Most methods of getting a residence visa are forever outside your control. We can’t change factors like our country of birth and who our parents are.
Property investment visas are unique in that anyone with enough spare cash can buy their way into a country.
Some real estate investor visas are more expensive than others. Furthermore, buying residence isn’t possible for everyone.
Residence by investment programs are still very welcome though. You wouldn’t have many fast and easy methods to permanently live abroad without these types of visas.
Central Bangkok condos doubled in value lately. If you bought property worth over $350,000 back in 2012, you would have Thai residency and a great investment.
You can even make money off real estate investment visas. Selling your property after it appreciates in value, or simply renting it out after buying it, can give you foreign residence plus returns.
Home prices rising over time is certainly never guaranteed. Yet a few countries don’t place any rules on selling your property after obtaining permanent residency – and still keeping the latter afterwards.
In no specific order, Asia’s top five property investment visas are listed below. Your own needs might vary and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
1. Malaysia: My Second Home (MM2H) Program
The Malaysia My Second Home visa program is perhaps Asia’s most comprehensive. With a history spanning decades, it’s not just a long-term residency but a complete package too.
MM2H gives you a 10-year residence permit that’s renewable indefinitely. However, the truly unique part of this investment program are the perks it includes.
Benefits of MM2H include free medical insurance, work permits for investors aged 50 or above, and being able to import personal items tax free.
A spouse, children, and even a live-in-maid can be brought into Malaysia as your dependents under the MM2H visa program. You can surely imagine how all these things can all make a new expat’s life in Malaysia much easier.
MM2H requirements vary based on your age. For example, investors under 50 years old must show proof of liquid assets worth at least RM500,000 (about US$125,000).
They must put RM300,000 in a term deposit at a bank to obtain and keep Malaysia permanent residence. You can withdraw RM150,000 of that amount to buy property in Malaysia after holding it for one year.
Likewise, anyone aged 50 years or above must show RM300,000 (around US$75,000) worth of liquid assets and keep RM150,000 in a Malaysian bank. They can withdraw RM100,000 for property after a year.
One more requirement is that applicants of any age must show at least RM10,000 worth of monthly recurring income from abroad.
2. South Korea: D-8 Investor & Jeju Island Visas
South Korea’s investment residency is one of Asia’s few that can eventually lead to citizenship instead of remaining a long-term stay permit.
Unfortunately, you can’t get residence in Korea through buying property – at least not outside of Jeju Island which has different rules.
The mainland’s residence program is effectively an entrepreneur visa that requires you invest in a local business.
Korea’s foreign investor program is called a D-8 Visa. The minimum requirement is KRW300,000,000 (about US$272,000) and you must show company balances among other documents to prove your company is feasible.
You can even nationalize and become a South Korean citizen after living in Korea for five years and learning the language. That length of time is shortened to two years if you’re married to a Korean citizen.
On the other hand, Jeju Island also boasts a real estate investment residence entirely unique to the province. You must buy property on Jeju worth KRW500,000,000 (around US$450,000) or more in order to qualify.
Foreign real estate investors on Jeju, along with their spouse and any minor children, are granted residency for three years. The visa can be renewed indefinitely if you continue holding the asset.
3. Turkey: Investor Residence Permit & Citizenship
Our second residence program which can grant you citizenship, Turkey recently made some positive changes to its requirements.
Turkish citizenship by investment was among the region’s worst before. It had barely a few hundred applicants since its introduction because the program was far too expensive.
A minimum real estate purchase requirement of US$1,000,000 made very little sense compared to the countless cheaper and better citizenship options across the world.
Yet a falling Turkish lira along with bad economic conditions forced Turkey to change its mind. Under the new rules, you must buy just worth of U$250,000 worth of property – a reduction of 75% off the original price.
Granted, property values in Turkey don’t have as much appreciation potential as other countries on our list. That’s part of why they’re offering citizenship for $250,000 in the first place.
Istanbul’s luxury housing market is getting a much-needed boost because of citizenship promises and a battered lira.
But quick citizenship in a regional hub like Turkey is difficult to pass up for US$250,000. Not many “real” countries (i.e., reasonably developed and not just an island) will let you naturalize for that price.
As for the Turkish economy itself? There are lots of reasons why I’m not anyone near as optimistic. Look elsewhere if your priorities are investment first and residence / citizenship second.
4. United Arab Emirates: Dubai Property Investor Visa
The Emirate of Dubai has a residence program unique to it. Like Turkey, Dubai’s long-term investor visa also went through positive changes lately.
Before new rules were implemented, applicants had to buy a freehold property in Dubai for at least DH1 million (approximately $US270,000). You receive a two-year renewable property investor visa in return.
Dubai raised the amount of time granted under their residency visa program to ten years as of 2018 though.
Changing from a two-year renewable visa to a ten-year stamp might not seem important at a quick glance. Yet submitting police checks, medical reports, and waiting around for immigration every 24 months can be a huge pain.
That’s especially true if you aren’t living in Dubai full-time and are just buying an asset in exchange for residence. You’re probably way too busy outside the country.
One major reason for new visa rules is because of heavy oversupply in the real estate market. I can’t suggest buying property in Dubai if your priority is making money.
Regardless, you can now get investor residence in Dubai without dealing with local bureaucracy once every year or so. I wish that were the case with our last entry.
5. Thailand: 10 Million Baht Investor Visa
Quite frankly, Thailand’s investor residence program isn’t a very good value compared to the other options on this list.
You can even buy citizenship in Portugal for approximately the same cost as this long-term Thai visa. Regardless, Thailand tops off our list of property investment residencies in Asia.
It’s certainly not cheap, nor will you ever get Thai citizenship from it. The program still beats out its regional competitors that didn’t make the top five though.
You must invest at least ten million baht (about US$320,000) in Thailand to qualify. The investment can be made in property, bonds, fixed-deposits, or any combination of those.
Buying multiple properties also works. For example, you can own five Thai condos worth two million baht each and rent them out.
I’ve actually gone through Thailand’s residence through investment program myself. While I cannot speak for Thailand’s future, I’ve done rather well since investing here almost a decade ago and found the program reasonably straightforward.
Thai residence through investment won’t allow you to work – I make sure to relax in Thailand and do my job elsewhere. But it’s an annual visa you can extend every year if you maintain the investment.
Nowadays, I’m uncertain whether buying property in Thailand is a good investment.
But I nonetheless enjoy the country and it serves as a convenient base to access high-growth frontier markets like Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos considering what my job is.
Why Are These Asia’s Best Property Investment Visas?
I considered several criteria when judging these investment residence programs. Some are simply a matter of fact while others are more subjective.
First off, all the above programs are fully recognized and supported by their respective governments. They aren’t back-room deals pitched by “someone who knows a guy”.
You may be surprised by the sheer number of scam visas sold on the internet. Investment programs you may read about online might not truly and lawfully exist in practice.
Paying off government employees can get you a card or even a passport in several places. Of course, it’s obviously illegal and a great way to get your residence revoked.
Second, I looked at the level of bureaucracy involved – or rather any lack thereof.
The five residence visas mentioned in this article are straightforward with a crystal clear list of requirements. Waiting times usually range from a few days to one month.
Finally, I kept value for money in mind. Getting a long-term visa in a developed nation like the UAE or South Korea is generally more valuable than one in an emerging market.
A residency that will eventually grant you citizenship is also inherently better if all other factors are equal.
Hopefully you understand how to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by not only investing in Asia but getting residence here too.
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