Business Irish

Saturday 16 February 2019

Chinese leading way with 500pc surge in demand for immigrant investor visas


Immigrant Investor Bonds are one option. Photo: Mark Condren
Immigrant Investor Bonds are one option. Photo: Mark Condren

Simon Rowe

Ireland's Immigrant Investor Scheme saw a massive 500pc spike in applications last year, driven by a surge in demand from Chinese nationals.

A total of 329 individuals from 16 different countries applied in 2016 to secure Irish residency in exchange for investing in Irish assets. Of this figure, 313 were from China.

The total number of applications represents a 500pc increase on the 66 applications received in 2015, according to figures released by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, a unit within the Department of Justice.

Applications were received from 13 different nationalities, with 313 from China, and 16 from the following countries: USA, Aruba and Barbuda, Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, St Kitts and Nevis, and Ukraine. Foreign investors are granted residency in exchange for investing in Irish bonds, stocks, property and enterprises, or for making a large philanthropic gift or endowment.

Applicants avail of a Government-backed scheme aimed at attracting non-EEA investors, which grants successful applicants and their family members Irish residency, even though the investors don't have to reside here to benefit - the only stipulation is that persons concerned must visit Ireland at least once every 12 months.

Since 2012, 130 applicants have been approved, with €65m invested into the Irish economy as a result - a figure that could triple if the majority of applicants are successful. Approved participants are granted residence in Ireland for two years, which can be renewed for a further three years.

After five years, they can apply for long-term residence. Residency status can offer non-EEA investors greater ease of travel in the EU and benefits in terms of tax avoidance and asset security.

In order to be considered investors have a choice of investment options: €1m in an Immigrant Investor Bond, at 0pc interest rate; €500,000 in an Irish enterprise for three years; €500,000 in an approved fund; a minimum investment of €2m in an Irish Real Estate Investment Trust; investment in a residential property of a minimum value of €450,000 and a straight investment of €500,000 into the immigrant investor bond - or a €500,000 philanthropic donation or endowment.

The Department of Justice denied the programme was a 'passports for sale' scheme. "The Immigrant Investor Programme offers no preferential access to Irish passports," a spokesperson said. "The programme has made this explicit from the beginning."

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