By EB5 Investors Magazine Staff
International investors have a host of popular destinations to choose from when it comes to immigration investment opportunities in South East Asia. The countries of Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore each have their own programs that are attracting global interest.
“The Singapore Global Investor Program (GIP), Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program and Thailand Elite Residence Program are all very different in terms of the capital outlay required, the nature of the investment, the qualification criteria, the physical presence requirements as well as the benefits they afford. These three programs therefore appeal to different investors with different motivations for doing them,” says Dominic Volek, Managing Partner, Head Southeast Asia at Henley & Partners Singapore office.
Malaysia My Second Home, also known as MM2H, was launched in 2002. It is open to foreigners who are under 50 years of age who bring in at least RM500,000 in terms of cash and have a monthly income of 10,000 Malaysian ringgit. Requirements for applicants over 50 is RM350,000 cash and a monthly income of RM10,000. Foreigners, who have retired in their country of origin, must show they are earning a pension or other type of monthly income at RM10,000 per month, which is about $2,450.
“The MM2H program requires applicants to prove a certain amount of investable assets and offshore income, the quantum of which depends on their age and then to place a fixed deposit on a bank account in Malaysia in return for a 10-year residence visa – approximately $70,000 if you are below 50 years old and $35,000 if above,” says Volek.
To date, Volek says the program has had over 35,000 approvals. He says between 2002 and June 2017; 27 percent has come from China, 12 percent from Japan and 11 percent from Bangladesh.
“More recently, applications from China particularly have increased, having accounted for 44 percent of all applications in the first 6 months of 2017. From a regional perspective, Asia accounts for 80 percent of all applications followed by Europe at 12 percent,” says Volek.
Investors also have other options in Asia. The government of Thailand offers elite residency visas for wealthy foreign citizens. The program offers visas ranging from five to 20 years in exchange for investment starting at 800,000 Thai baht to 2 million.
Investors will receive expedited immigration services for their renewable five-year visa and associated work permits and VIP access to government agencies. Visas are offered for family members in two of the three programs. Each program comes with several complimentary VIP privileges. The special residence visa is a state-owned subsidiary of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
“The Thai Elite Program was established by the Thailand Government in 2003. Due to its increased marketing efforts, the program is receiving much attention and interest in recent years,” says Lynn Tastan, partner, Global Mobility Services at KPMG in Thailand.
Depending upon the membership, benefits include airport concierge, fast track through immigration, VIP discounts and more, Tastan said.
“In my view the real benefits are multiple entry visa stay for five years and longer; assistance with 90-day reporting at Thai immigration; an alternative to the financial requirement for a retirement visa or anyone not qualifying for a retirement visa,” he said.
Volek says the residence visa requires a one-time application fee payable to the government and ranges from approximately $15,000 for a five-year visa up to $ 60,000 for 20 years.
From 2003 to September 2017, there have been 4,834 approvals; 22 percent have been Chinese, 17 percent British, 12 percent American and 10 percent French with the other major nationalities being Japanese, Australian, Bangladeshi, Russian and German, he said.
Another investment immigration scheme is Singapore’s Global Investor Program. Gordon Chin, lead consultant for Emego Migration Consulting in Singapore, says the program was created to attract high net worth individuals with business experience. Applicants are required to reside in Singapore with the expectation that investments will generate economic activities benefitting the local business environment.
“Selection criteria is high - applicants need business experience of at least 4 years, and your turnover must be at least S$50 million. Aside from this, it is required of the applicant to make an investment of S$2.5 million into a new or existing business or a managed fund,” says Chin.
There is not any official government data, however, estimates put the number of applicants at approximately 20 to 25 per month, says Chin. He says the GIP attracts applicants from China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
“In recent years, there’s an upsurge in applicants with backgrounds in technology. This is a reflection of the emphasis on which the Singapore government is placing on technology start-ups and creating a smart nation based on technology advancement,” says Chin.
Volek says the GIP typically appeals to investors seeking to spend more time in Singapore and benefit from the education and healthcare systems and friendly tax regime. Volek says within Southeast Asia, Singapore has significantly grown to become an increasingly popular location for wealthy individuals to invest in due to the stable infrastructure provided by the city and state.
He says there has been an increase in Russian, Indian and Chinese nationals living in Singapore that are now also seeking alternative citizenships. He says he’s witnessed a growth in interest from Korean, Japanese and U.S. nationals, whose passports rank well, but are looking for other options in more tax-efficient areas.
“The MM2H and Thailand Elite Residence programs represent ideal and affordable alternatives as a second home,” says Volek.