European Union is considering a major clampdown on golden visas and economic citizenship programmes within the region. As per reports, the EU will soon ask the Caribbean countries to shut down their residency and citizenship by investment programmes. As per sources, the decision will be finalised by May 2023.
Malta has at present agreed to European Union’s suggestion and is ready to close down its programme. The updates come as so much is going on around the golden visa programme, as in similar events, the United Kingdom also suspended their Tier 1 investor visa earlier this year.
It is expected that the European Union would strongly stress that all existing national programmes for selling passports be terminated without delay. Only Malta, Cyprus, and Bulgaria have such programmes in the EU, and all three countries have announced to phase them out. Recent votes in the Bulgarian parliamentary session have also committed to cancelling the programme.
The golden visa and economic citizenship programmes have been hot topics for a few years. The European Union has been stressing the countries to either strengthen due diligence or shut down their programmes, citing security risks. The major developments arrived after a global call to restrict Russian oligarchs due to their potential steps into investing in such programmes after the Russia-Ukraine distress.
Following an official statement in March 2022, the European Parliament also pushes such countries to close their programmes.
Citizenship by investment or residency by investment programmes are becoming popular, and it has grown into a billion-dollar industry. Many high-net-worth individuals view it as a roadmap to escape stressful situations and seek safe havens.
The programmes allow the ultra-wealthy to buy citizenship directly by making an investment into an authorised real estate or government bonds. Some countries offer multiple investment routes to lure these wealthy investors. One of the major setbacks of such programmes is many countries do not even require the investor/individual to visit the country either before or after the citizenship is granted.
The Cyprus Golden visa was shutdown due to widespread controversies of fast-tracking applications and granting citizenship to people without any background or due diligence checks. The programme was later closed down following a widespread outcry by international media groups after a scandal unfolded.
Similarly, a multi-island Pacific country, Vanuatu, lost its visa-free access to Europe after it failed to strengthen its due diligence checks and continued granting citizenship to illicit individuals.
It is not just small countries or islands that have been walking the route of such programmes, developed and rich countries like the United Kingdom have also been on similar routes. The UK’s Tier 1 visa allowed citizenship or residency to rich investors from around the world at a whopping £2m. The programme was closed after banks carried insufficient background checks on the investors, thus posing a risk to the country’s safety and security.