‘Green Visa’ option for Golden Visa applicants
Far from abolishing the suspiciously opaque Golden Visa programme, Portugal’s government is intent on widening the scheme by adding a new category, the ‘Green Visa.’
Parliament turned down a bill proposed by the opposition parties to abolish the Golden Visa scheme and voted through a counter-measure to widen the scheme’s appeal.
Abolitionists have been helped by a Transparency International report in October 2018, which concluded that Golden Visa schemes are a gateway to Europe for the corrupt and money launderers.
The majority of these Golen Visa investors are from the Americas, China, Russia and Turkey. According to the Transparency International report, 95% of total investment from this scheme has been in properties, “which has contributed to increase the pressure on the real estate market and little contribution to job creation.”
MP Andre Silva, from the PAN animal-rights and environmental party, said that it is important for Portugal to create a new scheme to attract eco-investment.
“Taking into consideration the importance of reinforcing a multicultural and open society …it’s important to create an additional scheme to attract foreign investment of an ecological nature,” Silva said to parliament.
The green sub-category of the established Golden Visa will allow foreigners to obtain Portuguese residency if they invest in organic agriculture, ecotourism, renewable energy and other qualifying environmental projects.
Transparency International Portugal’s president argued that the Green Visa could create more risks since the criteria are poorly defined and there is no procedure outlined to certify that these investments are being made.
“If approved on a second, final vote, this could create even more risks, beyond those that have been identified by Transparency International, without even ensuring that the investment is in fact coming into the country,” said Transparency’s president.
The Portuguese Golden Visa scheme offers residency to foreigners who invest in properties, or set up technology companies and create new jobs. A residency in Portugal permits travel throughout the Schengen Area.
The European Commission long has been aware that these visas are being misused by criminals and slowly is coming up with a raft of guidelines for Member States that run such schemes on how to manage them, including transoarent background checks for applicants.
A report from Brussels is due to be published on January 23, 2019, with Portugal already concerned that the names of applicants may have to be revealed, something the State has refused to do which has given opponents plenty of ammunition to discredit the Golden Visa scheme and those who promote it.
According to PAN, investment of €250,000 in designated green areas over a period of five years will get the applicant a Green Visa, but this figure has yet to be confirmed.
The Left Bloc argued that the scheme was just a way of selling Portuguese citizenship, with MP Manuel Pureza saying that a “country which takes itself seriously does not sell citizenship rights.”