File picture: Desmond Boylan

JOHANNESBURG -South Africa's turbulent prospects are driving record numbers of citizens to apply for second European Union passports by way of investment, with Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Portugal experiencing a jump in applicants, immigration firm Xpatweb said on Monday.

Since 2018, there has been an increase of 364 percent in interest from South Africans for a second passport, as what many refer to as “Plan B” gains popularity, Xpatweb director Marisa Jacobs said.

"With the pending tax changes in South Africa due to be enforced from 1st March 2020, the EU second passport scheme is an attractive and enticing proposal for South Africans," she said.

Video by: Chelsea Lotz, Business Report TV

Under current tax law, applicable up to 28 February 2020, South African tax residents working abroad are entitled to a tax exemption from income earned abroad, provided that they’re physically outside of South Africa for 183 days in aggregate during any 12-month period.

From next March,  only the first R1million earned from foreign service income will be exempt from tax in South Africa, provided that more than 183 days are spent outside the country in any 12-month period.

""With a European passport, the prospect of living in any country forming part of the European Union is highly attractive. South Africans are looking to their future and that of their children, the idea of having the opportunity to study and work in any country across the EU remains appetising," Xpatweb's Jacobs said.

Ease of travel was also a key reason, she said, with the South African passport allowing access to 102 countries but excluding the world's biggest economies such as the United States, United Kingdom, the Europe Schengen area and Canada.

Jacobs noted that a Cyprus passport allowed visa free travel to 169 countries, while a Greek one gave access to 183 countries and Maltese and Portuguese passports opened the door for travel to 182 and 184 countries respectively without visas.

Depending on the scheme, EU passports can be ascertained through investments starting from €250,000 and can take between six months and seven years to attain, with no residency period in the country required, Xpatweb said.

"Vast numbers of South Africans are looking to the future and are open to making the investment for both themselves and their children’s future," said Jacobs.

- African News Agency (ANA)