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October 27, 2023

Investor Citizenship Programs Spark European Commission Concerns

Visa-free access to the European Union countries should not be used as a commercial commodity to be sold and bought; the European Commission has said, expressing concerns over investor residency and citizenship schemes.

On its sixth report under the Visa Suspension Mechanism, the European Commission said that it is especially concerned about investor citizenship programs that are “commercially promoted” as offering visa-free access to the bloc, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

The annual report that has been issued by the Commission since 2017 covers states having a visa liberalisation dialogue from the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership, as well as countries in the Pacific and Caribbean which operate such schemes.

In its recent report, the EU considered that such programs are inconsistent with the principles and conditions underlying the visa exemption and, therefore, could pose security risks for the EU and its Member States.

The purpose of visa waiver agreements is to facilitate people-to-people contacts between the EU and a third country, not to enable nationals of other visa-required third countries to circumvent the EU short-stay visa procedure through the acquisition of citizenship.

EU Commission

Concerns related to investors’ residency and citizenship schemes that allow foreigners to acquire residence and citizenship in countries that offer such programs have also been raised by the European Parliament in its resolution of March 9, 2022, with proposals to the Commission on Citizenship and Residence by Investment programs.

The resolution called on the Commission to exert as much pressure as possible to ensure that third countries that have investor citizenship schemes in place and that benefit from visa-free travel under Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 abolish those schemes, and to submit a proposal to amend Article 8 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 to include the operation of investor citizenship schemes as a ground for suspension of visa exemptions.

EU Commission

The Residency by Investment Program, known as the Golden Visa Program, give wealthy internationals the opportunity to acquire residency in countries that run such programs in exchange for a financial contribution.

At the same time, Citizenship by Investment Schemes, known as the Golden Passport programs, are dedicated to those who wish to acquire citizenship in European countries that offer such opportunities.

In spite of the fact that these programs bring significant financial contributions to states that have introduced them, they have often been in the spotlight of many illegal affairs and for being involved in several illegal affairs such as tax evasion, corruption, and money laundering, among others. Thus, some of them have already been put to an end.