Wealthy foreigners can't 'buy' PR status anymore

SINGAPORE - The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will roll up and put away one red carpet for rich foreigners aiming for permanent residence (PR) here, amid criticism of the influx of immigrants and its impact on asset prices, sources have told BT.

Wealthy foreigners who want their PR application expedited will now have to apply under a different scheme for well-heeled entrepreneurs from abroad who invest in businesses here.

The first programme, known as the Financial Investor Scheme (FIS), will be scrapped by the end of this month, sources told BT on Monday. MAS later confirmed that it is putting an end to the scheme.

Since 2004, FIS has allowed high net worth individuals from overseas with net personal assets of $20 million – and at least $10 million of assets held in Singapore for five years – to get onto a fast track and apply for PR status through private banks or other financial institutions via MAS.

The minimum sum of $10 million was already doubled in 2010 from $5 million, as part of the government’s move to curb the flow of immigrants.

Up to $2 million of the $10 million that these wealthy foreigners park here can be used to buy private residential property.

Now that this scheme is being axed, wealthy foreigners can still apply for PR status under the Global Investor Programme (GIP) – a scheme that allows entrepreneurs from abroad to obtain PR.

Unlike FIS, where assets held in Singapore are the main criterion, GIP is aimed at entrepreneurs who have a track record in corporate circles, and is a scheme that can boost employment locally.

Banks are understood to have received notices from the central bank last Friday. No public announcement was made by MAS – which puts banks in a slight fix as clients have to be properly informed, especially if they want their PR applications processed.

Sources told BT that banks have until April 15 to submit the names of prospective applicants, and until the end of this month to provide full details to MAS.

“My speculation is that this has to do with the issues surrounding immigration and property prices,” said one market watcher in the banking industry.

A small knock-on effect may be felt by the private banking and wealth management sectors, with DBS Treasures still advertising its services to help with PR applications under FIS.

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