By: Rasha Seikaly
The six countries that make up the Gulf Corporation Council; Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, are home to some of the fastest-growing areas of wealth in the world.
The number of high net worth individuals is consistently rising in the GCC, and in turn, these individuals are seeking out new opportunities as international citizens, eager to take advantage of the freedom of travel and other amenities that comes with such a privilege.
Second Passports in the GCC are on the Rise
Many wealthy citizens in GCC countries already operate global businesses, own properties abroad, and educate their children in the educational systems of nations all across the world. For these individuals, a second citizenship can remove the obstacles faced when living an international globe-trekking lifestyle, and provide freedom of travel that allows greater mobility, as well as grants access to better educational and financial opportunities.
Other individuals pursue second passports to gain increased long-term security for themselves and their families, especially during times of political, civil or economic unrest in their home countries. Having a second citizenship grants individuals, families and businesses the freedom to live, work and operate in a safer, more stable environment.
Second Passports Through Investments
The fastest ticket to second citizenship for many wealthy GCC residents is citizenship through investment. These opportunities often provide a fast track to a second passport through financial investments in the host country.
Given the state of the global market, as well as other socio and economic factors, second passports by investments are increasing in popularity like never before. Take for example the EB-5 visa for immigrant investors. The EB-5 visa provides a United States green card to foreign investors who put forward a minimum of $900,000 to join the program. Holders of the US green card are then able to apply for full US citizenship after 5 years, making it a very attractive proposition for those who can afford it.
US Residency Through Investment
The US residency by investment scheme has seen a six-fold increase in applicants from the GCC over the last few years, rising from 1,369 approvals in 2010, to 9,602 in 2018. Experts predict that this number will continue with this upward trend with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Global Opportunities for Second Passports
Although US passports rank among the most highly sought-after passports, their strict requirements are often restrictive for many. However, there are plenty of other opportunities for a second passport around the globe, many of which are quicker, and less costly, than the US EB-5 route.
Many Caribbean countries offer citizenship by investment schemes that grant a second passport, along with all of its many benefits, for fraction of the price, and without the typical 5-year waiting period imposed by the United States. Take for example the countries of St Lucia or Dominica, where an investment of a relatively affordable $100,000 can get an individual a permanent citizenship in a matter of a few months, all with no physical residency requirement reside in the country.
These attractive terms mean that Caribbean nations are among the most popular destinations to gain a second passport for GCC citizens and residents. Countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, and the Commonwealth of Dominica all offer attractive citizenship by investment schemes to wealthy applicants.
Citizenship by investment schemes in Europe offer an even more desirable passport to those seeking freedom of movement and security across the world. Obtaining citizenship in the European Union offers passport holders the opportunity to live, work and study in any member state without visa restrictions. Not only that, those fortunate enough to take advantage of these programs gain access to high-quality health care and welfare systems that these nations provide.
Cyprus is becoming a popular choice for a second passport through investment, due to a short waiting period of only 3 months
. Many other European Union states, such as Malta and Portugal offer a residency visa first, with the opportunity to apply for full citizenship after a certain number of years. Most of these states don’t require the applicant to reside permanently in the country, so the individual’s international freedom is not jeopardized during the waiting period for citizenship.
US and European passports hold weight across the globe and offer much more freedom of movement than many GCC passports.
With the increase in high net worth individuals in the GCC who have the financial ability to invest in a second passport, it’s little wonder why applications for citizenship by investment schemes are rising year upon year.
Rasha Seikaly, an IMC member, is Bluemina’s Head of Marketing. Bluemina provides families, individuals, and investors with the best and most expedited Citizenship and Residency by investment programs. She wrote this piece for AMEinfo