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The super-rich are BUYING 'golden visas' in other countries, UK citizenship for $2.6M, $100k for St Lucia and $2.5M for Cyprus

For most people, the coronavirus pandemic has meant fewer travel options. Not so for super-rich families who are increasingly using their money to cross borders that would otherwise be closed to them.

This is the elite world of investment migration, where passport applications are based not on nationality or citizenship, but on wealth and the willingness to move it around the planet.

Americans may have been forced to abandon all international travel plans thanks to strict border restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic - but there is a way around the ban that will cost a pretty penny.

A new report has revealed the wealthy are buying their way out of the COVID-19 lockdown through expensive investment migration programs that will allow them to travel more easily to other parts of the world at a time when the U.S. passport has become virtually worthless.

The scheme offers foreigners permanent residency or citizenship - also known as 'golden visas' - if they are willing to invest substantially in the country's economy.

From the last quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020, the number of prospects who filed an application for citizenship programs after receiving a consultation also increased by 42 per cent, the company said.

American applications have especially skyrocketed, soaring 700 per cent from the last quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020.

'People really want the insurance policy of an alternative citizenship, which gives them a Plan B,' Dominic Volek, the company's head of Asia, told the outlet.

'They are also concerned about healthcare and pandemic preparedness because, of course, this may not be the only pandemic in our lifetime.'

Depending on the country and program, foreigners are granted permanent residency or citizenship in exchange for pumping money into the host country's economy through real estate, infrastructure or government bonds.

Some countries could also require prospects to establish nonprofit organizations or projects that lead to job creation.

Starting prices for these programs can range anywhere between $100,000 to $2.6million, and most applicants tend to have a net worth between $2million and $50million, according to the report.

Golden visas are offered in countries across the Caribbean and Europe, with the some of the most popular - and expensive - choices being Cyprus, Montenegro, and Malta, given that they allow applicants freedom to settle anywhere in the EU.

The United Kingdom tops the list for the highest price for citizenship-by-investment, starting at $2.6million, followed by Cyprus, where prices start at $2.5million.

The USA and Canada are also among the most costly, starting at $900,00 and $894,000, respectively.

Cyprus, albeit one of the most expensive, was one of the most popular destinations during the first quarter of 2020, with new applications increasing by 75 per cent, according the report.

Montenegro, where a golden visa can cost you upwards of $294,000, also saw a 142 per cent increase in new applicants.

For those with a net worth between $1 to 10million, Caribbean islands are the ideal choice as they are relatively cheap and provide more incentives, Volek said.

'For example, a wealthy Bangladeshi holds one of the worst passports in the world in terms of travel freedom - you need a visa to go anywhere.

'If you donate $100,000 to the government of Antigua and Barbuda, plus fees, your family of four can get a second passport in about four to six months,' he said.

In Australia and New Zealand, the government offers permanent residency-by- investment programs, which are some of the most expensive in the world.

A golden visa in Australia can cost somewhere between $1 and $3.5million and $1.9 and $6.5million in New Zealand, according to CNN.

Although the track to citizenship or residency is expedited under these programs, the process can still take several months to several years to complete, and some countries can be more selective than others.

Malta, for example, which is among the most popular destinations, has a rejection rate between 20 to 25 per cent, according to Henley & Partners.

Applicants are required to disclose their net worth and sources of income - all of which must be legal - and pass a background check.

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