Following the 2008 financial crisis, new kinds of investor schemes have blossomed across Europe. Their names and modalities differ from one Member State to the other – the Tier 1 investor visa in the UK, the Autorização de Residência para Atividade de Investimento in Portugal, the Scheme for Naturalization of Investors in Cyprus by exception in Cyprus, or the Individual Investor Programme in Malta – but their objective is the same: offering fast-track residency or even citizenship to third-country nationals in return for investments in the national economy.
Although, increased foreign investment in key economic sectors of Member States may seem very welcome, these schemes are also exposed to abuse and corruption. If not properly regulated and monitored, they may offer easy access and legitimate cover to money launderers wishing to introduce substantial amounts of illicit money in the market.
This is a European issue that requires an EU response. Indeed, all these investment schemes essentially rely on their capacity to offer free access to the Schengen area, a benefit which is often advertised upfront as one of the key selling points. As such, they represent a risk for the integrity and security of the EU as acknowledged by the European Commission and the European Parliament already in 2014.
Transparency International carries out research and analysis into the risks posed by golden visa schemes for the integrity and security of the EU. The project aims to assess how integrity and transparency standards are applied in different national residency- and/or citizenship-by-investment schemes, starting with the Hungarian and Portuguese schemes. The project will explore possible avenues for the EU to promote greater integrity, accountability and transparency standards of golden visa schemes in EU Member States.