The right to citizenship in the European Union is now considered a luxury good. More than a dozen EU nations including Greece now provide "golden visas," or investment opportunities that grant affluent foreigners citizenship or residency in exchange for real estate or government bonds. However, although being enormously profitable, these schemes invite foreigners with criminal histories into the bloc.
This is why the EU considers such residency by investment programs risky and irresponsible. Greek Golden Visa or Golden passports present significant security issues. The European Union considers golden visas undesirable from an ethical, legal, and economic perspective. To combat corruption and money laundering, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) demand consistent EU regulations on "golden visas."
The European Union is worried that Greek citizenship is on sale. Thus, the parliament suggests new laws that apply to everyone to solve the numerous issues associated with "citizenship/residence by investment" programs. Read on to learn about the reasons behind EU’s disapproval of Greek Golden visas and other member countries offering it.
Under the "Residency by Investment" or "Golden Visa" program, foreign nationals may become citizens of Greece by making a real estate investment and fulfilling other requirements. After submitting the application and any further supporting documents, the Golden Visa for Greece is usually granted within two months.
Some of the initial requirements for the citizens interested in the Greek Residency by Investment program are as follows:
The minimum property worth needed for Greece’s Golden Visa, one of the most well-liked schemes and one of its kind for wealthy foreigners seeking residence in Europe, is expected to rise from 250,000 Euros (268,977.42 USD) to 500,000 Euros (537,954.84 USD) in 2023.
The new minimum valuation at the time of purchase is going to apply to the following:
According to the Transparency International (TI) and Global Witness report "European Getaway - Inside the murky world of golden visas," over the past ten years, golden visa schemes have brought more than six thousand new citizens and 100,000 new residents into the European Union". The majority of whom have highly dubious sources of wealth. This is why all EU nations offering golden passports including Greece need to examine the issue more closely.
According to reports, the amount of foreign investment in Greece’s real estate reached 414.4 million Euros in the second quarter of 2022. It was considered a 67% rise over the same time in 2021. It’s a testament to the fact of the explosive growth in demand for Greek Golden Visas. In recent years, one-third of real estate transactions in the Hellenic Republic involved acquisitions made specially to obtain a Golden Visa. The most sought-after residences were apartments and mansions in Athens’ center, on the Riviera, and in well-known tourist locations.
Foreign investors were buying up real estate in Greece as it was believed that the cap for resident permits was about to be raised. There is some support at the EU level for putting an end to the current Golden visa rush, even if such programs are unlikely to be abolished anytime soon.
It is believed that Golden visas for Greece give affluent people a chance to "purchase" the right to residency, occasionally without even having to live there. To wealthy individuals, it presents a "golden" chance to make investments in Greece and gain expedited residency rights. This is one of the reasons why residency by investment programs has come under scrutiny.
The EU’s founding principles are threatened by "citizenship by investment" (CBI) schemes. It grants third-country nationals citizenship rights in exchange for a monetary payment. A person who does not possess the nationality of either one of the European Union’s Member States or one of its associate members is considered to be a third-country national. It is being debated that as member states such as Greece sell something that was never meant to be a commodity, the practice is referred to by the European Parliament as "free riding."
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) claim that applications are being approved even though conditions have not been fulfilled by the investors seeking Greek golden passports. MEPs demand that this residency by investment programs be phased out because of the hazards they pose.
Golden passport and visa programs pose inherent corruption and money laundering risks. The European Commission is concerned,d but it is not doing enough to combat such threats. In March 2022, the European Parliament echoed Transparency International’s position and suggested a significant revision to EU investment migration programs. The Commission, however, has not yet responded.
The issue came to light as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is estimated that half of the golden passports issued have gone to Russians. Greece’s golden visa program has primarily benefited investors from Russia, China, and Turkey.
According to the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum, the Greek government has suspended the granting or renewal of residence permits for investors for residents of the Russian Federation. In light of the serious concerns associated with "residence by investment" (RBI) schemes, the European Parliament has requested member states to implement the following EU regulations:
This needs to be implemented to combat corruption, tax evasion, and money laundering. Most importantly, the checks performed by non-state actors should not be relied upon by member states. According to the European Parliament, the EU should impose a substantial percentage-based fee on investments up until the phase-out of "golden passports" and indefinitely for "golden visas."
Additionally, it has requested that the Commission exert pressure on non-EU nations that gain from visa-free travel to do the same.
Parliament has advocated for the following:
As of today, the requirements for clearance differ significantly amongst the member states. Many member states appear to limit background checks to what a Google search will reveal, and even then, ignore clear warning signs. Due to the risk to security, transparency, and the principles that support the European Union, the European Commission has been urging member states including the Hellenic Republic that operate such programs to end them as quickly as possible. Overall, it is believed that Greek citizenship and residency privileges have been reduced to a luxury product by such programs that anyone with sufficient funds can purchase. This is why the golden passport and visa program are criticized heavily.
The EU is urging Greece and member states alike to take measures to prohibit the sale of citizenships.
Hopefully, member states such as Greece will change or end their programs. EU hopes that the countries will start putting their inhabitants before profit. This may happen under increased pressure from European politicians and citizens alike.
Chinese buyers have obtained about six thousand golden Greek visas since 2014. Hence, they are regarded as the most interested investors. However, the Greek residency program is being criticized on the ground that it is serving dodgy people who can’t enter in broad daylight.
Rather, such programs are being regarded as a back entrance into the EU. This is why the European Union is considering it is time to lock that door so that people with questionable financial dealings stay outside of Greece and member states. As of now, governments of the member states have declined to address the issue. Many believe and state it is not a concern of the EU. Given the current situation, most of the member states of the E.U., including Greece are no longer able to sidestep the problem.
A Greek Golden Visa enables the primary investor and their family members (if any) to work, study, reside, and use healthcare services in the nation. In fact, Greek visas do offer a quick path to citizenship and simplify the procedure overall. Even if such residency by investment plans is provided by many other EU members, Union officials frequently criticize it for providing a gateway for illegal activities like corruption and money laundering.
It wishes to phase out these so-called golden passports that help affluent individuals become citizens of their member countries and subsequently gain access to Europe’s financial systems. There is some truth to the fact that corrupt people and criminals consider Golden visas for Greece and the rest of the member states an alluring opportunity. Some scandals have shown in the past that persons of dubious means are already utilizing it. Therefore, the Greek golden passport and visa programs are being thought to serve corrupt interests rather than promoting legitimate business or immigration. However, some contend that the risks have been overstated. In the end, the worries raised may seem a bit exaggerated.