If you have the funds, buying your way into European citizenship is relatively easy—despite some politicians’ attempts to make it otherwise.
As such, demand for so-called golden visas across the European Union has skyrocketed, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. These documents allow wealthy foreigners to basically buy residency—and in turn, a path to citizenship—by investing in real estate or financial assets in European countries. All over the continent, people are taking advantage of the programs while they still exist.
While a couple of countries no longer offer golden visas—Ireland and the United Kingdom, notably—others are seeing a surge in demand. In May, Portugal issued a several-year high of 180 golden visas, while Greece’s 412 that month was an 87 percent increase from the year prior. In 2022, Spain gave out a whopping 2,462 golden visas, up 60 percent from 2021, and Italy distributed 79, the most since the country launched its program in 2018.
Part of the demand may be due to politicians’ calls to end the golden-visa system, which they say is loosely regulated and leads to rising property costs as wealthy foreigners move in. “Every time governments threaten to shut these programs down, there’s a surge of demand of people trying to get through the door before they close,” Nuri Katz, the founder of the immigration consultancy Apex Capital Partners, told Bloomberg. “It’s great for business.”
Portugal said in February that it would be ending its golden-visa program, while Greece increased its investment threshold from $272,854 (€250,000) to $545,708 (€500,000) in certain areas. Spain is considering an even larger bump, from $545,708 (€500,000) to $1.09 million (€1 million). But for the people eyeing these programs as a way to nab European citizenship, that price tag may simply be a drop in the bucket.
“For people worth about $5 to $7 million, richer millionaires, a $500,000 investment to get EU residency is fine,” Katz said.
And despite the push among some groups to do away with golden visas, the programs have brought an influx of cash into the EU, which many experts say may be enough to keep them around. In the past decade, countries that issue golden visas have seen about $27.3 billion (€25 billion) in investment through the programs, with Portugal on its own gaining $7.3 billion (€6.8 billion). That sort of money, particularly in places that rely on foreign capital, might be hard for countries to turn down.