UAE golden visa programme attracts investment and talent, report finds

Wealth and migration trends report finds country’s agile approach has paid dividends

The Downtown Dubai skyline. The UAE has become a magnet for the world's wealthy, who are relocating to the country in record numbers, according to a new report. AFP
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The UAE is expected to attract an inflow of high-net-worth individuals in 2022, according to a new report by Henley & Partners, which tracks private wealth and investment migration trends worldwide.

“The UAE has become the focus of interest among affluent investors and is expected to see the highest net influx of high-net-worth individuals [HNWIs] globally in 2022,” said the report, which focuses on people with a net worth of $1 million or more.

The global residence and citizenship-by-investment industry was valued at $21.4 billion annually, statistics compiled in 2019 by Investment Migration Insider showed. By 2025, the market could generate $100bn in revenue, it said.

Citizenship programmes date back to the 1980s, when territories in the Pacific and Caribbean began to attract wealthy foreigners. Canada and the US were among other early adopters. Programmes with a similar ethos have also been launched by Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, Malta, Portugal, South Korea, Thailand, the UAE, UK, Vanuatu and most recently Bahrain, among others.

The UAE introduced its golden visa programme in 2019. The visas are valid for up to 10 years and aim to encourage exceptional workers and foreign investors to establish deeper roots in the country.

“This mirrors the country’s remarkable rise in the Henley Passport Index rankings over the past decade as it focused on attracting tourism and trade by implementing a succession of mutually reciprocated visa waivers,” the Henley report said.

“The UAE is now doing the same with its competitive, agile approach to adapting immigration regulations to attract private wealth, capital and talent.”

Traditional hubs for HNWIs experience correction

The UK, once touted as the world’s financial centre, continues to record a steady loss of HNWIs, with net outflows of 1,500 forecast for 2022, it added.

“This trend began five years ago, when the Brexit vote and rising taxes saw more HNWIs leaving the country than entering for the first time,” Henley said in the report.

Meanwhile, the appeal of the US is also dwindling, with the country becoming less popular among migrating millionaires compared with pre-Covid days partly because of the threat of higher taxes.

The US is still attracting more HNWIs than it loses, with a net inflow of 1,500 projected for 2022. However, this is an 86 per cent drop from 2019 levels, when it had a net inflow of 10,800 millionaires.

“The 2022 forecast reflects an extremely volatile environment worldwide,” Juerg Steffen, chief executive of Henley & Partners, said.

“By the end of the year, 88,000 millionaires are expected to have relocated to new countries, 22,000 fewer than in 2019 when 110,000 moved.

“Next year, the largest millionaire migration flows on record are predicted — 125,000 — as affluent investors and their families earnestly prepare for the new post-Covid world, with an as yet-to-be revealed rearrangement of the global order, and the ever-present threat of climate change as a constant backdrop.”

Other countries also experience HNWI outflows

Other countries that remain popular with HNWIs include Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, while China, Hong Kong, India and Brazil recorded the highest net outflows in 2022, the report said.

Over the past 20 years, more than 80,000 US dollar millionaires have moved to Australia. In 2022, the net inflow is expected to be 3,500, the report said.

Meanwhile, Henley & Partners also received a record number of investment migration programme enquiries in the first quarter of 2022, up 55 per cent compared with the fourth quarter of 2021.

Portugal's golden residence permit programme is the most popular for HNWIs, with schemes launched by St Kitts & Nevis and Canada also registering strong interest.

Historically, many wealthy individuals acquired residence rights or citizenship without moving to those countries, Dominic Volek, group head of private clients at Henley & Partners, said.

“Recent turmoil is causing this to shift — more investors are considering relocating their families to other countries for a range of reasons, from safety and security, to education and health care, to climate resilience and even crypto-friendliness,” Mr Volek said.

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Updated: June 13, 2022, 2:52 PM
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