By Trúc Nguyễn (Gigi)
A “Golden Visa” is a permanent resident visa issued to an individual and their family through an investment, often a purchase of property, into the issuing country. The term Golden Visa applies to programs available within Europe, specifically the European Union (EU). These visas can lead to more permanency residency and even citizenship of the EU. In addition to buying immovable property, some Golden Visas can be obtained through purchasing government bonds, making a donation or creating jobs through an enterprise investment.
These visas are opening doors for investors and families to have global lives by diversifying their investments in the European property market. They also allow for the freedom to live in the country they’ve invested in and travel anywhere within the EU. Many countries in the EU allow dual citizenship. Therefore, by becoming a citizen of two countries, the investor gives his family members greater freedom, security and mobility.
More than 20 countries or territories worldwide offer programs like Golden Visas. In Europe, those countries include Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. According to a European Commission report, nearly all people granted citizenship in the EU — 87 percent of 863,300 — were citizens from outside the EU. This is a 19 percent increase compared to the previous year. This trend shows that there has been a massive influx of migrants to Europe, where the economy, benefits and education are top notch.
Golden Visas issued by Schengen states allow visa-free travel into all 26 Schengen countries. These visas, however, provide only legal residency and do not necessarily lead to automatic citizenship. To become an EU citizen, you must have lived several years in your visa’s respective country (although the amount of years varies) and pay taxes. Oftentimes, you also need to learn the county’s language and demonstrate integration into the local society.
Another immigration option is called citizenship-by-investment, which in Europe is officially offered in Cyprus, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro and Austria. Turkey, which straddles both Europe and Asia, also offers citizenship-by-investment. Of those countries, Cyprus and Malta are the most popular programs. Generally speaking, though, countries in Europe require obtaining permanent residency first before citizenship.
The difference between Golden Visas and other programs
Requirements of investment immigration programs in some countries like Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand can be very strict. They may have limitations on dependents’ ages, require English fluency, business management skills or minimum stays in the country. By and large, however, Europe’s Golden Visa programs have easier requirements that make immigration easier. Most European programs don’t have requirements like creating jobs, starting a business (which includes creating complex business plans and paying taxes), having business management skills or speaking the native language. For example, if investors don’t speak Spanish, Greek or Portuguese, or lack skills to start a business, it wouldn’t impede them from obtaining a Golden Visa to live in Spain, Greece or Portugal.
Fast-track processing is another key difference. European Golden Visa programs let investors and their families live in the EU relatively quickly compared to programs in the United States and Canada, for example. To get citizenship and a passport from Cyprus or Malta, that can be accomplished in under a year with their citizenship-by-investment programs.
Benefits of Golden Visas
While each country has its own requirements and benefits, most Golden Visa programs recognize dual citizenship. The investor will receive legal residency, which comes with many of its own benefits beyond a pathway to EU citizenship. There are even countries throughout the world that grant visa-free access to permanent residents of the EU, even if the resident’s original passport doesn’t give them that access. In general, having a Schengen resident permit will allow visa-free access to more countries than are available on the holder’s original passport. Schengen permits also give more legitimacy when applying for visas in countries that still require the traveler obtain one.
Golden Visa programs have favorable family rules for dependents and other family members. Dependents can often include the investor’s parents and unmarried children up to 25 years old. Some programs have fast-track procedures, allowing residency in the EU within a few months and permanent residency or citizenship after that. Most programs do not require a minimum net worth to apply.
Lastly, some of the programs actually have a short minimum stay required in the country. For example, Portugal’s Golden Visa requires a one-week stay in the first year and two-week stays in subsequent years. These kinds of policies help investors be more flexible in moving and maintaining their businesses.
How does the Golden Visa work in the Vietnam market?
In recent years, the term Golden Visa has become commonly known in the Vietnam market. This is occurring as American, Canadian and Australian investment programs face their own issues, such as changing requirements, difficulty regarding source-of-funds documentation and application backlogs. In a developing country like Vietnam, there are a lot of rich people who may have trouble with source-of-funds documentation, which is one reason why EU Golden Visas are becoming increasingly popular. Within the last three to four years, Vietnamese are eying desirable countries like Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Latvia. Vietnamese want EU permanent residency so they can benefit from a good education system, health care and visa-free travel.
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