Johannesburg - Local business people who have investments in selected European, Caribbean and North American states can now use their investments to obtain citizenship there and access more than 100 other countries without visas.
This is the advice from Arton Capital, a Dubai-based financial services firm specialising in international immigration and citizenship law for wealthy individuals, which opened its first African office in Cape Town yesterday.
Ten countries subscribe to its Global Citizen programme. The Caribbean members are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis. The others are Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Hungary, the UK and the US.
With the establishment of a South African office, Arton said interest in obtaining South African or Namibian passports had come mostly from Chinese businessmen doing business across Africa.
“The law in South Africa or Namibia does not have any specific provisions towards investors and their families, but there is a lot of interest,” Arton Capital chief executive Armand Arton said.
The only people who can access these travelling privileges are high-net-worth individuals or families.
Although requirements for citizenship vary with each country, investors generally need to have personal net worth of the equivalent of at least $1 million (about R11m).
Country specific requirements vary from subscribing to the government bonds of that particular country to creating a certain number of jobs for the local population.
Local investors who have been advised by Arton Capital on its Global Citizen programme in the past five years, mostly have investments in Canada and a few have lived in Dubai.
In Africa, wealthy families who used the Global Citizen programme came mostly from the north of the continent, particularly Morocco and Egypt.
“The idea came last year when I was meeting with the business and government community at the World Economic Forum on Africa, which was held in Cape Town.
“People were not aware of the options around the world for South African businessmen to secure European citizenship without having to relocate,” Arton said.
Arton Capital is planning a second office in Johannesburg, and in the next two to three years it will open offices in other African states, starting with Nigeria.
Each of the 10 subscribed countries have a unique set of benefits. Citizenship in the Caribbean countries, for instance, gives visa-free access to the Schengen Area, which consists of 26 European countries, and sometimes Canada too. The number of countries that one can travel to with such citizenship varies from 100 to 130 and includes Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Turkey.
Arton said the company was processing between 500 and 600 applications a year. - Business Report