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MAURITIUS: RESIDENCY OPTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS

Mauritius is a popular residence destination for foreigners due to its tropical sceneries, pleasant climate, well-established property rights, availability of household helpers, competitive currency and low cost of living. Furthermore, non-citizens have the possibility of acquiring freehold property, with no restriction on the rental of the property and no foreign exchange control. Apart from citizens of Mauritius and ‘exempted non-citizens’, individuals holding the status of ‘resident’ or ‘permanent resident’ are allowed to remain in Mauritius so long as they hold the status of ‘resident’ or ‘permanent resident’ of Mauritius. In order to encourage non-citizens to achieve resident status and buy real estate in Mauritius, various programmes have been developed over the years.

EXEMPTED NON-CITIZENS

Exempted non-citizens include individuals coming to Mauritius for temporary purposes such as for tourism, for business or social visits, as crew members, as diplomatic or consular officers, as army officers in connection with the defence of Mauritius, to take up position in the public service of Mauritius, and as students attending an educational or training establishment in Mauritius. ‘Exempted non-citizens’ are allowed to enter and remain in Mauritius as long as they hold the status of exempted persons.

On 23 October 2020, the Government of Mauritius announced the introduction of a new visa scheme for long-term visitors, called Premium Visa, valid for a period of one year renewable, to encourage foreigners to come for a long stay in Mauritius. Travel and health insurance would be required. The source of income should be outside Mauritius.

CITIZENS OF MAURITIUS

Citizens of Mauritius are entitled to remain or become resident of Mauritius without restriction.

CLOSE RELATIVES OR DEPENDENTS OF MAURITIUS CITIZENS

A non-citizen relative or dependent of a Mauritian citizen may be entitled to become resident in Mauritius if he or she is the spouse of a Mauritian citizen, the dependent child under 18 of a Mauritian citizen, or the dependent child aged under 18 of the spouse of a Mauritian citizen. A non-citizen parent or grandparent of a Mauritian citizen residing in Mauritius may be granted permission by the Mauritian authorities to become resident in Mauritius if the Mauritian citizen is willing and able to provide for his or her care and maintenance, or if the person’s maintenance will be provided wholly from funds coming from outside Mauritius.

MEMBERS OF THE MAURITIAN DIASPORA

Apart from Mauritian citizens, the definition of Mauritian Diaspora includes non-citizens having Mauritian parents or grandparents. Members of the Mauritian Diaspora aged 24 or above who possess the requisite skills, experience and talent, and who have been living and working outside of Mauritius before 24 March 2015, may apply for registration under the Mauritian Diaspora Scheme subject to passing a point-based test covering those skills, talent and experience. Members may apply as ‘Self-Employed’ if conducting a business, or as ‘Professional’ if taking up employment.

For a period of 10 income years following registration under the Mauritian Diaspora Scheme, the Diaspora member is entitled to exemption from income tax in Mauritius on income derived from within and outside Mauritius. The exemption on the Mauritian-sourced income is however limited to the specific employment, business, trade, or profession for which the member of the Mauritian Diaspora is registered.

The registered Mauritian Diaspora member is exempted from the payment of registration duty on the first purchase of a residential property under the Smart City Scheme or Property Development Scheme, on customs duty on household and personal effects imported within six months of arrival in Mauritius, and may be exempted from the payment of excise duty up to a maximum of MUR 2 million on a motor car purchased in or outside Mauritius.

Non-citizens qualified under the Mauritian Diaspora Scheme are eligible for a Permanent Residence Permit. When the Member has been granted the status of Permanent Resident, the following persons are also entitled to Permanent Residence:
• His spouse or common law partner
• His child, stepchild or lawfully adopted child under the age of 24, or the child of his spouse
• His wholly dependent next of kin, where he is unmarried, provided that the number of dependents does not exceed 3

RETIRED NON-CITIZEN

A non-citizen of Mauritius, who is retired and aged 50 or above, may apply for a Mauritius Residence Permit as a Retired Non-Citizen. The validity of a Residence Permit for retirees is up to 10 years renewable. An initial transfer to Mauritius of at least USD 1,500 or its equivalent is required. Thereafter, at the end of each year, the Retired Non-Citizen should submit evidence of transfer of funds into his or her bank account in Mauritius equivalent to a monthly amount of at least USD 1,500.
A Retired Non-Citizen is not allowed to engage into gainful activity in Mauritius. However, the Retired Non-Citizen may invest in any business venture provided that he is not employed in the business, does not manage the business, and does not derived any employment benefits from the business.
When a non-citizen has been granted a Residence Permit as a Retired Non-Citizen, the following persons are eligible to apply for a Residence Permit:
• His spouse or common law partner
• His child, stepchild or lawfully adopted child under the age of 24, or the child of his spouse
• His parent

NON-CITIZEN HOLDING IMMOVABLE PROPERTY

Any non-citizen acquiring a residential property under the Mauritius Property Development Scheme or under the Mauritius Smart City Scheme for a sum exceeding USD 375,000 (or its equivalent in a convertible foreign currency) is eligible to apply for a residence permit. There is no restriction on the rental of the residential property purchased, and the acquirer of the residential property retains the status of resident as long as the residential property is not disposed of. Similarly, non-citizens who have obtained resident status following the purchase of residential property under the now defunct Integrated Resort Scheme and Real Estate Scheme retain their resident status so long as the property is held.

Apart from the acquirer of the residential property, the following persons are eligible for a residence permit:
• His spouse or common law partner
• His child, stepchild or lawfully adopted child under the age of 24, or the child of his spouse
• His parent

Non-citizens, who have acquired a Residence Permit under a real estate scheme, are allowed to work or invest in Mauritius without an Occupation or Work Permit.

WORK PERMIT HOLDERS

Work permits may be granted to foreign workers in industries where labour is in short supply. The employer would apply for a Mauritius work permit on behalf of the prospective employee, providing proof of the job opening, a description of the job issued by the employer, details of the work experience of the prospective employee, as well as any applicable professional and academic qualifications.

Foreign workers are normally allowed to work for a period of up to four years. Beyond four years, they are required to swear an affidavit that they will not apply for Mauritian citizenship.

The dependents of the non-citizen may be allowed to stay in Mauritius subject to having adequate means to maintain himself or herself and his or her family.

OCCUPATION PERMIT

The Occupation Permit is a combined work and residence permit which allow non-citizens to reside and work in Mauritius for a period of up to 10 years. This permit is only available to applicants who fall under one of three subcategories: sponsored professionals, investors, and self-employed workers. The non-citizen should apply under the category which best reflects the nature of his activities in Mauritius.

Occupation Permit – Professional

A Professional is a non-citizen employed in Mauritius by virtue of a contract of employment, who derives a basic salary of at least MUR 60,000, except if employed in the ICT sector where the basic monthly salary should be at least MUR 30,000. The Professional would need to be duly registered with any appropriate professional body within three months.

Professionals working for a period of less than one year in Mauritius may apply for a Short-Term Occupation Permit allowing the non-citizen to work and reside in Mauritius for a period not exceeding nine months. The permit may be extended only once for a period not exceeding three months.

A Professional may invest in any business provided that he is not employed in the business, does not manage the business and does not derive any employment benefits from the business.

Occupational Permit – Young Professional

Foreign students who have completed at least an undergraduate degree in a recognized tertiary education institution in Mauritius may be eligible for a Young Professional Occupation Permit. The application must be in specified sectors such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, fintech, robotics, financial services and information technology. The permit is valid for a period of up to 3 years depending on the duration of the person’s contract of employment in Mauritius. After 3 years, an application for an Occupation Permit as Professional may be made.

Occupation Permit – Self-Employed

A Self-Employed is a non-citizen engaged in a professional activity in the services sector, operating a one-person business activity, and working exclusively for his or her account. The business activity should generate an annual income of at least MUR 600,000. The Self-Employed would need to be duly registered with any appropriate professional body within 3 months.
A Self-Employed should make an initial transfer of USD 35,000 or its equivalent to his bank account in Mauritius.

Occupation Permit – Investor

An Investor is a shareholder and director in a company incorporated in Mauritius, engaged in an approved business activity. In general, an initial transfer of USD 50,000 or its equivalent in freely convertible foreign currency would need to be made, and the business activity would be expected to generate an annual turnover at least MUR 3 million.

It should however be noted that for some business activities, the criteria for investment by non-citizens may be more restrictive, and the potential investor would need to ensure that the company obtains the relevant permits and licenses prior to starting the business activity.

An Investor wishing to bring in high-tech machinery and equipment as part of the initial investment of USD 50,000 would need to transfer a minimum of at least USD 25,000 or its equivalent in freely convertible foreign currency, and the equivalent of the remaining value in high technology machinery and equipment to be used in the proposed business activity. The proposed business activity must be in a qualifying sector such as agro-industry, aquaculture, healthcare, ICT-BPO, fintech, life sciences, biotechnology, manufacturing, ocean economy and renewable energy.

A company may have more than an Investor. The initial investment and annual turnover will be a multiple of the number of Investors in the company.

Investor: Innovative start-ups

There is no minimum and turnover requirement for an Innovator Occupation Permit. The scheme applies to companies conducting research and development in qualifying sectors such as life and health sciences, technology, ICT, fintech, biotechnology, nano-technology, light manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and design. The R&D expense component should constitute of at least 20% of total operation expenditure during the research phase.

Dependents of Occupation Permit holders

When a non-citizen has been granted an Occupation Permit, the following persons are eligible to apply for a Residence Permit:
• His spouse or common law partner
• His child, stepchild or lawfully adopted child under the age of 24, or the child of his spouse
• His parent

The spouse of an Occupation Permit holder does not need a permit to invest or work in Mauritius. In case other dependents wish to work in Mauritius, they would need to apply for a Work Permit or Occupation Permit.

PERMANENT RESIDENCE PERMIT

A Mauritius Permanent Residence Permit allows an eligible non-citizen of Mauritius to live and work in Mauritius for a period of 20 years. The Permanent Residence Permit is renewable subject to established criteria.

Registered under the Mauritian Diaspora Scheme

Non-citizens registered under the Mauritian Diaspora Scheme are eligible for the Permanent Residence Permit.

Investor in a qualifying activity

A foreign national who has invested a minimum of USD 375,000 into a qualifying activity is eligible for the Permanent Residence Permit. Qualifying activities include: Agro-based industry, Audio-visual, Cinema and Communication, Banking, Construction, Education, Environment-friendly and green energy products, Financial Services, Fisheries and Marine Resources, Freeport, Information Technology, Infrastructure, Insurance, Leisure, Manufacturing, Marina development, Tourism and Warehousing, Initial Public Offerings.

Holder of an Occupation Permit

After the expiry of three consecutive years within the Occupation Permit period of 10 years, a holder of an Occupational Permit may apply for a Permanent Residence Permit, subject to the following:

• Investor: The company’s turnover exceeded a cumulative amount of MUR 45 million, for any consecutive period of 3 years, in respect of each shareholder of the company.
Professional: The monthly basic salary is at least MUR 150,000 for three consecutive years immediately preceding the application for a Permanent Residence Permit.
Self-Employed: The business Income of the applicant is at least MUR 3 million per annum for the 3 consecutive years immediately preceding the application for a Permanent Residence Permit.

Holders of Work Permit

Any non-citizen holding a valid work permit in Mauritius may apply for a Permanent Residence Permit if drawing a basic monthly salary of at least MUR 150,000 during 3 consecutive years immediately preceding the application for a Permanent residence Permit.

Retired Non-Citizen

A retired non-citizen, having held a Residence Permit for at least three consecutive years, and having continuously satisfied the criteria for the Residence Permit, may apply for a Permanent Residence Permit within the 10 years residency permit period.

Dependents of Permanent Residence Permit holders

When a non-citizen has been granted Permanent Residence Permit, the following persons are eligible to apply for a Permanent Residence Permit:
• His spouse or common law partner
• His child, stepchild or lawfully adopted child under the age of 24, or the child of his spouse
• his wholly dependent next of kin, where he is unmarried, provided that the number of dependents does not exceed 3

Moving to Mauritius has never been easier

Real estate has now become the main recipient of FDI in Mauritius and the most attractive economic sector. According to statistics published by the Bank of Mauritius, out of MUR 21.337 billion of FDI recorded for 2019, at least MUR 16.148 billion went into real estate. The criteria required for achieving residency status in Mauritius has been considerably loosened in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, making it very easy to achieve resident status in Mauritius. Non-citizens interested in moving to Mauritius are encouraged to take advantage of this window of opportunity while it is still open.

DTOS provides valuable insights and value-added services to businesses and individuals with regard to their evolving present and future needs. Should you have any query in relation to the topic covered and require any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us. We shall be pleased to assist you.

Fred Yeung Sik Yuen CPA FCCA CGMA MBA
Date: 05 December 2020