The Growth of Golden Visa and Residency Programs

In recent times, Golden Visa and residency programs have become very popular, with thousands of immigrants turning to them as a way to gain residency in desirable jurisdictions. The typical definition of the Golden Visa is “a European residency offered to persons who are willing to invest in property or real estate in a given country in Europe.” These programs are usually designed by a country’s government and then offered to foreign nationals seeking to take advantage of the various benefits that come with living abroad.

An applicant can get permanent residency or a Golden Visa in one of many different countries. For instance, a Portuguese Golden Visa grants a traveler visa-free access to the Schengen region. Some European countries such as Malta offer both residency by investment and citizenship by investment programs.

Reasons for the Rise in Residency Program Availability

While some countries have been offering residency by investment for years, this opportunity has become increasingly available due to a surge in international interest in attracting foreign investors and their lucrative financial resources. Since the 2008 economic crisis, many countries have suffered serious financial turbulence. With money tighter than ever, countries such as Portugal and Greece are now taking advantage of residency by investment programs through Golden Visa, to try and attract long-term investors and wealthy residents. In exchange, they’re offering the tremendous benefits that come with permanent residency.

According to the IMF, the rapid growth of these programs can also be attributed to the increasing affluence of private persons in emerging market economies. These are people who are invested or interested in investing in international markets and need the mobility to do so. Given the visa restrictions brought about by the September 11 attacks in New York City, citizens from the Middle East and North Africa, Russia, and China are looking to Golden Visas and residency programs as a way to facilitate international travel in Europe and America.

Another reason for the rapid growth of these programs is the fact that citizenships and residencies for investors are expedited, with some approved in as few as three short months. Most countries are offering programs without even requiring residency before an application is approved.

Residency by Investment Programs

Countries such as Malta, Greece, Portugal, and the United States provide high-net-worth individuals with the opportunity to obtain a residency by investment visa, which, over time, can make one eligible for citizenship in those countries. Some of these programs include the following:

  • Malta Permanent Residency – An applicant must either (a) purchase a residential property valued at no less than €270,000 or (b) rent a residence for no less than €10,000 per year for five years. In addition, the applicant must commit to a one-time non-refundable cash contribution of €30,000 and an investment of €250,000 in government bonds to be held for a minimum of five years.
  • Cyprus Permanent Residency – To get permanent residency in Cyprus, you must purchase a residence worth at least €150,000 or for the fast track program, and purchase a property worth at least €300,000 from a local development company.
  • Portugal Golden Visa – An applicant is required to purchase government-approved residential property worth a minimum of €500,000 and hold it for five years. Alternatively, the applicant may opt to purchase property located in an urban renewal area or one that is at least 30 years old and valued at least €350,000.
  • Greece Golden Visa – Applicants need to invest in real estate worth a minimum of €250,000, which qualifies them for permanent residency for as long as they hold the property.
  • United States EB-5 Program – You can get the prestigious EB-5 residency visa by investing at least €900,000 in a pre-approved project in a high-unemployment or rural area in the United States that creates at least ten full-time jobs for existing US citizens.

Residency programs have seen unprecedented growth for high-net-worth individuals seeking the benefits offered by permanent residency, second passports, or citizenship by investment. Most programs will provide temporary or permanent residency status and even a path to citizenship if the applicant fulfills certain requirements for eligibility.

Benefits of European Golden Visa and Residency Programs

  1. Permanent Residency in Months, Not Years – An investor gets the opportunity to acquire permanent residency for themselves and their family in just a few months and also gets to invest in high-value real estate in the EU. A permanent residency card allows the holder and their family to freely travel across the Schengen Zone with no restrictions. One can typically obtain permanent residency in as few as three to eight months.
  2. Better Quality of Life – A Golden Visa or other European permanent residency status provides valuable benefits such as working, studying, traveling, and living anywhere in Europe. It also provides an opportunity to discover, learn, and immerse oneself in a new language and culture. Moreover, one will have access to the best quality education and health care.
  3. Security – The Golden Visa program allows one to own property in the EU that can act as a home away from home. In particular, permanent residency is a good solution to protect investors and their families from the unstable and uncertain geopolitical conditions in the Middle East.
  4. Investment Abroad – Investors can become true global citizens by investing in the EU and diversifying their assets and finances. After purchasing real estate in Europe, an applicant will get their Golden Visa or permanent residency card within months. They can then rent out their properties and receive returns on their investments in no time.

Implications for the Programs Going Forward

Thanks to the increase in high-net-worth investors from emerging economies of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, more countries will be looking to attract wealth by offering opportunities for migration.

The success of the programs in countries such as Greece and Portugal have helped to turn their economies around. The fundraising successes from other Golden Visa programs will result in even more countries offering their own programs.

However, with the increasing popularity of these programmes, transparency and regulation calls have increased in an effort to minimize corruption. 

While there may be criticisms of these programs, one thing is clear: they’re not going away any time soon. If the US EB5 Program, which grew by nearly 40% between 2018 and 2019, is anything to go by, Golden Visa and residency programs are set to keep growing.

Wrapping Up

The advantage of residency by investment is that you always have the freedom to control your family’s future and your own. With Golden Visa and residency programs providing an easy and convenient way for high-net-worth individuals to enjoy the benefits of better health care, more stable economic options, a greater pool of investment choices, and possibilities for diversifying their economic and social lives, these programs are here to stay. Moreover, this investment is giving countries such as Malta, Cyprus, Greece, and Portugal an economic boost. Why would they stop now?

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