Real Estate

Spain To Eliminate “Golden Visa” Program For Foreign Investors

The program, which allows non-European Union citizens who invest at least 500,000 euros in Spanish real estate three years of residency, will soon be eliminated amidst affordability concerns, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

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Spain is the latest country to reconsider its “golden visa” program, which in the past has enabled non-European Union citizens to gain residency rights in the country through a cash investment in real estate.

The program, which allows non-EU citizens who invest at least 500,000 euros (about $541,250) in Spanish real estate three years of residency, will soon be eliminated, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told reporters on Monday.

The prime minister connected the program with affordable housing concerns in the country, saying in a social media post that “housing is a constitutional right and not a mere speculative business.”

“Today, 94 out of every 100 such visas are linked to real estate investment … in major cities that are facing a highly stressed market and where it’s almost impossible to find decent housing for those who already live, work and pay their taxes there,” Sanchez said.

The process to eliminate the program was to begin at Tuesday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Reuters reported.

The golden visa program began in 2013. Spain issued almost 5,000 golden visa permits from 2013 through November 2022, fewer than 0.1 percent of the 4.5 million homes sold during that period, according to data provided to Reuters from property website Idealista. Chinese investors made up the majority of investors during that period, followed by Russians, according to government officials.

Because the proportion of foreign investors has been relatively small, the elimination of the program is unlikely to make much of an impact on the country’s affordable housing, housing experts said.

“It’s a red herring,” Max Holleran, a lecturer in social policy at the University of Melbourne who has written about Spain’s program, told The Washington Post. “It’s not actually going to change housing prices very much.”

Holleran also said he believed the change to the program was a “political maneuver with a smidgen of xenophobia.”

Spain’s golden visa was known as one of the more affordable such programs with the threshold for investment at only 500,000 euros. After their three-year residency permit expired, visa holders could renew their residence permit for five years, after which, they could apply for permanent residency, according to Henley & Partners.

The program was initially born to give a boost to the economy during a period of economic crisis. In 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine, the European Commission called for golden visa programs to be repealed due to concerns about allowing sanctioned Russian or Belarusian nationals easy access to the EU.

In recent years, other European countries, including Portugal and Ireland, have largely halted or significantly overhauled golden visa programs. Australia also halted a program earlier this year that had allowed investors of more than 5 million Australian dollars residency status.

“It has been obvious for years that this visa is not delivering what our country and economy needs,” Clare O’Neil, the Australian Minister for Home Affairs, said in January, according to a BBC report.

In the United States, through the Eb-5 Immigrant Investor Program, foreign investors who make a $1.05 million minimum investment in a commercial enterprise and plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for U.S. workers, can apply for permanent residence for themselves, their spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21.

The first iteration of the Eb-5 Program was created in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy, according to the program’s website.

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