Golden visas are ‘the tip of the iceberg’ as digital nomads and the ultrawealthy continue to flock to other countries


As remote work opened up the doors for workcations and alternative lifestyles, location mobility has become all the rage for people looking to get out of the country. Some of the ultrawealthy among them have been investing in a “golden visa,” a program in which purchasing a second home in a different country entitles buyers to a second passport or a pathway to citizenship.  

And it looks like that demand isn’t ending anytime soon: 13% of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals are looking to get a second passport or citizenship, according to Knight Frank’s 17th annual wealth report. (The report defines UHNW individuals as those with a U.S. net worth of at least $30 million.) This cohort is “the tip of the iceberg,” the authors write. “The boom in so-called digital nomads is only just starting.”

Over the past couple of years, UHNW individuals in the U.S. have been getting antsy as political division intensified, the cost of living ratcheted up, travel restrictions fueled wanderlust, and working and living abroad became more feasible. In their eyes, a second citizenship offered a safety net. Interest in getting a second passport through investment opportunities grew sixfold from 2019 to 2021 among U.S. clients, according to a report by passporting firm Get Golden Visa. 

As the popularity of second passports grew, they went from status symbol for the elite to something more accessible to the upper middle class, Murat Coskun, managing partner of Get Golden Visa, told Fortune.

“Speaking to three leading experts in the field, it is clear that demand for mobility has expanded rapidly since the COVID-19 pandemic and now covers a broader demographic, including those seeking protection from arbitrary border lockdowns or looking to work in another country,” noted the authors of the Knight Frank report.

Alternatives to these Western investment programs are growing, per the authors. Applications are surging in Turkey. Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong are offering more flexible programs. Other countries, like Portugal and Thailand, rolled out tailored visa programs that don’t require second passports to attract growing number of digital nomads. It’s freelancers leading the trend in nomadic work, the Knight Frank authors point out, as companies are more reticent to deal with tax issues or labor laws associated with working internationally.

But the surge in demand for living elsewhere doesn’t come without complications and the potential displacement of locals. The Knight Frank authors write that it promises “disruption to outbound countries, destination markets, tax systems, residential rental demand, and office requirements.” Portugal, a former hotspot for golden visa applicants, recently ended its program after the influx of second citizens fueled a hike in housing prices. Other Mediterranean countries are also trying to pump the brakes: Greece doubled the price of minimum investments required to obtain a golden visa, citing the lack of affordable housing for Greek citizens. 

But that doesn’t mean people will stop clamoring for golden visas. As Knight Frank reveals, 16% of UHNW clients from Asia, 15% from the Americas, and 12% from the Middle East are still planning to get their hands on one.

Source: Fortune