Drapeaux européens devant le Berlaymont

Brussels “demands” immediate end to Golden Visa programs

Brussels today is demanding that EU Member States “immediately end” golden visa programs that give applicants European residency and/ or citizenship.

The reason is that after years in which warnings have been sounded by NGOs and ‘lone voices’ against corruption, MEPs recognise these schemes enable “a rapid entry of criminals” into the bloc.

Says a statement released by the European Parliament: “EU citizenship cannot be marketed as a commodity”.

But that is of course what has been happening – in Portugal’s case since 2012.

Admittedly, Portugal doesn’t confer Golden Visa applicants with citizenship. It simply gives them residency, and the ability to travel unimpeded throughout Europe.

A huge stink about the calibre of people afforded Portuguese golden visas has been raised over the last eight years (click here), but the reality is that if this country didn’t operate the scheme that has seen billions of euros in terms of investment pour into the country, applicants would simply go elsewhere.

Countries like Malta, Bulgaria and Cyprus have been falling over themselves to attract people to their golden visa regimes – to the point they actually give successful applicants citizenship.

Portugal has stopped short of citizenship – and the residencies often need to be renewed annually. But still, failings in the way these visas have been handed out have been coming thick and fast.

Say reports today, the regime is due to be ‘suspended’ for the areas of Lisbon and Porto by the end of 2020, largely because both areas have been ‘saturated’ by investment that has driven up property prices, irreparably changing the face of communities (click here).

Whether the European Parliament’s demands will be heard here remains to be seen.

Explain reports, golden visas investment has fallen by 10% during the pandemic, but has still been hugely lucrative – bringing in investment (almost exclusively in property) of 43.5 million euros – and that’s just the tally to the end of September 2020.

Says Lusa, in all 993 golden visas were issued in Portugal between January and September – ‘main beneficiaries’ being investors from China, Brazil and the United States.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com