In recent years there has been growing demand from non-EU nationals for residency in European countries in exchange for real estate investment. A growing number of European nations have responded by introducing a series of so-called “Golden Visa” schemes, offering residency in exchange for property purchases with rules & regulations varying from country to country. The Golden Visas are designed to attract foreign investment and stimulate the post-crisis property market and economy and overall, most schemes have been deemed a success.
The schemes primarily target Russian, Middle Eastern and Chinese investors, with interest also from the US, India and Latin America. Applicants in all of the countries offering these types of programmes qualify to bring their spouses and any dependent children with them (and in some countries, parents and grandchildren qualify for residency by default).
The amount applicants are required to invest varies, as does the length of the visa. However non-EU nationals who are able to make a significant investment will be eligible for a temporary resident visa, which may lead to eventual citizenship. A residency visa enables free travel throughout all 26 countries in the Schengen* Area (Austria, Belgium, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Island, Italy, Leetonia, Republic of Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Nederland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) with almost immediate effect.
Other advantages include being able to invest in countries with stable political and economic situations, benefitting from good infrastructure as well as the single currency (stable prices, greater consumer choice, integrated financial markets etc).
Here is Lucas Fox’s guide to Europe’s most prominent golden visa schemes:
When? Spain’s “Golden Visa” scheme was launched in September 2013, and underwent some key updates in 2015.
How Much? The Spanish Golden Visa has a minimum qualifying investment of €500,000 (without finance) or more in property.
Visa Details? Successful applicants initially, receive a one year, temporary residency visa which can be renewed twice for two year extensions.
After five years, recipients may apply for permanent residency, which will require them to live in Spain for at least 183 days per year.
Applicants may apply for citizenship following 10 years of continued effective residence in Spain (more than 183 days per year for the full 10 year period).
Requirements? Applicants will need to be in a position to pay 500 thousand euros or more without finance on Spanish property. There is no requirement for minimum stays ordering to renew the visa. This means that it is optional to stay in Spain.
Who? Recent amendments to the scheme allow the holder to request family regrouping including their spouse, children aged under 18 and adult dependent relatives carrying out their studies.
Other Ways to Qualify? Applicants may also invest €2,000,000 in Spanish government bonds.
Portugal’s scheme is the most similar to Spain’s:
When? Golden Visa scheme established in 2012, and was the first of its kind in Europe.
How Much? The Portuguese Golden Visa has a minimum qualifying investment of €500,000 or more in property. For properties older than 30 years, or situated in “urban regeneration zones”, the required investment is €350,000.
Visa Details? The initial temporary residency visa lasts for one year and can be renewed twice for two year periods at a time. At the end of the sixth year, the holder may apply for full Portuguese Nationality.
Other Requirements? Residency visa holders are required to spend 7 days in Portugal throughout the first 12 months, and 14 days per year throughout the following 4 year period. The real estate investment must be kept for a minimum period of 5 years.
Who? The holder may request the family regrouping including their spouse, children aged under 18 and adult dependent relatives carrying out their studies.
Other Ways to Qualify? People who invest €1m in Portuguese companies or set up a business which creates 10 jobs may also apply to the scheme.
Applicants can now apply after investing a minimum of €350,000 into scientific or technological research activities, or €250,000 into artistic production or the maintenance of national cultural heritage or alternatively €500,000 into small/medium sized local businesses.
NB: Whilst these new investment categories have been announced, the full regulatory details are yet to be officially published.
When? The United Kingdom have offered their current scheme of residency in exchange for significant investment in the British economy since November 2014.
How Much? The Uk’s “Golden Visa” (also known as the Tier 1 investor visa) has a minimum qualifying investment of £ 2,000,000.
Visa Details? The initial £2 million investment allows the applicant to reside temporarily in the UK. Following 2 years, applicants may invest a further £10 million in order to settle permanently (or £5 million after 3 years). Applicants may apply for British citizenship after either 5-6 years of residing in the country.
Requirements? Investment in property is not allowed, and there are strict guidelines as to which types of investment schemes qualify towards a residency visa application. These include UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.
Who? The investor’s Spouse as well as any children under 18.
Other Ways to Qualify? None, I’m afraid.
When? Cyprus’ Golden Scheme, known as the “F visa” was opened in 2012.
How much? In order to qualify for a citizenship, investors must purchase a luxurious property worth €2 million or invest at least €2.5 million or €5 million into the Cypriot economy (see below for full requirements).
Visa details? Following this substantial investment, a full Cypriot (EU) citizenship and passport can be processed within just 3-4 months.
Requirements? There are no requirements to reside in or visit Cyprus after being awarded a passport. Investors may sell their Cypriot real estate after three years but must acquire, or hold, a permanent residence equivalent of €500,000 to maintain the Cypriot passport.
Who? Also, passports can be issued to the applicant (the investor), the spouse, all underage children and adult dependents in full time education and whom are under 28 years old.
Other Ways to Qualify? Accelerated citizenship may also be available to those who invest at least €2.5 million in the Cypriot economy, including a €2 million investment in shares or bonds issued by the government, and a €500,000 donation to the country’s Research and Technology Fund.*
*The €2m figure applies when the individual is investing as part of a larger group of shareholders whose collective investments add up to more than €12.5m; an investment of €5m in real estate or banks is still required for an individual.
NB: Whichever of the above criteria they apply under, those seeking citizenship would also need to own a permanent residence in Cyprus worth at least €500,000.
When? The Malta Residence and Visa Programme was launched in 2015 with some details still to be clarified.
How Much? Applicants must invest a minimum of €320,000 in Maltese real estate unless the property is situated in Gozo or in the South of Malta where the minimum value is lowered to €270,000. Alternatively, a residency applicant may rent property in Malta for a minimum of €12,000 per year (should the property be situated in Gozo or in the South of Malta, this is lowered to €10,000 per year).
Visa Details? The applicant (and their dependants) will recieve a certificate allowing them to reside indefinitely in Malta. This will be reviewed each year for the first five years, then will be reissued every five years following this initial period.
Requirements? The applicant must be able to provide evidence of an annual income of at least €100,000 from outside Malta or else that are in possession of a minimum capital of €500,000. Both the applicant and any dependants are responsible for health insurance within the EU territory. The individual must also undergo a health test.
Who? Dependants may also join the applicant (this includes the candidate’s spouse, children under 18, children aged between 18 and 26 who are financially dependant on the applicant, a dependant parent, a child aged over 18 who is declared legally disabled.
Other Ways to Qualify? Further measures for applicants have yet to be announced, though it is anticipated that these will take the form of significant investment in government bonds.
The least costly option, unsurprising given recent political instability within Greece and with its wider relationships with EU nations.
When? The Greek version of the Golden Visa scheme opened in July 2013.
How Much? A minimum investment of €250,000 in Greek real estate.
Visa Details? Successful applicants will qualify for a 5 year temporary resident visa, which may be extended for a further 5 years at the end of this period. Foreign residents may not be granted citizenship, thus the visa will continue to be renewed every five years for the duration of this period.
Requirements? There is no minimum stay requirement.
Who? The wider family of the applicant are included in the visa, including children up to 21 years of age.
Other Ways to Qualify? Greece also issues visas to those who make ‘strategic investments’ (the minimum requirement is unspecified, and residency is awarded on a pro rata bases) and/or create or buy a business that employs a minimum of ten people.
Why is Spain the best option?
Spain continues to offer immeasurable lifestyle benefits in comparison to many neighbouring EU nations:
- The property market is currently looking extremely buoyant, with November seeing the first rise in national average house prices since 2008. According to leading appraisal company Tinsa, Spain’s property price index rose by 0.8%. After some years of decline, these recent figures show that prices are at last stabilising and indeed tentatively beginning to rise across Spain, particularly in prime centrally located areas such as Barcelona, Madrid, the Canary islands as well as the Balearics (which include Ibiza, Mallorca & Menorca).
- The Residency permit now also includes right to work in Spain.
- Under the previous Law, property investments were legally required to be made on an individual basis. Investors will now be able to purchase their properties in Spain either directly or indirectly through a registered company, so long as they continue to hold the majority of shares and the company’s address is not located in a tax haven.
- Married couples who wish to acquire a property together are no longer required to comply with the €500,000 minimum investment individually. Before the changes, the minimum investment requirement applied on an individual basis, creating a disadvantage for co-owning couples. The changes benefit unmarried couples immensely.
- Another addition to the scheme will ensure that unmarried, co-habiting couples will now also benefit from the Law when they register under the Spanish “domestic partnership” Civil Registry, a rule which also applies to same sex couples.
- Spain has excellent communications links (including several international airports, the fast-speed ‘AVE’ trains as well as extremely well maintained road and rail links) – enabling efficient travel throughout the Schengen zone, and many far flung destinations.
- Spain is renowned for some of the best international schools in all of Europe. A recently published “prosperity index” rated Spain highly on an international scale due to its high standard of education (in fact, higher than any other nation currently offering a golden visa residency scheme).
- Spain quite simple offers huge lifestyle benefits – the WHO listen Spain second in the world for longevity after Japan. A recent study by Eurostat has revealed that Spanish people live the longest in Europe, with life expectancy at birth an extremely positive 83.2.
- The Spanish health service is excellent. It is widely recognised that residents of Spain have access to world class medical care thegeneral infrastructure is considered to be well managed with a fair system of accountable government spending.
- Spain is world famous for its incredible gastronomy – home to the most highly rated restaurants in the world including El Celler de Can Roca, and the former El Bulli, Spain has a great deal to answer for on the international culinary stage. The exceedingly high life expectancy in Spain has also been attributed to the Mediterranean diet, which the Spanish do particularly well.
- The economy is on the up, and has been declared one of best currently improving economies in the Eurozone. According to the IMF, Spain’s GDP is currently predicted to grow 2.5% next year.
Lucas Fox offers a bespoke Residency service to non-EU buyers. For more information and advice on obtaining the “Golden Visa” please contact our Residency in Spain office on +34 933 562 989 or via email at email@example.com
Residency in Spain
Our thanks to Lucas Fox