Being in business comes with all sorts of challenges: The impact of a weak economy and declining value of the currency, government red tape, and staffing troubles — and so one certainly does not need the added difficulties of time-consuming visa application requirements and processes when travelling for the business.
Our South African passport comes with its setbacks. While South Africans can travel to 97 out of 218 countries visa-free, according to the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index, this number does not include the countries that business people generally need to go to.
As holders of local passports, we need visas to travel to all the country’s major trading partners — China, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. Even within our own continent we need visas for key regional markets including Nigeria, Kenya, and Egypt.
If you have an important meeting at short notice and it happens to be on the other side of the world, you need to be able to travel freely.
There might not be time for a lengthy visa application process and you would simply not be able to attend. But what if that meeting turned out to be the business opportunity of a lifetime?
A solution to this is to have a second passport — one that provides visa-free access to additional countries and which you can specifically use for cross-border business and leisure travel, all while retaining your South African citizenship.
For wealthy individuals, internationally mobile business people and their families, citizenship-by-investment programs are the solution.
Certain states have now begun to offer their stronger passports to those who are able to make a significant financial contribution to their country. These programs are structured to ensure the investment contributes to the welfare, advancement and economic development of the country in which the investors wish to reside or belong to.
At the same time, the investor benefits from greater travel and settlement freedom, and often in a place that offers them a great quality of life, safety and security.
It is important to note that if you acquire dual citizenship, you can remain a resident of South Africa, all while gaining the travel rights of another country’s citizenship.
Enhanced travel freedom is also a key benefit of residence-by-investment programs offered by some countries, as your residence permit allows you to travel visa-free to all those states that country provides access to.
We are seeing far greater interest in residence and citizenship-by-investment programs this year among South Africans wanting to invest globally in order to obtain dual citizenship.
For South Africans, key drivers when seeking an alternative residence or citizenship include freedom of mobility, a better quality education, and safety and security. Instability in the economy and the weak Rand are other factors.
Interestingly, most citizenship program applicants have no intention to actually leave their home country in the near future, and these programs do not require this. With high net worth South Africans, this is no exception. They do, however, like to have the option of moving abroad should they choose to do so at a later stage.
Programs that are popular among South Africans include those from Malta and Portugal. Portugal’s Golden Residence Permit program provides successful applicants visa-free access to the Schengen area as well as the European Union (EU) member states.
The Malta Individual Investor Programme, meanwhile, opens up visa-free access to 168 countries around the world, including all 28 EU member states.
If your business requires regular travel to the East, citizenship of the Caribbean island nation, Grenada, would be attractive as it provides visa-free travel to China (and the Schengen area).
If you are exploring the possibility of investing in another country for residence or citizenship, you do need to do as much research as you can into the options available to determine which program is best suited to your needs. But, more importantly, it’s imperative to enlist the advice of experts in the field due to the complexity of issues surrounding citizenship, passports and residence.