Golden visas and beyond: Why wealthy Americans are building multiple citizenships

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NEW YORK, NY- The trend of wealthy Americans diversifying their citizenships and national residences is gaining traction, driven by a variety of factors ranging from financial risk mitigation to sociopolitical uncertainty.

This trend is manifested in the acquisition of second, third, or even fourth citizenships through investment-based programs, commonly referred to as golden visas.

Prominent individuals exemplifying this trend include billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel, who acquired citizenship in New Zealand, and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who applied in Cyprus for citizenship.

Henley & Partners, a leading law firm specializing in high-net-worth citizenships, reports that Americans are the most prevalent nationality in securing alternative residences or added citizenships. Among the preferred destinations for these supplemental passports are Portugal, Malta, Greece, Italy, and New Zealand.

Portugal's "Golden Visa" program offers residency and potential citizenship with visa-free travel in Europe for an investment of 500,000 euros (approximately $541,000) in a fund or private equity. Similarly, Malta provides a Golden Visa accessible through a 300,000-euro investment in real estate.

Greece and Italy also offer golden visa programs, albeit with increasing investment requirements. Greece has raised its property investment requirement to 800,000 euros for its most sought-after islands, while Italy mandates a "significant contribution to the country's economy," with investments ranging from 250,000 to 2 million euros.

New Zealand stands out as a highly desirable destination, albeit with a substantial price tag for citizenship. Investors should be prepared to commit between $5 million and $15 million New Zealand dollars (approximately $2,987,275 to $8,961,825) for citizenship.

Dominic Volek, group head of private clients at Henley & Partners, underscores the concept of "domicile diversification," highlighting the strategic value of having multiple citizenships or residences as a form of risk management.

This diversification strategy is akin to portfolio diversification in investment, aiming to spread risk across various assets or locations. The rise in diversifying citizenships among wealthy Americans is fueled by several compelling reasons.

First, an alternative passport can facilitate travel to regions less welcoming to U.S. citizens. Second, it can enhance safety and discretion during business trips in high-risk countries. Third, a secondary passport can streamline cross-border financial transactions within the new country, offering greater flexibility and convenience.

Additionally, some affluent Americans seek backup residencies for retirement planning, to be closer to family members residing abroad, or to adapt to lifestyle changes influenced by remote work opportunities.

A growing number are also motivated by concerns over U.S. politics and global instability, prompting them to explore options for securing their future and that of their families.

Globally, the phenomenon of millionaire migration is on an upward trajectory. Henley & Partners forecasts that an estimated 128,000 millionaires will relocate to new countries in 2024, reflecting a consistent increase from 120,000 in 2023 and 51,000 in 2013.

The U.S. remains a top destination for global millionaires, experiencing a net inflow of 2,200 millionaires in 2023 and projecting an inflow of 3,500 in 2024.

In contrast, China continues to be the largest source of millionaire out-migration, losing a net 13,500 millionaires last year.

Despite the growing trend of millionaire migration and citizenship diversification, renouncing American citizenship remains financially prohibitive for most due to the "exit tax."

Consequently, investment-based residency programs in countries like Portugal, Malta, Greece, Italy, and New Zealand emerge as practical and attractive alternatives for wealthy Americans seeking to hedge against uncertainty and diversify their global presence.

As global uncertainties persist, this trend is likely to continue, reshaping the landscape of international migration and citizenship acquisition.

"We all live in uncertain times, not just in the U.S., but in all nations globally," Volek said. "Who knows what's going to happen next. It's really about having not only a Plan B but Plan C and D in place as well."

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