The coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, has come with its fair share of challenges, especially for travellers. Many people have found themselves in situations where they are unable to move around due to lockdown restrictions. There are acute and profound consequences on the immigration of the COVid-19 pandemic. COVID-related restrictions and strict border controls have been issued by most states to limit the inward movement of people, even as visa services have been put on hold. The near-collapse of air transport by major airlines reinforces the formal restrictions, causing much of the world to be on lockdown. With the number of infections surging and solutions in terms of treatment or vaccine not forthcoming, one can expect these restrictions to remain for as long as the virus remains within the world population. As people try to manage the situation, the ultra-rich are escaping the lockdown by buying passports.
The super-rich are buying passports as the ultimate insurance policy to escape global lockdown if a second spike strikes on if the current trend continues. Many people are going for states such as Malta, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Cyprus. Such people are looking for places they can go to on short notice if the need arises. The passports are bought through a program known as the Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIP) in which the ultra-rich foreign investors obtain second citizenships and passports offered by specific countries around the world. The states provide permanent residency or nationality in exchanges for individual’s investments in businesses and local property or direct donation to the national treasury. In Malta and Cyprus, it can cost up to €1.1 million to €2.2 million. During the coronavirus pandemic, the Caribbean passports have become even more precious for the ultra-high net worth persons as they try to escape the closure of most national borders.
The dual islands of St. Kitts and Nevis have one of the most popular CIP in the Caribbean. The state is especially taking advantage of the surging numbers of the ultra-rich interested in their passports to modernize and revitalize its local economy. St. Kitts and Nevis is a preferred destination owing to its all-round warm tropical weather and lush forest favourable for investments. In St. Kitts and Nevis, the ultra-rich investors can choose for a wide range of properties to invest it for a minimum of €400,000 in a government-approved real estate project. They can purchase beachfront cottages, residential homes, luxury villas, or condominiums. Given the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, the ultra-rich hope to make these places their safe havens in case the situation remains constant or worsens with the global lockdown. Others are also considering these destinations because they are not as affected as other places in the world, such as the US and Italy, which registered some of the highest numbers if COVID-19 infections in the world.
The value of second citizenship has been enhanced by the coronavirus and the lockdown situation and the prospect of other pandemics in the future. This is because, in most states/countries, entry by nationals is still guaranteed despite strict border controls and entry bans. Today, entering Malta, Cyprus, or St. Kitts and Nevis is as valuable to passport holders as it is to investment citizens. The ultra-rich are not worried about the attached price tags. In any case, it makes sense to travel and visit places when you have a private jet, and you can afford the luxury lifestyle. As of mid-May, Malta and Cyprus had each registered less than twenty corona-virus related deaths. Their geographical locations (as islands) may explain the low infections, especially because not as many travellers or returnees went there in the wake of the global outbreak of coronavirus. New nationalities in the states have risen by a whopping 42% in the 1st quarter of 2020, compared to the same time last year. Forecasts indicate that the trend will continue even post-COVID, as a precautionary measure.
Destinations such as St. Kitts & Nevis have attracted the super-rich to their passports by adapting swiftly to the current lockdown situation with various requirements notwithstanding. They have streamlined the process and unified the procedure through online submissions and remote working with no physical files involved (to be submitted at a later stage). They have done so to accommodate as many interested personas as possible to the IP program, which greatly benefits the local population and the national economy.
This year, the second passports have come in handy for the super-rich as contingency plans and an insurance policy in case a disaster comes knocking again. In Malta, Cyprus, and the two islands of St. Kitts and Nevis have quality health care to cover these individuals. For instance, in Malta, one needs to provide demand certificates of health from program applicants and, after that, enjoy healthcare services offered in public facilities. It is an additional safety precaution for individuals and their family members. For peace of mind, applicants opt for a second residency or citizenship and as a fast exit strategy if one needs to leave their country due to the current lockdown.
Experts agree that investment immigration is no longer just about living enjoying the luxuries during holidays and corporate travels but more about a more holistic vision that includes investment in health and safety. For those who can afford it, it’s a path worth exploring, given the associated benefits. Even so, one should be careful to conduct an initial inquiry into the offers that come with these bought passports. Unsuspecting travellers can subscribe to terms that become unfavourable. It is essential to take time, review the requirements, and only commit to conditions that you can meet. Different states have distinct policies on dual citizenship, especially on investment procedures. Many of the ultra-rich are more interested now than ever, and this scenario will most likely set the pace for buying passports in the future. It is likely that more countries/states will get into the program to enjoy the associated economic benefits.