Why Residency/Citizenship-By-Investment Visas Aren't Going Away

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 12 April 2023


How significant are further threats to these golden visa programmes?
Most countries need foreign direct investment and programmes allowing investors to live in the country they invest in will continue forever. The programmes may be reformed, maybe by trying to eliminate the stigma of the words “golden visa” that makes it sound like these visas are somehow made of real gold and only available to the uber rich, which is simply not the case. 

Do you see more examples of them being shut down or put on hold? 
The US golden visa programme is actually the best example of a programme closed and then reformed and opened up again. The programme was suspended by congress in June 2021, then reformed and opened again in March 2022. The Irish programme seems to have closed, but we still do not know if it will be replaced.

The Canadian federal programme was closed but the various provinces opened their own programmes and are accepting investor immigrants as well. Spain had a programme in the 90s that was closed but then opened again in the 2000s. The countries need investors and governments are not always experienced in managing immigrant investor programmes, so often when they identify issues, they put them on halt, reform them, and open them up again.

What should the wider wealth industry do to explain why these programmes have value and should be retained? 
The fact is that people want optionality in life. The investment to receive the residence permit is usually just the first investment that investors make when they move to a new country. The real value of these programmes is not the initial investment but all the investments later, the taxes paid, the money spent in the economy, the jobs created. The fact is that wealthy immigrants create huge opportunities for local populations, and that is why they are important.

Where in the world do you think such programmes will continue to operate or even come back from a period of closure/suspension? 
Well, as mentioned, the US EB5 visa programme is really the biggest programme that was closed and then opened up again. The provincial programme in Quebec was closed but I believe it will open again. I also think that the Greece, Cyprus programmes will continue to be popular. I think that it is most likely that the programme in Portugal will simply be reformed to eliminate the residential real estate investment option. I also believe that programmes like this will open up in many Asian countries as well.

Dubai and certain other places continue to operate schemes, and it appears that in the UAE, for example, they haven’t gone after Russian expats under the post-Ukraine invasion sanctions. Do you see this as a source of friction in future? 
Obviously, the US is now on a witchhunt against all Russian citizens whom they collectively blame for the actions of the Russian government. Somehow, however illogical this might be, US government officials are convinced that if upper middle class Russians are allowed to leave Russia and invest elsewhere then that will somehow make it easier for the Russian government to pursue their goals in Ukraine.

Clearly the US department of state and treasury officials are travelling all over the world trying to block even ordinary Russians from having access to banking and visas. It has created a lot of friction with many countries who believe that Russian people are like all other people and should have the right to live and work where they want. 
The countries pressured by the US are very upset about having their banking system threatened, as well as other pressure put on them by the Americans, and have expressed this frustration. We can only assume that these threats will continue and that it will lead to more friction with numerous countries around the world. The fact is that 85 per cent of the world is not sanctioning Russians. People don’t believe that sanctioning Russians will lead to peace with Ukraine, they are therefore very upset about the pressure being put on them to cancel all Russians.

Are there types of “golden visa” that you see as having more staying power in the long haul, such as those that aren’t seen as pumping up real estate values, etc?
Well obviously the US EB5 programme will last as it was just renewed. I think many of the others will continue and, if they have some effect on real estate prices and push locals out of the market, they will be reformed. These programmes have been in existence for decades, and countries understand that they are valuable for the economy. A lot of the negativism is just populistic rants of politicians who don’t care to understand these programmes and their value.

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