The number of British entrepreneurs looking to “buy” citizenship from countries offering visa-free access to the European Union has risen sharply, investment migration firms say, as prospects of a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the bloc darken.
Investment immigration firm Astons said it had seen a 50% and 30% year-on-year increase in interest from clients seeking Cypriot or Greek citizenship respectively this quarter, less than four months before UK passport-holders are likely to lose their rights to freedom of movement across the EU.
Henley & Partners also reported a rise in requests for advice on investment migration applications to Malta, Portugal, Austria and several Caribbean islands, which offer a range of residency rights, visa-free travel to the EU and citizenship to investors in local business or property.
Citizens of certain Caribbean sovereign states including St. Lucia and St Kitts & Nevis also enjoy preferred access to the EU, thanks to close ties with EU members as a result of historic, diplomatic and modern trade agreements.
“This isn’t about tourists. This is the UK high net worth community that have a constant need to travel to and spend significant time in the EU,” said Henley & Partners director Paddy Blewer.
“This is investment migration as a volatility hedge and a component in a high net worth portfolio value defence strategy,” he said, adding that volumes of client engagement were higher now than immediately after the 2016 Brexit vote.
Interest in additional citizenships is rising even as the European Commission examines possible steps to curb EU states selling passports and visas to wealthy foreigners, due to concerns it can help organised crime groups.
Cypriot residency can be secured in two months with a €300,000 ($351,870) property purchase. Securing citizenship takes six months and requires a minimum property investment of €2 million.
Reuters reported in December how some donors to Britain’s ruling Conservative Party had sought Cypriot citizenship including hedge fund manager Alan Howard.
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