SA super-rich looking for a 2nd citizenship in Europe

Many South African high net-worth individuals (basically the super-rich) are not always looking to relocate to another country, but rather to invest in a "Plan B".

This is according to Amanda Smit of Henley & Partners, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm. She responded to some questions from Fin24 on the matter. It turns out super rich South Africans recognise that dual citizenship or residency provides more benefits and privileges for them and their families, including the ease of travel, security for the future and the expansion of business and banking opportunities.

There is a very high demand for European residency programmes, for instance Portuguese and Spanish ones and for citizenship programmes in Malta and Cyprus, according to Henley & Partners.

Most of South African clients of Henley & Partners are usually male, even though the firm has had a growing number of female individuals also applying for these programmes in the last couple of years.

"Our programmes are quite popular amongst parents wanting to give their children the best education in the world and also to ease of travel requirements," Smit said.


Most of its South African customers choose to get their second citizenship in Malta. With this programme they get the right to live, work and study in any of the 28 European Union countries and Switzerland. They can then also travel visa-free to 182 countries, including the European Union (EU) and Canada.

Major industries in Malta include high-tech manufacturing, food and beverages, tourism and international financial services. For entrepreneurs Malta has strengths such as its strategic location, excellent international trade relations and a highly qualified English-speaking workforce.

Cyprus is another popular option. It was ranked number 53 out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2018.

The benefits of the Cyprus Investment Programme are access to the EU, the right to live, work and study in all 28 EU countries, visa-free travel to 171 countries around the world and qualify by acquiring assets in Cyprus, with no requirement to donate your wealth.

Another second citizen option is Moldova. Launched in the second half of 2018, the Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment (MCBI) programme is being developed by the government of Moldova in partnership with Henley & Partners and the Moldovan Investment Company.

The programme offers visa-free access to 121 destinations around the world, including Russia, Turkey and the countries in Europe’s Schengen Area. Dependent children up to 29 years of age and parents - of either the main applicant or the spouse - from 55 years of age can be included and the citizenship is transferable to future generations without restrictions

According to Smit, there was a 229% increase in the number of applications during 2018 compared to 2017. Each applicant has an average of one to three dependents.

About 45% of the applicants are self-employed, 45% employed and 10% non-economically active. Most (70%) are between 45 and 64 years old. Most applicants are from Gauteng (38%), followed closely by the Western Cape (37%).

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