CAN GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP SURVIVE?
Despite the nationalist mood taking over some developed countries, there are alternatives for global citizenship shoppers to feel good about the future
Globalisation and global cooperation are increasingly under threat. Last year alone, Russia, Burundi, the Gambia, and South Africa all indicated their withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the EU, anti-immigration policy gained ground in countries such as Austria, Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands and Germany. In the US, President Trump pulled out of a number of international treaties and agreements, including the Trans-pacific Partnership, the Paris climate accord, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), and the UN Global Compact on Migration.
All of this is cause for concern. But global cooperation is one thing, and global citizenship is another. And while global cooperation is in crisis, global citizenship — perhaps as a result — has never been stronger. Citizens today often feel part of a global community even as their governments become more insular. The remarkable expansion of the Internet, social media, and smart phones to almost every corner of the globe means that people are more interconnected, mutually aware and mutually concerned than ever before.
A 2016 poll conducted by Globescan showed that global citizenship, as an identity and way of life, is thriving. Some 20,000 people from 18 countries were surveyed as part of the poll, and more than half of these people indicated that they see themselves more as global citizens than as citizens of their specific country. This was the first time in the poll’s history that the global majority was tilted towards international rather than national identification.
The trend is even more pronounced among ultra-high-net-worth individuals. The most recent Barclays Wealth Insights survey found that mobility among the wealthy is at an all-time high, with 70 per cent of respondents saying that they invest in a geographically diversified portfolio of assets, and the majority also saying that they expect their children to live in multiple countries. Wealthy families gravitate towards countries that offer citizens an expansive set of opportunities internally (high levels of peace, stability and human and economic development) and externally (strong travel and settlement freedom).
And yet, in Asia-pacific last year, the governments of Australia and New Zealand both took steps in 2017 to curb the number of skilled individuals coming into their countries by either scrapping popular visa programs or making the qualifying criteria more stringent.
Other countries pursued different strategies, however, in an attempt to ease mobility and attract talent. Kate Coddington, assistant professor of geography at Durham University in the UK, recently pointed out that Taiwan, Japan, and China have all recently relaxed visa requirements for skilled and educated professionals, making it easier to live in these countries, own property, enrol children in local schools and access public services. As she explains: “The push in the Pacific Rim to encourage skilled migrants opens doors, just as opportunities for skilledmigrant mobility elsewhere are potentially diminishing. Countries in the region are seizing the opportunity presented by skilled workers who find themselves shut out of traditionally desirable destinations.”
Just as some governments in Asia are trying to attract skilled labour to their jurisdictions, so governments in other parts of the world — particularly in Europe and the Caribbean — are trying to attract ultra-highnet-worth individuals from Asia and elsewhere through investment migration. Indeed, more and more governments are waking up to the value of residence- and citizenshipby-investment as a source of much-needed capital inflow, and the number and quality of programmes available is growing each year.
The investment migration industry itself is gaining visibility: the leading firms in the business have formed the Investment Migration Council (IMC), a professional association ensuring standards and codes of conduct, and major global players such as the
US, the UK, and the EU have officially endorsed selected programmes.
For Chinese individuals in general, the most popular residence-by-investment programme is still the traditional US EB-5 visa programme, although there is growing uncertainty about its future. Other popular programmes for Asian clients include the UK Tier 1 Investor Program, the Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program, the Australia Business Innovation and Investment Programme, and the Malta Residence and Visa Program. The Thailand Elite Residence Program is also attracting interest from nationals in neighbouring Asian countries, thanks to its relatively low cost and the high standard of living it affords.
For Asian high-net-worth individuals, the Malta Individual Investor Program and the Cyprus Citizenship-by-investment Program remain extremely appealing due to the settlement freedom that both a Maltese and a Cypriot passport provide. Both passports give previously non-eu nationals the right to live, work, study, and settle in any member state in the EU.
There is also significant interest among wealthy Asian nationals in Caribbean citizenship- by-investment programmes. The main appeal of these programs is the high levels of travel freedom they provide, coupled with their highly competitive pricing. The Antigua and Barbuda programme, for example, now requires (for a limited time-period) a minimum donation of only US$100,000 for a family of up to four people. St Kitts and Nevis, meanwhile, has introduced a Hurricane Relief Fund donation option of US$150,000 for a family of up to four people. Grenada continues to be an attractive option for Asian individuals who prefer to invest in real estate rather than donate their wealth. In 2017, the Grenadian programme saw a year-on-year increase of 300 per cent in application numbers.
We think that the rising tide of populist nationalism, though concerning, is no threat to global citizenship. The moments of geopolitical uncertainty and insecurity that we bear witness to on a daily basis only strengthen the appeal of an expanded citizenship portfolio, i.e., options in a range of quality nationalities in multiple jurisdictions. As such, we anticipate that the investment migration industry will continue to grow in relevance and value over the coming decade.