There are some fabulous citizen-by-investment opportunities for gaining a more powerful passport and/or living in a safe, secure and convenient location. But emigrating is a big step, so – regardless of how attractive the nuts and bolts of the offer – you really should make sure your soon-to-be-adopted home is a place where you could actually live.
And the best way to do that is to take an LSD trip. This kind of LSD trip is not a psychedelic, away-with-the-fairies experience – quite the opposite. LSD stands for ‘look, see and decide’, and it’s a practical, sober exploratory trip that is undertaken with open eyes and an open mind.
Some good citizen-by-investment options
Although technically (and most definitely to the immigration official at the airport) classified as a holiday, LSD trips require more than working on your tan, sipping cocktails, and hitting the hotspots. The rose-tinted specs should not be packed, as this trip is about ignoring the rainbow kittens and dancing unicorns, and taking a good hard look at the practicalities and mundane details of day-to-day life.
Mauritius – Establishing a business in Mauritius is an efficient and streamlined process and no local partnership is required. Taxes are simple and attractive for both corporates and personal, capped at 15% and there is no capital gains tax, property tax or inheritance tax.
Lisbon – Portugal’s Golden Visa entails investing 500,000 euros in property, or a million euros in a business that creates 10 jobs in Portugal. A Golden Visa gives you the right to live in Portugal, and to apply for citizenship after six years. Lisbon is popular due to the ease of travel in the Schengen area, and easy access to Europe.
Malta – The Malta Individual Investor Programme, which offers full citizenship that can be passed on to future generations by descent, requires a significant contribution to the government-established National Development and Social Fund.
Cyprus – Cyprus offers exemptions from tax on dividends and interest income received worldwide over a period of 17 years for ‘non-domiciled’ tax residents. Cyprus also has zero inheritance or immovable property tax, and has the lowest income tax rate in the EU.
Ditch the hotel
Do some research on the various areas that appeal to you, and the lifestyle you envisage, then opt for Airbnb, or self-catering accommodation as this will give you a feel for everyday living rather than a tourist experience.
Google Maps is your new friend. Hire a car and explore. Navigate following signs in a foreign language, get to know the high traffic spots, parking nightmare areas and (in Portugal) get used to driving on the wrong side of the road. Put your South African public transport ideas aside, and experience the buses, trains and taxis, as these options can often be quicker than driving your own car.
Read up on the culture
By understanding a little of the history, customs, festivals, food, and religions, you can easily ascertain if this country intrigues and appeals to you, or seems like an alien planet far removed from your idea of normal.
Engage with the locals
Be friendly and ask questions. Word-of-mouth recommendations are the best way to find your new preferred doctor, dentist, electrician and plumber, and who better than the residents to give you the insider tips regarding restaurants, coffee shops, hair stylists and sports clubs?
While you can probably get by with basic English and expansive gestures, you’ll find this a lot easier if you have a few basic phrases mastered. Download a language app like Duolingo a few weeks before your LSD trip, and practise every day. And be realistic about whether you believe you will ever be able to communicate in the language of your adopted country, or if the language is going to be an endless source of frustration in your day-to-day life.
Pop in to the bank to see what the queues are like – and count the ATMs on street corners.
Go back to school
We all want the best for our kids, and most of their time is spent at school, so we need to find the best one for them. Visit international, public and private schools, and get the prospectuses to compare the curriculums, sports and societies, ethos and accessibility for each one.
Hopefully you will not have an emergency, but it is best to be prepared, so wander into the local hospital to get a feel for it, and investigate the various medical care schemes – especially if you will not be able to ‘export’ your existing one.
Shop like a local
Forget the curio shops and high-street stores selling designer labels, and head to the supermarkets, bakeries and delis for your groceries, toiletries and cleaning materials. This will give you a good indication of the cost of living, and also offer an opportunity to practise your language skills.
And take time out
Once you have completed all the hard LSDing, take time out to have some fun. Check out the beaches, bars, nature spots, MTB trails, dog-walking hotspots, dive sites, museums and entertainment areas, because you’re thinking of emigrating to have a better life. And that means a life that is more enjoyable.