Golden Visa schemes have been springing up unashamedly throughout the world in order to attract international investment by offering residence permits in exchange for qualifying financial contributions to a country’s economy.Europe has had its fair share of Golden Visa schemes, and a very popular one is Portugal’s Golden Residence Scheme, also known as the Portuguese Residence Permit for investors (PRP). The scheme was introduced back in 2012 and since then has been one of the most popular residency by investment programs in Europe. If you want to become a legal resident of Europe, a European citizenship, and at the same time save money on taxes, you can apply for a Golden visa in Europe. Golden visas are very popular in Spain and other countries of the Euro area. Despite that the name “Golden Visa” is associated with Spain, this type of visa has appeared in many countries which have expanded the possibilities for non-EU citizens to get residence permits.
Golden Visa In Europe
EU investors can choose a nation based on their own priorities and needs. Here are the best destinations, including information about required investment amounts and interview expectations. The Golden Visa Program (also known as the ‘Residence Permit in the Investment program’) is a visa issued to non-EU nationals who invest a minimum of 500,000€ in fixed capital in Real Estate or Government bonds for a minimum of 1 year. Under this visa your investment will be fully returned after 5 years and you are free to leave Spain with no additional costs incurred.
European Golden Visas: residence by investment
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- Golden visas allow foreign nationals to become residents or citizens by investing large amounts of money
- A number of EU and Schengen countries offer golden visa schemes to wealthy foreign investors.
Golden visas for Europe are a type of special visa or residence scheme for wealthy foreign nationals. They require a substantial investment in the country.
Visitors to the European Union (EU) and the Schengen Area must either have an ETIAS visa waiver (from late 2023) or a Schengen visa, but the rules are different for foreign nationals who plan to move to a European country or even obtain citizenship.
Several countries in the EU and Schengen region have golden visa programmes that allow foreign investors to become residents.
However, the EU Commission recently released a recommendation urging Member States to terminate any existing residence-by-investiment (also known as ‘EU golden visa’) schemes.
WHAT IS A GOLDEN VISA IN EUROPE?
A golden visa is a type of permit that provides a pathway to residence or even citizenship in a foreign country. It is based on investment and is typically aimed at wealthy individuals.
Golden visa immigration programmes allow foreign nationals to become residents by buying property in the country or making a large investment or donation. The amount of money that must be invested depends on the state or territory in question.
Several European countries have golden visa schemes. This includes a number of member states of the EU and the Schengen Area.
BENEFITS OF EUROPEAN GOLDEN VISAS
European Golden Visas come with a number of advantages for foreigners.
Firstly, individuals who invest in an EU/Schengen country and apply for a golden visa will become legal residents of that country. Their spouses and children will also get residency. This allows them to do the following:
- Live in the country
- Receive education in the country
- Gain access to the country’s healthcare system
After being a resident for a certain period of time, golden visa holders can apply for citizenship. The length of time before this is possible differs depending on the country.
One of the big advantages of getting a golden visa for an EU or Schengen country is that becoming a resident entitles the individual to free movement around the bloc. They will be able to travel to any of the 26 Schengen Area member states without a visa.
Foreign nationals who are not Schengen residents must either have a visa or, from late 2023, apply for an ETIAS visa waiver online.
BRITISH CITIZENS AND EUROPEAN RESIDENCY BY INVESTMENT AFTER BREXIT
EU golden visas are becoming an increasingly popular option for British passport holders post-Brexit.
By obtaining residency by investment in an EU country, UK nationals can enjoy some advantages of European citizenship lost as a result of Brexit, in particular freedom of movement.
COVID-19 AND INCREASED INTEREST IN GOLDEN PASSPORTS
Global interest in golden passport schemes has increased as a result of the pandemic.
COVID-19 has highlighted the possible advantages of dual citizenship—most countries continued to allow citizens to enter during border closures.
More people are now looking to acquire a second citizenship, which could allow them to move more easily in times of crisis.
WHAT EU/SCHENGEN COUNTRIES OFFER GOLDEN VISAS?
A number of countries in the European Union and/or the Schengen Area have golden visas available to investors from third countries.
These include the following states, which are members of both the EU and Schengen:
The following Schengen member country, which is not part of the EU, also has a golden visa programme:
The following EU member state, which is not part of the Schengen Area, also has a golden visa:
- The Republic of Ireland
HOW TO OBTAIN EU RESIDENCY & CITIZENSHIP
Wealthy individuals from outside the EU and Schengen Area can obtain residency by investing in different ways. The exact rules depend on the country, but the following options are frequently available:
- Invest in or set up a business
- Buy government bonds
- Purchase or invest in property
- Make donations to projects and organisations in the country
In some cases, EU citizenship can also be obtained through investment, however the EU is urging the few countries left with this scheme to end it. Other states usually allow residents to apply for citizenship after a certain period of time living in the country.
EU GOLDEN VISAS BY COUNTRY
Information about golden visa schemes in EU countries is provided below. As shown, each golden visa country requires a different level of investment.
AUSTRIA RESIDENCE BY INVESTMENT
Austria is considered to have one of the most popular Residence by Investment programmes. The Austrian Golden Visa is available to any foreign national in exchange for investing a significant amount of money.
A minimum of €40,000 must be invested in Austria. The individual must wait 1-3 months to submit their Golden Visa application and wait for the approval.
After 10 years of residency, it is possible to apply for citizenship.
Alternatively, it is possible to get citizenship by investment directly. To do so, a foreign national must either invest €10 million in a business or make a minimum €3 million contribution to a government development fund.
BELGIUM BUSINESS RESIDENCE PROGRAM
The Belgium Business Residence Program is, in essence, a golden visa. It allows entrepreneurs and investors to set up businesses in Belgium and gain residency.
Nationals of any country may apply. There is no need to physically live in the country to be classed as a resident.
Foreign nationals must invest a minimum of €350,000 to apply.
After living in Belgium for 5 years, it is possible to become a Belgian citizen. This involves passing a language test in either Dutch, French, or German.
BULGARIA GOLDEN VISA
Bulgaria recently abolished its citizenship by investment programme.
Bulgarian golden visas were previously issued to non-EU citizens who invested at least €525,000.
Golden passports required an investment of €1.05 million.
By terminating these golden passport schemes, Bulgaria hopes to join the Schengen Area soon.
CYPRUS GOLDEN VISA
The Republic of Cyprus had a popular Golden Visa programme that allowed foreign nationals and their families to gain residency and citizenship by investing in the country.
Cyprus’ residency by investment programme was suspended in 2020.
Foreign investors must now become residents of Cyprus before they can apply for citizenship.
GREECE GOLDEN VISA
Greece’s Golden Visa Program allows nationals of non-EU countries to get a residence permit.
This can be done in the following ways:
- Invest in property worth at least €250,000 plus taxes
- Agree to a 10-year lease of tourist residences or hotel accommodation
- Agree to a 10-year time-share in hotel accommodation
- Make a minimum contribution of €400,000 to a company in Greece
- Buy Greek government bonds with at least €400,000
- Purchase shares, corporate bonds, and/or Greek government bonds with a minimum acquisition value of EUR 800,000
- Deposit at least €400,000 in a domestic credit institution for a minimum period of 1 year
Foreign investors can get a Greek residence permit within 30-60 days. This can then be renewed every 5 years.
After being a resident of Greece for 7 years, it is possible to apply for citizenship.
IRELAND IMMIGRANT INVESTOR PROGRAMME
The Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) of the Republic of Ireland is a way for non-EU nationals to get a Golden Visa, also known as an Ireland Investor Visa.
It is necessary to invest at least €1 million in an enterprise or investment fund.
Alternatively, foreigners can make a non-refundable donation of €500,000 to a project to benefit arts, culture, education, health, or sport in Ireland.
ITALY RESIDENCE BY INVESTMENT SCHEME
The Italian residence by investment scheme can be accessed in the following ways:
- €500,000 investment in an Italian limited company
- €250,000 invested into an innovative start-up based in Italy
- €2,000,000 invested in Italian government bonds
- €1,000,000 philanthropic donation
MALTA GOLDEN VISA
Malta’s Golden Visa programme is one of the most frequently used methods of getting European residency by investment.
Applicants for residency must have at least €500,000 in capital (with at least €150,000 in financial assets). They must then make the following investments in Malta:
- Buy property worth at least €350,000 (€300,000 in South Malta or Gozo) or lease property for €12,000 per year (€10,000 per year in South Malta or Gozo)
- Donate €28,000 (if the property is purchased) or €58,000 (if the property is leased) to the Maltese economy
- Donate €2,000 to a non-governmental organisation
- Pay €40,000 as an administration fee (non-refundable)
The majority of third-country nationals must be residents of Malta for 36 months before they can apply for citizenship.
To become a citizen of Malta, it is necessary to make a minimum investment of €600,000 to the country’s national development fund. A residential property in Malta must also be purchased for at least €700,000 and held for at least 5 years. A €10,000 donation to a non-governmental organisation is also required.
The EU Commission is urging Malta to end its citizenship by investment scheme after safety concerns. Malta is only one of a few other EU countries that still offers a golden passport to non-EU nationals.
PORTUGAL GOLDEN VISA
Portugal is the easiest country in the EU to get citizenship in the EU for thanks to its Golden Visa scheme.
Foreign nationals can get residency in Portugal with an investment in one of the following:
- Support of artistic production or maintenance of Portuguese cultural heritage (minimum €250,000)
- Scientific or technological research done by public or private entities in Portugal (minimum €350,000)
- Purchase of units of investment funds or venture capital funds (minimum €350,000)
- Transfer of a minimum of €1 million into a Portuguese bank account
- Property purchase (minimum €500,000; minimum €350,000 for the renovation of properties over 30 years old)
- Business, creating at least 10 new jobs
After 5 years as a legal resident of Portugal, investors can apply for Portuguese citizenship. They do not have to give up any existing citizenships they hold (i.e. they can hold dual nationality).
SPAIN RESIDENCE-BY-INVESTMENT PROGRAM
Spain’s Residence-by-Investment Program is highly regarded and is used by many foreign investors to become EU residents.
Foreign nationals can make any of the following investment options to gain residence in Spain:
- Buy real estate worth at least €500,000
- Create and develop a business project in Spain
- Invest in company shares or make bank deposits in Spanish institutions of at least €1 million
- Purchase government bonds of at least €2 million in value
It takes around 20 days to have the residence permit approved. They are initially valid for 2 years and can be renewed for 5 years after that. The permit applies to the investor, their spouse or partner, and all dependent children (and grandchildren).
The majority of foreign residents can apply for citizenship after 10 years.
The following can do so after 2 years:
- Sephardi Jews
- Citizens of Equatorial Guinea
- Nationals of Latin American countries
- Nationals of the Philippines
SWITZERLAND GOLDEN VISA
Switzerland is a leading destination for investors seeking residence due to its healthcare system and business-oriented economy.
There are 2 ways for foreigners to gain a Golden Visa for Switzerland:
- Set up a company in Switzerland that provides jobs and opportunities for locals
- Pay an annual tax of CHF 150,000-1,000,000, depending on the canton
EU POSITION ON GOLDEN VISA SCHEMES
The EU has frequently raised concerns about golden visa programmes. There have been allegations of corruption and issuing residence permits and even granting citizenship to European countries improperly.
Golden passports are often advertised as a way to enjoy the advantages of European citizenship, including free movement through the region.
However, this raises security concerns. Foreign nationals who gain European citizenship by investment can move around the Schengen Area without applying for a visa. They are only screened by the country that issued then residency/citizenship.
EU AUTHORITIES CALL FOR AN END TO GOLDEN PASSPORTS
Members of the European Parliament have called for a ban on golden passports and new rules for EU golden visas.
On Wednesday, March 9, 2022, MEPs adopted a legislative initiative report highlighting the problems associated with these schemes.
The Commission considered the proposal, and on March 29, issued a recommendation “urging Member States to immediately repeal any existing investor citizenship schemes and to ensure strong checks are in place to address the risks posed by investor residence schemes.”
Didier Reynders, the European Commission’s commissioner for Justice, declared: “We consider that the sale of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ is illegal under EU law and poses serious risks to our security.”
END GOLDEN PASSPORTS
MEPs have called citizenship by investment schemes ‘objectionable from an ethical, legal, and economic point of view, and pose several serious security risks’. They have said that golden passports must be phased out.
REGULATE EU GOLDEN VISAS
The draft report also proposed action to standardise rules for ‘residence by investment’ offered by EU member states. The aim is to prevent money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion.
The suggested new rules include background checks, reporting, and minimum physical residence requirements for applicants.
GOLDEN PASSPORTS AND VISA-FREE ACCESS TO THE EU
A similar situation exists with third countries that have visa exemption agreements with the EU.
The following non-EU, non-Schengen countries also have golden visa schemes that allow foreigners to easily gain citizenship by investment:
Citizens of golden visa countries can enter the EU visa-free and stay up to 90 days.
However, Vanuatu was removed from the EU visa waiver program due to concerns over its diligence in vetting those to whom it grants citizenship.
The Cyprus Golden Visa programme has been suspended as a result of issues stemming from the number of foreign investors granted citizenship improperly.