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Network News • 12-01-2023

Irelands attracts top Chinese residency applications

Author: George Mangion - Senior Partner PKF Malta
Published on The Malta Business Weekly: 12th January 2023

Many countries have schemes offering residency or even passports in exchange for investment, but Ireland’s huge success has been in attracting wealthy residency applicants.

The Irish IIP scheme was set up in 2012 to attract rich investors to Ireland from outside the European Economic Area.  

To date, 1,613 applications have been approved by the Department of Justice, of which 1,511 were to Chinese applicants. Several hundred wealthy Chinese citizens are seeking Irish residency under an investment scheme for millionaire immigrants, after applications surged amid speculation the Government was scrapping the programme.  Chinese investors, coming from a country with no Google, no Facebook and news largely vetted from official sources, really appreciate the freedom that Ireland offers, quoting a  hospitality-focused fund chief executive.

Russian applications were cut off from the programme in March after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  It is encouraging to observe how the Irish authorities have succeeded to tap into the Chinese market with their attractive residence scheme which raised close to €1.2bn since its inception.  One may compare this with the Joseph Muscat’s golden passport scheme mainly promoted by Henley and Partners which is currently the object of infringement proceedings by the European Court of Justice.  

The commission says the schemes undermines the integrity of the status of EU citizenship and free movement as it allows people, who had no prior links to the European Union to have a citizenship status by paying out millions of euros. 

The commission is also worried about EU candidate countries, as well as the United Kingdom, using similar schemes that offer special access to the EU for prospective future clients.  The residency scheme for Malta (as revised) also competes with the Irish model.  Malta expects successful applicants to rent or purchase a property for a minimum value of €300,000 in the south of Malta/Gozo or €350,000 in the rest of Malta.  

Other charges are also due on application while the rental of property so purchased has to be held for a minimum period of five years.  Our scheme has been widely marketed by licensed agents and also attracted a fair share of Asian applicants but never reached the numbers set by Ireland.  Their scheme garnered more than 800 applications in the first nine months of this year alone.  

This represents almost a third of all applications in the past 10 years.  It has seen inward investment of more than €132m in the past nine months.  Over 1,500 wealthy Chinese citizens have acquired residency in Ireland in the past decade through the latter’s Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP), while the majority of them were granted in the past five years.   

Let us examine the scheme in detail.  The Immigrant Investor Programme was introduced in Ireland in an effort to bring a large number of wealthy investors from countries outside the European Economic Area.  The Independent, reports a total of 1,613 applications approved by the Department of Justice out of which a total of 1,511 were granted to Chinese applicants followed by 31 investors from the United States with a small cohort from Vietnam.  

Russian citizens were also very interested in Ireland’s IIP program; however, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ireland (like Malta) decided to ban this program for Russian applicants.  A recent report provided by Bloomberg revealed that 3,284 citizens from the United States applied for an Irish passport during the first six months of last year.  This mirrors a successful boost to Ireland since it was double the amount registered previously.  It is important to emphasize that unlike Malta, Ireland does not have a Citizenship by Investment (Golden Passport) scheme. In order to benefit from this residency program, internationals must have at least €2 billion net worth, make an investment in one of the four investment options, and must not have a criminal conviction.  

The increase in the number of Irish visas comes amid concerns related to EU countries’ Golden Visa and Golden Passport schemes’ involvement in unlawful affairs such as tax evasion, money laundering and tax evasion.  The maverick scheme is more likely to be refined, although the scope of and timing for any changes remain unclear.  Still, some people familiar with the programme said rumours about a prospective closure of the scheme circulated in recent months among professional brokers who advise applicants.  

One broker said a Hong Kong security crackdown after pro-democracy protests had prompted increased interest in the Irish scheme among wealthy people there.  Ireland’s Immigrant Investor Program grants visas to foreigners who substantially invest in local enterprises, listed real estate trusts, or cultural initiatives. Quoting Financial Times, while many countries including Malta have similar investment schemes, but Ireland wins the trophy as it succeeds where others failed, mainly on account of the fact that the money goes towards economic areas that really need it.

Author: George Mangion - Senior Partner PKF Malta
Published on The Malta Business Weekly: 12th January 2023
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