Transport delays, gum-splattered pavements, lungfuls of polluted air. If any of the above - and worse - are part of your daily life, then the latest ranking of the top cities for easy living might just give you itchy feet.
Out last week, Mercer’s 2018 Quality of Life ranking lists eight European cities in its top 10 most liveable spots, based on measures such as infrastructure, schooling and health (see table). Auckland, Vancouver and Sydney (the latter at joint tenth) complete the leader board, while global heavyweights Paris, London and New York ranked 39th, 41st and 45th respectively out of 231 cities.
Vienna ranks number one for the 9th consecutive year, while Zurich takes second place, where it has been since 2009. Germany is this year’s highest-performing country, with three cities in the top ten.
So just how easy is it to secure your own slice of high quality living by moving to one of these list-toppers? FT Residential has looked into some of the fast-track visa and citizenship programmes offered by the seven countries making the top 10.
Austria is one of the few European countries where people can obtain citizenship and an EU passport without a prior residence requirement. Christian Kälin, group chairman at Henley & Partners, a citizenship and residence advisory firm, says applications can be granted on the basis of a “substantial contribution” to the country’s economy in the form of an investment.
While passive investments (such as government bonds or property) do not qualify, eligible contributions include joint or direct investment in a business creating jobs or generating new export sales.
While the average application period lasts 24 to 36 months, successful applicants will receive full citizenship by decision of the Government of Austria and can apply for passports immediately afterwards.
Switzerland has no investor visa or economic citizenship options, according to the immigration research team at Deloitte, the professional services firm, but it does offer a couple of avenues for specific groups.
Expats aged 55 or more can qualify for a retirement residence permit if they can prove they are not engaged in any professional activity inside or outside Switzerland.
For those still working, a work permit is available for entrepreneurs who can submit a detailed plan for a Swiss-based business, including the number of intended employees. Work permits are usually granted for between one and five years.
After five years of living in Switzerland, EU nationals qualify for permanent residence, while non-EU citizens qualify after 10 years in the country, if they can prove that they have resided in Switzerland for at least half that time.
New Zealand allows foreign nationals to obtain permanent residence by making a substantial economic investment in the country. According to Jurga McCluskey, Deloitte’s head of immigration, there are two categories of investor visa: the Investor 2 Resident Visa, which requires a minimum investment of NZ$3m ($2.17m) in permissible New Zealand investments, and the Investor 1 Resident Visa, for which a NZ$10m investment must be made and maintained for at least two years.
“Investors who have previously obtained residence under either of the above investor programmes are eligible for New Zealand citizenship when they have spent at least 1,350 days in New Zealand with residence during the preceding five years; and at least 240 days in New Zealand with residence in each of the preceding five years,” explains Henley & Partners’ Kälin.
There is a self-employment visa for international entrepreneurs in Germany, McCluskey says. For an investment-based residence permit to be granted, applicants must be willing to invest a minimum of €1m in a business creating a minimum of 10 new jobs. In addition, there must be regional demand for the business and/or evidence that the investment is viable and would benefit Germany’s economic interests.
International citizens with a residence permit can apply for permanent residence after five years. After eight years, permanent residents may apply for citizenship.
According to Henley & Partners, Canada runs two investor visa programmes, while the country’s Quebec region has its own separate investor scheme.
The Federal Start-Up Visa Program links immigrant entrepreneurs with private-sector organisations that work with startups. Applicants must be proven entrepreneurs with at least one year of post-secondary education. The required financial contribution depends on individual circumstances.
Meanwhile the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) allows Canadian provinces and territories to nominate individuals with business or senior management experience who want to settle and set up a business in Canada. Investment requirements for the PNP vary regionally: the minimum capital investment for a business in the Vancouver area, for example, is CAD 200,000.
Denmark offers no investor visa or economic citizenship route, according to Deloitte. However, an entrepreneur work permit is available to applicants with a state-approved business plan and evidence that they can sustain themselves financially for at least a year.
Applicants can apply for permanent residence after eight years of lawful residence in Denmark, provided that they pass a Danish language test.
There are three different categories of investor visa in Australia, according to Deloitte: the Investor Stream, for which a minimum investment of A$1.5m ($1.15m) must be made in Australian bonds; the Significant Investor Stream, for which a minimum A$5m investment must be made in permissible Australian investments; and a Premium Investor Stream, for which investment requirements start at A$15m.
Applicants are initially granted a provisional visa but can apply for a permanent residence visa after four years in the Investor Stream or Significant Investor Stream, and after 12 months in the Premium Investor Stream.
Citizenship can be applied for after people have lived lawfully in Australia for four years and held permanent residence for 12 months.
So there you have it: if quality of life is important to you, you know what to do next (provided you have patience, money, and can stomach the paperwork).
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto; Getty Images