▲ Participants at a Jeju provincial government seminar learning about the island’s permanent residency scheme. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
“I could live here some day.” This absent-minded expression often uttered by vacationers when escaping reality in a beautiful location is seldom explored much further when the bags are un-packed and the trip is over. But what if there were tangible enticements to take the steps to make that illusive dream a reality? For overseas investors wishing to make Jeju home rather than a vacation spot, the incentives to purchase a resort unit just increased.
In its hopes to attract investment from abroad, Jeju’s Ministry of Justice has enacted a new permanent residency policy for foreign investors. Under this plan, citizenship is available for for-eigners who purchase a Jeju resort unit valued at $500,000 or more.
If the value of the unit exceeds $500,000, the remainder can be used as a mortgage or loan. These units range from condominiums and luxury villas to private lodges for seniors.
While the popularity of buying real estate in hopes of making a quick turnover is just as much a staple of Korean society as kimchi is to the daily meal, Jeju’s government is looking past local real estate investments and more towards boosting the tourism market.
“The reason we are promoting this policy is to attract not only capital, but people,” says Lee Hwan Jun, investor relations associate for Jeju’s Free Inter-national City Bureau.
Jeju has 23 condominium resorts with 6,779 rooms and 24 golf resorts, some in operation while others are still in the approval process. In the past, the focus has been on selling these lodgings to Korean citizens, but with the new permanent residency policy along with recent deregulation laws, the government of Jeju aims to boost business for developers by pulling in more overseas investors.
The steps to gaining citizenship are fairly easy. Once the investment has been made and all required documents presented, foreign investors and their family members will first receive a renewable F-2 visa.
“Since it is a new policy, the government can’t immediately grant permanent citizenship to the buyers,” Lee said.
With the F-2 visa, investors and their families can receive many of the same benefits as Korean citizens, such as school admission and medical insurance. After five years, if there are no violations (false documents, criminal records, etc.), the Jeju provincial government will grant the investor and any family member under the age of 18 permanent residency.
Although this policy is exclusive to Jeju, once buyers have stayed the five years and gained citizenship, they can choose to sell their property and live anywhere both in and outside of Korea, while still maintaining permanent residency. If living outside the country, they must return to Korea every three months.
The policy is new to Jeju. Revisions were made in November of last year and the final ordinance announced on Feb. 1. Guidelines were issued to the Jeju Immigration Management Office during February, and implementation finally took place on Feb. 16.
The Ministry of Justice is in the process of kicking off preliminary advertising for the new policy with the first investment seminar to be held in China in April. Staying true to the central point of the policy, Jeju developers have been invited to attend as volunteers and make presentations about their “products” at the conference.
Ultimately, the Ministry of Justice hopes that these products will not only sell, but will grow in popularity and Jeju will be recognized in other countries as a hot spot for developers.
“It is just the first step of a new policy on permanent residency for small investment, but I believe it will trigger FDI - Foreign Direct Investment - on Jeju,” Lee said.
In addition, Lee hopes this policy will eventually assist in truly making Jeju an international city by integrating English speakers onto the island.
“We say Jeju is a free international city, but we still have language problems,” he said. “The best way to fix this problem is to open the door to foreigners. By having many foreign investors, Jeju natives will have to use English.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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