South Africans have been purchasing foreign citizenship at an alarming rate, according to global citizenship advisory firm, Henley & Partners. "Most of our clients were not looking to emigrate immediately. They are looking for an alternative, for an option, for if and when," said Amanda Smit, head of Henley & Partners for the east, central, and southern Africa markets.
A 229% year-on-year increase of people applying for citizenship in other countries was recorded in the first half of 2018, the London-based firm stated, adding that there was also a 143% year-on-year increase in inquiries about citizenship-by-investment, between January and August.
About 10% of South Africans who are seeking foreign citizenship are retired people while about half of the remaining 90% are self-employed. Overall, 80% are over 45 years old and 85% are men and 50% are self-employed.
"We have two types of clients," Smit explained. "The one is business people who travel a lot and who find visa restrictions extremely limiting and frustrating; they do it simply to obtain travel documents that give them greater mobility, that let them travel at short notice.”
The majority of the firm’s clients are acquiring passports or residency in non-traditional countries such as Malta, Cyprus, Moldova and Portugal, which provides an easier path to citizenship.
"The other type, the big majority, want a plan B because they are concerned about the economy or the political situation, worried what the education system will look like 10 years from now, or if their children will be able to find work in South Africa."
The Henley & Partners statistics also reveal that 55% of the applicants are white.