National security law drives spike in Hongkongers seeking Taiwanese passports – with citizenship by investment for just US$200,000

Hongkongers have long enjoyed visiting Taiwan, but since last year, more have been considering making a permanent move.
Immigration specialist Pamir Law Group, along with property search platform and local property agents, all report increasing inquiries, starting around the middle of 2019.
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Nicholas V. Chen, managing partner at Pamir, a boutique legal and business consulting firm with offices in Taipei and Shanghai, reports a “sharp increase” in visa applications from Hong Kong residents in the second half of 2019. He believes this was mainly due to uncertainty about the city’s future in the wake of months of social unrest – fuelled further in recent months since the introduction of the city’s national security law.
“Interest remains high”, he says of the situation today, “however actual applications have decreased due to new, stricter requirements established in early 2020.”
Pamir Law focuses on the investment immigration route to citizenship (or a “golden passport”), which Chen describes as one of the most attractive of such schemes outside the Caribbean.
It requires an investment of NT$6 million (US$204,000) into a new or existing company that creates two full-time jobs for Taiwanese people.
“After obtaining foreign investment approval, the investor and their family are granted residence and can relocate to Taiwan,” he said. “After the investor meets a residence requirement (either one or two years depending on how many days they live in Taiwan), they are able to apply for an ID and passport, which are confirmed after the company shows the required jobs have been maintained for three years.”
Other routes to residency include niche visas such as the entrepreneur visa and employment gold card (which have more stringent requirements), and a classification for Hong Kong residents who already hold a second passport.
Real estate affordability is one of the main reasons Taiwan is an attractive destination for Hong Kong investors, Chen says.
“In most cases, a person who liquidated a property in Hong Kong would have enough resources to make the required investment, purchase a residence with a larger footprint than in Hong Kong, particularly outside Taipei, and cover relocation costs and living expenses for a comfortable period,” he said. “Even for investors on a budget, a move to Taiwan might make home ownership – a dream for many in Hong Kong – a reality.”
According to data provided by Pamir Law, the average purchase price of a home in Taiwan is 2.65 times per square metre lower than Hong Kong, while renters will find a flat in Taipei City costs an average of 3.7 times less. “Many modern mid-to high-rise apartment projects in New Taipei City often feature river and/or mountain views with inviting upscale decor and amenities,” Chen adds.
Marcus Wong, vice-president of international sales at Spacious, says three years ago, most Hong Kong people making the move were interested in retiring in Taiwan. Now, he believes, they’re attracted by lower real estate prices and the cost, and quality, of living. “Proximity to Hong Kong has a lot to do with it,” he says.
Hongkongers’ motivation in buying overseas property has also changed, says Wong, who in his previous position ran property sales events in Hong Kong. “As savvy investors, Hongkongers used to be looking for return on investment – now they’re interested in quality of life,” says Wong. The buying group has also shifted to a younger demographic, he finds, believing this has a lot to do with the political situation in Hong Kong.
“People may have a burning desire to emigrate, but if all their (work) experience is in Asia, they think maybe that’s not transferable to nations so far away, like the United States or the United Kingdom,” he said.
In the second quarter 2020, searches for Taiwan on the Spacious website increased by 25 per cent compared to the first three-month period.
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