Rise in migrant scheme investors reflects 'optimism in city'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 July, 2009, 12:00am

An increase in the number of people who plan to move to Hong Kong under a migrant investment scheme reflects investor optimism in the city's economic recovery, experts say.

Immigration Department figures showed that 793 investors had applied for its capital investment entrant scheme from April to last month, a 46 per cent jump compared with the 542 applicants in the January-to-March quarter.

Figures from the January to March quarter shows a 25 per cent drop in applications compared with the same period last year.

Eddie Kwan King-hung, managing director of Eddie Kwan Immigration Consulting Services, also said many of the applicants had flocked to the market since October last year, buying assets so they could meet the qualification criteria.

He said his business had surged 30 per cent in the six months between October and March, which showed many investors had seen the opportunities of the economic downturn.

'Many of them make plans [such as buying assets] to join the scheme a few months before they actually file their applications,' he said, adding that it had shown investors were optimistic about economic recovery.

To qualify under the scheme, an applicant must invest at least HK$6.5 million in real estate, equities or other financial assets such as debt securities, or bonds. Mainlanders can only enrol in the scheme if they hold a foreign passport.

Since the scheme's launch in October 2003, the department has received 7,838 applications, of which 4,350 investors have been granted residency. A total of HK$30.78 billion has been brought into the city, of which 45 per cent was invested in stocks, 28 per cent in property and 27 per cent in other investments. The average amount of investments for each applicant was HK$7.08 million.

Wong Yin-sang, principal immigration officer for visa controls, said the number of applications had been affected by last year's economic downturn - during which four successful applicants had withdrawn from the scheme.

The four investors, who were a Filipino, a Japanese, an Indian and a mainlander, had cited 'economic reasons' for quitting the scheme they had applied for in 2006 and 2007.

'The financial crisis had an impact on the scheme at the beginning but it was followed by a quick rebound,' he said. Mr Wong said one applicant had bought a house worth HK$30 million, and successful applicants' ages ranged from 19 to 83.

Initiatives had been rolled out since March to speed up the processing of applications, he said.

Investors can now hire a certified accountant to handle their applications, through whom the exchange of documents could be done more efficiently - particularly when applicants are not based in Hong Kong. Approval times are down from five or six months to about eight weeks.

The number of applications was expected to rise 10 per cent this year to more than 3,000, Mr Kwan said.