Interview: Citizenship-by-Investment Programmes with Eric Major
03 May 2019
Citizenship-by-investment, residency-by-investment and tax residency are hot topics amongst wealthy multi-nationals and business circles at the moment.
The investment migration industry continues to flourish globally and off the back of our recent office launches in South East Asia, our CEO, Eric Major was interviewed by European Business Magazine about the most popular citizenship-by-investment programmes, Latitude's changing clientele and the future of the investment migration industry.
European Business Magazine: Why do you believe there has been a huge increase in people applying for citizenship programmes?
Eric Major: A number of factors are driving demand for Citizenship-by-Investment Programmes (CIP). Certainly, the fact that more wealth exists today than ever before is helping to fuel this demand. The growth of both the Chinese and Indian markets is tremendous as they represent 1/3 of the world’s population alone.
In addition, we live in an increasingly connected and digital world and there is a greater awareness and access to information about these programmes that enable a person to improve their lifestyle, travel freedom, access new business markets or top-tier education for their children. More than ever those with the financial means are no longer burdened by the limitations of where they were born.
Many clients are looking ahead to the future while considering their tax planning, inheritance, and providing their children the mobility to study and work almost anywhere. They view this as part of their family’s global legacy and holding a second citizenship allows this.
European Business Magazine: Where, in your opinion, is the most sought after citizenship programme and why?
Eric Major: Within Europe, the Malta Citizenship Programme is the most desirable option due to the high standards for acceptance coupled with a significant capital requirement, which make it a very exclusive programme. Once a client is a citizen of Malta, they have the right to live and work anywhere in the EU which also drives demand. The passport itself affords visa-free travel to over 180 countries including the USA – the only CIP with such access.
Within the Caribbean, there are five Citizenship-by-Investment Programmes: Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, & St Lucia. These programmes cost significantly less than the MIIP, but still offer many of the same benefits with visa-free access to as many as 151 countries.
European Business Magazine: What type of people normally apply?
Eric Major: We are seeing a shift in the market. Traditionally, it was wealthy Baby Boomers who were applying for these programmes. However, a new generation of wealthy elite have emerged with a growing number between 30 and 40 years old that are applying. Interestingly, there are many younger millennials applying from China and Europe vs. the North American market.
We also see high demand from clients coming from countries with very little visa-free travel. For example, a Chinese passport affords visa free travel to 74 countries or even a South African passport is limited to 100 countries.
For those who travel frequently it is very inconvenient to consistently be sending your passport away to obtain a visa. These CIPs solve that inconvenience while at the same time provide a Plan B in times of political or economic unrest.
European Business Magazine: What exactly does your company provide for people wishing to apply for a second residence or citizenship?
Eric Major: We provide a complete, comprehensive and customised client experience throughout the entire process to make it as smooth and easy as possible. When we first meet with a client, we listen to their needs to better understand their profile and motivations.
From this, we present in detail the most compatible programmes and ensure they have a thorough understanding of their options. This allows them to make the most informed decision based on their unique circumstances.
Prior to accepting them as a client, Latitude performs initial due diligence checks to ensure that there is nothing in their background that could negatively impact an application. By identifying any issues at the beginning, we can determine if they are a good fit for both our firm as well as for their country of choice.
Assuming the client passes our due diligence checks, we move to the Client Agreement and, once retained, start to work on compiling their application. In Malta for example, the client can complete most of the application during their first visit with our team. Our team will even help to arrange the necessary medical check-ups and translations of documents.
Once the application is complete, we submit it to the government body responsible for the programme and monitor it to ensure it is moving forward in a timely manner until the passports or residency cards are issued.
European Business Magazine: Do you offer a one stop shop for people looking to apply for these programmes or do you offer a specific service?
Eric Major: Yes, whether the client is selecting a contribution (government donation) or real estate option, we assist with all aspects of the residence or citizenship application. We also have offices or partners in all of the destination countries, so we are able to offer personalised support all the way through the process.
European Business Magazine: How long has your company been operating in this field?
Eric Major: Latitude officially launched in January 2018. While we are a relatively young company, our senior executive team have well over 75 years combined experience in this industry and is assembled from an elite group of former colleagues and other investment migration firms. Latitude’s CEO, Mr. Eric Major, is a pioneer in the industry and a trusted advisor to governments around the world.
We also recently merged with RIF Trust, one of top investment migration firms in the UAE and Africa, who have been operating since 2014 out of their base in Dubai.
European Business Magazine: How do you see the future of this industry? Some programmes have been getting negative press on this in Europe – how do you see your company expanding over the next few years?
Eric Major: The future of the industry is very bright. More and more countries are realising that these programmes are a means to generate much needed revenue and attract the global elite to their shores. Many of these programmes, especially in the Caribbean, are significant economic drivers as they spur hotel and resort development. This in turn has a long-term benefit to the country as it creates solid infrastructure for growth in the tourism industry. Moreover, the government revenues generated from the programmes are a vital part of the country’s GDP.
While some programmes have received negative press, it is important to recognise that these immigrant investors only represent a small percentage among all the other immigration streams. Malta is truly the gold standard when it comes to the vetting of their applicants and it is important other countries emulate this thoroughness and strict adherence to high standards.
Further, it is important for government bodies such as the EU parliament to engage with the industry stakeholders, including the Investment Migration Council (IMC) which is the governing body that sets the standards and ethics for our industry. Latitude is the regional representative office in the Caribbean for the IMC and has been assisting with the harmonisation of the region’s programmes.
Latitude continues to grow at an incredible pace opening three new offices this year in Vietnam, Malaysia and South Korea. We will continue this expansion throughout Asia in the coming year.
Additionally, Latitude was granted a mandate from the Government of Anguilla to establish both a residence and a tax residence programme and this will be launched in June 2019.