In the light of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, western powers including the EU, are moving to block insiders of his regime from taking advantage of Golden Visa schemes, and some countries are even closing the door to all Russians.
In a joint statement on the 26th of February issued by leaders from the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, the signatories pledged to act “against the people and entities who facilitate the war in Ukraine and the harmful activities of the Russian government,” in part by closing western doors to regime-insiders.
As the statement explains, “Specifically, we commit to taking measures to limit the sale of citizenship—so called golden passports—that let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems.”
The European Commission has issued a separate statement saying “We commit to taking measures to limit the sale of citizenship—so-called golden passports—that let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems.”
Some countries have gone even further, implementing a ban on all Russians from taking advantage of their so-called ‘Golden Visa’ schemes that offer qualified residency and a path to citizenship in return for a sizable investment, often including property.
Greece halted all investment by residence visas for Russians from 28 February, whilst Portugal “has suspended the appreciation of any dossier of candidacy for authorisation of residency through investment, commonly known as golden visas, for Russian citizens,” says Portugal’s Foreign Affairs Minister Augusto Santos Silva. Some press reports suggest the move also applies to Belarusian citizens.
The UK has scrapped it’s Tier 1 Golden Visa scheme (£2m minimum investment) that was used to grant 14,516 visas to wealthy Russian citizens since it started in 2008, some of them oligarchs close to Putin.
So far there has been no news of the Spanish government taking unilateral steps to block Putin’s regime-insiders or Russian citizens from the Golden Visa scheme, but one has to assume that restrictions are being considered, given the barbaric nature of Putin’s regime is now clear for all to see. Also, the hard-left Podemos party in Spain’s coalition government hate the Golden Visa scheme (preferential treatment for rich people) and would love to see it discontinued. This could be a good excuse.
The idea of blocking Golden Visas to Russian citizens has the developers of Alicante province worried, as it is reportedly the most popular destination for Russian buyers looking for property for sale in Spain. Provia, an association of developers in Alicante province, has warned against criminalising “Russian citizens, the majority of whom do not support the conflict,” and called on the government to continue granting and renewing Golden Visas for Russian nationals.
Russians were the second biggest market for Spanish Golden Visas in 2019, making up 6% of all Golden Visas that year, a long way behind China with 67% (see chart below). However, Russians represent close to 25% of all Golden Visas issued since the Spanish scheme started in 2013, according to Spanish press reports, and some of them will have been granted to regime-insiders. According to the latest figures Russian investors obtained 74 Golden Visas in 2020, rising to 157 in 2021. There were six visas granted in January of this year, before Putin invaded Ukraine, according to Spanish government sources.