Emerging Markets

Firm Trumpets Moldova's "Golden Visa" Charms To Asia

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 1 May 2019

Firm Trumpets Moldova's

Moldova became one of the most recent joiners of the "golden visa" market and, as a prominent operator in the field, it has been broadcasting its appeal to Asia.

One of the main players in what is dubbed the “golden visa” market is pitching the charms of the small Eastern European nation of Moldova to high net worth Asians. For the relatively small sum of €100,000, ($112,150), people can purchase citizenship in the country that once formed part of the Soviet Union.

Henley & Partners, which advises on these citizenship/residency-by-investment programmes, stated in a press release following an Asian conference event that “Eastern Europe is now home to some of the most dynamic and fastest-growing markets in the world, with the Republic of Moldova being a prime example of a nation with enormous potential”.

The country’s position in Eastern Europe, close also to the “Belt and Road” connections being forged by China, puts it in a strategically valuable position, the firm said. 

The sales pitch by the firm to HNW individuals and family members in Asia comes at a time when such programmes have been criticised by European Union legislators and policymakers, claiming that they could enable money laundering. Defenders say that due diligence checks are imposed on applicants and that small countries with few natural resources benefit from an influx of wealth, usually tied to investment and entrepreneurship. The UK recently imposed a temporary halt on its own Tier 1 Investor Visa regime (later resumed after some changes), while Canada suspended its programme about five years ago. Countries such as Malta, Portugal, Spain, Singapore and parts of the Caribbean also offer "golden visas". 

HNW Chinese and Russian individuals, and others, have been among the most enthusiastic applicants for these programmes in recent years.

A pan-industry advocacy group called the Investment Migration Council has defended such schemes, but they remain controversial. The IMC said that these visas can account for up to 40 per cent of total tax revenues in some smaller European states. It cited the European Parliament Research Service’s 2018 report “Citizenship by Investment (CBI) and Residency by Investment (RBI)” which found that investment migration contributes several percentage points of GDP to small economies on the European periphery. 

In its advocacy of the Moldova programme, Henley & Partners states that the country has double taxation avoidance agreements in place with 49 countries, including China and Japan, with more Asian jurisdictions due to join that list. 

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