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Top 9 countries where buying a home can also get you a new passport

Top 9 countries where buying a home can also get you a new passport

By Amanda Smit.

Director and Head of Henley & Partners Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.

We live in an uncertain world, fraught with geopolitical tensions, social upheaval and economic unpredictability. For these reasons, among others, people around the world are increasingly looking to the possibility of acquiring a second citizenship to protect their assets and, more importantly, to insulate themselves and their families from risk and uncertainty.

Other motivations for seeking additional citizenship are easy to understand: they include expanded visa-free access to the world’s countries; increased access to global markets; travel convenience; and, finally, a means of physically relocating to a safe and stable country in the event that remaining in one’s first country of residence becomes untenable or dangerous.

A number of nations worldwide offer residence and citizenship in exchange for a minimum real estate investment or donation to the government. This article reveals the most compelling citizenship-by-investment programs that are generating the most interest among ultra-high-net-worth families around the world.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda offers one of the most competitive citizenship programs in the Caribbean. Options start from US$100,000 and citizens of Antigua and Barbuda have visa-free access to 150 destinations, including top business and lifestyle destinations.

Processing time: It is estimated that the process takes between three and four months from submission of the application to issuance of the passport, assuming there are no areas of concern with the application. Under the real estate option, the timeframe may vary depending upon the project.

Global ranking: Ranked 27th on the Henley Passport Index (as of July 2018).


Austria has one of the world’s strongest passports, providing its holders with visa-free access to 186 destinations worldwide, along with settlement rights in all EU member states. Options for obtaining Austrian citizenship start from Euro 8 million.

Processing time: The average time frame for an application is 24-36 months. Successful applicants receive full citizenship of the Republic of Austria and can apply for a passport immediately afterwards. Passports are issued within a few days.

Global ranking: Ranked 5th in 2018 on the Henley Passport Index (as of July 2018).


Cyprus Citizenship-by-Investment Programme provides one of the fastest and most efficient gateways to the EU. The minimum financial requirement is Euro 2 million and the application process can be completed, with passports issued, in as little as six months.

Processing time: Following the submission of an application, the passport can be approved within six months. This process makes the Cyprus program one of the fastest options for obtaining a second citizenship.

Global ranking: Ranked 15th globally with visa-free access to 173 destinations on the Henley Passport Index. Cyprus was also ranked number 53 out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2018.


Grenada has the only Caribbean citizenship programme that offers successful applicants visa-free access to China. With options starting from US$150,000, the Grenadian Citizenship-by-Investment Program provides a great balance between the benefits it offers and the required financial contribution.

Processing time: The application process for Grenadian citizenship is efficient and uncomplicated, and the applicant is not required to visit Grenada to complete the process. Once an application is submitted, the government generally provides an answer within 90 days. Passports for successful applicants are issued within 10 working days. Applicants are not required to pick up their passports in person.

Global ranking: Ranked 33rd globally with visa-free access to 144 destination on the Henley Passport Index (as of July 2018).


The Malta Individual Investor Programme is the world’s leading citizenship program. The minimum contribution for a Maltese passport is Euro 1 million, for which successful applicants receive the right to live, work, and study — not just in Malta, but in all EU member states.

Processing time: The programme’s minimum capital requirement is Euro 1 million, which includes a contribution to the country’s development fund, a real estate purchase or lease, and an investment in government-approved financial instruments. In addition to the capital and due diligence requirements, applicants must hold a valid global health insurance policy and must be legal residents of Malta for one year before they can be issued their certificates of naturalization.

Global ranking: With visa-free access to 183 destinations, Malta is ranked 7th globally on the Henley Passport Index (as of July 2018).


The Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment Program is the latest and most competitively priced European program, it provides access to 122 destinations, including not only the countries of Europe’s Schengen Area, but also Russia, making it the first and only program of its kind in this regard. The minimum contribution for a single applicant is Euro 100,000 and passports can be issued in as little as three months.

Processing time: The issuance of a certificate of naturalization under the MCBI programme takes a maximum of three months from the date on which the complete application is submitted, provided that the due diligence processes are carried out without difficulties.

Global ranking: Ranked 46th on the Henley Passport Index (as of July 2018).


The Montenegro Citizenship-by-Investment Programme offers visa-free access to 123 destinations, including the countries of Europe’s Schengen Area, Russia and the UAE. The programme is exclusively limited to 2,000 applicants and the minimum contribution for a single applicant is Euro 250,000.

Processing time: The Montenegro Citizenship-by-Investment Programme is limited to just 2,000 applicants and will only be available for a three-year period. Since this is a brand-new program, the processing time is yet to be confirmed. More information will become available once applications are open.

Global ranking: Montenegro is ranked 45th on the Henley Passport Index (as of July 2018).

St. Kitts and Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis has one of the strongest passports among all the Caribbean countries. Options start from US$150,000 and St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship-by-Investment Programme provides visa-free access to 151 destinations.

Processing time: The Accelerated Application Process (AAP), approved by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis in October 2016, allows applications to be processed in a 60-day period. Persons applying through the AAP are still required to meet all mandatory criteria and submit the necessary supporting documents required for the citizenship-by-investment programme.

Global ranking: Ranked 26th globally on the Henley Passport Index (as of July 2018).

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia Citizenship-by-Investment Programme offers increased global mobility and opportunities by providing visa-free access to 146 destinations around the world. Prices start from US$100,000 and passports can be acquired in as little as four months.

Processing time: The application process should take no longer than three months from submission of the application to issuance of the passport, assuming there are no areas of concern with the application. Under the real estate option, the time frame may vary depending on the development in question.

Global ranking: Ranked the 31st most powerful passport in the world on the Henley Passport Index (as of July 2018), St. Lucia has visa-free access to 146 destinations.

Citizenship-by-investment programmes allow individuals to drastically improve the strength of their passport and, in turn, their global access.

By participating in these programmes, individuals are also able to make an exceptional economic contribution to often smaller nations that require foreign direct investment in order to support their populations and remain globally competitive and sustainable in the long-term. It is therefore a mutually beneficial exchange, and very much in line with the direction the world is heading, as globalization becomes an undeniable feature of modern life, and people seek ever greater freedom to create the lives they dream of.

About The Author

Sanlam 2018 Annual Results

7 March 2019


Sanlam’s 2018 annual results provides testimony to its resilience amid challenging operating conditions and negative investment markets

Sanlam today announced its operational results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018. The Group made significant progress in strategic execution during 2018. This included the acquisition of the remaining 53% stake in SAHAM Finances, the largest transaction concluded in the Group’s 100-year history, and the approval by Sanlam shareholders of a package of Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) transactions that will position the Group well for accelerated growth in its South African home market.

Operational results for 2018 included 14% growth in the value of new life insurance business (VNB) on a consistent economic basis and more than R2 billion in positive experience variances, testimony to Sanlam’s resilience in difficult times.

The Group relies on its federal operating model and diversified profile in dealing with the challenging operating environment, negative investment markets and volatile currencies. Management continues to focus on growing existing operations and extracting value from recent corporate transactions to drive enhanced future growth.

The negative investment market returns and higher interest rates in a number of markets where the Group operates had a negative impact on growth in operating earnings and some other key performance indicators. This was aggravated by weak economic growth in South Africa and Namibia and internal currency devaluations in Angola, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Substantial growth in Santam’s operating earnings (net result from financial services) and satisfactory growth by Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) and Sanlam Corporate offset softer contributions from Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) and Sanlam Investment Group (SIG).

Key features of the 2018 annual results include:

Net result from financial services increased by 4% compared to the same period in 2017;

Net value of new covered business up 8% to R2 billion (up 14% on a consistent economic basis);

Net fund inflows of R42 billion compared to R37 billion in 2017;

Adjusted Return on Group Equity Value per share of 19.4% exceeded the target of 13.0%; and

Dividend per share of 312 cents, up 8%.

Sanlam Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ian Kirk said: “We are satisfied with our performance in a challenging operating environment. We will continue to focus on managing operations prudently and diligently executing on our strategy to deliver sustainable value to all our stakeholders. The integration of SAHAM Finances is progressing well. In addition, Sanlam shareholders approved the package of B-BBEE transactions, including an equity raising, at the extraordinary general meeting held on 12 December 2018. Our plan to implement these transactions this year remains on track.”

Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) net result from financial services declined by 5%, largely due to the impact of new growth initiatives and dampened market conditions. Excluding the new initiatives, SPF’s contribution was 1% down on 2017 due to the major impact that the weak equity market performance in South Africa had on fund-based fee income.

SPF’s new business sales increased by 4%, an overall satisfactory result under challenging conditions. Sanlam Sky’s new business increased by an exceptional 71%. Strong growth of 13% in the traditional individual life channel was augmented by the Capitec Bank credit life new business recognised in the first half of 2018, and strong demand for the new Capitec Bank funeral product. The Recurring premium and Strategic Business Development business units also achieved strong growth of 20%, supported by the acquisition of BrightRock in 2017. Glacier new business grew marginally by 1%. Primary sales onto the Linked Investment Service Provider (LISP) platform improved by 5%, an acceptable result given the pressure on investor confidence in the mass affluent market. This was however, offset by lower sales of wrap funds and traditional life products.

The strong growth in new business volumes at Sanlam Sky had a major positive effect on SPF’s VNB growth, which increased by 7% (14% on a comparable basis).

Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) grew its net result from financial services by 14%. Excluding the impact of corporate activity, earnings were marginally up on 2017 (up 8% excluding the increased new business strain).

New business volumes at SEM increased by 20%. Namibia performed well, increasing new business volumes by 22% despite weak economic conditions. Both life and investment new business grew strongly. Botswana underperformed with the main detractor from new business growth being the investment line of business, which declined by 24%. This line of business is historically more volatile in nature.

The new business growth in the Rest of Africa portfolio was 68% largely due to corporate activity relating to SAHAM Finances, with the East Africa portfolio underperforming.

The Indian insurance businesses continued to perform well, achieving double-digit growth in both life and general insurance in local currency. The Malaysian businesses are finding some traction after a period of underperformance, increasing their overall new business contribution by 3%. New business production is not yet meeting expectations, but the mix of business improved at both businesses.

SEM’s VNB declined by 3% (up 6% on a consistent economic basis and excluding corporate activity). The relatively low growth on a comparable basis is largely attributable to the new business underperformance in East Africa.

Sanlam Investment Group’s (SIG) overall net result from financial services declined by 6%, attributable to lower performance fees at the third party asset manager in South Africa, administration costs incurred for system upgrades in the wealth management business and lower earnings from equity-backed financing transactions at Sanlam Specialised Finance. The other businesses did well to grow earnings, despite the pressure on funds under management due to lower investment markets.

New business volumes declined by 13% mainly due to market volatility and low investor confidence in South Africa. Institutional new inflows remained weak for the full year, while retail inflows also slowed down significantly after a more positive start to the year. The international businesses, UK, attracted strong new inflows (up 57%).

Sanlam Corporate’s net result from financial services increased by 4%, with the muted growth caused by a continuation of high group risk claims experience. Mortality and disability claims experience weakened further in the second half of the year, which is likely to require more rerating of premiums in 2019. The administration units turned profitable in 2018, a major achievement. The healthcare businesses reported satisfactory double-digit growth in earnings, while the Absa Consultants and Actuaries business made a pleasing contribution of R39 million.

New business volumes in life insurance more than doubled, reflecting an exceptional performance. Single premiums grew by 109%, while recurring premiums increased by a particularly satisfactory 56%.

The good growth in recurring and single premium business, combined with modelling improvements, supported a 64% (71% on a comparable economic basis) increase in the cluster’s VNB contribution.

Following a year of major catastrophe events in 2017, Santam experienced a relatively benign claims environment in 2018. Combined with acceptable growth in net earned premiums, it contributed to a 37% increase in gross result from financial services (41% after tax and non-controlling interest). The conventional insurance book achieved an underwriting margin of 9% in 2018 (6% in 2017).

As at 31 December 2018, discretionary capital amounted to a negative R3.7 billion before allowance for the planned B-BBEE share issuance. A number of capital management actions during 2018 affected the balance of available discretionary capital, including the US$1 billion (R13 billion) SAHAM Finances transaction. Cash proceeds from the B-BBEE share issuance will restore the discretionary capital portfolio to between R1 billion and R1.5 billion depending on the final issue price within the R74 to R86 price range approved by shareholders.

Looking forward, the Group said economic growth in South Africa would likely remain weak in the short to medium term future, and would continue to impact efforts to accelerate organic growth. The outlook for economic growth in other regions where the Group operates is more promising. Recent acquisitions such as the SAHAM transaction should also support operational performance going forward.

“We remain focused on executing our strategy. We are confident that we have the calibre of management and staff to prudently navigate the anticipated challenges going forward,” Mr Kirk concluded.

Details of the results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018 are available at