According to Henley & Partners’ Kochenov Quality of Nationality Index (QNI), Southeast Asian nationalities are among some of the most coveted in the world.

In today’s fast-changing global, political, economic and business landscape, the value of one’s nationality is more important than ever before – be it due to new travel bans and visa restrictions or growing support for tighter control over trade agreements.

Despite these mounting obstacles, there has been a steady growth in the value and quality of nationalities in Southeast Asia (SEA) according to Henley & Partners’ Kochenov Quality of Nationality Index (QNI), a global report that objectively ranks the value of the world’s nationalities by evaluating citizenship and migration trends.

The QNI is the first index to use quantifiable data to determine opportunities and limitations inherent in nationalities, thus effectively measuring both internal and external values of a passport. The internal factors measured by the QNI include the scale of an economy, human development, as well as peace and stability; while external factors measures pertain to visa-free travel freedom and the ability to settle and work abroad.

With these factors in mind, the relative success or failure of SEA countries on a global scale may have lasting implications for wealthy individuals and their families.

SEA’s Most Powerful Passport

Singapore is the top-ranked country within SEA, whose global QNI ranking of 36 places it in the ‘Very High Quality’ category of nationalities. It was recently celebrated as the world’s most powerful passport with Singaporeans now being able to visit 159 countries either by visa upon arrival or, in many cases, visa-free.

This success is primarily due to its strong economy and the unmatched level of travel freedom that its citizens enjoy. The stable infrastructure provided by this city-state has also made it a popular investment location for wealthy individuals. Close behind Singapore were Malaysia and Brunei, which ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively in the region. Malaysia and Brunei both benefit from strong economies and high levels of human development and peacefulness.

Sitting in the ‘Top 50’ of the QNI global ranking, these three Southeast Asian countries stand apart from their neighbours. The rankings emphasize that nationalities in SEA must look to continuously excel across all factors that contribute to overall quality of life. This includes a strong economy, visa-free travel to European countries and elsewhere, and the ability to settle and work abroad. For wealthy individuals, the QNI has become increasingly important when it comes to decision making, as it can determine which countries they choose to invest in or domicile as well as the returns they can expect.

Investment Migration

As the number of wealthy individuals in Southeast Asia continues to grow, so does the number of individuals interested in investment migration. The decision to pursue an alternative nationality is driven by multiple factors, one of which is the limited travel mobility associated with most Asia-domiciled passports. Seeking greater travel, business, education, and lifestyle freedom, many wealthy SEA citizens turn to citizenship-by-investment programmes such as those offered by Caribbean countries like Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda. Caribbean citizenship programmes are among the most affordable in the world, with capital requirements starting at US$100,000 and citizenship obtainable in as little as four months.

For individuals interested in European citizenship programmes, Malta has emerged as a leading investment location, not least because of the stability, predictability, and security that the country provides. The Malta Individual Investor Program (MIIP) affords successful applicants full citizenship rights, including legal, protection, and settlement rights throughout the European Union (EU) and Switzerland. The Malta Citizenship by Investment Programme (MIIP) upholds the strictest and most advanced due diligence standards and is the only programme of its kind to be endorsed by the EU. It requires a minimum capital contribution of EUR1.15 million.

With the expanding reach of globalization, factors such as mobility, residence and citizenship planning will remain a focus for entrepreneurs and investors. By working to continuously improve the quality of life of their citizens, countries have the opportunity to attract wealthy individuals and benefit significantly from foreign investment. Given the potential returns of such a commitment, governments around the world are encouraged to start implementing processes that can bring about holistic success for their countries.

About The Writer

Dominic Volek is a private client specialist in residence and citizenship planning, Head of Southeast Asia and Managing Partner of Henley & Partners Singapore, a global leader in residence and citizenship planning. Originally from South Africa, Dominic is now responsible for the company's operations across Southeast Asia, including offices in Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Dominic provides residence- and citizenship-by-investment planning advice to high net worth individuals, their families, and their advisors, targeting those countries that are deemed most attractive to wealthy clients with regard to mobility, security, privacy, lifestyle, and personal tax and estate planning.

This article was first published on the MillionaireAsia Issue 46 - November 2017

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