As travel restrictions between countries start to relax and coronaivurs exposes some countries’ healthcare inadequacies, families and individuals are rushing to become citizens of the safest countries in the world.
Switzerland is the world’s safest country, according to a new ranking by Deep Knowledge Analytics, a research company. Already there has been a run on residency in the country: According to the Swiss statistics office, 11,901 applied for residency in June, up from 8,798 in May.
New Zealand, South Korea, Germany and Japan make up the top five safest countries in the world, says Deep Knowledge Analytics, which monitored things like quarantine efficiency, healthcare readiness and government efficiency in compiling the ranking.
These countries are also seeing a surge in interest for citizenship and residency. Immigration New Zealand’s website has had a flood of enquiries: On average, somebody in the U.S. clicked on the website every 30 seconds in the last month and interest in migrating to the country is up by 160% according to officials.
New Zealand has the world’s most successful quarantine efficiency which has virtually wiped out local transmission of Covid-19. Any new cases have been linked to travellers coming into the country, who must isolate for 14 days on arrival.
Knight Frank, a real estate consultancy, says 34% of clients surveyed are looking to relocate to a different country. Of those 2% said they were looking at New Zealand. Another 2% mentioned Portugal.
In May, Portugal saw a record number of applicants for its Golden Visa, which offers residency in return for investment. A total of 270 applicants sent €146.2 million ($175 million) into the Portuguese economy in return for a passport.
“The lockdown period for us was abnormally busy,” says Patricia Casaburi, CEO of Global Citizen Solutions, which advises on investor visa programs around the world. She cites the Portuguese government’s quick response to the crises and a relatively low number of cases as reasons for its popularity.
Families are also looking at what might happen if there is a second wave of Covid-19 this winter. “It is perhaps no coincidence that good healthcare is another common denominator of those countries listed as preferred destinations,” says Knight Frank.
While many acquire a second citizenship for visa free travel or to diversify their investments, an increasing number are looking at residency as well. It gives people the “option to relocate if they need too,” says Juerg Steffen, CEO of Henley & Partners, a citizenship and residency advisory firm.
Citizenship Snobbery: The Most Expensive Countries
But the biggest factor that will determine which country’s passport somebody might hold in their hands is price.
The world’s safest country, comes at a price: Only residency (not citizenship) is available in Switzerland and applicants are subject to tax liabilities starting at CHF 150,000 ($161,850) to over CHF 1 million ($1.08 million) per year for new residents. Investment visas for New Zealand start at NZ$3 million ($2 million).
Portugal is cheaper: Its golden visa starts at €350,000 ($421,000) for those willing to invest in real estate renovation.
However, one of the most popular destinations that Casaburi has dealt with this year is the Caribbean. Knight Frank says 4% of its respondents are looking at the region, where five island nations offer citizenship for a price, which has just got cheaper.
Saint Kitts and Nevis, which was the first country in the world to offer a citizenship-by-investment program, has dropped the price by 23% to $150,000 for a family of four according to Bloomberg. St. Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda also offered discounts in May.
This has changed the make-up of a formally niche industry. Once a preserve of the jet-set, coronavirus has fuelled the global citizenship market, making it both more available and desirable to more people.
But there is another factor at play, says Casaburi. Companies now expect fewer people to come to the office which has completely changed the rules of remote working: “So it is about freedom of movement and increased mobility, it is about viewing second citizenship as a viable option in starting anew.”