At a time when
Britain is worrying about an influx of workers
from poor European Union countries, is enthusiastically
encouraging rich entrepreneurs from outside the EU. Portugal
Romanian and Bulgarians, especially those likely to seek welfare benefits, are causing panic in
because immigration restrictions are to be lifted on January 1. Britain
Meanwhile, Chinese, Russian and other foreign nationals are being wholeheartedly welcomed here in return for investments under the so-called Golden Visa scheme.
In return for buying property for upwards of half a million euros ($700,000), or capital transfers of more than a million, a golden visa allows non-EU citizens to reside in
for five years without having to pay tax on foreign-earnings. It also gives the
right to move around in the Schengen area, which includes nearly all the
countries across Europe, but not the Portugal . UK
After the initial five years, visa holders may become Portuguese passport holders and thus full citizens of the European Union.
A recent YouGov poll for The Sun newspaper in the
showed that 72% of Britons
wanted their government to limit immigration from other EU countries, fearing that
immigrants might take their jobs or strain public services. UK
The European Commission rebuked Prime Minister David Cameron for saying he aims to restrict the relocation of migrants from poorer to richer EU states, saying EU membership confers only a qualified right to freedom of movement.
High unemployment and severe austerity make
an unattractive country to many outsiders too. Recent reports say even refugees
arriving from Portugal
and other Muslim conflict zones don’t want to stay here. Syria is
merely a stepping-stone. Portugal
It seems to be merely a stepping-stone for many of those applying for golden vistas too. Unlike the Romanians and Bulgarians who are hoping to stay in
Britain, many of the Chinese and other foreign
investors are using their golden visas to set up yield-bearing arrangements in
this country that will allow them to live or do business elsewhere in Europe.
For example, they are looking for easily rentable properties in prime
locations or condominium resorts in the . Estate agents are
scrambling to make sales. Many highly attractive properties are on offer
at prices that have dropped by nearly a third since the country was forced to
apply for a bailout in 2011. Algarve
Agents say plush apartments are available in
Lisbon at the same
price buyers would have to pay for properties half the size in Beijing
or . With
this in mind, delegations from Shanghai Portugal
attended China’s largest
international real estate fair in
this month. Shanghai
The golden visa scheme attracted little interest when it was introduced over a year ago. It now seems to be taking off, with applications rolling in mainly from
China, but also Russia,
Brazil, Angola and . India
According to an official tally released early this month, the scheme had brought in a total of €222 million from 256 visa holders. More than 300 applications were said to be in the pipeline. Nearly all were expected to be approved, which would bring the total investment since the scheme was set up to around €600,000 million.
Introduced by the centre-right coalition government, the golden visa programme has the tacit support of the Socialist opposition party. The only severe critics are the far-right National Renovator party whose leader, José Pinto-Coelho, claims the country is “prostituting itself.”
If so, it is not the only one. Other EU countries in serious financial straits -
- have their own golden visa programmes. So too do some of Europe’s wealthier
nations, including Cyprus Germany
and the . Netherlands
As the year ends, the poor are as problematic as ever, while the competition to attract the rich is fierce and rewarding.