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Where well-off Chinese are looking to immigrate

Exhibitors from Cyprus were the most prominent amongst around 140 developers from more than 20 countries showcasing their products to potential Chinese buyers in a recent property exhibition held in Beijing.

china overseas property exhibition

2012 Beijing International Property Expo/Autumn – photo: http://www.beijingexhibition.com/

AS WEALTHY CHINESE increasingly look to invest overseas, foreign businesses also have stepped up their efforts to woo potential Chinese investors. Nowhere is this courtship more visible than with foreign real-estate developers.

On a recent Saturday, some 140 developers from more than 20 countries showcased their properties to Chinese buyers in an expo held in Beijing. To catch the eyes of the prospective buyers, the developers handed out fancy brochures, decorated their exhibit booths with bold-colour pictures of featured properties, and in some cases, even had young saleswomen wearing bunny ears.

But what attracted many of the Chinese visitors the most was the lure of foreign residency, which made the 30 exhibitors from Cyprus the most prominent group at the entire expo.

Why Cyprus? While mild weather, rich history and a nice location  in the Eastern Mediterranean might make the tiny island nation an attractive place to live, the main appeal is the incredibly low bar it sets for immigration: Anyone who spends €300,000 on a piece of property on the island automatically becomes eligible for permanent European Union residency.

“Cyprus has relatively low immigration hurdles than others like the U.S. and Canada,” said Shao Gang, while flipping through a brochure handed out by a Cyprus developer. “That is attractive to us,” said Mr. Shao, who said he works at a local trade group.

Other developers who drew large crowds at the expo included those from Singapore and Australia, both of which also offer attractive investment immigration programs.

Tony Du, general manager at Affluent Investment Group, was at the expo helping an Australia developer consulting with potential Chinese buyers on immigration-related questions. “Of the 100 people I talked to, 60% of them wanted to emigrate, and 40% only wanted to buy properties overseas,” Mr. Du said.


(We understand that the Chinese authorities issued circulars warning potential buyers to be vigilant and to seek expert advice before making purchases.)

Readers' comments

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  • Investor says:

    @Nigel – I don’t actually think, that the policy is bad. It means that the government wants to attract wealthy investors and it will be beneficial for the long term economy of the country. Some facts below may also be helpful.

    @Vlad – Comparing Cyprus to Latvia you are talking about two different economies starting from such obvious aspects as location, climate,access to the sea and getting to more serious facts.The 2011 Index of Economic Freedom places Cyprus on 18th position while Latvia reaches 56th.The International Monetary Fund identifies 34 advanced economies with Cyprus on the list and no Latvia on the list.

    According to the World Bank Cyprus was classified as ,,high-income economy” for years 1988-2011, while Latvia was classified only once in 2009. According to Legatum Prosperity Index Latvia suffers from high crime rates and is ranked as not welcoming immigrants, while Cyprus has a very low crime rate and is considered as very welcoming country. And there is a big difference in GDP per capita: $15,149 for Latvia and $30,570 for Cyprus. I don’t try to say that Cyprus is perfect but someone has to consider a lot of things investing in overseas property. I think that there is enough space for Latvia investors and for Cyprus investors, but those countries offer completely different perspectives.

    As EU member Cyprus is legally bound to join the Schengen Area and probably will. For the moment the applying for this visa by Cyprus Residents is considered as easy process and the non-EU investors are advised by their lawyers how to make this procedure even easier.

  • Kai says:

    We do realise that the Chinese are coming, the main problem however is that the Chinese agents sending the potential buyers are asking for more than 5% fee on top of the normal fee. This of course reflects in the selling prices greatly, hence the immigration authorities have declined a large number of visa applications due to obvious fraud. this is of course hear say and not a legal statement.

  • marktyler says:

    To the Chinese investor yearning for that coveted EU entry ticket and so invests in Cyprus:
    Be careful what you wish for…

  • Whirlybird Rtd says:

    Does the Cyprus government not realise that that to invite various people to stay here with the proverbial carrot in front of them is inviting big problems. Certain elements (of people) do not worry of warnings if they have bigger things on their minds.

    Having a depressed economy will end up being the last thing on their mind. Our possible outgoing government won’t be worried about this though.

  • Ian says:

    So now we can buy our way into the European Union via a loophole. What next, Nicosia? Buy 1 get 1 free ??

  • @Vlad – I understand that in addition to spending €300,000 or more on a property, a couple needs to show they have an income of around €30,000 per annum and keep a deposit of €50,000 in a bank for at least 3 years before they are granted a permanent residence permit.

    Like many of the articles I read, it doesn’t tell you the full story.

  • @Mike – Regarding mortgages, the Specific Performance Law that was introduced last year does help to improve the situation.

    If a buyer finds that the property is mortgaged he can pay the money owed to the bank who loaned the money in return for a waiver – and deduct this amount from the sale price agreed with the vendor.

    This pre-supposes that the buyer uses the services of an independent lawyer who uncovers the mortgage and advises him accordingly.

    Mortgages and other claims lodged against the Title after a contract of sale has been deposited will not affect the buyer (unless he decides to sell before its Title Deed is issued).

  • Mike says:

    So to summarise then; not only have we managed to encourage disgruntled and disillusioned buyers from Germany, France, Russia UK, Sweden, Finland and Norway we are now going to target the Chinese too. Nice!

    I would love to be a fly on the wall and listen to the sales patter and more importantly what that patter fails to mention. Who will be the one to tell these people that once they have paid for their home the developer may mortgage it so that the mortgage debt also becomes theirs – assuming they want to keep what they have paid for.

    Will there be a health warning issued with each brochure I wonder?

    I wonder who the next mugs after the Chinese will be.

  • Vlad says:

    In Cyprus you don’t get a permanent EU-wide residency, because Cyprus is not part of Schengen visa area. So an investor won’t be able to travel across EU automatically, he/she still needs to apply for Schengen visas and there is no guarantee that applications will be successful.

    Latvia, on the other hand, is part of Schengen zone. To get a long-term Schengen visa there you need to invest in property a minimum of 143K EUR, not 300K EUR like in Cyprus.

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