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What are ‘golden visas’ and which EU countries still offer them?

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Golden visas are visas that offer wealthy individuals the opportunity to essentially ‘buy’ the right to residency in another country without having to live there, simply by making a large investment or donation. The popularity of golden visas in the European Union has been on the rise as people seek to move away from political decisions that may limit their rights, such as Brexit. However, the EU has raised concerns about the safety of these schemes in recent years.

The EU has called on governments to stop selling citizenship to investors, as it poses a security risk and goes against the values of the European Union project. Some EU countries have already scrapped their golden visa schemes, such as the UK and Ireland, in an effort to clamp down on dirty money from certain countries. Despite this, there are still a few countries in the EU that offer golden visas, such as Malta, where citizenship can be obtained for a minimum investment of €690,000.

Spain recently announced that it plans to scrap the real estate route of its golden visa scheme in an effort to reduce pressure on the housing market. The country’s government aims to shift the focus from housing as a speculative business to a right, in line with its push for social housing reform. Hungary, on the other hand, has announced plans to reintroduce its golden visa scheme in July 2024, offering three routes to residency through real estate investment, purchasing residential property, or donating to a higher educational institution.

Italy and Greece are also popular destinations for those seeking residence by investment. Italy’s golden visa scheme requires a minimum investment of €500,000 through an Italian limited company, with the opportunity to apply for citizenship after 10 years of residency. Greece offers one of the quickest processes for gaining residency through its golden visa scheme, with a recent increase in the minimum investment threshold to €500,000 in certain regions to make real estate more affordable for locals.

While golden visas offer a quick and easy way for wealthy individuals to gain residency in another country, the EU has raised concerns about the security risks, transparency, and values that these schemes may pose. Despite the phasing out of golden visa schemes in some EU countries, there are still a few places where wealthy individuals can invest in exchange for residency and potentially citizenship. As the political and social environment continues to change, the future of golden visas in the EU remains uncertain.

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