Investor visa programs in the US, Canada and Hong Kong have been the most popular internationally over recent years, but GIIC chair Mykolas Rambus said the future of these initiatives is unclear going forward.
Pointing to the US program, which reached its limit in 2014 and now has a large backlog of applications, he said: “Without changing the visa limit, it cannot continue to grow.”
Canada closed its federal program last year, and while the Quebec program continues to operate, Rambus said it will not have the capacity to meet existing demand and backlog applications.
“The investment thresholds, and other requirements of Canada’s new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program rules, route out the majority of prospective Canadian immigrant investors.”
“The situation particularly effects Chinese nationals, who are the major applicants to all three programs"
Meanwhile, Hong Kong suspended its Capital Investment Entrant Scheme early this year, and – according to Rambus – does not look set to reopen it.
“The status of [these] programs has left many prospective immigrant investors in limbo,” he said.
“The situation particularly effects Chinese nationals, who are the major applicants to all three programs.”
According to experts, Chinese nationals could be on the waiting list for two or three years before their US EB-5 visas are approved.
Figures from the GIIC investor immigration report reveal that when the federal program was shut down in Canada, there were around 65,000 unprocessed applications, of which 70% were Chinese nationals.
With around 16,000 investors being given approval for Hong Kong’s investor visa program over the past four years, Rambus said many prospective immigrant investors will be forced to look to other destinations.
“The UK program still has capacity to grow, but the recent doubling of the investment threshold may restrict it to the wealthier end of applicants,” said Rambus.
“Likewise, Australia’s Significant Investor Visa and New Zealand’s Investor Plus category have capacity, but require significantly more investment than the US, Canada and Hong Kong programs.”
For high net worth individuals looking for alternative residence, Rambus said emerging programs – like those in Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Portugal, and Spain – are “more affordable and will grow in appeal”.
The GIIC chair advised those individuals with “requisite funds” to look towards citizenship programs in Malta and Cyprus, which offer more visa-free travel options and “coveted” residence in Europe’s Schengen zone.
Investor visa programs allow individuals to enter and work in a country by making a significant financial investment in that country.
Radius Equity released data in June revealing that the number of Chinese nationals applying for UK investor visas had tripled in 2014.
In the same year, the UK Government doubled the threshold for its tier 1 investor visa.