The gradual easing of capital controls and immigration red tape over the past two decades in Asia has opened up a whole new market for a type of investor who has cash to spend and the time to spend it - the retiree. Governments in this part of the world have woken up to the fact that after spending years of their working life in Asia, many expatriates are unwilling to immediately return to their roots. Improvements in infrastructure, the low cost of living and the temperate climate has made Asia the retirement venue of choice for many. Governments around the region have introduced a host of immigration programmes from investment to retirement visas in order to accommodate the cash-rich expatriate investor looking for a place to retire and spend. 'Government agencies have recognised that individuals who have got money and want to spend the rest of their lives in reasonable comfort in a secure political environment, should be welcomed because they are going to spend their money in that economy and they are not going to become a drain [on resources],' says Stephen Barnes, director of emigration consultant Emigra Asia Limited. 'One of the keys to immigration strategy is to recognise that each country has a myriad of programmes and you just have to dovetail into the programme that is more suitable for you in your circumstances at that stage in your life.' Many countries in Asia now offer visas that cater for those looking to retire in a region where quality of life and cost of living is far better than in many other places around the world. Australia, for example, offers a four-year temporary retirement visa for the over 55s with no dependents providing you have A$650,000 (HK$3.3 million) in capital. In Hong Kong, security officials are taking applications for permanent residency after seven years to foreigners who invest at least $6.5 million in areas such as property, investment funds or stocks. However, you don't need vast amounts of capital to retire to some favourite Asian destinations. Under the Malaysian government's Second Home programme, couples aged over 50 must deposit M$150,000 (HK$308,000) in a savings account, which must not be withdrawn whilst on the programme. The issued visa will allow residency in Malaysia for up to five years. The Philippines will issue a Special Residents Retiree's Visa for US$50,000 deposited in a government-approved bank for six months, while those aged between 35-49 will need to find US$75,000. After six months this time deposit must be converted to active investments such as local scrip, long-term lease on real estate, construction of residential property or the purchase of a flat. For Indonesia, as long as the over 55s can prove they have living expenses of US$18,000 a year, are renting for US$500 a month or have bought property for a minimum US$35,000, and are employing an Indonesian domestic helper, they can obtain a retirement visa extendable for up to five years. But there is more to formulating a retirement strategy than choosing a secluded palm-fringed beach. As a general rule of thumb, the more investment capital required and the stricter the immigration control, the better the medical, social and infrastructure services provided by that country. The common theme running through the visa requirements of all countries regardless of economic status is 'thou shalt not be a burden on the nation'. Foreigners must prove they have enough assets to keep them afloat, they must have adequate health and accident insurance, and that they will not undertake any form of employment. Debbie Annells, director of Structuring, Trust & Fiduciary at asset management firm Insinger de Beaufort, believes it is possible to retire reasonably comfortably on US$500,000. According to Ms Annells, provided you have shopped around for the best interest rates and have your money deposited in a tax-efficient jurisdiction such as Singapore or Jersey, modest savings can go far, particularly in countries such as Thailand. 'As long as you don't have a Thai-sourced income [and] you are just remitting in capital from overseas [and you have] money on deposit in Singapore or Hong Kong, you really don't have any tax bill in Thailand,' she said. 'It's really a very nice number.' Philippa Huckle of independent financial adviser The Philippa Huckle Group, believes the major key of a retirement strategy missed by many investors is to create what she calls a cash-flow buffer. This is two to three years of living expenses which you sacrifice a return on but is used to guard against a market downturn. 'The rest of your portfolio would be globally diversified - and you'd be living off your buffer and the returns from your portfolio,' she said. 'The retiree would spend down from that buffer which is continually being replenished by your diversified portfolio. It really does work.' For the buffer, Ms Huckle suggests anything that will not decrease substantially in value such as money market funds, short-term bonds and cash. The portfolio would be 50 per cent equities spread geographically and by market cap, and the rest in a variety of hedge funds and bonds. Another decision facing investors looking to retire is whether or not to buy property. There is no doubt that for the money you spend on an 800 sq foot flat in Hong Kong, you could have a 2000 sq ft pied a terre in Bali. However, despite vast improvements in the legal system and changes in legislation, non-nationals are still extremely wary about buying property in unknown jurisdictions. And with property prices and rent so low in many parts of Asia, there may be few compelling reason to buy. Not so, says Philip James, chief executive of mortgage adviser Lighthouse International. According to Mr James, property prices might still be relatively low now, but when markets start to improve as expected, the return on any capital investment would also increase. And rents would keep place with that. 'If you are going to be spending time there, why line someone else's pocket?' he said. An undeniable fact of getting older is the increase in susceptibility to health problems, and health-care costs should be factored into any retirement plan. All countries require foreigners to have adequate health insurance before they will issue a visa, and the premiums for a policy that covers all eventualities for someone living in a developing country are likely to be very high. Despite the attraction of many developing jurisdictions in the Asia-Pacific region, Emigra's Mr Barnes believes that any offshore retirement strategy is really just an interim arrangement until other factors, such as infirmity or family considerations, take precedence. 'It's where you go to smell the roses before you long for the comfort of your family, you fall ill, or you no longer have the tolerance for the place because you're getting old and cantankerous,' he said.