Đã cập nhật: 6 thg 11, 2020
"This is the equivalent of having the number on your phone that you punch in quickly and within minutes a helicopter gunship will come over the horizon and save you."
The metaphor is Paddy Blewer's, head of marketing at Henley and Partners, and he's using it to explain the explosion in applications for 'golden passports' among Americans this year.
Henley and Partners arranges migration for the wealthy and it has seen applications from U.S. citizens jump by 100% in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period last year.
The $25 billion-a-year investment migration market provides foreign citizenship or residency to wealthy individuals prepared to invest large sums. Expect to pay upwards of $100,000 for citizenship of a Caribbean nation, or over double that for residency in an E.U. country like Portugal.
Normally people are content with just one of these. "But what's really interesting now," says Blewer, "is a number of U.S. clients that we are working with are doing both. They want Malta, they want Austria, or in some cases, because of the nature of their business, they are also considering Australia and New Zealand residency.
"We are talking people who spend $1 million, $2 million-plus for their investment migration plus $100,000 for their St Lucian citizenship is no big deal. $100,000 is a rounding error for them."
These are extremely rich people, some of them billionaires, and they're in a hurry. They want to know they can leave the U.S. quickly should things get bad.
Citizenship of a Caribbean country like St Lucia is the first step. This costs a minimum of $100,000 and takes around three months.
"The U.S. has been one of our main markets," says Nestor Alfred, CEO of the St Lucia Citizenship-by-Investment Unit.
Les Khan, chief executive of the St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Unit, says he has seen an "uptick in applications from the U.S." Citizenship advisors and government officials from Grenada and Dominica say they have also seen a growing number of enquiries from U.S. citizens in 2020.
The rich treat this like a bridging finance operation, says Blewer. Citizenship to a Caribbean country can be processed quickly and provides unrestricted travel to many parts of the world that, thanks to Covid-19, won't accept U.S. citizens without a visa.
With that passport in the bag, these super-rich then set about applying for residency in another country. Cyprus, once popular among U.S. citizens, is now off the cards since an undercover investigation exposed two politicians offering citizenship to a fictitious Chinese criminal. In October, Cyprus suspended it's golden passport scheme.
Austria, Malta, and Singapore are other popular destinations. More exclusive and expensive are residency visas for Australia and New Zealand, but investors are willing to secure these too.
At its peak, in July, one U.S. citizen clicked on Immigration New Zealand’s website every 30 seconds and enquiries were up by 160%. Following the second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on 23 October, web traffic jumped yet again. Few are detracted by the NZ$3 million ($2 million) minimum investment required for residency.
But these super-rich are willing to pay and wait for these visas since their worry is not only what happens on Tuesday (3 November). It's the aftermath. And then what happens with the Covid-19 pandemic.
For those in charge of big businesses, which require international travel, nothing can be left to chance. If that means buying half a dozen passports for a few million bucks, then so be it.
"They are looking for an alternate base if the U.S. got overrun by a pandemic," says Blewer. "This is less about their personal safety. Its about, 'Right, where is my alternative control room?'"