Over the past seven years, the state has brought in more than 167 million Euros with the issuance and renewal of Golden Visas. The fees charged by “SEF” (“Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras”) are the result of more than 19,000 visas issued and over 17,000 renewals, a retention rate of almost 90% of investors and households.
A special committee of the European Parliament urges the creation of a European Police Force and a European Regulator dedicated to money laundering. The proposals of the Special Committee on Financial Crimes and Tax Evasion (TAX3) form part of a report with various recommendations, including the abolition of “Golden Visas”.
Since inception, more than 19,000 new “golden” residents have been approved for Golden Visas in Portugal. Only 387 (2 out of every 100 applications) were turned down despite warnings from the UN and the European Commission. Allegations abound that these Portuguese entry visas facilitate money laundering and tax evasion as well as jeopardize the security of the EU. The European Parliament will vote on a proposal to abolish such schemes throughout the member states.
While the European Commission (EC) defends the end of “Golden Visas”, Portugal contends that the programme will go on. In recent years, the scheme has served as a gateway for millions of euros into the national real estate market in exchange for permanent residency visas for high net worth foreign investors. In light of the controversy, the government has announced plans to alter legislation to improve transparency as called for by the European Parliament.
The Global Anti-Corruption Consortium recently presented a report revealing important data on the obscure world of Golden Visas. Four EU countries sell citizenship, twelve offer permanent residency permits. Golden Visas have lead to over 25 billion euros invested in the European Union over the last decade.
Critics say that the European Union should simply ban the practice. The sale of Golden Visas poses a serious security risk for the European Union in general and the Schengen system in particular. “It is a prostitution of the Schengen system, giving a fast track to rich migrants who are often kleptocrats, criminals and money launderers.”
Through Golden Visas, more than 100 thousand people have already obtained authorisation for permanent residency or citizenship in throughout member states. Portugal is one of the EU countries that has benefited most from selling Golden Visas, averaging €670,000,000 each year since inception.
Chinese investment in Golden Visas fell by 24% between January and August year-on-year to €194.3 million. During the same period, Turkish investments more than doubled to €69.4 million. Brazilians accounted for €86.7 million, 41.8% less than a year earlier. South Africa declined 47% to €22.8 million while Russia also fell to €20.3 million, a reduction of 202%. In cumulative terms, Golden Visas have yielded almost four billion Euros since inception, mostly in real estate.
Golden Visa investment rose 34.6% in June over the previous 12 months to 52.8 million euros, but fell 18.8% in the first half of 2018, according to statistics from the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF). Since 2013, 10,793 Golden Visa residence permits have been allocated to wealthy migrant families: 576 in 2013, 2,395 in 2014, 1,322 in 2015, 2,344 in 2016, 2,678 in 2017 and 1,478 so far in 2018.
The coalition partner, Left Block (“Bloco Esquerda”), will soon propose to the General Assembly to do away with the Golden Visa Programme. They consider the immigration shortcut to be a source of corruption, influence peddling, embezzlement, money laundering, tax and criminal offences and unfair discrimination between those who have money and those who don’t.
Brazilian entrepreneurs tainted by the corruption scandal, “Lava-Jato”, along with relatives of a prominent Angolan politician, accused of crooked operations, successfully “bought” access into Europe through the Portuguese Golden Visa programme. This immigration shortcut allows those who invest at least €500,000 in property in Portugal to obtain immediate permanent residency, leading to EU citizenship after five years.
The Golden Visa Programme is a simple, alluring residency scheme aimed at attracting investors from around the world to Portugal. The qualifying conditions for the concession of Residency Permits of Investment Activity have been expanded, creating new opportunities. The recently passed up-dates take effect on 26 November and are part of a transposition of three EU directives, introducing new schemes for a) seasonal workers, b) transfer of migrant workers within a company or group, as well as c) a regime for the entry and stay of students, researchers, volunteers and trainees. Continue reading