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The best and hassle-free places in the world to buy another nationality

With fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi, accused in the


fraud case, having acquired citizenship in the Caribbean nation of Antigua & Barbuda, the investment linked residency and citizenship programmes offered by various countries around the world have come under the scanner.

While Choksi’s case has highlighted the trend of Indian high net worth inpiduals seeking to flee the country after getting on the wrong side of law, not all millionaires who are leaving India are necessarily running away. Earlier in March this year, Ruchir Sharma, head of emerging markets and chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, pointed out that the highest number of millionaires leaving their country of origin was from India.

His comment was based on a survey carried out by the NW Wealth, which said since 2014, 23,000 millionaires have left India. In 2017, it was 7,000.

Many immigration experts, in fact, feel that there is a trend among high net worth Indians to look for opportunities across the globe to either set up businesses or expand existing ones, for which they avail themselves of investment linked immigration schemes. “We do not see any clients using these programmes because they have committed crimes and would decline to represent any that had. However, there is significant rise in the number of clients with “clean” records using these programmes,” says Mark I Davies, global chairman of Davies & Associates, a global law firm.

He adds that while a licensed law firm would look into such issues and not accept clients with any kind of criminal issues associated with them; unlicensed agents may not do that. “The problem in India is that agents are allowed to operate the passports by investment programmes. In other countries, only properly licensed professionals are allowed to do so. A solution is to prohibit agents form offering these passports in India unless they are properly qualified professionals.”

Most countries that run investor immigration programmes, including Antigua, carry out a thorough background check on applicants including a search of global criminal databases. Usually, a clean police clearance is also required. Even as controversy clouds the issue of how Choksi acquired citizenship in Antigua and whether the Indian government will succeed in getting him back; here are some of the programmes that HNIs from India are using to leave the country.

Antigua & Barbuda Citizenship by Investment
An applicant has to contribute $200,000 to the National Development Fund (NDF); or invest at least $400,000 in an approved real estate project with a 5-year lock-in or invest $1,500,000 directly into an eligible business as a sole investor.

The process is governed by strict background checks before the applicant and their families are granted citizenship.

Grenada citizenship by investment
By investing $2 million in the country’s economy or a real estate development, applicant can acquire citizenship with the right to live and work. Under direct investment route, applicants may immediately apply for citizenship without first applying for permanent residence.
Besides the opportunity to live and work in Grenada, this provides a route to the US E2 investment visa programme which is closed to Indian citizens.

Belize retirement
This Caribbean nation has a retirement programme with an average annual income requirement for retirees of $24,000, which is not too high by north American standards. The other advantages are no taxes on worldwide income and the possibility of operating businesses out of Belize, ideal for senior citizens from US and Canada, including those of Indian origin.

St Kitts & Nevis citizenship programme
Buying property worth $400,000 in St Kitts and Nevis entitles buyers to automatically qualify for residency. This also provides visa-free travel to more than 100 countries, including the Schengen zone, Canada, the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore.
A contribution to public charity the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation of $250,000 (for a single applicant), or a non-refundable contribution to the Sustainable Growth Fund (SGF) of $150,000 also qualifies for acquisition of citizenship

Cyprus residential investment scheme
With an investment of €2 million in real estate (locked in for 3 years) a fast-track citizenship application that covers whole family. Open to all nationalities, the process takes 6 months.
There is no residency requirement and this is the fastest and most direct route to European Union citizenship.

Malta inpidual investment programme:
It provides an European Commission recognised route for citizenship in an European nation for global high net worth inpiduals and their families. Benefits include visa free travel in 160 countries including the US

Investment required is Euro 250,000 (lock-in 5 years); a government contribution of Euro 30,000 and property worth Euro 320,000 in Malta. Clean criminal record needed with the Malta government conducting extensive criminal checks globally. In 2018, the IIP received 1000 applications from investors in 40 different countries.

Portugal Golden Resident Permit Program
This is a residency programme for non-EU investors. Applicants have to acquire property valued at a minimum of Euro 500,000.
The investment can be in any commercial or residential real estate and provides an entry into the EU for businesses. It is also an easy route to permanent residency.

UK Tier 1 (Investor) visa
Access to at least £2,000,000 in investment funds required to apply. Suitable for applicants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. Can apply to settle after 2 years with £10 million investment. Suitable for small and medium business families looking to set up shop in the UK and Europe; education and quality of life in UK is attractive for Indians.

EB-5 investors have to invest in a new commercial enterprise that will create full-time positions for at least 10 qualifying employees. The minimum investment is $1 million; and $500,000 in targeted employment areas.
It takes about a year and a half for an EB-5 applicant to get a conditional green card; six months to receive approval for an I-526 petition. 513 I-526 petitions were filed by Indians in 2017. Considering the long queues for green cards (permanent residence) for highly skilled professionals in the US, this is a fast-track solution.

Canada British Columbia Entrepreneur Program
Candidates have to open a new business in the province, or significantly expand an existing one, to qualify for expedited Canadian permanent residency through the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BCPNP).

Personal net worth of at least CAD $600,000.
Minimum investment of CAD $200,000.
Creation of at least one new job.

Australia Investor Stream visa
Business investment visa (subclass 188) is initially granted on provisional basis for 4 years. After this, the business migrants can apply for permanent business visa. Applicants must own minimum of A$2.25 million as net assets / business just before 2 years of receiving invitation for investment visa and should be able to legally transfer the funds within 2 years.

Investors have to invest at least A$1.5 million in a designated territory of Australia and hold the same for at least 4 years after the business investment visa issuance.

Europe in vaccination race against COVID-19’s delta variant

Countries across Europe are scrambling to accelerate coronavirus vaccinations and outpace the spread of the more infectious delta variant, in a high-stakes race to prevent hospital wards from filling up again with patients fighting for their lives.

The urgency coincides with Europe’s summer holiday months, with fair weather bringing more social gatherings and governments reluctant to clamp down on them. Social distancing is commonly neglected, especially among the young, and some countries are scrapping the requirement to wear masks outdoors.

Incentives for people to get shots include free groceries, travel and entertainment vouchers, and prize drawings. The president of Cyprus even appealed to a sense of patriotism.

The risk of infection from the delta variant is “high to very high” for partially or unvaccinated communities, according to the European Centre for Disease Control, which monitors 30 countries on the continent. It estimates that by the end of August, the variant will account for 90% of cases in the European Union.

“It is very important to progress with the vaccine rollout at a very high pace,” the ECDC warned.

The World Health Organization is also concerned. The variant makes transmission growth “exponential,” according to Maria Van Kerkhove, its technical lead on COVID-19.

Daily new case numbers are already climbing sharply in countries like the United Kingdom, Portugal and Russia.

In the U.K., cases of the delta variant have increased fourfold in less than a month, with confirmed cases Friday up 46% on the previous week.

Portuguese health authorities this week reported a “vertiginous” rise in the prevalence of the delta variant, which accounted for only 4% of cases in May but almost 56% in June. The country is reporting its highest number of daily cases since February, and the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has surpassed 500 for the first time since early April.

Reports of new infections in Russia more than doubled in June, topping 20,000 per day this week, and deaths hit 679 on Friday, the fourth day in a row that the death toll set a daily record.

Still, “no one wants any lockdowns,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov at a briefing, although he admitted that the virus situation in a number of Russian regions is “tense.”

In some countries, the virus is spreading much faster among younger people. In Spain, the national 14-day case notification rate per 100,000 people rose to 152 on Friday. But for the 20-29 age group, it shot up to 449.

Those numbers have triggered alarm across the continent.

The Dutch government is extending its vaccination program to those aged 12-17 to help head off a feared new surge. Greece is offering young adults 150 euros ($177) in credit after their first jab. Rome authorities are mulling the use of vans to vaccinate people at the beach. And Poland last week launched a lottery open only to adults who are fully vaccinated, with new cars among the prizes.

Portuguese authorities have extended the hours of vaccination centers, created new walk-in clinics, called up armed forces personnel to help run operations, and reduced the period between taking the two doses of the


vaccine from 12 weeks to eight weeks.

“We’re in a race against the clock,” Cabinet Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said.

In the fight against vaccine hesitancy across Europe, the appearance of variants has fed public uncertainty about how effective the shots are.

In Madrid this week, Claudia Aguilar, a 58-year-old archaeologist, got her second Pfizer-BioNTech jab at an auditorium that is expanding its working hours overnight.

Nevertheless, she said she is “not sure I’ll really be immune” against future variants.

“I mean, I’m a bit skeptical that this is going to do any good,” Aguilar said.

Bartender Yevgeniya Chernyshkova was lined up Thursday for a shot at Moscow’s GUM department store just off Red Square after the government required vaccinations for workers in some sectors.

“Now, it’s becoming mandatory and we all understand why – because the third wave of the pandemic has started here,” she said.

Fifteen months after WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, some governments appear more minded to reward public patience while thinking twice about bringing back restrictions.

Some 40,000 fans went to England’s European Championship soccer match against Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium last week. In Portugal, new restrictions have been half-hearted, such as limiting restaurant opening hours on weekend nights.

In Moscow, however, restaurants, bars and cafes on Monday began admitting only customers who have been vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months or can provide a negative test in the previous 72 hours.

France lifted the last of its major restrictions Wednesday, allowing unlimited crowds in restaurants, at weddings and most cultural events despite fast-rising cases of the delta variant.

Tiago Correia, an associate professor at Lisbon’s Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, detects a mood of public impatience, especially among young people keen to enjoy warm summer nights.

“People want to return to normal more quickly than the vaccination rollout is happening,” he said.

The emerging variants have shone a light on the unprecedented scale of the immunization programs. The ECDC says that in the countries it surveys, 61% of people over 18 have had one shot and 40% are completely vaccinated.

But Dr. Hans Kluge, the head of the WHO’s Europe office, cautioned this week that the delta variant is poised to become dominant by August in the 53-country region his office covers. And he notes that some 63% of people in that region haven’t had a first jab.

“The three conditions for a new wave of excess hospitalizations and deaths before the (fall) are therefore in place: New variants, deficit in vaccine uptake, increased social mixing,” Kluge said.