Controversy surrounding Golden Visas causes calls for more control

Published:  16 Oct at 6 PM
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Recent publicity surrounding the controversial subject of Golden Visas is resulting in calls for more control over their issuance.

EU lawmakers are now calling for tighter controls over the so-called Golden Visa purchases of second passports and residential rights in exchange for cash. Major concerns about the second passport schemes are centred around the likelihood of money-laundering, especially since a spate of scandals concerning Malta, Estonia, Denmark and Latvia came to light. It has to be said that it’s not clear whether or not the purchasers of these state’s Golden Visas are involved in any illegality, although concerns have also been raised about the possible misuse of the UK’s Tier 1 Investor Visa.

According to the CEO of the Investment Migration Council, it’s obvious that any such investment migration programme is wide open to abuse and claims of corruption if it isn’t linked to oversight and a rigid ethical code. In addition, it has the potential to circumvent global regulations. The Council believes a worldwide code of ethics is necessary in order to create an industry best practice framework setting out standards for regulatory compliance in addition to integrity and confidentiality. Some 40 countries worldwide now operate Golden Visa schemes, with the major players the UK, USA, Malta, Portugal and Spain and Montenegro a relatively new arrival.

Typically, applicants must invest in either real estate, liquid securities or an actual business and are given passports and rights to permanent residency and citizenship which often include their families and don’t state actual presence in the country is required. In the UK, Liberal Democrat MPs have called for the British version to be discontinued as it has very little benefit for the British economy. Spain has introduced the scheme to boost its depressed property market following the 2008 financial meltdown, and the small island of Malta has received millions of euros of revenue in exchange for passports.

Crucial to the debate about Golden Visas is whether expat citizenship should be seen as a purchasable commodity only open to high net worth individuals, many of whom have an interest in ‘offshore tax havens’. The usual justification is that a second passport can allow its owner to escape persecution in his or her home country, but workable asylum processes make more sense, and the threat of having one’s legitimately-obtained wealth confiscated by one’s government can be legally countered by immediate transfers to friendly offshore banks anywhere in the world.
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