hong Kong, and more.

Women are making their way to the top of the business ladder, and investment migration can help them take their success from a local stage to a global one. Choosing the right country to boost a business is critical, but investment migration does give an abundance of choices. From residency in Spain, the highest-ranking EU country in terms of female CEOs, or citizenship of St. Lucia, where female managers (57.3%) are more common than their male counterparts (42.7%).

Being the Managing Director and a mother of two beautiful boys, balancing both my roles, I see the need to increase awareness of second citizenship amongst women.” Helena Savory, Managing Director of Savory & Partners.

But investment migration is not just about running a global business, it is a great way to protect assets. The number of high net worth women (HNWW) is increasing worldwide. Forbes World’s Billionaire List (The Richest 2021) included 328 women, a 60% increase on last year, and women must also protect their wealth against corrosive taxation and economic instability.

Residency by investment and citizenship by investmentallow people to diversify an asset base by moving wealth into secure offshore banks in common law countries such as St. Kitts & Nevis, or by pursuing real estate in hot property locations like Lisbon or Athens.

This diversification means wealth can be safeguarded against uncertainty, securing a fund for a rainy day in an accessible location.

Our Mission of Women Empowerment

We at Savory & Partners understand and value the role of women in the community, especially that our Managing Director is a mother of two, and considering our team consists of ambitious, intelligent, and driven women.

When you come in to find the best citizenship or residency by investment options for you and your family, we can understand your objectives, pain points, and reasoning, and we can provide you with a portfolio of solutions that address them perfectly.

We are playing our role in empowering women within our own business, but we are also aiming to empower more through our high-end solutions.

Savory & Partners is an accredited agent for multiple governments where citizenship by investment is offered. Founded in 1797, the agency has evolved from pharmaceuticals to family assets and legacy protection through second citizenship and residency. The company’s professional, multinational staff is made up of expert advisors who have guided thousands of clients, including many North African investors, on their journey to find the most suitable CBI program for them. The Savory & Partners team will be happy to answer your enquiries in English, Arabic and French.

Source: Savory & Partners advise on investment migration to empower women all around the globe

#Citizenship for sale: fugitives, politicians and disgraced businesspeople buying Vanuatu passports

No surprises here:

A controversial “golden passports” scheme run by the Pacific nation of Vanuatu saw more than 2,000 people, including a slew of disgraced businesspeople and individuals sought by police in countries all over the world, purchase citizenship in 2020 – and with it visa-free access to the EU and UK, the Guardian can reveal.

Among those granted citizenship through the country’s development support program were a Syrian businessman with US sanctions against his businesses, a suspected North Korean politician, an Italian businessman accused of extorting the Vatican, a former member of a notorious Australian motorcycle gang, and South African brothers accused of a $3.6bn cryptocurrency heist.

The passport scheme allows foreign nationals to purchase citizenship for US$130,000 in a process that typically takes just over a month – all without ever setting foot in the country.

Marketed by agencies as one of the fastest, cheapest and most lax “golden passport” schemes anywhere in the world, the development support program grants unfettered, visa-free access to 130 countries including the UK and EU nations. Vanuatu also operates as a tax haven, with no income, corporate or wealth tax.

Experts have warned the scheme is ripe for exploitation, creating a back door for access to the EU and UK and allowing transnational criminal syndicates to establish a base in the Pacific, and Vanuatu’s taxation laws make the country an attractive site for money laundering.

A path to new identities

The passports program, which netted the Vanuatu government more than US$116m last year, has been highly controversial since its relaunch in 2017.

But until now, knowledge of who has bought passports through the scheme has been murky.

A series of internal government documents obtained by the Guardian via the country’s freedom of information scheme, details the name and nationality of every recipient of a Vanuatu passport through the country’s development support program and Vanuatu contribution program in 2020 and January 2021.

After a months-long investigation, involving searching publicly available court records, electoral rolls, death records, social media trails, and discussions with police and sources from around the world, the Guardian has been able to confirm the identities of dozens of the individuals on the list.

Vanuatu issued roughly 2,200 passports in 2020 through these programs – more than half (around 1,200) were to Chinese nationals. After Chinese, the most common nationality of recipients was Nigerian, Russian, Lebanese, Iranian, Libyan, Syrian and Afghan. Twenty people from the US, six Australians and a handful of people from Europe were also among those who applied.https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/jul/2021-07-07T05:01:43/embed.html

The citizenship-by-investment (CBI) scheme is not illegal and many countries around the world offer CBI programs. There are many legitimate reasons for applying, including improved freedom of movement or tax-free offshore banking privileges.

However, security experts warn that the ease with which people can buy passports from the country, as well as the travel it permits, could make it an attractive scheme for members of transnational criminal syndicates, allowing them a legitimate base in the Pacific.

“It’s not just that they can travel through the EU or set up businesses … one of the issues is being able to create these networks to the Pacific, especially as the Pacific becomes more of a trafficking hub for drugs,” said Jose Sousa-Santos, a Pacific policy fellow at the Australian Pacific Security College. “And Vanuatu’s tax semi-haven laws make it very attractive for money laundering.”

The Guardian has found that a number of Vanuatu applicants are heavily implicated in a complex web of offshore business, with some owning shell companies with no discernible business activity.

Sousa-Santos added that another potential danger was people obtaining Vanuatu citizenship and then legally changing their name in Vanuatu, which effectively gave them a new identity.

“It’s one of the real risks,” he said. “If you are somebody who is a person of interest and who was able to somehow clear the Vanuatu Financial Intelligence Unit process, once you have Vanuatu citizenship, you’re able to change your name and, of course, be able to enter countries where your criminal background would not allow you to.”

In one brochure advertising the country’s development support program by a registered agent, the agency answers a question about whether passport recipients can change their name. “Once you are granted citizenship, you can change your name by sending us a letter that explains your motivation to change your name and your passport will be issued with your new name,” the brochure reads.

In response to these concerns, Ronald Warsal, the chairman of the Vanuatu Citizenship Office and Commission, said: “Vanuatu is a signatory to … most internationally sanctioned treaties and has ratified such treaties in recent years prohibiting transnational criminal syndicates to operate within its [jurisdiction] and as such, it is hard for international criminal syndicates to establish a base in Vanuatu.” He also said the country required checks before allowing a legal change of name.

EU concerns

Both the EU and the OECD have continued to express concerns regarding due diligence measures, forcing Vanuatu to promise it would step up background checks last year in an attempt to clean up the programs’ image. 

Despite this, the documents show that as recently as January 2021, Vanuatu was selling passports to individuals with links to fraud or sanctions and others who were sought by police in their home countrie

Other people granted passports by Vanuatu include:

  • Raees and Ameer Cajee, the founders of cryptocurrency investment platform Africrypt, who have been accused by lawyers for their former investors of a “crypto heist”, allegedly disappearing with bitcoin valued at roughly $3.6bn (£2.6bn), claims they deny.
  • Gianluigi Torzi, an Italian businessman accused of extorting Vatican officials of €15m (US$17.7m) during the purchase of a valuable London property. Torzi has denied wrongdoing.
  • Hayyam Garipoglu, a Turkish banking mogul imprisoned over a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scandal, and also sentenced to prison for harbouring his nephew after his nephew murdered a 17-year-old girl.
  • Ghali Belkecir, the controversial former head of Algeria’s Gendarmerie, the country’s military force in charge of law enforcement, who has four warrants out for his arrest.
  • Khaled al-Ahmad, a Syrian businessman and close advisor to President Assad, also obtained Vanuatu citizenship in June 2019, according to documents separately obtained by the Guardian.

In response to the Guardian’s inquiries about the individuals, Floyd Mera, the director of Vanuatu’s Financial Intelligence Unit, said: “Reading your list, most have allegations, pending investigations and ongoing court proceedings. A few have cases against them only after obtaining Vanuatu citizenship … If there are substantial convictions against any of these names, their citizenship may be revoked.”

He added: “Going forward, the FIU will conduct enhanced checks on the names provided in your list. If any of these persons have criminal convictions, FIU will promptly inform Citizenship Office of the updated information.”

The Guardian also believes there may be a senior North Korean politician and his wife who were granted citizenship after applying for the scheme using Chinese passports.

The names of a man and a woman who applied for passports last year match those of a well-known senior North Korean politician and his wife, though the Guardian has not been able to confirm the couple’s identity.

On paper, Vanuatu prevents citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and North Korea from obtaining citizenship unless they can prove they have been a resident outside these countries for more than five years. However, the Guardian was able to identify a number of applicants from those countries who were resident within the black-listed countries at the time of applying.

A Syrian construction and real estate magnate with sanctions against a number of his businesses appears on the document. Abdul Rahman Khiti purchased Vanuatu citizenship just a few weeks after the US imposed sanctions on a number of his businesses.

Warsal, of Vanuatu’s Citizenship Office and Commission, said: “Abdul Rahman Khiti’s application was lodged prior to sanctions on a number of his business and by the time his application came before the screening committee and the FIU there was no adverse finding against him and the commission approved his application.”

Warsal said that Khiti also provided proof of his residency outside Syria for five years prior to applying. He added that the Citizenship Commission would be further investigating Khiti’s citizenship.

A source of revenue

Vanuatu is one of the poorest countries in the world, with the World Bank putting GDP per capita at US$2,780. The country is heavily in debt, in large part due to the natural disasters that have hit it. After a crippling cyclone in 2014, the country’s debt stock-to-GDP ratio climbed from 23% to 47% in 2018.

The sale of passports is the largest source of revenue for the Vanuatu government, with analysis by Investment Migration Insider finding it accounted for 42% of all government revenue in 2020.

In June 2021, the government reported a budget surplus despite the Covid-19 pandemic, largely thanks to the continued demand for citizenship, and the government has used the profits to pay down debts.

“There is merit [to the scheme],” said Ralph Regenvanu, the opposition leader of Vanuatu. “It just needs to be done a lot better than we’ve done it to date.”

Asked what advantage there is to Vanuatu, Regenvanu is blunt.

“Money. For a country with very limited resources, it’s money.”

Regenvanu said more robust processes needed to be implemented to screen applicants, in particular the enactment of an order that was issued by the former government – in which he was foreign minister – in March, which ordered an international specialist firm to be involved in due diligence checks.

“The only checks are the Financial Intelligence Unit and that’s obviously, as you found out, just totally inadequate … Our FIU obviously doesn’t have the capacity.”

Warsal said “the government is in its final stages to engage a European international reputable firm to assist the VFIU in its due diligence processes.”

But many in Vanuatu see the scheme as an affront to the sovereignty of the young country, which achieved independence from France and the UK in 1980 after almost a decade of struggle.

Ati George Sokomanu was a key figure in the country’s struggle for independence in the 1970s and was appointed as Vanuatu’s foundation president in 1980 after independence. He said the cash-for-passports scheme “tarnished” the vision of a free and proud Vanuatu they fought for during the independence movement.

“The gospel that we preached was to do with the return of the land from the hands of the foreigners – that we should have our own passport, that we would be a free people, we should have our own flag, and you know, be somebody in the face of this world,” he said.

“We struggled for our freedom and we gained it. And why should we break our sovereignty and our own dignity by making us become slaves again by selling our own passport to other people?”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/15/citizenship-for-sale-fugitives-politicians-and-disgraced-businesspeople-buying-vanuatu-passports?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

Related article: Want a new life in Vanuatu? Take the lift to the 23rd floor of a skyscraper in Hong Kong

If you wanted a new life on a tropical island and had US$130,000 to spare, you might end up visiting the 23rd floor of a nondescript building in downtown Hong Kong.

In the busy district of Wanchai, on a corner peppered with home decoration shops, car dealerships and small eateries full to the brim during lunch break, is the Tung Wai commercial building.

A bright entrance – now equipped with disinfection trappings and temperature-taking devices – leads to the fast lifts that will take you from the traffic din to what could be described as the Vanuatu floor.

Room 2303 hosts the Consulate General of the Republic of Vanuatu, with a large sticker on the glass door with Vanuatu’s coat of arms – a Melanesian warrior holding a long spear with one hand, standing against a mountain, with two crossed namale fern fronds and, behind the greenery, a curly boar’s tusk. Underneath it is Vanuatu’s national motto, Long God Yumi Stanap, which is Bislama (one of the three official languages of Vanuatu, together with English and French) for “In God we stand”.

Next to the consulate is the Vanuatu Trade Commission, which sits next to the office of Vanuatu Companies Limited, and the two offices of the PRG (Pacific Resource Group) Consulting Limited and PRG ImmiMart Limited.

The first company assists with investments and trade in Vanuatu, while PRG ImmiMart Limited has been appointed as the “Worldwide Exclusive Sole Master Marketing Agent to promote the Contribution Program” by the Vanuatu government via the company Vanuatu Glory Limited (VGK).

PRG handles all preliminary work for those who wish to purchase Vanuatu citizenship through the country’s Vanuatu Contribution Program (VCP), which costs $130,000 per person, or $180,000 for a family package.

Last year, more than 650 people were granted citizenship through the VCP. The huge majority were Chinese nationals, with just nine people applying for the scheme with nationalities other than Chinese.

The sale of passports is the largest source of revenue for the Vanuatu government, with analysis by Investment Migration Insider finding it accounted for 42% of all government revenue in 2020. The appeal of a Vanuatu passport includes that it offers visa-free travel to UK and EU countries and that Vanuatu – with no wealth, income or corporate taxes – operates as a tax haven.

PRG ImmiMart Limited is the sole agent in the world licensed to market this program, and according to one of the agents at the office, the company keeps $100,000 of the $180,000 fee for a family application, with the remaining $80,000 going to the Vanuatu government. They did not clarify what portion of the fee for an individual application went to the company.

The VCP is a separate scheme to the Development Support Program (DSP), which is managed by different agencies. The Guardian’s investigation into the identities of those who obtained citizenship of Vanuatu was focused on the DSP and not this scheme.

In the visitors’ office – an air-conditioned room with the flag of Vanuatu next to the Hong Kong SAR flag and a breath-taking view over Eastern Hong Kong island – Hin Ho, an agent, shows the brochures and the itemised table with the citizenship fees and charges, and explains how to apply for a Vanuatu passport and legally recognised citizenship.

The application process is straightforward, and shouldn’t take longer than eight weeks and does not require applicants to set foot in Vanuatu. It is such a well-established system that the brochure even specifies that the screening committee normally meets on the last Thursday of every month, while the citizenship committee meeting takes place on the last Friday of every month.

Money and no criminal record seem to be the main requirements for the “high quality new immigrants” scheme, with applicants required to provide a police clearance certificate, and asset proof of no less than $250,000 – excluding the amount that is being paid to the VCP to obtain citizenship.

Once approved, applicants can take an oath of allegiance in the building, after which they are handed a citizenship certificate and passport, and they can go down the fast lifts and exit into Gloucester Road having become a legally recognised citizen of the small Pacific Ocean archipelago.

Given the high cost, VCP may not be much help to the large numbers of people who want to leave Hong Kong for security reasons since the introduction of the National Security Law. But for wealthier passport chasers, keen for the peace of mind that may be granted by an alternative passport, the little green book of a Vanuatu passport might be just the ticket.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/15/want-a-new-life-in-vanuatu-take-the-lift-to-the-23rd-floor-of-a-skyscraper-in-hong-kong

Citizenship by investment schemes – more than meets the eye?

Good overview of some of the abuses and corruption with these programs:

No longer solely related to family heritage or place of birth, citizenship has now become a tangible commodity. This is possible due to citizenship and residency by investment (CRBI) schemes. First introduced by the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis, CRBI offers citizenship or permanent residency to foreign nationals in exchange for cash investments. Dubbed “golden visas,” these investment opportunities grant foreigners legal status in these nations. For the fortunate few, they provide individuals with real estate opportunities and visa-free travel to different countries, writes Louis Auge.

Valued at approximately $25 billion (£20bn) per year in 2019, this industry is on the rise. With the ability to stimulate the local economy, many countries were quick to implement St. Kitts’ measures. From Portugal to St. Lucia to the United States, CRBI is possible in many jurisdictions across the world. However, the minimum capital requirement, timeframe for approval, and visa-free destinations provided per country vary drastically.

Based on these requirements, leading consulting companies in the CRBI industry have consolidated most of their businesses in the Caribbean. With five countries offering CRBI in this region, individuals are quick to invest due to the region’s experience with CRBI along with their secrecy laws. With an investment as low as $100,000 individuals can get citizenship in countries such as St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica.

Proponents have been quick to defend the benefits for both the investor and the host country, but the morality of these schemes are questionable. Locals in rural villages within CRBI countries have yet to see the effect of these investments. With a tolerance for corruption, there are stories across multiple jurisdictions of politicians taking a cut of each visa payment.

By placing a price tag on their citizenship, countries risk becoming a haven for criminals. CRBI schemes have been associated with hallmarks of criminality from tax evasion to money laundering. The taint of questionable activities does not stop with the clients of CRBI schemes either. Firms specializing in setting up and facilitating CRBI schemes have never been far from scandal.

The actions of CRBI consulting companies such as Henley and Partners and CS Global Partners have been questioned on multiple occasions. Recently, CS Global, established by a former senior figure at Henley and Partners, faced allegations of interfering in Dominica’s 2015 election campaign, making donations to PM Roosevelt Skerrit’s successful run for the leadership. Both sides deny the allegation.

The recent media surrounding Gurdip ‘Dev’ Bath is a case in point. As the former director of CS Global, Bath is well versed in the CRBI industry. Bath has established strong relations with government officials across the Caribbean. Indian by background and ordinarily resident in London, Bath holds a diplomatic passport from St. Kitts, in a capacity that remains unexplained.

Additionally, he has close ties with Hardip ‘Peter’ Virdee, a businessman from London who has been willing to pay bribesaccording to the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency. These relationships have tarnished his reputation as a self-described ‘diplomat.’ Bath has also been seen and had high-level meetings with senior Indian officials including the Prime Minister. His current role  at CS Global, which specializes in CRBI in Dominica and St. Kitts, begs one to question his role in the company’s current Dominican scandal.

Unfortunately for Bath, his recent mentions across the media have taken a turn for the worse. Accused of planning and executing the recent kidnapping of Indian businessman Mehul Choksi, the scandal has the CRBI specialist caught up in alleged human rights violations.

Choksi was allegedly kidnapped from Antigua on 23 May 2021. Two days later, he was found in Dominica by local authorities. Arrested for illegally entering the country, Choksi currently awaits trial in Dominica.

Choksi and his lawyers point to evidence that he was kidnapped and taken to Dominica against his will. They have argued that Bath worked with the governments of Dominica as well as Antigua and Barbuda, possibly at the request of the Indian government, as part of a plan to bring Choksi to India, where he is wanted for charges of fraud.

In their report to the British police’s War Crimes Unit, Choksi’s defense additionally accused Bath’s associates Barbara Jarabik, Gurjit Singh Bhandal, and Gurmit Singh of being accomplices in Choksi’s kidnap and torture. Moreover, they note India’s apparent involvement, as a private charter jet containing documents regarding Choki’s extradition, was sent to Dominica from Dehli.

Bath’s case echoes that of Alireza Zibahalat Monfared, the ‘right hand’ of Iranian oil tycoon Babak Zanjani, convicted in 2016 of largest ever fraud to hit that country. After an international manhunt, Monfared was discovered and arrested in Dominica, where he too was living on a diplomatic passport. An Al-Jazeera investigation in 2019 showed how Caribbean nations offer ‘the protection or shield’ of diplomatic immunity to ‘international criminals’. The UK’s Geoffrey Robertson QC describes these programmes as an ‘international scandal’.

Henley and Partners, pioneers of CRBI schemes and closely associated with CS Global, suffered a reputational setback in 2021 when its email database was leaked to The Guardian newspaper. The leaks demonstrated how Henley helped clients to create a pretence that they were “resident” in the country for a full year by renting apartments and then leaving them empty. The company had previously come under fire in the Spectator magazine, which detailed Henley and Partners’ close links to Cambridge Analytica, as well as its involvement and potential interference in election campaigns in the Caribbean.

British MP Ben Bradshaw, speaking in Parliament in 2018, called on the UK government to support an investigation into the death of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Bradshaw noted that the journalist, killed in a car bomb, was investigating Pilatus Bank, Cambridge Analytica and Henley and Partners at the time. Henley and Partners has strongly denied all of the allegations.

In response to these allegations, along with the discontent from Caribbean residents, one might question the future of CRBI. Will the industry clean up its image, dropping associations with secrecy and criminality, or will wealthier nations work to stamp out the practice? For nations like the US, UK and the Gulf states, these firms and their clients are associated with lower tax receipts, international fugitives and a constant drip of scandal. It may not be long before their patience runs out.

Source: Citizenship by investment schemes – more than meets the eye?

Probe: Cyprus wrongly issued passports despite warnings

No surprise. Like the vast majority of these programs, vulnerable to corruption, both in terms of those applying and administering:

The Cyprus government continued for at least four years to unlawfully issue passports to relatives of wealthy investors under an investment-for-citizenship program, despite warnings by the Attorney-General that this could be in breach of the law, the head of an independent commission said on Monday.

Former Supreme Court President Myron Nicolatos said that, of the 6,779 passports issued during the program’s 13-year run, 53% were issued not to the investors themselves but to family members or top company executives.

The Attorney-General’s Office had warned on separate occasions in 2015 and 2016 that the practice might be unlawful because there was no specific law enabling the government to issue such passports.

Of the remainder that were granted to investors, one-third failed to meet all the criteria, Nicolatos said. He was speaking after handing the final, 780-page report of an investigation into the multibillion-euro program to Attorney General George Savvides,

He said 8% didn’t meet the primary condition of investing around 2.5 million euros ($3 billion) into the Cypriot economy, while another 12% failed to meet the bar on owning a permanent residence in Cyprus.

Nicolatos said the four-member commission is recommending that authorities look into revoking citizenship in 85 cases in which the applicants may have committed criminal or other offenses to secure a passport.

He said that revoking the citizenship of investors’ relatives and company executives who weren’t directly at fault could prove “particularly complicated” because of legal clauses enshrined in Cypriot and European Union law.

“It’s obvious that the (program) operated between 2007 and Aug. 17, 2020, with blanks and omissions, without a legal framework and almost without a regulatory framework,” Nicolatos said.

“Also absent were those safety valves, the proper legal guidance as well as adequate supervision regarding existing laws and regulations.”

The program was scrapped last year amid much controversy over an undercover TV report that allegedly showed the parliamentary speaker and a powerful lawmaker claiming that they could skirt the rules to grant citizenships.

They had made the pledge to a reporter posing as a representative of a fictitious Chinese investor who had been convicted of fraud in his country. Both resigned shortly after the report was aired.

The golden passport program ran for 13 years but was ramped up in 2013 following the financial crisis. It generated more than 8 billion euros (almost $10 billion) for the east Mediterranean island nation and proved particularly attractive to foreign investors because obtaining an EU passport allowed them access to the 27-member bloc.

The EU had also taken Cyprus to task over the scheme.

Nicolatos also faulted some lawyers, accountants, banks, real estate brokers and developers who he said “didn’t sufficiently live up to their legal or other obligations” through the application process, while in some instances, supervisory authorities failed to do their job properly.

Politicians and officials may bear “political” responsibility for the debacle and some could face disciplinary action.

Although the program spanned the tenure of three different presidents, the overwhelming majority of citizenships were granted during seven years during which the sitting president, Nicos Anastasiades, held the office.

He called on law enforcement authorities to prosecute alleged law breakers and to mete out punishment to the degree of an individual’s responsibility.

Attorney General Savvides said authorities would examine revoking citizenships, take lawbreakers to court and take disciplinary action in those instances that the report recommends.

In the first such legal action, his office last month took five individuals and four legal entities to court to face 37 charges in connection with the commission’s findings.

A redacted version of the final report — so as not to compromise ongoing legal actions — will be made public in due course, Savvides said.

An interim report released in March also pointed to serious shortcomings in how the Interior Ministry processed applications, including the “complete lack” of a database to properly vet applicants. It said the Finance Ministry was also at fault for “green lighting” certain applications that didn’t fulfil all the criteria due to the size of the investment.

Source: Probe: Cyprus wrongly issued passports despite warnings

Are golden visas a golden opportunity? Assessing the economic origins and outcomes of residence by investment programmes in the EU

Good detailed study. Money quote: “our analysis suggests that wealthy investor migrants may be better conceptualised as mobile, profit-oriented populations akin to tourists and businesspeople, rather than as long term-oriented immigrants.” Conclusion below:

The twentieth century saw a remarkable shift from screening new immigrants based on racial origins to screening based on human capital contributions (Joppke 2005; FitzGerald and Cook-Martín 2014). The spread of RBI programmes in the twenty-first century adds a new dimension: screening new residents by economic capital contributions only. The results of this investigation suggest an upper limit on Ellerman’s (2019) finding that western countries now devalue the economic offerings of foreigners when selecting new members. In contrast to the policies aimed at workers that she examines, here we see that countries are indeed supplying pathways to long-term residence and citizenship for those making economic contributions – as long as they are very sizeable. Notably, the injections are one-off and the new residents are not expected to continue to contribute to economic growth in the same way that migrant workers might; they must simply maintain the original investment. The trend suggests a short-term calculation on the part of states, seeking to plug economic gaps, as our analysis finds, rather than a longer-term orientation of crafting a middle-class national identity (cf. Elrick and Winter 2018; Ellerman 2019). If social capital (Portes 1998), human capital (Stark, Helmenstein, and Fürnkranz-Prskawetz 1998; Ellerman 2019), and ethnic capital (Mateos and Durand 2012; Kim2018) have captured the attention of social scientists analysing migration, the developments tracked here suggest that a renewed focus on economic capital may be warranted. We find that states continue to harness mobility policies in service of economic objectives, now in a more starkly transactional manner, and – as we show – no matter what the political orientation of the government may be.

If RBI programmes are becoming an increasingly popular policy option, not all countries see the same uptake. Demand in Europe is concentrated in a handful of pro- grammes: just four countries represent 75 percent of all investor residents. The programmes now bring nearly €3.5 billion to the Union annually, yet the economic benefits are uneven. Indeed, only in two countries, Latvia and Portugal, are the economic injections large enough to represent a significant proportion of FDI. However in no country do they represent a substantial proportion of GDP, suggesting that concerns about macroeconomic destabilisation are unwarranted.

Our analysis reveals that economic decline leads to a greater likelihood that countries will start programmes, and that if the economic decline occurred during the Eurocrisis, the likelihood is yet greater – an argument proposed but not demonstrated by the literature (e.g. Parker 2017; Holleran 2019; Dzankic 2018; Veteto 2014). The choice of investment options, too, is largely responsive to economic need when governments implement real estate and business investment options, though not government bond options. Furthermore, the spread of programmes itself does not lead to more programmes: there is no contagion effect. As such, driving the onset of RBI programmes is more than mere client politics or neo-liberal ideology (cf. Mavelli 2018); economic need is a significant factor behind them. However, investors may stymie government intentions to use programmes to boost several areas of the economy, for they overwhelmingly invest in real estate if given the option.

Furthermore, our analysis suggests that wealthy investor migrants may be better conceptualised as mobile, profit-oriented populations akin to tourists and businesspeople, rather than as long term-oriented immigrants. The results lend support to qualitative work that identifies such mobile populations as ‘flexible citizens’ (Ong 1999), who use investment to multiply their options and secure additional bases, rather than to pack up and immigrate or invest in a growing economy (see also Ley 2010; Surak 2020a). We also find that countries with strong tourism sectors can charge more for their programmes as well. Yet they are not merely profit maximisers, choosing a price that will attract the most applicants; they respond to internal issues too, changing price in accordance with economic growth and employment rates.

A number of analysts have raised warning flags that investor migrants may price locals out of real estate (Scherrer and Thirion 2018; Holleran 2019). Our analysis shows the concern is unwarranted: the proportion of RBI real estate transactions in the national market is miniscule in nearly all cases. Notably, these programmes attract more distant and often ‘browner’ others than the fellow Europeans who constitute the greatest proportion of foreign real estate buyers and raise less media hype, suggesting that xenophobia may lie behind the concern. Greece is the sole, but significant, exception where the scale of the programme could indeed destabilise the property market. As real estate investment tends to be concentrated in specific locales (Friedland and Calderon 2017; Viesturs, Pukite, and Nikuradze 2017), regional and city-level data are necessary to further identify whether more limited destabilisation is occurring in particular areas.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on these programmes? The sudden hardening of borders across the world has sent many wealthy people looking for ways to hedge their risks by securing mobility options and a Plan B (Surak 2020b, 2020c). To date, as we show, national-level healthcare statistics have been insignificant, but Covid-19 may encourage wealthy investors to select countries that have handled the pandemic well or that offer state-of-the-art healthcare. Covid-19 may also bring a shift away from a short-term ‘tourist-like’ calculation to a medium-term calculation preferring a place for longer-stint stays.

Regarding supply, Covid-19 is likely to increase the attractiveness of RBI programmes as a way to draw in foreign investment. Our study found that countries are more prone to start programmes after a period of slowed economic growth, particularly after a systemic recession. If the economic downturn spurred by the pandemic continues, it is likely that new countries will start their own programmes, replicating the pattern we found, and that countries with RBI offerings already in place will attempt to develop them further to address deepening economic need. Even if the schemes to date have been small, they still offer a means to attract additional resources at little cost. With real estate the most popular qualifying option, the investment boost is likely to be concentrated in the property and construction sector, which itself is transforming as the pandemic reconfigures work patterns and the desirability of urban living. Even if the European Commission continues to call for ending the programmes, countries are more likely to adapt their RBI offerings – perhaps by shifting them closer to, or even transforming them into, entrepreneurial options – rather than do away with them entirely.

Source: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1369183X.2021.1915755

Covid accelerates India’s millionaire exodus

Of note:

India’s wealthy have topped a list of people seeking to relocate abroad through visa programmes that offer citizenship or right of residence in other countries in return for investments.

There was very little Rahul (name changed) didn’t have going for him, when he made the tough call to leave India six years ago. He is the second generation scion of a well-heeled Delhi-based family. They have a flourishing exports business with a monopoly in what’s typically called a ‘sunrise sector’- an industry that has great future prospects.

But he left it all behind and moved to Dubai in 2015, to look after the company’s overseas expansion. He also got a citizenship by investment in one of the Caribbean nations. Harassment by tax authorities in India’s Enforcement Directorate was a key reason, he says.

“I could see it becoming a problem for someone who had businesses spread across the world,” he told the BBC. “With a foreign passport, the red-tape has reduced substantially. I am less worried about being slapped with a random tax demand.”

‘Tax terror’ has been a routine gripe among Indian corporate tycoons. When the founder and owner of India’s largest coffee chain, Cafe Coffee Day died in 2019, he accused a former director general of the income tax department of harassing him. But the government has continued to tighten its noose around business owners in recent years.

According to one report, tax searches by India’s income tax department have more than trebled in the last few years.

The government has argued this is being done to eradicate “black money – illegal cash, hidden from the tax authorities – and improve tax compliance. But critics say the overreach is also often on account of pressure on bureaucrats to meet revenue targets.

But hounding by the taxman was just one reason for his move, says Rahul. His decision was also prompted by a growing trend of “divide and rule politics” in India, he told us. He didn’t want his kids to grow up in India’s increasingly polarised environment.

Many others in his circle of wealthy friends were also renouncing their citizenship or resident status, he added.

These claims are borne out by figures from the wall-street investment bank Morgan Stanley. A 2018 bank report found that 23,000 Indian millionaires had left the country since 2014.

More recently, a Global Wealth Migration Review report revealed that nearly 5,000 millionaires, or 2% of the total number of high net-worth individuals in India left the country in 2020 alone. And Indians topped a list compiled by the London-headquartered global citizenship and residence advisory Henley & Partners (H&P), of those seeking citizenship or residency in other countries in return for monetary investments.

Covid-19 has been a big driver of what was an ongoing trend of wealthy Indians seeking to “globalise their lives and assets” according to H&P. So much so that the firm set up its office in India in the middle of the lockdown last year to cater to growing demand.

“I think they [clients] are realising they don’t want to wait for the second or third wave of the pandemic. They want to have their papers now that they are sitting at home. We refer to this as the insurance policy or Plan B,” Dominic Volek, Group Head of Private at Henley & Partners told the BBC on a video call from Dubai.

According to Mr Volek, the pandemic could be a game changer, because it is making the wealthy think about migration in a more holistic fashion. It is no longer just about visa-free travel, or ease of access to global markets, but about wealth diversification, better healthcare and education, to protect against the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic.

Countries like Portugal, which runs a ‘golden visa’ programme as well as countries like Malta and Cyprus are preferred destinations for India’s well heeled, according to H&P.

This exodus of big money is not necessarily permanent in nature – people merely invest money in another country as a fall-back option rather than take out all their money from their home country and cut business ties. But it doesn’t bode well for a developing nation like India, say experts.

“When this happens, they remove themselves, their entrepreneurial ability and their income and wealth from the tax base. This is likely to be detrimental in the long run. Their exit sends a poor signal about the ‘doing business climate’ in India,” says Rupa Subramanya, Distinguished Fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

Andrew Amoils, Head of Research at New World Wealth, a Johannesburg-based wealth intelligence group, told the Business Standard newspaper: “It can be a sign of bad things to come as high-net-worth individuals are often the first people to leave – they have the means to leave unlike middle-class citizens.”

Source: Covid accelerates India’s millionaire exodus

@ASemotiuk: How To Fund Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Using Immigration

Benefits of investor immigration and citizenship-by-investment schemes over stated along with risks of corruption. Great benefits for immigration lawyers and consultants, however:

Recently, President Biden unveiled a $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan to fix roads and bridges, while boosting research and tackling climate change. Calling it a “once-in-a-generation investment in America,” he introduced the plan to address the inequalities exposed by the pandemic and to heal America’s economy from the bottom up. More recently, Biden specified how he would raise the money through higher corporate taxation. But could there be a better more creative way?

How Much Is That?

If you are anything like me, you’re not entirely sure just how many zeros there are in a trillion. I had to look it up, and it’s 12 zeros. In other words, President Biden’s infrastructure proposal would cost exactly $ 2,300,000,000,000. It has been estimated that $1 trillion worth of one dollar bills stacked one on top of the other would measure 109,220 kilometres. Put another way, if you stacked up all the dollars in President Biden’s plan one on top of another, they would reach half way to the moon. That’s a lot of money. While Biden has set out his corporate tax proposal as a way to fund it, he has indicated he is open to suggestions on this theme.

Raising Taxes Has Been Proposed

It seems to me there are basically three ways America could pay for President Biden’s plan. The first way is to raise taxes. Biden argues that for those taxpayers making less than $ 400,000 per year there would be no tax increase. Instead he has proposed to raise taxes on large corporations and high net worth individuals. It is clear that Republicans want none of that and will fight tooth and nail to oppose the plan. Let’s face it, rich people and big corporations just don’t want to pay for this proposed program. With the Democratic majority in both Houses, Biden may be able to shove the plan down their throats. Or he may not. That drama will play out in the weeks ahead. But let’s keep an open mind about this.

A Second Alternative

A second alternative would be to go further in debt, increasing the federal debt from its current $ 21 trillion to $ 23 trillion. This would be like drawing down even more debt on a federal credit card that has long ago already exceeded its limit. So far, with interest rates at record lows, going into debt has been workable. The challenge there is the day when holders of American dollars lose confidence in them. That’s when interest rates will start rising and the federal debt will become unmanageable. Until then though, just printing more money could work. This would be the lazy way out of the challenge, seemingly the least painful way immediately, but likely to cause a terrible hangover down the road.

But there is a third way. And this fits with the already mentioned Biden’s willingness to consider alternatives.

Paying For Infrastructure Repairs Using Immigration

The third way would be to adapt an investor immigration program to pay for at least some of the infrastructure plan. The current U.S. EB-5 investor immigration regional center program includes a component in which foreign investors invest $ 900,000 for a period of five years on a project approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Each application must create at least 10 new jobs and enables such an investor and his or her family to immigrate to the United States permanently. Out of about one million applicants who immigrate to the United States each year, current allowances allocate only 10,000 slots to such foreign investors and their family members. However, it would not be hard to imagine how this program could be altered to help pay for Biden’s plan over a period of time. That would mean we would get the same result Biden proposes, without it costing Americans as much since the cost would be paid by new foreign investment brought into the country.

Suppose, for example, we agreed to increase the number of investor-related visas coming into the United States per year from the current 10,000, to say 100,000. Assuming each family on average has four persons, that would mean there would be 25,000 investors coming into the country under such a scenario. If each investor invested $ 900,000 and created 10 new jobs as required under the EB-5 program, that would mean the EB-5 program could generate $ 22.5 billion in revenues and 250,000 new jobs per year.

To be more exact, Biden’s plan calls for over $ 2 trillion in investment to be spent and paid for over 15 years. Using that as a measuring stick and assuming the $ 900,000 per investor would remain the same under the USCIS program, it would mean we would aim to attract some 375,000 investors to the United States over 15 years and earn just under $ 340 billion. However, if you spread this effort out over say a 40-year time frame, such an effort would exceed $ 1 trillion in investments.

Long Term Thinking

There are about 15 million millionaires in the world today outside of North America. This plan would call on attracting less than 10% of them to America over the next 40 years. That may not be easy, but maybe it could be done. The key thing is that such a program would generate 10 million new jobs for Americans. Assuming such a program was ongoing, the amounts invested would be repaid with ongoing investment over time. Further, this doesn’t even consider what other investments each such family would make in America as they buy houses, send kids to schools and spend money on consumer goods.

Maybe these assumptions about the EB-5 program are too unrealistic or miss the mark in some way. Even so, they do illustrate how the EB-5 program could help defray at least some of the costs of Biden’s proposal if used in combination with other ways of funding it. By tinkering with the various options available, a package may be created that will impose less of a burden on U.S. taxpayers and spur the economic recovery at the same time. It is worthwhile to consider these alternatives in this context.

Source: How To Fund Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Using Immigration