MAURITIUS: RE-OPENING OF BORDERS AND INCENTIVES TO LIVE, WORK AND INVEST
Although the coronavirus pandemic has severely affected the economy of Mauritius, the Government has adopted a proactive and flexible response allowing its strategy to evolve with external factors. Tangible measures have been taken to lessen the impact.
The re-opening of the country’s borders on 1 October 2021 provides an opportune time to highlight some of the steps taken by Mauritius to boost investment and also encourage non-citizens to live, work and invest in the country.
Re-opening safety measures
Mauritius has achieved one of the highest vaccination rates in Africa, currently standing at over 65% of the overall population (82% of the local adult population).
Since 1 October 2021, fully vaccinated visitors are no longer required to undergo quarantine. The only requirements are a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to departure and further testing done on arrival.
Unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated visitors are required to observe a 14-night quarantine in an officially approved quarantine centre.
Longer-term residence opportunities
A year-long renewable premium visa was introduced in late 2020, enabling non-citizens from selected countries to stay along with their families as tourists, retirees or professionals working remotely from Mauritius.
The visa holder is subject to tax on income derived in Mauritius. Income derived for work performed remotely from Mauritius is deemed to be derived in Mauritius only when it is remitted in Mauritius.
Money spent in Mauritius through the use of a foreign credit or debit card is not deemed to be income remitted in Mauritius. Money deposited in a Mauritian bank account is considered as income remitted in Mauritius and is subject to tax in Mauritius, unless such funds were subject to tax in the country of origin or residence.
Further, in a quest to attract foreign investments, the following noteworthy measures have been taken
- A non-citizen is entitled to a resident permit for himself/herself and his/her dependents upon the acquisition of an apartment in a building with at least two floors for USD 375 000 (a lower threshold than the previous one of USD 500 000).
- The minimum investment threshold for an investor to obtain an occupation permit has been halved to USD 50 000 whilst the maximum duration of occupation permits for professionals has been extended to 10 years (previously three years).
- A family occupation permit has been introduced to allow investors to bring their parents and any other person working exclusively for the family unit to the country provided that they make a donation of USD 250 000 to the COVID-19 Projects Development Fund. In addition, there is no longer any requirement for a dependent to be younger than 24 years, provided the dependent is unmarried, not involved in any gainful activity and wholly dependent on the investor.
- The duration of a permanent resident permit has also been extended from 10 to 20 years.
Various schemes have been introduced to attract investment in certain sectors as follows:
Premium Investor Scheme
The premium investor scheme promotes the emergence of pioneering industries, innovative sectors and first movers. The scheme allows companies involved in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and medical devices and companies investing at least MUR 500 million to benefit from bespoke incentives, which are negotiable with the relevant authorities. Examples of possible incentives include rebates, exemptions and preferential rates in relation to taxes, duties, fees, charges and levies under any enactment.
A set of incentives are available to enterprises in eligible sectors (such as aquaculture, industrial fishing, seafood processing, high tech manufacturing, pharmaceutical research and manufacturing, agro processing, food processing, healthcare, biotechnology and life sciences, nursing and residential care, digital technology and innovation, marina, tertiary education, and seeds production). These include an eight-year income tax holiday, exemption from registration duty and land transfer tax on acquisition of immovable property, and exemption from VAT on selected items.
Export Development Scheme
The export development scheme provides incentives to export enterprises under various sub-schemes. These includes:
- Export Credit Guarantee Insurance Scheme – provides refunds on export credit insurance premiums to eligible exporters.
- Freight Rebate Scheme – provides rebates on the ocean freight cost of exporting eligible products to eligible ports in eligible countries or through eligible ports to landlocked countries, to eligible beneficiaries .
- Trade Promotion and Marketing Scheme – provides rebates on the air freight costs of exporting an eligible product to an eligible market, to eligible beneficiaries.
Export enterprises also benefit from a reduced tax rate of 3% on chargeable income attributable to export of goods.
Mauritius has entered into various trade agreements, boosting its attractiveness as a platform for trade and investment. These include the trade agreement between Mauritius and China (Mauritius-China FTA), the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement between Mauritius and India (CECPA).
The Mauritius-China FTA gives Mauritian exporters immediate duty-free access to the Chinese market on 7 504 tariff lines and an additional 723 tariffs lines over a five to seven-year period. Mauritius offers a preferential tariff on imports entering Mauritius from China. The Mauritius-China FTA has also removed restrictions in more than 100 service sectors, including financial services, telecommunications, ICT, professional services, construction, and health. Further, Mauritius is actively encouraging Chinese businesses to choose the country as their regional headquarters.
The AfCFTA has created the world’s largest free trade area in terms of the number of participating countries, with economic integration of 54 countries in Africa and a market of over 1.3 billion people. The AfCFTA aims to create a single market across the African continent for goods and services while fostering free movement of persons and investments with a view to enhancing intra-Africa trade.
The CECPA is the first trade agreement signed by India with an African country. It has reduced or eliminated duties on a raft of products. Mauritian exporters now benefit from preferential market access to the Indian market on a list of 615 products (such as frozen fish, speciality sugar, biscuits and fresh fruit). The country provides preferential access to 310 Indian products (including food and beverages, agricultural products and textiles). India has also committed to provide market access on some 94 service sectors, including professional services, business services, financial services and telecommunications services.
The latest developments in the legal, regulatory and business framework demonstrate that Mauritius has anticipated the needs of individuals, families, investors and the business community.
In addition to the steps taken to ensure Mauritius remains at the forefront as a business-friendly jurisdiction, the various trade agreements it has negotiated provide an entirely different dimension to the growth potential of the country.
The measures, which may have been prompted in response to the pandemic, bode well for the country’s economic growth post-pandemic.