Asia-PacificPolicy Updates

Singapore Global Investor Program Quadruples Min. Investment Requirement

Singapore’s Economic Development Board announced yesterday that the city-state would raise minimum investment requirements for its Global Investor Program (GIP), an already highly selective (and undersubscribed) residence-by-investment program, on March 15th.

The program, which grants permanent residency in the country immediately upon approval and a two-year path to citizenship, offers three investment options, each with its own minimum investment requirements:

  • Option A: Invest in a new or existing Singaporean entity in a designated sector;
  • Option B: Invest in an EDB-shortlisted fund; or
  • Option C: Invest in the establishment of a family office in Singapore.

Until now, the minimum investment requirement for each option has been SGD 2.5m (US$1.9m). Option C, furthermore, required that the family office have assets under management amounting to at least SGD 200m.

From March 15th onward, however, the minimum investment amounts for options A and B will rise to, respectively, SGD 10m and SGD 25m.

Moreover, in order to be eligible for the Re-Entry Permit after the initial five-year period, option A applicants will need to hire at least 30 employees, at least half of whom must be Singaporean citizens and ten of whom must be new employees.

For Option C, family office establishment, the EDB has issued a new set of rules aiming to keep part of the capital in Singapore, according to the Board’s press release:

Under Option C, applicants will be required to establish a Singapore-based Single-Family Office (SFO) with Assets-Under-Management (AUM) of at least S$200 million, of which at least S$50 million must be deployed and maintained in any of the following four investment categories:

    • Companies listed on exchanges licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) e.g., SGX Mainboard and Catalist; 
    • Qualifying debt securities such as bonds, notes, commercial papers, and certificates of deposit that are listed on MAS’ Qualifying Debt Securities Enquiry System; 
    • Funds distributed by Singapore-licensed managers that are listed on MAS’ Financial Institutions Directory; and 
    • Private equity injection into non-listed, Singapore-based businesses. 

The changes, said the EDB, would “encourage GIP investors to deploy more funds in the local financial system and generate more jobs for Singaporeans, including in roles such as finance, tax, and legal professionals, as well as fund management.”

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The Board noted that the new rules were an outcome of its ongoing review of the GIP, which sought to ensure the program attracted “only top-tier business owners” who wished to base themselves in Singapore.

In the three years that have passed since the EDB last changed the program’s rules, some 180 investors had qualified for permanent residence in the country through the GIP, the press release indicated.

“Even before this price increase, the market share of Singapore in the global investment migration industry was puny,” remarks Philippe May, head of Singapore-based investment migration advisory EC Holdings, in reaction to the news. “The GIP is not for the casual punter who wants to round out his residence and citizenship portfolio; it’s only for the most dedicated, who want to make Singapore the center of their lives.”

Noting that a negligible number of investors had availed themselves of the program in the last three years, May comments that “some criteria are transparent, others opaque.”

While acknowledging that Singapore remained an inviting destination for Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, he also highlights some of the program’s drawbacks.

“It’s no Plan B. You’ll need to spend considerable time in Singapore, and your male children are subject to two-year military service, even if they’re not citizens.”

While citizenship is possible after two years, May points out that the government doesn’t publish the rejection rate, which, he claims, “is widely believed to be high.” In any case, he says, Singapore doesn’t permit dual citizenship.