The Squeeze On Investment Visas – What Should Happen Now?

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 6 March 2023

The Squeeze On Investment Visas – What Should Happen Now?

With these programmes, the subject of this interview says, the benefit is not just in the initial investment but all the investments later on, the taxes paid, the money spent in the economy, and the jobs created.

Just over a week ago, the global market for so-called “golden visas” (a term that some industry practitioners say is misleading) was rocked by news that Portugal was shutting its programme. The country acted within days of a similar move by Ireland. A year before, the UK closed its Tier 1 Investor visa programme, prompted by calls to close off the ability for wealthy Russians to park money in the West (a move that was seen as heavy-handed at the time, given how people from other nations were also affected). 

The market for cross-border citizenship solutions continues to evolve, and features a variety of firms that advise people on what to do, such as Henley & Partners. The Investment Migration Council, which has a secretariat in Geneva, was formed about a decade ago to speak on behalf of the industry. Another business operating in the space is Apex Capital Partners.

This news service recently spoke to Nuri Katz, Apex’s founder, about the market.

What sort of work does Apex do with HNW individuals who have used the “golden visa” systems operating over recent years? Which jurisdictions, if so, does it work with?
"Golden visa” is just a name many like to use when referring to investor immigration programmes that allow investors to apply for residence permits in various countries through an investment in a country’s economy. One of the major countries that offers such programmes is the US with the EB5 programme, which is probably the most popular “golden visa” programme in the world. 

Others are the Quebec investor programme and the Portuguese programme. Our company has worked with international investors for over 32 years who seek to take advantage of so-called “golden visa" programmes. So, for example, in the past we have worked with many Russian citizens interested in the EB5 programme in the US. We help identify appropriate and safe investments for them and liaise with various immigration and tax lawyers to assist clients to go through the immigration process as well as undertake pre-immigration tax planning. We also do much of the same in other jurisdictions, such as Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, Greece and elsewhere. 

Why do you think the Portuguese government shuttered this programme and do you think its reasons are justified?
The fact is the Portuguese government has NOT shuttered the programme.  At a press conference, the Prime Minister mentioned a plan to shut it in the future, but still has not done so. Portugal is having a very difficult economic crisis which has led to a housing crisis as well. Housing has become very expensive due to mostly Covid-related economic factors. 

Many Portuguese blame this on rich foreigners raising housing prices. Well the fact is that for over a year now applicants for “golden visas” have not been allowed to invest in housing in the major cities. A vast majority of the applicants invest in commercial property and in investment funds and as such do not affect the housing market at all. The Prime Minister made a populist statement blaming foreigners – a tactic sometimes used to deflect the source of a country’s problems. I do not believe the programme will be closed as even if politicians are going to play politics with the foreigners, the country still needs the investments and therefore I believe the programme will just be reformed and continued. 

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 as though these visas are somehow made of real gold and only available to the uber-rich, which is simply not the case. 

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