For the first time, the Commission has presented a comprehensive report on investor citizenship and residence schemes operated by a number of EU Member States.
The report maps the existing practices and identifies certain risks such schemes imply for the EU, in particular, as regards security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. A lack of transparency in how the schemes are operated and a lack of cooperation among Member States further exacerbate these risks, the report finds.
Investor citizenship schemes (‘golden passports’) are of common EU interest since every person that acquires the nationality of a Member State will simultaneously acquire Union citizenship. The decision by one Member State to grant citizenship in return for investment, automatically gives rights in relation to other Member States, in particular free movement and access to the EU internal market to exercise economic activities as well as a right to vote and be elected in European and local elections. In practice, these schemes are often advertised as a means of acquiring Union citizenship, together with all the rights and privileges associated with it. The Commission's report has identified the following areas of concern: security, money laundering, tax evasion, transparency and information.
Investor residence schemes (‘golden visas'), while different from citizenship schemes in the rights they grant, pose equally serious security risks to Member States and the EU as a whole. A valid residence permit gives a third-country national the right to reside in the Member State in question, but also to travel freely in the Schengen area. While EU law regulates the entry conditions for certain categories of third-country nationals, the granting of investor residence permits is currently not regulated at EU level and remains a national competence. The Commission's report has identified the following areas of concern: security checks, physical residence requirement, lack of transparency.