High net worth expats in UAE increasingly applying for second passport
High net worth residents in the UAE are increasingly applying for second passports to avail of maximum visa-free travel opportunities, expand businesses and avoid double taxation, experts have said.
According to companies involved in citizenship programmes, most of the demand for second citizenship programmes is coming from Indians, Pakistanis, Syrians and other Arab citizens. These expats use the UAE as a stepping stone for securing a second passport as it is easier and quicker to obtain from the Emirates due to the country’s strong credibility and high ranking in different confidence indexes.
In addition, the income and other documents submitted for second citizenship are guaranteed to be authentic and the applicant is genuine. Hence, obtaining second citizenship becomes easier for UAE-based high net worth individuals.
Veronica Cotdemiey, CEO of Citizenship Invest, said it’s definitely easy for UAE expats to obtain second passport because when they apply, the due diligence conducted by the recipient governments reflects that the applicant has no criminal record and the case is straightforward.
Among Arab expats, she noted that Syrians lead the number of applications showing a 20 per cent increase, followed by Lebanese with 17 per cent, Iraqis with 10 per cent and Palestinians with 9 per cent.
The majority of applicants (over 52 per cent) are keen to avail second citizenships with their families to manoeuvre their finances around the world with less restrictions, Cotdemiey said.
Among Asians, Indians and Pakistanis also make a large chunk of applicants.
She noted that the investors can obtain a second passport in less than 6 months without having to move to any of these countries relieving them from need to migrate and disrupt their lives and businesses.
She pointed out that there were visa rejections from Europe, US and UK, which prompted many high net worth individuals here to apply for stronger second passport, especially during the second half of last year.
“These high net worth individuals were renewing their visas without any issue and were travelling without any problem. But in second-half, they faced more problems so a large number of them opted for second passport,” she added.
According to Citizenship Invest, there is 27 per cent increase in UAE among Arab expats seeking second passport in 2017.
Stephen Strnisha, a board officer of Invest in the USA (IIUSA), the EB-5 industry trade association, noted that though Chinese take a lion’s share of the EB-5 Visa Programme but other nationalities such as Indians, Koreans, Japanese and other nationalities are slowly replacing them as time required for the Chinese investors has been substantially increased by the US government.
In the UAE, he noted that most of the expats applying for the Green Card are Indians and Syrians.
Under EB-5 Visa Programme, the minimum investment is half a million dollar and it is likely to jack up to $925,000 from March 23, 2018, by the US government. Hence, Strnisha called on UAE-based high net worth individuals looking to opt for Green Card to submit their documents as soon as possible to expedite the process before the US government raises the limit this month.
He, however, downplayed any concerns about the Employment-Based (EB-5) Investor Immigration Programme being scrapped by the government, saying there are fewer voices opposing this programme.
Strnisha is also the CEO of Cleveland International Fund which invests on behalf of the investors under EB-5 programme and also processes their applications for Green Card. The company has raised $240 million for different projects, creating over 14,000 jobs. Under EB-5 programme, an investor’s programme has to create at least 10 jobs to be eligible for the Green Card.
GCC investors, who have taken advantage of the EB-5 programme in a big way, can now look at greater opportunities once the new reforms are passed by the US legislature, he said.
According to the Invest in the USA (IISA) 2016 report, Egypt, Iran and the UAE were the investor markets that grew faster than the Programme’s average growth worldwide since 2008.
Imran Farooq, CEO, AAA Associates, a citizenship by investment advisory based in Dubai, said there is a strong demand for Caribbean programme, EB-5 and Portugal passports among the UAE expats.
He noted that Indians, Pakistanis, Syrians, Egyptians and Jordanians are increasingly opting for their second passports, especially for the Caribbean programme because they reduced the investment limit due to hurricane.