Citizenship for sale to the highest bidders

 Citizenship for sale to the highest bidders

Citizenship for sale to the highest bidders

A recent development making it easier for wealthy would-be expats to avoid complicated visa requirements by purchasing a second passport could be described as ‘citizenship for sale’.

The countries advertising the relatively new service prefer to call it ‘citizenship by investment’ as it mostly involves significant amounts of ready cash and often specifies the purchase of an upscale residence. Given the present state of the world, a second passport, especially if it’s issued by an EU member state, is a desirable asset for business people as well as well-heeled retirees and those looking to purchase a bolt-hole somewhere safer than their country of birth.

According to a recent survey, Malta, Cyprus and Austria lead the field for their citizenship by investment schemes, with Malta scoring 81 out of 100 points for its Individual Investment Programme. Countries featuring in the survey were scored for their results in 10 categories – quality of life, visa-free access, reputation, taxation, processing time and quality, compliance, financial requirements, relocation flexibility, residence requirements, physical visit requirements and transparency.

The clue to the programmes’ intent lies in the ‘physical visit’ category, as Canada found out several years ago when hordes of Chinese purchased luxury homes under the scheme to ensure a second passport and residency were at hand should they suddenly need to exit China. The homes stayed empty, much to the annoyance of their local authorities and genuine residents, and Canada was forced to limit the programme to non-Chinese.

Following Malta’s top spot is Cyprus with 72 points, and Austria came third with a score of 63 points. The offshore havens of Antiqua and Barbuda cane in at fourth place followed by Grenada, and the lowest score of 51 suggests the Domenican Republic is perhaps not quite the right place for wealthy globe-trotters.

A similar programme entitled ‘residence by investment’ is a scheme by which those requiring residency status without hassle invest considerable sums in the provider country. Portugal’s Golden Residence Permit Programme took top position, scoring 79 points out of 100, with Austria in second place and Belgium coming third. Unsurprisingly, Bulgaria came in last with a miserable score of 36.

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