Ireland’s immigrant investor programme draws in wealthy Chinese

George was all smiles as he sipped a pint of Guinness in a cozy pub in Dublin, basking in the world’s famous warmth. céad míle fáilte (100,000 welcome). As one of Ireland’s fastest growing Chinese citizens in exchange for residency, he has every reason to feel at home.

George, who asked not to give his real name, has invested €1m in Ireland and says China’s uncertain economic outlook has prompted wealthy people like him to look for extra living options abroad. “I worry about the future in China,” he said.

Ireland’s ten-year immigrant investor program (IIP) has grown in popularity in 2022, with the number of Chinese investors tripling to 785 in nine months until September, from 243 in the year 2021. Applications from all countries. It reached 812, almost double the annual record of 2019.

Since the launch of the scheme in 2012, Chinese investors, including those from Hong Kong, have accounted for 90 percent of successful applicants and a total of 1.18 billion euros have been invested. .

In the past National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, “the key word was ‘economic growth’. But the motto of the 20th Congress [in October] is “struggle”. said the head of the Irish fund, focusing on the hospitality sector, where George invested 1 million euros. The fund’s chief asked not to be identified.

“The middle and upper classes are worried about what this means for them, for their wealth, their jobs and their families,” he added.

Column chart showing demand for Chinese investors in Ireland

Ireland has become a more attractive option due to similar scheme problems elsewhere. Brexit has made the UK a less attractive option even before London in February suspended its special migrant investor program over security concerns, and the US scheme has been stalled for several months.

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“We saw a big jump [in IIP investments in Ireland] since 2017,” said Niamh Walsh, who runs TDL Horizons, which focuses on the sale of hotels and tourism, in County Donegal, and has worked with clients IIP . “My gut is for Brexit.”

Other factors such as education and the country’s reputation have made English-speaking EU member states a preferred choice for investors like George.

The nearly three-year-old coronavirus lockdown – only relaxing in December – is another reason for wealthy Chinese to seek residence overseas. “You can definitely make a bond there,” said James Hartshorn, chief executive and co-founder of Bartra Wealth Advisors, an IIP fund, which includes social housing and nursing homes.

Many countries have schemes that offer residency or even passports in exchange for investment, but Ireland’s success has been in making the IIP investment “a vehicle for channeling investment into an economic sector that is truly need it,” said Hartshorn.

“Because of the cost of capital, interest rates go up and commodity prices go up[which could slow investment in those sectors]. . . the program is now more important than ever,” he said.

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Applicants have four options: they can invest €1 million in an Irish company, invest €1 million in an approved investment fund or invest €2 million in an investment trust listed on the stock exchange — for at least three years. Or they can give €500,000 — or €400,000 if five people apply — for arts, sports, culture or education projects.

Peter Fitzpatrick, a member of the Irish Dáil parliament from County Louth and a former Gaelic football player, has raised almost €15 million from Chinese investors IIP to build the first Gaelic stadium in his territory in 60 years.

“We got an agency with connections in Asia and got 37 applicants willing to invest €400,000,” he said. “We could have raised the money [without IIP] but not fast. It was a dream come true.

A view of county Donegal in Ireland
Ireland is becoming a more attractive option for investors in part due to similar scheme issues elsewhere © Gareth McCormack/Alamy

Both George, who ran an environmental audit in remote China, and Helen, a lawyer who asked not to use her real name and invested €500,000 in the same fund, said but education is a great motivation. George has a son in high school and Helen has one in college in Ireland.

Walsh said it was a “huge advantage” that investors only had to spend one day a year in Ireland. They do not lose their homes in their homelands. However, the IIP program does not give investors the right to a passport.

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Investors need to hold the investment for at least three years. After that, they can sell their investments and keep their residency status, but no longer have any investment obligations, said the head of the hospitality-focused fund.

While Chinese demand is driving the IIP, demand from the US has also increased. “It took everyone by surprise,” Hartshorn said. “The main reason I hear is about the political situation in the United States. [Former president Donald] Trump has worried many people, there is polarization and concern about the process. There is a great historical connection between Ireland and the United States that allows Americans to go back to their roots,” he said.

The number of American applicants, usually around five or less since the IIP was established, has doubled from 11 last year. The program has seen 31 successful US applicants since 2012 and 1,511 from China, with significant investors from Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Chinese investors, from countries without Google, without Facebook and according to official sources, “really appreciate the freedom” offered by Ireland, the head of a focused fund says in hospitality. But whether it can continue to attract the same wealthy applicants depends on “where China goes from here” economically and politically.

He also said: “Ireland used to be “the hidden secret of Europe . . . it has now been seen.


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