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09 December 2023

Immigration Alert: Which are the best passports of Asia

By Majorie van Leijen

The west is considered to be the ideal immigration destination for many migrants living in the Asian continent. It naturally follows that Asian countries top the lists of source countries of immigration.

However, there are some interesting options within Asia as well, and it is not only the warm climate that attracts the global resident to this part of the world.

For investors specifically, Singapore and Malaysia offer opportunities of an alternative residency that is worth looking into.


Singapore is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and often voted as one of the world’s best places to live in.

Having a Singaporean passport offers visa-free travel to 169 countries in the world, ranking it the 5th best passport in terms of travel freedom.

Although residency in this country offers many benefits, it does not come cheap. For investors and entrepreneurs it offers the Global Investor Program (GIP).

The GIP is catered towards wealthy investors with proven business experience and partnership in a company.

There are two investment options; a minimum investment of SGD2,5 million (Dh6,6 million) in a new business entity or expansion of an existing business operation, or a same amount of investment in an approved venture capital natured fund.

The advantage is that the applicant can get a residency permit before arriving in Singapore, provided they satisfy all the criteria of the programme. This allows the applicant to live and work in the country for one year.

Once the application has been approved, a Re-Entry Permit (REP) will be issued, which is valid for 5 years. This residency permit can be renewed if the applicant has satisfied certain criteria, such as creating jobs for 5 or more Singaporean employees, business spending of SGD1 million and residence in the country for a number of years.

On the downside, obtaining a Singaporean passport is only an option if the applicant is willing to give up the original passport, as Singapore does not permit dual citizenship.


Malaysia has gained the interest of global investors since the inception of the Malaysia’s My Second Home (MM2H) programme.

Its passport is very attractive, as it allows visa-free travel to 163 countries, ranking it the 7th best passport in terms of travel freedom.

However, permanent residency cannot be obtained through investment. Instead, a long-term residence permit is given to wealthy immigrants.

The investment that is required for this immigration stream is in the form of a bank deposit. Applicants below the age of 50 should deposit an amount of MYR300,000 (Dh267,000) in a local bank account. After one year, half of this amount may be withdrawn.

Applicants aged older than 50 must deposit an amount of MYR150,000 (Dh134,000), of which MYR50,000 may be withdrawn after a year.

In return for this passive investment, the applicant receives a residence permit valid for 10 years. This does not allow the investor to work in the country.