Millionaire Migrants

The rising trend in business migration amongst the super wealthy – a billion dollar industry that props up ailing economies in Europe, North America and the Caribbean – will be the subject of a new WEF report

More and more wealthy migrants are investing in a second passport or even multiple passports via immigrant investment programs (IIPs). The reasons vary from millionaire to millionaire but the most common is because his/her current passport/nationality restricts mobility, while others are in search of lower taxes and a better education system for their children.

Regardless of the reasons, the fact is that the wealthy are on the move and it’s big business for countries to issue passports in exchange for hefty investments. But are countries simply selling passports in return for money or do these investors contribute much more to the economy by generating employment and creating an eco-system for entrepreneurship? This will be the subject of a new report by the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Migration, in collaboration with Arton Capital, a global immigrant advisory firm, according to Dr Khalid Koser, who is the Global Agenda Council chairman. The report will also examine the growing trend among the wealthy to shop around for passports or, as Wealth-X has dubbed it, “jurisdiction shopping” for the wealthy.

Why has WEF’s Global Agenda Council on Migration decided to join forces with Arton Capital to produce this research report on trends in the immigrant investment industry?

For the past two years we’re been pursuing a pretty targeted strategy which is to look at the intersection between business and government on migration and migration policy. I was in Abu Dhabi during the WEF and had a meeting with Arton Capital’s President and CEO Armand Arton. The work which his company does fits our strategy but is appealing to me beyond that for three reasons; one is that it has a global perspective and reach, and a second is that it’s a business which is run by migrants, which I think is very important because we are a global agenda council for migration, so the focus should be on migrants and entrepreneurs. Thirdly, we wanted to be more innovative as a council. This is a good example of how we might support new ideas.

How will this joint report differ from other research carried out previously on the immigrant investment industry?

There have been one or two studies that have looked at specific countries: What’s the impact? How many people have arrived? What’s the impact of investments on the local economy – whether positive or negative? However, there haven’t been any comparative studies done. If we can look across a range of countries that are involved in this industry such as Canada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Bulgaria and the newly opened Malta, in each of which policies differ, we can compare the impact of investment, then we can get a bigger global comparative picture, which is what we want to develop here.

What findings do you expect to arise from this study?

There are a few issues that we expect to arise. The first is that different countries clearly have different policies, for example the amount of money that investors must contribute. Obviously these investors can afford to shop around so one interesting question will be to what extent policy influences their choice of country/programme. A second issue is the economic impact that these investments have on each country. Some countries have been accused of simply selling passports and there may be a body of evidence to prove this is true of some, but for others, there’s a belief that investors contribute far beyond their initial investment by generating employment and entrepreneurship in these countries.

How broad a reach will this report have?

Our ambition is to carry out a large-scale comparative in-depth study with interviews and questionnaires covering at least eight to10 key countries around the world including Europe, North America and the Caribbean – the countries that offer economic citizenship programmes.

The report will be released at this year’s Global Citizen Forum in October in Toronto.