Last month, the Law Library of Congress published a new report titled Investment Migration Programs of Visa Waiver Program Countries. The report consists of a table and map showing which countries that are part of the United States visa waiver program provide residence visas or citizenship to eligible applicants who undertake to make certain investments in the country. These programs are often referred to as “golden visa” and “golden passport” programs. The Law Library identified that 28 of the 40 jurisdictions that participate in the visa waiver program currently offer such programs, although only a very small number of these provide for direct “citizenship-by-investment.” Most of the countries with investor visa programs do provide a pathway to citizenship, as they do for other types of residence visas, requiring that minimum periods of residence and other criteria be met.
The citizenship-by-investment or “golden passport” programs, in particular, have been the subject of recent discussions and actions among various jurisdictions. On February 26, 2022, the European Commission and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States issued a joint statement on further economic measures to be taken in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. This included a commitment to take “measures to limit the sale of citizenship—so called golden passports—that let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems.” Subsequently, on March 9, 2022, the European Parliament voted in favor of adopting a legislative initiative report calling on the European Commission to table a proposal to ban golden passports and regulate golden visas in the European Union (EU).
On March 26, 2022, the European Commission issued a recommendation ”urging Member States to immediately repeal any existing investor citizenship schemes and to ensure strong checks are in place to address the risks posed by investor residence schemes.” The Commission recommended that
[EU] Member States assess whether citizenship granted under a ‘golden passport’ scheme to Russian or Belarusian nationals on an EU sanctions list in connection to the war in Ukraine should be withdrawn. Residence permits granted under an investor residence scheme to Russian or Belarusian nationals subject to sanctions should be immediately withdrawn, following an individual assessment and in accordance with the principle of proportionality, fundamental rights and Member States’ national law. These measures should apply to Russian or Belarusian nationals significantly supporting the war in Ukraine.
Subsequently, on April 6, 2022, the Commission sent “a reasoned opinion to Malta (INFR(2020)2301) regarding its investor citizenship scheme, also referred to as ‘golden passport’ scheme.” The Commission stated that it considers “the granting of EU citizenship in return for pre-determined payments or investments, without any genuine link to the Member State concerned,” a breach of EU law. According to the statement, Malta recently suspended its investor citizenship program for Russian and Belarusian nationals following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Law Library’s report highlights some of the key features of the investment migration programs offered by countries covered in the report. This includes the minimum amount and types of investment required, the duration of stay possible for holders of the relevant visa, which family members can be included on the visa application, and the length of residency required in the country for an investor visa holder to obtain citizenship.
In addition to this report, the Law Library has previously published articles and reports related to immigration programs for investors in different jurisdictions, including:
- Bulgaria: New Law Allows Acquiring Citizenship in Exchange for Investments (May 2021)
- Saudi Arabia: Parliament Approves New Type of Residency Permit to Promote Foreign Investments (July 2019)
- Estonia: E-Residency May Be Granted to Foreign Investors (June 2014)
- Investor Visas (Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom) (August 2013)
For Law Library publications on other subjects in the area of immigration law, please view the reports associated with the “Immigration” topic on our Legal Reports section of our website and articles on this topic in the Global Legal Monitor.
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