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Golden visas: European citizenship against investments

Several European countries offer “golden visas” allowing the wealthiest foreigners to benefit from a residence permit or even a European passport in return for a substantial investment, particularly in real estate.

Portugal’s golden visa program, launched in 2012, is currently booming, says specialist site Mansion Global. It offers investors acquiring property worth more than half a million euros in a small town or low density area the opportunity to obtain a fully valid residence permit and to apply for citizenship after six years. The program also provides a 10-year tax break on global income.

Citizenship and tax exemption

Last February, the Portuguese Parliament approved a budget including new laws excluding properties purchased in the country’s two major cities, Lisbon and Porto, from 2021. To obtain their gold visa, investors will have to buy in low density areas.

Portugal’s golden visa program has helped the country attract more than 5.1 billion euros in investments since its launch in 2012, for a total of 8,736 residence permits.

Spain launched a golden visa program in 2013, just after Portugal. This program also requires an investment of at least 500,000 euros, except that in the case of Spain investors have to wait ten years to apply for citizenship. Like Portugal, Spain also offers a major tax advantage, with exemption from tax on foreign source income for foreign residents.

Greece for its part recently relaunched the golden visa process to stimulate investment in the country, amid the coronavirus pandemic that has damaged the economy heavily dependent on tourism.

Greece: a program that meets with great success

Greece offers several options in its permanent residence program. One requires a minimum investment of € 250,000 in real estate. Another requires a minimum capital contribution of € 400,000 to a real estate investment company that will invest exclusively in Greece. Investors can apply for citizenship after seven years of residence. The program is particularly popular with Chinese nationals, the same source said.

In Malta, the program launched in 2014 requires a minimum contribution of around 1.15 million euros. This amount can be distributed as follows: 650,000 euros to a national development fund, 150,000 euros of investments approved by the government and a real estate purchase of 350,000 euros.

While the amount is significant compared to many other programs offered by other countries, the advantage is that investors can start the citizenship process just one year after taking up residence.

Cyprus requires an investment of two million euros in real estate to obtain European citizenship, in addition to an additional 150,000 euros to invest in government funds. This program thus gives anyone who becomes a citizen by investment the opportunity to live, work, study and invest anywhere in the European Union.

Finally, Montenegro launched a program in 2019 requiring a minimum real estate investment of € 450,000 in new development projects in the coastal region in exchange for a passport. However, it should be noted that Montenegro is not yet part of the European Union. Although the country aims to join the EU, this is not expected until at least 2025.

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