Hongkongers can get Turkish citizenship by buying property worth US$250,000, which in turn allows them to set up a business in the UK and get permanent residency.
Migrating to the UK via the investment immigration route will cost an individual at least US$2.6 million.
After months of social upheaval and the ongoing coronavirus outbreak testing the patience of Hongkongers, a growing number of residents are thinking about leaving the city, or already planning a move to start a new life overseas.
The United Kingdom is one of the top destinations because of its political and economic stability. However, migrating to the UK normally requires at least HK$20 million (US$2.6 million) if one goes for the investment immigration route. Alternatively, one can go for the innovator or overseas business (sole representative) route, but one has to have very specific talent or skills or be able to run a highly profitable business that creates local jobs.
However, these methods are unrealistic for most people longing for a residency in the UK.
There is a short-cut though, which allows an individual to migrate to the UK without spending a fortune or waiting too long – use Turkey as a springboard.
In September 2018, Ankara amended its immigration law to allow families to apply for Turkish passports by buying property valued at US$250,000 only (down from US$1 million), about 10 per cent of the cost of a UK residency. The rule also does away with the need to live in the country or so-called “residency requirement”.
After becoming a Turkish citizen, according to the Ankara Agreement, Hongkongers can set up a business in the UK to obtain a permanent residence. There is no restriction on the nature of business, profitability or the need to create jobs. It goes without saying that the immigration department would be happy to see the business being at least profitable after five years and the applicant can make a basic living out of it. After operating such a business for five years, an individual can apply and get permanent residence in the UK.
The beauty of such a strategy does not stop here. Once the applicant successfully sets up a business like selling books online, the spouse can also live in the UK and find a job without a work visa or employer’s guarantee.
This brings the spouse to the same level-playing field as ordinary UK citizens in terms of seeking jobs. Let’s say the spouse is an engineer in Hong Kong, he or she can seek a comparable job in the UK without much difficulties or legal issues. Furthermore, the children of the applicant can also study in a public school (up to the age of 16) which is much cheaper than private and international schools.
Hence, the cost to obtain an UK residence for the whole family is simply spending US$250,000 to buy a property in Turkey. If the applicant has a flat in Hong Kong which has appreciated greatly during the past few years, the individual can refinance the mortgage for the required amount to make the purchase in Turkey.
A house in Turkey typically offers more than 6 per cent rental yield. And if one decides to refurnish the property and run a bread and breakfast business, the yield is even higher. By refinancing the flat in Hong Kong at 2.5 per cent mortgage rate and receiving 6 per cent yield on rent in Turkey, there is positive carry and one can enjoy a positive cash flow while obtaining a Turkish citizenship at the same time, which will eventually offer you an opportunity to migrate to the UK.
Besides, Turkish real estate is a bull market right now. During the past five years, prices have risen at a higher rate than Hong Kong in local currency. One can sell the house in Turkey three years after getting the citizenship. Despite the risk of the Turkish lira depreciating, the property is likely to bring revenue when you sell.
As a result of this new immigration policy, house-buying in Turkey has become a craze among foreigners. In the first four months of 2019, foreigners bought 134,000 residential units, an increase of 82 per cent year on year.
Are there any successful cases regarding this immigration strategy? Well, in 2018, more than 400 UK visas were issued under this route with a high success rate.
With the difficulty of migrating to the UK increasing continuously, a Turkish passport can pave the way for a Hongkonger’s immigration dream.
There are risks though. Immigration laws often change for various political reasons. For example, a possible risk could be that after the purchase of the property in Turkey, the Ankara Agreement is suddenly abolished and a Turkish passport is no longer eligible to apply for an UK residence using the business route mentioned above. The time to act is now as an increasing number of foreigners are exploiting this route.
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