Investment interest in second passports surges as many seek to escape visa woes

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Investment interest in second passports is surging as many seek to escape visa application complications, a Dubai-based passport advisory told Al Arabiya English.

“Approximately 70 percent of the world’s population holds a “weak” passport that does not give them access to key business nodes such as the EU Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Singapore,” said Jeffrey Henseler, Passport Legacy’s founder, and managing partner. “Therefore, the desire for a stronger passport from a qualified CBI [Citizenship by Investment] program remains strong.”

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“People have accordingly become more willing to invest $130,000 for a second passport because many are tired of meetings via online portals and they wish to eliminate the need for lengthy visa application processes so that they can more easily meet their business partners, family, friends, and loved ones in person,” he explained, adding that such factors have been a major driving force for the thriving industry which is helping to “open borders” for people across the world.

First-world citizens

The passport advisory saw a 30 percent spike in demand for its services in 2022 as it served “several hundred” applicants who were mainly from Lebanon, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and other countries within the Levant area.

However, Henseler also said that he noticed a surge in interest among Western country citizens like the US, Germany, and the UK for their “growing desire to have a plan B for their families in place and for tax purposes.”

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Henseler told Al Arabiya English in March that he noticed an increase in demand for the company’s services from EU and first-world country citizens for a second nationality out of fear for their safety.

However, as the conflict continues now into its 11th month, Henseler noted a “change in these concerns” since then, with Europeans being keener on the company’s services for the purposes of tax planning.

Caribbean passports remain most popular among investors

“The highest-demand programs are primarily spread across the Caribbean; we have seen a steady increase in interest for second passports in nations such as Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Grenada,” he said.

These three Caribbean passports were recently ranked on the Henley Passport Index as the 22nd, 27th, and 28th strongest passports in the world.

Lebanese, Syrian, Nigerian, and Bangladeshi nationals were among the top nationalities investing in second citizenship - all for various reasons, the most common of which is the difficulty in traveling posed by the lack of visa-free access to many countries.

This has grown to become a particularly popular service among wealthy expats in Dubai looking to secure a “plan B” or a legacy for their families, according to Henseler. In order to qualify for Passport Legacy’s services, clients usually need to undergo a thorough background check.

Although Passport Legacy is based in Dubai, it also caters to clients across the Middle Eastern region as well as West Africa and Asia, especially those that are very densely populated such as the likes of India and China.

The global citizenship-by-investment market is expected to continue to grow and reach $100 billion by 2025, marking nearly a five-fold increase of $80 billion from its current evaluation of $21.4 billion.

The increase in interest for such programs came on the heels of market disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and has stood to remain popular amid rising global inflation rates and an uncertain economic landscape.

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