There is a lot of discussion about mass tourism and golden permits but in Portugal, one is inclined to say: ‘don’t kill a chicken with golden eggs.’ After reviewing the tourism industry, we will now take a look at another precious egg of the Portuguese state: the golden visa program.
Twenty EU states have golden visa or similar programs.
To obtain such a golden permit in Portugal one has to invest at least half a million euros in property in exchange for permanent residency and visa-free travel through Europe’s Schengen area.
In the past six years – between October 2012 and January 2019 – over 7000 golden visas have been issued by the Portuguese authorities. In particular to Chinese (> 4000), followed by Brazilians, South Africans, Turks and Russians. It yielded the treasury the sweet amount of 4.3 billion euros.
Just like luxury goods, residence rights are for sale. A multibillion-euro industry but not without risks. Real estate has always and everywhere been attractive to money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.
Transparency International – the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption – recently accused the Portuguese government of being unable to control their golden visa program.
A special commission of the European Parliament suggested abolishing all golden permits as the potential economic benefits of these programmes do not compensate for the serious security risks. Unfortunately not all member states agree. A European database will instead be created, to verify if applicants for a golden permit at least have no criminal record.
The Portuguese government is going to maintain its golden visa program against the wish of the EU but is willing to make legislative changes to improve transparency. ‘Contrary to what happens in other countries, Portugal will continue assigning only residency – not citizenship – in exchange for investment, declared the Secretary of State for International Relations Eurico Brilhante Dias lately.
The majority in the Portuguese Parliament even wants to go a step further in the residency scheme for wealthy foreigners by introducing ‘green visas’ to investors, who spend at least half a million euros in ecotourism, renewable energy and other environmental projects that contribute to cut carbon emissions.
Much to the displeasure of the Left Bloc (BE), who wishes the program to end altogether and emphasises the hypocrisy between an immigration regime for the rich and the poor.
Bom fim de semana Have a great weekend (pic Publico/Sapo)