[ HTJ Podcast ] Talk with Philippe – Citizenship expert

Hanna:  Hi, my name is Hanna, and today we're interviewing Philippe. Philippe is the Managing Director of Arton’s Capital and Honorary Consul of St. Vincent and Grenadines based in Singapore. Today he gives us his view on trends in second citizenship and residency as the curve flattens and as we emerge in the post-pandemic world.

Company Podcast Intro: This podcast channel is about you: successful international entrepreneurs, successful ex-pats, successful investors. Sponsored by HTJ.Tax.

Derren Joseph: Hi, Philippe, thank you very much for your time. I know you've been a busy guy traveling all over the world, as you always do. Could you please introduce yourself to those who don't know who you are?

Philippe May: Thank you, Derren. My name is Philippe May. I'm the Managing Director of Arton Capital in Singapore and the Honorary Consul of St. Vincent and Grenadines here in Singapore. We are a global firm that helps people in Westerns enhance their mobility and get residency and citizenship worldwide in those countries with a relevant program. Our task we carry out very diligently all over the world. For me here in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Derren Joseph: Okay, fantastic. Thank you very much. Your expertise is very much in demand now that things were a bit uncertain in certain areas. Anyway, I want to ask you how you see things changing in the post-pandemic world? I mean, at some point, this will all be behind us, fingers crossed. What changes do you see coming?

Philippe May: Different challenges coming up. We don't know the details yet, but what I believe will happen is the following. Firstly, people want a plan B. They want a second home. They want second residence and or dual citizenship. They want to have a safe place to go. In case things go wrong and have always been the case. Of course, people living in an uncertain world, in an unstable place. They want a plan B, but now we have seen in a very drastic way that there is not only political, financial, or military, but also medical turmoil. And that's another powerful reason for people to want to secure a safe passage from a place they trust to another, by leaving. Many people are busy, and they live in big cities and crowded places. They may have a good life there. They may have their business there, but it may not be the right place during a pandemic. So, they want a more quiet and more rural, more secluded location. They may want to be in a more advanced country. So, demand will increase for backup solutions for second homes or second residences. That's one trend I can see. Another trend is that we will see enhanced scrutiny on travelers. People will not just need a passport, maybe a visa, but they may also need to provide other documents when traveling or applying for a visa. They may need to bring health certificates, vaccination cards, things like that. We'll see how it's going to work out, but I'm sure there will be enhanced, controlled, and more paperwork. Travel won't get easier.

Derren Joseph: Hmm. Okay. That's right. You know, and that's precisely some of the signals that we are getting that some government apps help the tracing and all sorts of stuff and that this could become the new norm. So, but then, you know, another trend or perhaps is not a trend is to really, to see. But another phenomenon that I observed is that for some individuals who may have had long-term residential visas in certain jurisdictions when the lockdown happened, I did, they couldn't get out, or they couldn't get in. They could not get into the place that they call home. How does one prepare for something like that?

Philippe May: That's very rare. I have traveled around the world during this crisis. It was not my intention to do so, but I got stranded in Panama at the other end of the world. I had to travel back home. And I saw that if you have the right papers, you can do it. You just have to prepare for it. Countries always allow their citizens back home. And usually, as you know, here in Singapore, it's a good example. If you're a permanent resident or even an employment pass holder, you can get in if Singapore is your home. If you can't get out, it's not due to government regulation. It's because an airport has shut and because commercial flights have been canceled. Legally speaking, if you're a citizen, you always get home. If you're a resident, usually you should be able to get there as well. That's the case in European countries. That's the case in all civilized countries. I'm not sure about some friends or more backward places, but the countries working within Europe, the Caribbean in North America, will allow their citizens and their residents to come home.

So very important. If you get the second home, second residence, or citizenship, make sure it's from a country with the rule of law, with regulations that are the first world that is up to standards you're used to and deserve. Don't get it in a shady place. Don't go somewhere you don't know. Somewhere Gage just doesn’t operate that, speak to the big boys, stick to the global firms, and make sure the place has good regulation. You can see how they cope during the dynamic. So you would see there are countries that offer in the Western new home and would not shut them out in the next crisis.

Derren Joseph: Okay. So I agree with you definitely in terms of the advice economy. Here, I mean, Japan, Western Europe, North Zealand, I'm unaware of any issues people could come across, and people can go. And the difficulty was flights. Once you’re a citizen, a permanent resident, or a working visa person, but in certain jurisdictions, for example, Singapore, I’m a long-term resident in Singapore. But I’m on an employment pass. And it got to the stage where I was not back there because they said it was essential services only. And therefore someone working in health and transport, otherwise you can get it. In Malaysia, I understand that there was a time when some people have Malay employees who couldn’t get in. And then with the airport shut and all international flights grounded in KL at specific points, I think it's open back up. And in Manila, you couldn't leave. So it's just you're right. So it is a touching goal. Suppose I was, as you said,  sometimes people earning their welder money in one of the not advanced economies. What measures could you put in place? Should this happen again, to be able to move quickly? Do you think?

Philippe May: Well, the first step is always the second home. You have to have an ideally permanent, not just temporary residence somewhere. And if possible, even a passport from that country, then nothing can happen. Second. You have to watch the situation. You have to check early. What's the case. Usually, airports don't shut overnight. There is an advance notice of a few days. So you have a window to get out.

Derren Joseph: Correct.

Philippe May:  And any country, they even organize evacuation flights for them. So if you're a citizen of the country, which is doing that, you can count on them to assist you in getting home. Even if you're in a third country, you're somewhere else, and you have to get in touch with the relevant authorities, usually through the embassy or consulate, and wait for the instructions.

That's what's happening in most of the first-world countries.

Derren Joseph: Well, let's talk about how historically a lot of the narrative, driven around low taxes, no taxes, and that type of conversation. My sense is right now that there'll be a flight to quality. So people wouldn't look at the quality jurisdiction because one is expensive. This is not the last time they will be locked down. So the quality, as you said, the advanced economies are high-quality jurisdictions. There were increased restrictions, but as a longtime resident, you will always be able to leave or come once you can find a flight as a citizen. So with that in mind, do you agree with that? And if so, what would be the five hottest countries to look for? Good father?

Philippe May:  I would look at European countries, mainly because in Europe, most countries are continental. So you do not depend only on flights, but you can also travel by car or by train or by bus. So you can look at Bulgaria, which has an outstanding permanent residency program for investors. Bulgaria is a new member, a continental country with borders to Greece, Romania, and others. And you could look at Portugal, which is in Western Europe, which is also a new member, which is a shrinking member where you can get residents within a few months. If you penetrate a property, they're starting at 280 or 350,000 euros. Depending on what you're looking for. Another option is Montenegro. Montenegro is giving citizenship in Westers within a few months. Suppose they fulfilled the due diligence requirements. They have to commit 350,000 Europe, of which two fifties in real estate, 100 in the form of a donation to the government. Montenegro gives you a passport that travels visa-free all over Schengen and all over Europe. You can take up residency in this beautiful country just next to Italy,  next to Greece. And you can travel by car. You don't need a flight, and you can travel by ship. So the fair park is closed. Not a problem. Hop on a car, drive off to wherever you like, Croatia, you name it.

Derren Joseph: Okay. So you think that Europe is going to be hot going forward?

Philippe May: Yes, Europe is going to be the right solution. There are also Island countries like Cyprus in Europe, giving citizenship six to eight months. There you have the issue that it's an Island. So you may depend on flights, but on the other hand, it may be more isolated from incoming issues. So if you prefer the Island location, to be quiet, to be locked up in your little paradise, go to Cyprus. If you want to remain connected, you want to drive from the next country to the next big city and go to Montenegro.

Derren Joseph: Okay. That's a fair point that you know what's happened. People will be looking for advice, the economy, a strong infrastructure, and wide-open spaces. So you don't necessarily want to be congested in a big urban area. So definitely. And with the UK coming down to the end of the year when Brexit will be effective after a week. What, what continental European countries do you see? Brits favoring?

Philippe May: I don't think a lot of British will leave. Britain It's going to do great, but still, people want a plan B wants another option? I think many Brits will look at Portugal, which has been historically a good friend of Britain. They will look at Greece too because Greece and the Greek part of Cyprus are very familiar. Cyprus even gave citizenship. Cyprus will be the first option for those who can afford it for those who are not looking at the second passport. Probably, Portugal will be popular, more popular than places like France or Spain. Another option for the British is the West Indies in the Caribbean. Five questions in countries offering citizenship are all English speaking that is part of the Commonwealth that has direct flights to London, where you have a relatively sizable British ex-pat population. These are the options that the British are looking for when they talk about the second home.

Derren Joseph: Hmm. Okay, well, let's talk about a lot of the Caribbean, but I think that economic outlook. Pop's seems a bit uncertain right now because those two are independent. As we said earlier, travel will become more complicated, and there'll be a wild, we call capacity recovers. So, do you see any evolution in citizenship by investment programs, or do you not see the expansion as other islands Jump on board?

Philippe May: It’s hard to tell, and it's too early because we are still coping with this pandemic crisis. People are preoccupied with other issues then the expansion of citizenship programs. But of course, once this is over, countries in the region will think very hard, survive, diversify their revenues beyond tourism and citizenship, and residents, but Westmont is one option. So it's not going to be rarer or more difficult. I think it will become more popular, there will be more demand, but there will also be more countries offering these options, and they will be learning from this pandemic crisis. They will look back and say, Oh, how did we do what we do for our citizens? What were the opportunities they had? What do we need to do better? So we may see more programs.

We may see more options within the existing programs, and we may see more demand simultaneously.

Derren Joseph: Okay. And what about in Southeast Asia? Do you see any coming changes? I guess Southeast Asia is more from a retirement perspective. Do you see any evolution in that space or any changes potentially?

Philippe May: Not really. Southeast Asia or  Asia, in general, is not a place to get a second citizenship. Most countries do not allow dual citizenship. Some countries even make naturalization impossible, and no country ever had a citizenship program. So Southeast Asia, forget about citizenship. It's just residents in a few countries. And even that is limited because it doesn't lead to permanent residency. It doesn't lead to citizenship. It's just like a long-term visa.

You'll see, Malaysia, which you mentioned earlier with the MM2H program does not honor. Those kinds of residencies shut out some of its residents, even if they don't have another place to go. Even if they can't go back to their country of citizenship because they've sold everything there, they moved to Malaysia, and they’re staying there. They may not be able to get in. Similar issues in Thailand. Thailand, with some xenophobic sentiment as well.

Generally speaking, Southeast Asia isn't the place for a Western migration before and after, depending on the exception, of course, is Singapore. Singapore is open to Western residents. It has a good program. However, the requirements are very high. The network requirements are in the millions.  The due diligence is strict, and citizenship is not automatically after one becomes a resident granted.

So Singapore is good, but only for a select few, not otherwise Southeast Asia, I wouldn't see it as a destination.

Derren Joseph:  And what about Hong Kong?

Philippe May: Hong Kong. It has an option to go there, but being increasingly absorbed by China, the mainland. Don’t think Hong Kong is very much in favor of many Western migrants.

Taxwise, Singapore is doing great. You don't need to go to Hong Kong to save on taxes. And if it's all about taxes, you can go. In other countries, you can go to Bulgaria, 10% personal income tax, the lowest in the EU. You can go to the Caribbean with some countries not having taxes at all or not, or no personal packs. Hong Kong. I don't think it will attract many, although they did well in this pandemic crisis, that's fine, but I've seen a lot of city land rests in the months before it's very close to China. So, Hong Kong, probably not a good option.

Derren Joseph: Looking back at a good match in Europe and jurisdictions close to Europe. What are your thoughts on Dubai?

Philippe May: Dubai in the UAE, again, the country, a great nation, but no road to citizenship.

Derren Joseph: Right.

Philippe May: Even permanent residents, very limited, high costs, not a popular destination.

Derren Joseph: Okay, great. So I guess just to sum it up, going forward. Europe?

Philippe May:  Europe, and the Caribbean. And for those who don't want, just want the plan B who wants to move physically want to go still North America is an option to Canada, U.S., but that's not a plan B. You need to go and live there. You have to spend your time there. If you don't do it, if you can't do it, don't go to North America. If you want a second home for peace of mind, look at Europe, look at the Caribbean.

Derren Joseph: Okay. Philippe, Thank you very much for your insight. Extremely useful at this point. One more thing. When you go online and Google, you are just inundated by all these agents who offer residency, the citizenships. What are the advantages of coming to an established recognition from that yourself instead of these one-person shows online?

Philippe May: Okay. Different advantages. First of all, if you are looking at a second home at plan B and turn to an in Western migration agency like an architect, you want to make sure that this agency is handling your file from A to Z. That is the case only with the globally established players like us that do not just have one outfit, one office, somewhere in Dubai, or Shanghai, but offices worldwide, particularly in the countries, which offer the programs.

Secondly, you need to look at the government mandates that such companies have. Arton’s Capital has about ten government mandates. So we are not just assisting the Westerns to get a second home or residence or citizenship. We are also advising governments on setting up, implementing, designing those programs. That's very important. And you have to look at the licenses that the agents are holding. So if somebody is not licensed anywhere in the world, what can you expect from them?

Better turn to the big boy directly. You can look up the government websites of the relevant citizens. You find Western utilities that are in the licensed stage. If you don't see your agent there, forget it. So these are the advantages you have. You can also look at how long the company has been around. We were established some 12 years ago in Canada; that’s a good track record. Where are you incorporating? We have a company UEA. We have a company in Singapore. We have a company in Canada.

These are first-class jurisdictions. If your counterpart is incorporated in mainland China, how are you going to Sue them? If there is a problem? Don’t do it.

Derren Joseph: Yeah. That’s a good point. Cause you know, this is a space where, unfortunately, there are less than honorable operators, and I have clients who have had bad experiences. So, this is important.

Philippe May: That's very unfortunate. You should have referred them to us.

Derren Joseph: I should have. My mistake, I'll know better next time. Thank you. I appreciate your insight.

Video recorded on June 30, 2020

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