Henley Estates runs a citizenship-by-investment program. The company has offices in South Africa and around the world. Its South Africa office has received numerous inquiries from Kenyans interested in citizenship in exchange for minimum qualifying investments in real estate, the company told The Star.
These clients are interested in visa-free access to South Africa, the company said.
Due to lack of awareness, demand for alternative citizenship by people living in East Africa is less than in North, West and Southern Africa, according to Henley.
These citizenship-by-investment programs are offered by several countries and allow an investor to legally, and almost immediately, acquire citizenship without needing to physically move to the country of choice, according to the Henley Estates website.
“We are not at liberty to reveal any particulars or demographics of these applications,” the company told The Star.
Clients from tumultuous countries, it said, seek secure destinations for their families when the need arises. They are looking to benefit from visa-free travel, education for their children and international tax planning.
Countries that offer citizenship by investment are seeking the type of investments that stimulate their economies, The Star reports.
There are four citizenship-by-investment programs “of real interest,” Henley Estates told The Star. These include two in the Caribbean (St Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda) and two in Europe (Cyprus and Malta).
To qualify, an individual must invest at least $300,000, and in exchange, receives citizenship and passports that allow visa-free travel to Canada, the European Union, and U.K.
“Kenyans are often interested in the Antigua and Barbuda program mainly because the citizenship offers visa-free access to South Africa,” the company said.
Malta and Cyprus programs are the most attractive, according to Henley, because they give immediate European Union citizenship. They are also the most expensive, requiring investments starting from 1 million euros ($1.378).
Cyprus investors pay taxes (over and above real estate taxes, which are unavoidable) if they live there for 183-plus days in a year.
With anti-money laundering regulations increasing worldwide, those applying for the Cyprus program qualify only if they have no criminal record from their countries of origin and have been cleared by Cyprus police as well.
“We also insist on confirmation that the applicant’s name is not included on the list of persons whose property is ordered to be frozen within the boundaries of the European Union,” Henley told The Star. “We strongly discourage people who have been involved in money laundering from partaking in such investments.”
Starting April, the Cypriot citizenship required a qualifying investment of $2.898 million including a 5 percent value-added-tax charge.
“Investors have the flexibility to re-sell their investment after three years without
or loss of their citizenship, but they must retain at least a $689,000 property as their private home, Henley said.