On today’s episode, we have Natalia Van join us all the way from Moscow. Natalia is a Business Development Executive who works on CS Global Partners’ Russia Desk.
Aisha Mohamed: At the end of April, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree allowing Russian nationals who hold second citizenships or residency abroad to leave the country even in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Do you think that many dual citizens will use this opportunity to leave Russia?
Natalia Van: It depends on each situation and what second citizenship you hold. Every single case is different. What is important is that people who were dual citizens were given a ‘choice’ – and this means freedom. Even with the Covid-19 lockdowns, most countries are still letting their citizens and residents cross borders to come home. This freedom is why, in Russia, we see an increased demand for CBI. Second citizenship gives you the opportunity to be the master of your own destiny. It means not being dependent on one country’s politics, economy, or medical or educational systems. It also means being able to choose a better place for your family to live in, for you or your children to study in, and for you to run your business.
AM: Like China, Russia is also a large market for CBI. Can you tell us a bit more about it? What is the interest in the country like and why? How does it compare to other markets?
NV: Russian HNWIs are looking for instruments to protect their future, to travel easily across the globe (which can be complicated for most Russian, who generally need to obtain visas to travel abroad), and to diversify and secure their assets. The solution to these needs is second citizenship.
Compared to other markets, Russian investors seem warier of trusting a service provider they are not acquainted with. This is why referrals work very well in the Russian CBI market, particularly when the referrals are made by someone the investor already trusts, like bankers, family offices, lawyers, and lifestyle or immigration managers.
AM: What countries are the most popular destinations for CBI among Russian citizens? What makes these countries stand out against the wide spectrum of countries now offering CBI options?
NV: Every applicant has specific needs that dictate where he or she will choose to invest for second citizenship. Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis remain the most attractive options, particularly as they offer affordability, a high number of visa-free countries, remote processing, ease of application, and lifestyle benefits. There is some interest in Europe, where Russians look towards Cyprus’ CBI Programme or Portugal’s RBI Programme – but there is a required investment in real estate that not everyone wants to make. Grenada’s E2 access to the USA is also interesting, although, of course, there is no guarantee that the applicant will obtain an E-2 visa.
AM: What are some major concerns Russian investors have when applying for CBI? Have they changed since the pandemic started?
NV: CBI for Russians has always been about setting up a plan B and improving travel options to Schengen, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other countries. There is now increased uncertainty as we are not sure what will happen to visa-free travel in a post-COVID-19 world.
Russian HNWI’s are not sure that it would be easy to obtain a visa to the EU or UK after then lockdown. That is why they obtain Caribbean CBI – to keep travelling anyway.
The COViD-19 crisis has shown that the healthcare systems of many countries are not ready for a pandemic, that borders can quickly close, and that businesses can suffer from unexpected losses. Russia is no exception. This is spurring more and more Russians to look to CBI as their plan B. Second citizenship not only gives us a choice of where to stay, but it also gives us confidence that we can protect our physical and mental health and that of our family – something that has incredible value today.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.