UHNWIs Seeking Second Passports

There’s a growing trend of Ultra High-Net-Worth Investors/Individuals (UHNWIs) seeking second passports.

Not only are UHNWIs hedging against domestic financial volatility and stability by investing offshore, but they are also hedging against political and social unrest by seeking residency/citizenship in a foreign country.

With the upcoming 2024 elections in the U.S., interest in foreign citizenship among the ultra-wealthy is at fevered heights.

Michael Sonnenfeldt, the founder and chair of Tiger 21, a global network of investors with ultra-high net worths, told Bloomberg that “the interest in second-country passports has got to be at an all-time high” among its more than 1,200 members. Tiger 21 says its members are “current and former entrepreneurs, investors, and top executives” with at least $20 million in investable assets who pay $33,000 in annual fees to be part of the network.

One option for the rich has been to buy their way into citizenship in a country offering “golden passports” through investment in the country. Some nations offer a “golden passport,” which grants citizenship to foreigners who invest a certain amount of money in the country. This is often accomplished by purchasing real estate or a business. Besides citizenship, some countries offer residency through investment – offering “golden visas,” which provide residency status.

Wealthy Americans are particularly interested in a second home because of political and social unrest at home.

A recent report by Henley & Partners noted that a growing number of wealthy Americans were trying to get citizenship through investment, with in-demand locations including Portugal, Malta, Spain, and St. Kitts and Nevis. Besides St. Kitts and Nevis, most of these foreign options are far from home and may be inconvenient for those wishing to stay in close proximity to family or domestic investments.  

St. Kitts and Nevis, a country in the Caribbean, may be relatively close compared to other foreign “golden passport” or “golden visa” options. Still, the high investment requirements and strict property criteria may be a turnoff to some investors. Interested parties can acquire citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis if they pass the government’s strict background checks and make a minimum investment of USD$ 400,000, into qualifying government-approved real estate, with the main qualifying projects of interest within the Henley Estates market.

For Americans wishing to be close to home and interested in citizenship or residency by investment without the high dollar or restrictive property requirements, an outstanding alternative is Belize, which offers residency through a couple of appealing options.

Qualified Retired Person Incentive Program

Under the Qualified Retired Person Incentive Program (QPR), the Belize Tourism Board grants resident visas to individuals aged 45 or older who provide a foreign source pension or annuity, or other acceptable source of income of at least USD$ 2,000 per month. Applicants must sign an undertaking to transfer the aforementioned income into a bank, credit union, or any financial institution in Belize.

With the program, you will get a residency visa, which must be renewed every December 31st. You must meet the required requirements in each renewal and remain in the country for a consecutive period of 30 days per year. The program allows the inclusion of dependents.

Along with the visa, you will benefit from an exemption from customs duties for the first year on importing household and personal effects, a ship, an aircraft, and a vehicle every three years.

With the QPR card, you cannot work for a company in Belize, but you can keep your companies abroad, work online, or work for clients from abroad.

After one year of legally residing in Belize, you will be eligible for permanent residency, and after five years of permanent residence, you may apply for citizenship.

Temporary Investor’s Residency Program

This program is designed for entrepreneurs who make real estate or business investments in Belize valued at least BZ$ 500,000 or USD$ 250,000. The type of qualifying real estate or business investments is not restrictive. With real estate, you can acquire property as simple as raw land. For business, there aren’t any fixed sectors you’re required to invest in. It can be anything from a restaurant to tourism or agriculture.

More To Belize Than Residency

Besides its appealing residency programs, Belize has a lot to offer for foreigners looking to live and invest in Belize.

Here are the highlights:

  • English is the official language.
  • Stable government based on the British parliamentary system and legal system based on English common law.
  • Belize is conveniently located, with flights as short as two hours available from most major airlines to major metropolitan cities across the U.S.
  • A diverse population is friendly to foreigners.
  • Belize appeals to tourists and expats alike because there is plenty of recreational and cultural activities in Belize. Belize’s diverse landscape offers something for everyone, including jungles, pristine beaches, clear water, scuba-diving spots, including the Belize Barrier Reef and the Great Blue Hole, and Mayan ruins.
  • A 2:1 exchange rate pegged to the U.S. dollar makes for stable currency as well as making the cost of living affordable. A couple can live comfortably for around $2,950 to $3,150 per month, including a house or apartment rental.
  • Investment real estate is still trending upwards, with bargains and value-add opportunities still to be found.

For those looking for a second passport and a hedge against economic and political uncertainty, Belize offers an ideal haven.