Golden Visa programs were originally established to facilitate a mutually beneficial arrangement between the host country and foreign investors, predicated on the fundamental concept of inward investment in exchange for residency or citizenship.
However, this noble intention took a turn when large franchised agencies entered the bespoke emigration-by-investment market. Driven by ever-escalating sales targets, their local offices began to adopt a creative approach by accepting clients who, in principle, should never have been considered for a Golden Visa. Instances of overlooking scrutiny in favor of profit became apparent.
These unethical practices have cast a shadow over Golden Visa programs, leading to several countries completely abolishing such schemes.
Numerous countries, including the UK, have introduced “golden visa” schemes, distinct from “golden passports,” as they exclusively offer residence permits rather than citizenship to investors.
Here, we delve into some of the most controversial programs in recent years:
Citizenship-by-investment: In 2017, investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was tragically killed in a car bombing while probing corruption in Malta, including the country’s citizenship-by-investment program. This scheme was reintroduced recently and now necessitates an investment ranging from €600,000 to €750,000, along with a residency period of three years or 12 months respectively. Applicants are also required to purchase a property in Malta with a minimum value of €700,000 or enter into a five-year rental agreement.
Cyprus eliminated its long-standing program in November. In the same month, it was disclosed that Jho Low, the financier central to the Malaysian 1MDB scandal, had acquired Cypriot citizenship through this program in 2015. Launched in 2007, this initiative granted citizenship to individuals investing in or purchasing property valued at a minimum of €2 million. Permanent residence was offered to those investing in or acquiring property worth €300,000.
Tier 1 – investor visa: The UK’s investor visa program was the costliest in Europe. In July, the Home Office initiated a review of all investor visas issued prior to April 2015 due to “security concerns.” Introduced in 2008, this scheme was open to individuals willing to invest at least £2 million. However, it was discontinued in 2022, as the UK deemed it too risky to accept funds that could not be adequately monitored.
The Investor visa or “Golden Citizenship” schemes deemed safest in terms of protecting investors from moral hazards are the USA and the Australian 188 Visa Scheme.
Crucially, it is imperative to identify a reputable firm specializing in global mobility through investment, one that is not solely driven by maximizing profits at any cost.