Industry Trends

The Big Investment Migration Stories in 2023: IMI’s Most Read Articles This Year

The Portuguese Golden Visa’s narrow escape from what had initially been a death sentence, the persistent specter of Caribbean CBI countries’ loss of visa-free access to Europe, and Malaysia’s fledgling attempts to revive interest in its once-popular residency programs were among the stories that most captured the interest of IMI’s readers in 2023.

#10 – EU Told Caribbean PMs They Will Cut Visa-Free Schengen Access “Shortly”, Claims Saint Vincent PM

  • Published: July 26th

Long a confirmed opponent of the citizenship by investment sector, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines PM Ralph Gonsalves startles the market by claiming representatives of the European Commission told him, during a meeting between the EU and OECS countries, that it was only a matter of time before Caribbean CBI countries would see their visa-free access to Schengen revoked.

Gonsalves said European officials had signaled that it was “not a matter of if. It’s not a matter of this thing may happen. This thing is happening. It’s [a question of] when we are going to bring down the hammer, and the hammer is coming down shortly.’”

So far, Caribbean CBI countries have escaped such a fate through a series of bilateral discussions with Europe.

#9 – State Govt. Approves New Sabah-MM2H: Malaysia Now Has 4 Residence-by-Deposit Programs With Different Prices

  • Published: February 24th

While Malaysia’s federal My Second Home (MM2H) program had languished for two years following reforms out of step with market realities (recording an 85% decline in application volume), the state of Sabah, which exercises autonomy on matters related to immigration, this year announced it would offer its own version of the federal program at much lower cost levels.

Sarawak, another Malaysian state that decides its own immigration policies, had similarly continued to offer residency in Malaysia in line with the previous (cheaper) MM2H program, and saw a 2,800% increase in applications thanks to the rising cost of the federal version.

A peculiar aspect of the Sarawak MM2H and, as far as is discernable, also the Sabah MM2H is that while applicants must spend 30 days a year in the two East Malaysian states, they are free to reside throughout the country. Participants in either of the Borneoan MM2H programs, therefore, have the same access to the rest of Malaysia as participants in the far more expensive federal program.

#8 – Quebec to Reopen QIIP With French Language Requirement and $200,000 Donation, Likely by End of Year

  • Published: May 26th

Patrick McCarthy outlined the terms of the Quebec government’s new Immigrant Investor Program, which this year reopened following four years of suspension. In what many considered a disappointment, the new scheme comes with a French language requirement, which will significantly reduce its market size.

Nonetheless, writes McCarthy, the program remains the only truly passive route to residency by investment in Canada, and at a low risk since the investment takes the form of government bonds.

#7 – How to Live in Italy and Pay a Single-Digit Tax Rate: 3 Special Tax Regimes

  • Published: April 24th

While Portugal’s NHR regime has been the beneficiary of a multi-year, global marketing campaign, investor migrants are increasingly becoming aware of Italy’s special tax regimes, which in many ways are even more beneficial. The country offers three separate special regimes – one for investors, one for professionals, and one for retirees – each of which has the potential to reduce an individual’s effective tax rate to the single digits.

While Portugal’s government has now definitely decided to end the extremely successful NHR scheme, Italy has so far retained theirs, despite flirting with the idea of ending the Lavoratori Impatriati regime, which allows those who take up tax residency in Italy to pay tax on only 30% (or only 10% in the South) of their incomes.

#6 – New Portugal Golden Visa Rules to Take Effect Within Days Following Promulgation Last Night

  • Published: October 1

After attempting to block the bill by using his veto powers, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was finally forced to enact the controversial “More Housing” bill, which – among many other measures – ended the possibility of real estate investment under the Portuguese golden visa.

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The bill closes the eleven-year chapter of the golden visa-driven urban renewal in the country, a period that saw some EUR 7 billion injected into Portuguese real estate.

#5 – Portuguese Govt. Yields on Golden Visa Retroactivity and 183-day Presence in Housing Bill’s Final Wording

  • Published: April 15th

Having initially demanded that all applications filed after February 16th (the date on which the government announced its intentions to close the golden visa program altogether) be retroactively discarded despite the investments having already taken place, the government relented on several critical issues in its final version of the bill.

Notably, it backed down on the question of retroactive voiding of applications (which scholars argued was clearly unconstitutional), and also agreed not to instate a 183-day physical presence requirement.

#4 – Malaysia: Govt. to Review Both MM2H and PViP Following Dismal Performance

  • Published: June 26th

Following a period of lackluster demand for its MM2H and PViP residence-by-deposit programs, Malaysia’s government announces its intention to review both programs. Industry stakeholders had roundly criticized both programs, which they said were completely out of touch with market realities.

In December, the government issued new rules for MM2H, which – while considerably more flexible than before – nonetheless fell short of the market’s expectations.

#3 – Italy’s Representative Office Visa: The No-Investment, No-Presence Path to Italian Residency

  • Published: August 4th

While investment migration advisors and prospective migrants had focused on Italy’s “dolce visa”, startup visa, and elective residency visa in the last few years, Nicolò Bolla was the first to draw widespread attention to the little-known Representative Office Visa (ROV). In his article, Bolla explained how the visa offers an easy path to residency in Italy without the need for investment and generally in a quicker and cheaper manner than other visas.

The market initially reacted with skepticism, and many questioned whether the ROV solution was too good to be true. Bolla, however, offered ample evidence demonstrating clearly that the solution was viable and predictable.

#2 – Portugal Govt. Proposes to Keep Golden Visa After All, Eliminating Only Real Estate, Capital Transfer Options

  • Published: June 20th

Following several months that kept golden visa practitioners and clients alike at the edge of their seats, the Portuguese government finally decided to keep its golden visa program, eliminating only the capital transfer and real estate investment options.

The market response so far has been to channel investment into the fund route, considered the lowest-risk option in the absence of real estate and capital deposits. Some advisors caution against funds that come close to crossing the line into indirect real estate investment.

#1 – UK Revokes Visa-Free Travel for Dominica, Vanuatu Citizens Over “Clear and Evident Abuse” of CBI Programs

  • Published: July 19th

Read by nearly 50,000, this story details the shocking setback the United Kingdom’s Home Office dealt to the Caribbean CBI market when it announced it had re-imposed visa restrictions on Dominica and Vanuatu, along with three other countries. Home Secretary Suella Braverman said her office had observed “clear and evident abuse of the scheme” in the two CBI countries.

While the Home Secretary did not elaborate on what abuse she had observed, IMI learned through confidential channels that the decision was related to Dominica’s approval of CBI applicants who had previously been denied UK visas.

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