European parliament joins calls to end ‘Golden Visa’ schemes led by Spain

EU against Spanish Golden Visa scheme

European Parliament. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Pressure is building in the EU to end so-called ‘Golden Visa’ schemes that offer residency and possibly citizenship in return for money.

Back in January the European Commission expressed its opposition to Golden Visa and Golden Passport schemes in Europe like the one in Spain that offers qualified residency and a path to long term citizenship in return for an equity investment of €500,000 or more in property.

This week the EU’s parliament in Strasbourg has added its voice to the condemnation of residency by investment programmes in Europe, with a vote on Tuesday supporting a hard-hitting report from the parliament’s committee on financial crime and tax evasion calling for all Golden Visa schemes to be “phased out” as soon as possible.

The parliament passed a resolution stating that residency and citizenship by investment schemes “do not offset the serious security, money laundering and tax evasion risks they present.” The resolution is non-binding on member states.

EU lawmakers see the business of selling visas and passports as an invitation to tax-evasion and money-laundering by wealthy individuals from countries where corruption is rife. The report also accused Luxembourg, Cyprus, Ireland, Malta, Hungary, Belgium and the Netherlands as acting as tax havens.

“A good first step to combat intra-EU money laundering would be to get rid of the so-called ‘golden visa’ which are a gateway for money laundering and organised crime,” said Markus Ferber, head of the conservative group in the parliament’s economic committee.

In response, the Investment Migration Council, representing the residency by investment industry, claimed that killing the schemes would cause economic damage and threaten vital investments in “peripheral economies”.

The Spanish Golden Visa was introduced by the Popular Party (right of centre) in 2013, in the depths of Spain’s recession when times were hard, money short, and property for sale abundant. Too bureaucratic and unattractive, at first it was a flop, but after tweaking to make more attractive to residency investors it became the most popular scheme in the EU, with 24,755 Golden Visa issued since 2013, according to a Transparency International report published in 2018. Unlike Portugal, the Spanish Golden Visa scheme hasn’t been hit by any scandals, at least not yet.

Now the Socialists are at least temporarily in power in Spain, supported by the hard left Podemos party, and with a General Election coming in April, opposition to the Spanish Golden Visa scheme might soon come from closer to home. Obviously the hard left hate the scheme because it attracts foreigners with money to Spain. If the left win power in the General Election just around the corner, will they keep the Spanish Golden Visa scheme alive or close it down? It’s clear what the powers that be in the EU would urge them to do.

About Mark Stücklin

Mark Stücklin is a Barcelona-based Spanish property market analyst, and author of the 'Spanish Property Doctor' column in the Sunday Times (2005 - 2008).

2 thoughts on “European parliament joins calls to end ‘Golden Visa’ schemes led by Spain”

  1. adeorjan

    Whether you’re left, right or central in your political leanings, I took Mark’s comment to mean the socialist left are against rich elite foreigners buying up property in return for rights and residency when many everyday Spaniards struggle to buy or share in any prosperity? Even though it was a sweeping statement isn’t that a fair assumption? There is of course the counter argument that the system continues to boost the Spanish economy, tourism and jobs… Oh dear I usually try to avoid politics LOL!

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