Acquisition of Property by Foreigners in Mauritius – New Developments to open the economy

The Non-Citizen (Property) Restriction Act has recently been amended to remove some restrictions on the possibility for a non-citizen to acquire immovable property in Mauritius. Prior to this amendment, only non-citizens who were delivered permits to invest, work or live in Mauritius could purchase specific types of immovable property in Mauritius. Now, any non-citizen can purchase immovable property in Mauritius subject to obtaining the approval of the Prime Minister’s Office, channelled through the Board of Investment of Mauritius.

Who is a non-citizen?

For the purposes of the Non-Citizen (Property) Restriction Act, a non-citizen is:

  1. any person who is not a citizen of Mauritius;
  2. an association or body of persons, whether corporate or incorporate where such association or body of persons is not domiciled in Mauritius, or is quoted on the official list of the Stock Exchange of Mauritius or admitted to any second market established under the Mauritian Securities Act and its control or management is vested in one or more persons who are not citizens of Mauritius, or such association of body of persons is not so quoted or admitted and one of its shareholders is not a citizen of Mauritius; or
  3. a trust in relation to any transfer or vesting of an immovable property situated in Mauritius upon a trust of which a beneficial interest is held by a non-citizen or in relation to the appointment of a non-citizen as beneficiary of a trust the trust property of which includes immovable property situated in Mauritius.

Which immovable property can be purchased by a non-citizen in Mauritius?

A non-citizen may purchase or otherwise acquire or lease an immovable property or a right to immovable property or part of a building for business purposes. At the time of writing this article, there is no minimum purchase value for any such property purchased.

According to a communique issued by the Board of Investment, authorisations will be granted where the business activity is for:

  1. the development of high activity commercial use building including but not limited to, shopping mall, office building or warehouse, for own use, sale, rental or lease;
  2. the development of residential properties under the Property Development Scheme; and
  3. any other activity carried out for reward, gain or profit but excluding the acquisition for resale or lease or rental of any bare land or serviced land.

Prior to this amendment, non-citizens were not able to purchase property in Mauritius for business purposes as set out above unless such non-citizens were registered as investors with the Board of Investment and subject to the authorization of the Board of Investment after approval from the Prime Minister’s Office.

A non-citizen may also acquire one or more apartments, used, or available for use, as residence in a building of at least two floors above ground floor provided that the purchase price is not less than Rs. 6 million (approximately USD 168,000 as at 24 January 2017) or its equivalent in any other hard convertible currency.

However, a non-citizen will not be able to purchase an apartment where such apartment is found in a building constructed on State Land which includes defence lands, Pas Geometriques or projects developed under the Housing Estate Scheme (which is a scheme reserved for middle-income households Mauritian Citizens).

Furthermore, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Board of Investment relating to the acquisition of residential properties by non-citizens, non-citizens cannot engage in any property speculation whatsoever.

Regarding the purchase by non-citizens of apartments for residence, before the amendment, non-citizens registered as investors, self-employed, retired non-citizens or non-citizens holding a permanent residence permit in Mauritius could purchase only one apartment, in a building of at least 2 floors above ground floor, as personal residence, but still subject to the authorization of the Board of Investment after approval from the Prime Minister’s Office.

It is to be noted that there are other existing schemes which allow non-citizens to purchase immovable property in Mauritius namely the now defunct Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS) and Residential Estate Scheme (RES) which have been replaced by the Property Development Scheme (PDS).

Non-citizens are also entitled to purchase a residential unit under the Smart City Scheme.

Will the acquisition of immovable property by non-citizens in Mauritius give the right to reside in Mauritius?

Only the purchase of a residential unit acquired under the IRS, RES, PDS or Smart City Scheme give a right to residency in Mauritius to such purchaser and his family, provided that such residential unit’s purchase price is above USD 500,000.

What are the consequences of purchasing immovable property in Mauritius by a non-citizen without any approval having obtained in contravention of the law?

Where a property is purchased without the approval of the Prime Minister’s office, such purchase shall be void and the Curator of Vacant Estates shall take possession of such property and cause it to be sold in accordance with the laws relating to such seizures in Mauritius.

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By Ashwin Mudhoo,
Senior Legal Executive.