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  • Deepthi Nair

Dubai ranked 11th most popular city globally for residence-by-investment programmes

The emirate leads in tax category and scores well for its infrastructure and Covid safety, according to a new index

Dubai has been ranked 11th in a global index of 25 cities where entrepreneurs, company owners, professionals and high-net-worth individuals can acquire residence through investment migration programmes.

The five cities that take the top spots in the index are London, New York, Sydney, Singapore and Zurich, according to Henley & Partners’ Best Residence-by-Investment Cities for Business Index.

Los Angeles, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Vienna and Toronto round out the top 10 cities in the index.

The cities are ranked according to 10 categories that represent the most important relocation considerations: lifestyle, tax, education, real estate, healthcare, security, infrastructure and stability, as well as Covid-19 safety and the relevant investment migration programme.

“Residence-by-investment programmes provide a channel for building a migration portfolio of multiple complementary residence and citizenship options to hedge against volatility and take advantage of new opportunities in the pandemic world order,” Juerg Steffen, chief executive of Henley & Partners, a company that provides residence and citizenship advice, said.

European and Caribbean countries have traditionally offered residency and citizenship to eligible people in return for investing in their property markets or business sectors. Many buyers sign up to protect their wealth, give their families a better life, for stability or to enjoy visa-free travel.

Ultra-high-net-worth individuals are seeking alternative residencies and citizenship as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, property consultancy Knight Frank has said.

Globally, nearly a quarter of UHNWIs planned to apply for a second passport or citizenship last year, according to a Knight Frank survey.

In November 2020, international finance advisory firm deVere Group said inquiries for second passports, citizenships and overseas residencies were up by more than 50 per cent year on year.

Along with seeking out new domicile options for their families, more and more investors are considering relocating their businesses - Dominic Volek, group head of private clients, Henley & Partners

The UAE announced this year that non-Emiratis can obtain Emirati citizenship. Skilled professionals will be nominated by government or royal court officials. People eligible for nomination include investors, individuals with specialist qualifications – such as doctors or scientists – as well as artists and other “talented” or “creative” people.

The country also launched a 10-year golden visa to give exceptional workers and foreign investors the opportunity to establish deeper roots. Long-term residency was also extended to spouses and children of golden visa holders.

Owning a property in Dubai allows you to have your own visa. To be eligible for the three-year renewable investor residence visa, you will have to own a ready property worth at least Dh1 million at the time of purchase. If you purchase a property worth at least Dh5m, you will be entitled to a five-year residence visa. Ten-year residence visas are available to anyone investing more than Dh10m, of which 40 percent should be in real estate.

Dubai scored highest overall in the Henley & Partners index in the tax category owing to its zero corporate tax. It also ranked second for Covid safety, behind Singapore. And the city ranked ninth overall globally for its infrastructure, according to the index.

“Along with seeking out new domicile options for their families, more and more investors are considering relocating their businesses. This trend had begun pre-pandemic, but it is accelerating,” Dominic Volek, group head of private clients at Henley & Partners, said.

New York and London lead the index in the categories of education, security and stability. The US city has 130 higher education institutions and scores highest overall in the index for education.

Sydney, Singapore and Zurich scored highest in security, infrastructure and stability, with Sydney taking the number one spot overall for security. Singapore scored highest overall in terms of Covid safety, lifestyle and infrastructure, according to the index.

The Swiss city of Zurich is the top performing residence-by-investment city in terms of healthcare and stability, according to Henley & Partners.

The “health is the new wealth” paradigm and the realisation that healthy longevity is a fundamentally new, precious asset class are prompting investors to rearrange their portfolios, according to Dmitry Kaminskiy, co-founder and managing partner of Deep Knowledge Group.

“An increasing number of governments are planning and executing strategies to develop their longevity industries. Soon, ‘age-friendly’ cities will be superseded by ‘longevity-friendly’ valleys where you can remain professionally, mentally, socially and economically active for as long as possible.”

Other global cities that are popular for their residence-by-investment programmes are Latvia’s capital Riga, which ranked 17th on the index for its pro-business environment and attractive tax allowances, Limassol in Cyprus ranked 19th for its favourable tax regime and excellent infrastructure, and Athens in Greece in 20th place for tax cuts and other incentives for foreign investors, according to the index findings.

Thailand’s capital Bangkok ranked 23rd for its stable economy and government incentives for foreign business owners, including tax exemptions and import duty concessions. Port Louis in Mauritius ranked 24th for being a safe African hub with good tax incentives.

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