In the face of mounting pressure to abolish citizenship-by-investment programs, Europe’s golden visas continue to flourish, driving business for immigration consultancies across the continent. Despite widespread political appeals to end these programs, countries like Greece, Portugal, Italy, and Spain are witnessing a surge in demand for these so-called golden visas, enabling wealthy individuals to gain residency by investing in local real estate or financial assets.
The investor visa programs, often referred to as ‘golden visas,’ provide individuals with the opportunity to acquire residency permits through avenues such as property investment, substantial capital injections, or charitable contributions. The allure of residency or citizenship within a European nation holds special appeal for affluent individuals who consider these privileges an insurance policy against political instability in their current domicile. Originally introduced to attract foreign capital after the 2008 financial crisis, these programs gained further prominence during the pandemic as people around the world sought alternatives in Europe.
However, these programs have faced domestic criticism for potentially contributing to rising property prices and weak regulations, that subvert fundamental citizenship principles and can potentially facilitate money laundering and tax evasion.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has further intensified concerns. Saskia Bricmont, Belgian MEP, labelled golden visas as “a way for oligarchs, criminals, and corrupt politicians to buy their way into Europe and launder their money, image, and identity”.
Bricmont added: “European values are not for sale. We consider that the sale of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ is illegal under EU law and poses serious risks to our security. It opens the door to corruption, money laundering and tax avoidance.”