An avid reader, who runs a large investment migration firm with a significant customer base in Southeast Asia, brought me the following question:
While looking for new updates in the IMI Data Center, I noticed the last available data for the Vietnamese Market is from 2019. What does the data say about 2020?
I’m glad you asked about Vietnam. Had you asked me prior to the pandemic, I would have told you it’s the most promising investment migration market in the world. Indeed, that was the conclusion we reached in our Investment Migration Market Eligibility Index from early 2020.
The pandemic, however, has changed the course of history and brought what was but two years ago mainly a developing-world phenomenon to the rich world as well. We have scarcely begun to see the wide-ranging ramifications of the West’s awakening to investment migration. Suffice it to say that it is completely transforming the market, in a good way.
But back to Vietnam.
With the exception of the recently arrived American segment, Vietnam’s is the number one up-and-coming investment migration market for the following reasons:
- It has, by far, the highest GDP-adjusted RCBI propensity (GARP)* of any large country: Vietnam’s GARP in early 2020 was 7.8. Turkey, at a GARP of 5.8, was number two. In absolute terms, for every million Vietnamese, there were 27.3 identified investor migrants (only a fraction of the total can reliably be counted, making the true figure much higher). In the same period, the United States had only 2.4 identified investor migrants per million population and a GARP of only 0.4. Of course, the United States has more than three times the population of Vietnam and more than 24 times the GDP per capita, which is why even a slight uptick in interest in the United States is instantly noticed in the investor migrant statistics from Portugal to New Zealand.
- In the 2015-2019 period, the identified Vietnamese investment migration market grew at an annualized rate of 33% a year, a rate at which the market doubles in size every two years or so.
- Vietnam is home to nearly 100 million people and an economy that is expanding at a clip that is the envy of its Asian peers (to say nothing of European or North American ones): An average of nearly 7% in the last ten years. Not in 2020, though, right? Actually, Vietnam’s GDP grew by 3% during the pandemic, hermetically sealed borders notwithstanding.
- About the only thing in Vietnam growing faster than population and GDP is its number of HNWI residents: Knight Frank estimates that between 2015 and 2019, the number of millionaires in the country grew by 129%.
How has Vietnamese investment migration fared since 2019?
Here are the Vietnamese investor migrant numbers we’ve been able to confirm for 2020:
- US EB-5: 152 main applicants (estimate based on 456 visas issued and presuming an average family size of 3)
- Saint Lucia CIP: 2 main applicants
- Portugal Golden Visa: 59 main applicants (37 confirmed through the top-5 monthly reports)
- United States E2: 1 main applicant (Vietnam is not a Treaty country)
- UK Startup Visa: 1 main applicant
- UK Innovator Visa: 2 main applicants
- Vanuatu DSP: 5 main applicants (2020 year to August)
- Australia BIIP: 368 main applicants
- Latvia Golden Visa: 9
- Antigua and Barbuda CIP: 2 main applicants
Those are the ones we could identify. 601 main applicants in 2020, down from 841 in 2019.
Keep in mind that Vietnamese nationals were practically barred from leaving their country for most of 2020. Moreover, the programs to which Vietnamese investor migrants have historically been the most drawn, like the United States EB-5 and Australia’s BIIP (which, combined, accounted for 9 in 10 Vietnamese investor migrants in the last five years) are the same countries that have seen extensive suspensions of investor migrant application processing during the pandemic. And did I mention that Vietnamese law forbids dual citizenship?
Those factors considered, it’s frankly astonishing that Vietnamese investment migration activity has receded as little as it has, a testament to the intense demand for RCBI in the country.
I hope that answers your question, dear reader.
*Past performance, says an old aphorism, is the best predictor of future results. For each market considered in the IMMEI, therefore, we have counted the number of known RCBI-applications recorded in each year for the period 2015-19 (main applicants only). This figure is then expressed as a per-million-population number, which we call “absolute RCBI propensity”. For example, a country with a population of 10 million that was the source of 1,000 RCBI cases in the last five years would have an absolute RCBI propensity of exactly 100 (1,000/10). This number tells us a great deal about how inclined a market’s population is to participate in RCBI programs.
To know more precisely how inclined a population is to participating in RCBI programs relative to populations of other markets, however, we need to modulate the absolute RCBI propensity by adjusting for differences in purchasing power. We’ll illustrate why this adjustment is necessary with another hypothetical example:
Country A and Country B both have a population of 10 million and both have been the source of precisely 1,000 RCBI-cases in the last five years. But the GDP of Country A has double the GDP per capita of Country B. Though in absolute terms, these two markets’ RCBI propensity is equal, the population of Country B has demonstrated significantly higher interest in RCBI because, even though they have only half the purchasing power of Country A, they are the source of the same number of applications. To get a clearer picture of the relative demand (expressed or not) for RCBI products, we therefore adjust for differences in GDP per capita to obtain what we call the “GDP-adjusted RCBI propensity”. With the same population, the same number of RCBI cases, but half the GDP per capita, Country B’s GDP-adjusted RCBI propensity is double that of Country A.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 14 years in the United States, China, and Spain.