Concern over Golden Visas has slowly grown among European Union member states, but, far from scaling down the program, Portugal has ramped it up with their new so-called Green Visa.
The Golden Visa program has, up until now, granted residency to non-EU/EFTA nationals who are able to invest significant amounts of money in Portugal. This includes the purchase of property worth 500,000€ and up, dropped to 350,000€ in areas of urban regeneration; the creation of 10 jobs; investment of 250,000€ in arts, culture, and heritage; as well as various other avenues.
Portugal has now added another opportunity for EU residency; the investment of at least 500,000€ in “environmental projects.” The creation of the so-called Green Visa happened as part of a vote on Friday, Jan. 11, despite a proposal by some leftwing parties to scrap the visa scheme altogether.
The Green Visa will apply to those investing in ecotourism, organic agriculture, renewable energy, and any project to cut carbon emissions, according to Reuters. This will help attract investment of an ecological nature as well as “reinforcing a multicultural and open society,” according to Andre Silva of Pessoas–Animais–Natureza (PAN). Beyond this, it is easy to see why the majority of politicians would vote to keep and extend the scheme that has brought more than €838 million to Portugal last year alone.
Not all are so quick to support the scheme, however, with Jose Manuel Pureza, one of those who proposed scrapping Golden Visas, calling the program “a tool for real estate speculation, corruption and money laundering.” This reflects many of the concerns that came to light in a report by Transparency International that was published in October 2018 entitled European Getaway – Inside the Murky World of Golden Visas. The report argues that while there are huge amounts of money involved, there is little investigation of its source or the people who are investing. Portugal was specifically flagged as an area of high risk due to the lack of rigorous security checks, the inconsistent application of the rules by border security, and the possibility of “Trojan horses” through “family reunion” applications.
Portugal has “sold over 17,000 residence permits since 2012,” according to the report, and this Friday’s vote shows that they have no intention of slowing.