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Moving to Europe Is Going to Get Way More Expensive

Major changes to 'golden visa' schemes are happening in 2023.

For years, several countries in the European Union, seeking foreign investment, have offered “golden visa” schemes, which allowed foreign nationals permanent residency in exchange for a minimum level of investment—typically the purchase of real estate.

Multiple European countries offered the schemes, but Ireland, Greece, and Portugal have been among the most popular because of the low thresholds for investment. The details varied by country, but most countries would offer permanent resident status after the purchase of an approved property of a certain value or other capital investments in the country’s economy.

Some countries required annual residency periods, while others put restrictions on the type of properties that could be purchased, or whether they could be rented commercially, but the end result was the same—a resident visa in that country, which could also lead to the right of work and abode anywhere in the E.U.

Many of the most popular programs, however, have been too successful, and their respective governments are amending or ending their golden visa programs, particularly after pressure from E.U. and international governing bodies concerned that the schemes drive up housing costs and facilitate bad actors.


Portgual’s golden visa program was one of the most affordable in Europe before the government announced a moratorium on new applications early this year.

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Introduced in 2012 to spur investment, the program has driven €6.8 billion since its inception, primarily in real estate investment. However, when the country’s housing market began to pick up, Portugal began limited golden visa property eligibility to areas outside of Lisbon or Porto. Now, with much of the country facing a housing affordability crisis (rents in Lisbon jumped 37% in 2022), parliament has voted to end the program.

The program allowed for a five-year permanent residency with the option to apply for citizenship, contingent on spending two weeks in the country annually. Portugal still offers other visa types for entrepreneurs, investors, and digital nomads, but the terms are often shorter in duration and require greater outlay.


Ireland’s golden visa program was roughly the same age as Portugal’s but the minimums were higher. Individuals needed to demonstrate personal wealth of more than €2 million, and the most affordable option was an outright donation of €500,000 to designated projects in the arts, sports, health, culture, or education.

Ireland’s Minister for Justice Simon Harris issued a statement when the program ended in February, “The Immigrant Investor Program was established over a decade ago during a time of unprecedented economic difficulty to stimulate investment in Ireland that would be of strategic and public benefit to the State.”

Minister Harris further noted that, “We have also taken on board a number of reports and findings from international bodies such as the E.U. Commission, Council of Europe, and [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] on similar investment programs.”

The E.U. Commission urged Member States to repeal investor citizenship schemes in March 2022 over concerns that Russian and Belarusian nationals under sanctions could use the schemes to reside in Europe, but there have been ongoing concerns from the Commission about investor residence and citizenship schemes since at least 2019.

In issuing the recommendation, E.U. Commissioner for Justice and Consumers Didier Reynders said, “European values are not for sale. We consider that the sale of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ is illegal under E.U. law and poses serious risks to our security. It opens the door to corruption, money laundering, and tax avoidance. All Member States concerned should end their investor citizenship schemes immediately.”

While many residency schemes offer paths to citizenship, it’s important to note that they immediately confer only permanent residency, not a passport.

Greece Sees a Surge as It Raises Prices

With “golden visa” opportunities closing elsewhere in Europe, Greece has seen an increase in interest with applications doubling in 2022 over the prior year, although it’s increasing its minimum investment to €500,000 on July 31 to bring it closer in line with countries like Spain. Prospective applicants can also qualify by making a capital investment of €400,000 in a Greek-registered company, buying €400,000 in Greek government bonds, or simply depositing €400,000 in a Greek bank.

In spite of the increased minimum investment, Greece’s program remains relatively liberal: buyers are permitted to rent the property out after they acquire it, there’s no residency requirement, and visa holders can apply for Greek citizenship after seven years. The visa is good for five years, and renewable indefinitely, as long as the investment is not divested.