The value of golden visa programs and who they benefit

Golden visa programs are not a new phenomenon. The concept of residency by investment or investor visa programs has existed for several decades. The first modern-day residency by investment program was established in Canada in the 1980s with the introduction of the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), and since then over 100 countries have implemented some form of investment migration legislation.

These programs have revolutionised foreign investment by providing a win-win situation for investors and the countries that offer them. Investors gain access to new business opportunities and a safe haven for their assets, while countries benefit from increased foreign investment and economic growth.

In today’s economic and political climate, these programs are more important than ever. Globalisation, increased mobility, and the desire for greater economic and personal security have driven individuals to seek a ‘Plan B’ that mitigates economic or political instability in their home countries. Golden Visa programs offer an alternative to the often lengthy and uncertain traditional immigration process.

What are golden visa programs’ main features and criteria?

Golden visa programs generally cater to high-net-worth individuals and families who are able to make a significant investment in a country’s economy. The investment options include real estate, government bonds or other approved assets and can range from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million. In return, holders receive residency for up to ten years and all the associated benefits, such as tax incentives and access to high-quality healthcare, education and other services.

Eligibility varies from country to country. However, most require the ability to demonstrate minimum net worth, business experience or other qualifications considered valuable to a country’s economy.

The most popular residency by investment programmes in Europe are those of Portugal, Malta and Greece, which attract investors for their relatively low investment requirements, full access to the European Union and eventual pathways to full citizenship.

The UAE’s Golden Visa programme has also attracted significant interest since its inception in 2019 for its flexible eligibility requirements and the freedom for holders to spend as long as needed outside the country without it affecting their residency status.

Many residency programs also allow the investor’s family members to obtain residency or citizenship in the country.

What are the specifics of the UAE Golden Visa?

The United Arab Emirates introduced its Golden Visa program in 2019, with the aim of attracting more foreign investors, entrepreneurs, and skilled professionals to the country. The program is part of the UAE’s wider strategy to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on oil revenue.

Initially, the golden visa program was open to investors and entrepreneurs who met certain criteria, such as owning a business with a minimum capital investment of AED 500,000 (approximately USD 136,000) or having a successful track record in entrepreneurship or innovation. The program was later expanded to include skilled professionals in key sectors such as healthcare, science, and engineering.

In 2020, the UAE further expanded its golden visa program to include long-term residence visas for up to 10 years for certain categories of investors, entrepreneurs, and professionals, as well as their families. These categories include investors in real estate, entrepreneurs, and individuals with exceptional talents in fields such as art, culture, and sports.

What are the benefits of the UAE Golden Visa?

One of the main attractions of residency in the UAE is its significant tax benefits. The absence of personal income tax, wealth tax, inheritance tax, and capital gains tax is a huge draw for high-net-worth individuals, investors, and entrepreneurs looking to minimise their tax liabilities and establish a business in the country. The UAE’s extensive network of double taxation treaties with its trade partners also provides protection against the risk of double taxation for individuals with residency in two countries.

The visa also provides a great deal of flexibility when compared to other residency by investment programs. Holders are allowed multiple entry and exit from the UAE, with no minimum stay required to maintain the visa. Furthermore, unlike other visa types in the UAE, the Golden Visa doesn’t require a UAE national or company to sponsor the applicant.

Since its inception, more than 150,000 Golden Visas have been issued in the UAE, with a significant proportion coming from India, Pakistan, China, Russia and the UK. The motives for applying are varied, but the opportunity to take advantage of the country’s business-friendly policies and investment opportunities is high among them. The UAE’s stable economy also provides investors with a great deal of security. This is particularly important at a time when political instability and conflict is prevalent in other parts of the world.

Why consider residency by investment programs?

In today’s globalised world, being able to travel, live, work and study in different countries is a valuable commodity. Residency by investment programs offer many benefits, including access to new business opportunities and the chance to diversify investments and assets, obtain tax benefits, gain increased global mobility, and escape the political uncertainty of other countries.

The investment programs can also offer a higher quality of life than residency in just one country. Access to high-quality education and healthcare systems can be particularly attractive to families who are unable to obtain those things in their home countries.

The assumption that one’s residency or citizenship is tied to just one country is outdated and limiting. While it’s true you don’t decide where you are born, you CAN decide where you’re from. Residence and citizenship is now a legal choice and one that opens up a world of possibilities.