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Poll: Rich Chinese want to emigrate

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A poll of Chinese millionaires reveals that 65% of them want to gain permanent residence in overseas Countries. They give various reasons for wishing to do so such as a desire to access better education for their children, a desire to escape the extreme pollution found in much of China and legal uncertainty about the status of their wealth in China.

After twenty years of rapid economic growth, It is estimated that there are some one million US dollar millionaires in China. Hurun, a Chinese company based in Shanghai interviewed 400 such millionaires about their attitudes to emigration.

The poll found that 65% of those interviewed wanted to leave the country or, at least, to obtain a permanent residence visa which would enable them to live elsewhere if they wished to. 30% of those interviewed had already acquired foreign permanent residence visas.

10% growth per annum since 1980

The Chinese economic miracle began in the late 1970s when the government began to encourage economic growth. The economy has grown by about 10% per annum since then. China has been transformed and many have become rich but this has not been without cost.

The environment in the coastal region, where much of the industrialisation has taken place, has become polluted. Air pollution in China, particularly in the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, is so bad that millions of people die annually because of it. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that around 2,400,000 Chinese people died from its effects in 2012 alone.

There has also been a massive increase in extreme weather too according to the WHO. This has had a particularly bad effect in China because of rapid urbanisation. Many new cities are regularly flooded. The number of people suffering from malaria, schistosomiasis (a disease spread by snails) and dengue fever have increased rapidly.

Wealthy Chinese seeking better life elsewhere

It is perhaps not surprising therefore, if wealthy Chinese nationals seek a better life for themselves and their families abroad. There are other reasons to seek a foreign haven as well.

Many wealthy Chinese fear that they might lose their wealth if they keep it in China. Some may fear that corrupt officials may attempt to steal their wealth. Others may, instead, fear that their own corruption may be uncovered.

According to Professor Zhou Xiaozheng of The People's University of China in Beijing, 'many of the mega-rich only achieved their wealth through nepotism, embezzlement of government money, and speculation. Now they want to move their money abroad, where it will be safe'.


Until recently, the most popular immigration destination was Canada. Nearly 20% of the population of the western city of Vancouver come from China.

Many wealthy Chinese citizens applied for permanent residence under the Immigrant Investor Program. This visa allowed wealthy foreign citizens to receive permanent residence visas for their spouses and dependent children providing they

  • could prove that they had wealth of at least CAN$1.6m
  • lend $800,000 to the Canadian government for five years
  • Undertook to live in Canada after receiving their visas

Immigrant Investor Program closed

In February this year, the Canadian government closed down the IIP because many Chinese recipients of IIP visas did not relocate to Canada having received their visas, as they had promised to do. Instead, they continued to live in China but sent their families to live in Canada.

Canadian immigration therefore believed that the IIP was therefore not having the desired effect of encouraging foreign investors and entrepreneurs to move to Canada.

But, fortunately for Chinese millionaires, there are plenty of alternatives around the world. There are a number of foreign countries that have opened visa streams which allow foreign nationals with disposable income to apply for residence.

Property purchase visas

In some countries, such as Spain, Portugal and Greece, the main requirement is for the applicant to purchase property or a business worth more than a certain amount. You will usually also have to pass background checks and may in some cases have to reside in your choice of Country for a certain number of days per year.

Chinese applicants are applying for visas around the world. In Portugal, 90% of applicants for 'golden visas' in 2013 were Chinese. In Australia, 90% of applicants for visas under the Significant Investor Programme were Chinese.

There are various options for wealthy citizens worldwide. They generally fall into two categories;

  • Entrepreneur visas: these visas are for businessmen who want to set up a business or invest in an existing business in a new country. These visas will usually require a lower investment, and sometimes no investment at all, but will require the applicant to take a hands-on role in the running of the business concerned and
  • Investor visas. These visas usually require a significant investment but do not require the investor to take an active role overseeing his/her investment.

Some countries with entrepreneur and/or investor visas

Country Minimum investment
UK The UK offers the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa and the Tier 1 (Investor) visa. Entrepreneur visas can be obtained after an investment of as little as £50,000 up to £200,000. Applicants need to submit a business plan. Investor visas require an investment of at least £1m (faster pathway to permanent residence with investments of £5m and £10m)
US There are 10,000 EB-5 investor visas available each year. Minimum investment is $500,000. Depending on nationality you may also be able to come under the E-1 Treaty Trader or E-2 Treaty Investor visa for a relatively small investment
Australia The Significant investor visa requires a minimum investment of $5m
New Zealand New Zealand has both investor and entrepreneur visas. The minimum investments are NZ$100,000 for entrepreneur visas and $1.5m for investor visasSpain Investment can be in business or in property. Minimum investment of €500,000
PortugalInvestment can be in business or in property. Minimum investment of €500,000
GreeceInvestment can be in business or in property. Minimum investment of €250,000
Cyprus Investment can be in business or in property. Minimum investment of €300,000
Latvia Investment can be in business or in property. Minimum investment of €150,000Germany An entrepreneur must present a business plan which will be assessed by the government
MaltaInvestment can be in business or in property. Minimum investment of €350,000 in property though rental is also an option
Canada Canada is about to open a new investor visa stream with a minimum investment of at least CAN$1.6m. It already has the start up visa which requires no investment but requires applicants to obtain venture capital backing from Canadian venture capitalists of at least CAN$75,000.

There are, of course, other requirements of these visa schemes in all these countries.

Sanwar Ali of said 'if you would like more information about any of these investor visa schemes please do not hesitate to give us a call. We can help you with a wide range of different types of visa application for a number of different Countries'.

If you would like to apply for a visa can help. is a specialist visa consultancy with 25 years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.