The shortage of food and raw materials is starting to be felt across Europe. How long will the Russian invasion last, and what other side effects will it bring? Could it lead to an economic recession world-wide? Is Covid really under control or will a new variant evolve? In such an uncertain set of scenarios, many wealthy people, especially Americans, are trying to expand their portfolio of alternatives in terms of places they could live.
One such option is the “golden passport” or investment visa programs that some European countries offer where citizenship or residency is offered in exchange for a certain amount of investment. According to Forbes, the most expensive programs range from $1.1 million in Malta to $9.5 million in Austria.
Portugal’s “golden visa” requires a minimum investment of slightly over $200,000 and an average stay of seven days a year in Portugal. When the permit expires, residents can then apply for full-time citizenship, which can take an additional three years. According to research conducted by Business Insider, Portugal’s five-year residence permit is the most in-demand program among American investors. Portugal’s residence permit allows visa-free travel to 26 countries in the European Union
The research conducted by Business Insider revealed that according to Latitude, a company which guides high- net-worth investors around the world through the application process, stated that inquiries in the US have increased 300% between 2019 and 2021. Henley & Partners, one of the world’s largest citizenship brokers, said the sales of its consulting services to American nationals increased by 327% between 2019 and 2020, with an additional 10% in 2021.
Dominic Volek, head of private clients at Henley & Partners, told Busines Insider that there are four elements driving the investor citizenship industry: Covid-19, climate change, cryptocurrency, and war. “I think that made a lot of particularly ultra high net worth individuals realize that they’re potentially a little bit more fragile than they thought,” Volek said.
In the very strict lockdowns there was a point where if you only had an American passport, you could not enter Europe.Dominic Volek, head of private clients at Henley & Partners
One side effect of the pandemic is that it reminded individuals of all social strata how vulnerable and frail humans are. People who have means have realized that these kinds of events are becoming ever more likely, and they don’t want to be caught off guard.
An investigation conducted by the The Guardian revealed that in the case of Malta’s citizenship program, many golden passport recipients do not end up moving and some rarely visit at all. “Very few of our clients actually move,” Volek of Henley & Partners said. “Most of our clients just want the option available.”
The spike in Americans seeking golden passports comes amid fears that the programs have created loopholes for “dirty money” to enter the EU. Volek told Business Insider that due to the industry’s lack of regulation, there are some smaller investor migration firms that do not properly vet applicants.