National regulators are cracking down on visa schemes as they take a closer look on links between the programmes, tax evasion and organised crime.
However, countries are reluctant to give up this scheme as the golden visa programmes have grossed €25bn in the last decade just in Europe. The scheme grants residency permits and even citizenship to non-EU citizens in return of money and investment.
the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), has blacklisted a total of 21 jurisdictions, stating those on the list are operating schemes which threaten the combating of tax evasion by international organisations.
The OECD examined more than 100 world countries offering citizenship and permanent residence, finding 21 of the schemes were high-risk in that they gave access to low rates of personal tax on income from overseas-held assets without insisting on actual residency in the jurisdictions. The Paris-based watchdog has also raised its concerns over the expansion of citizenship by investment programmes, saying they are reducing nationality to a marketable commodity whilst ignoring the link between corruption and golden visas.
In the past 10 years, European states granted citizenship to about 6,000 people while providing residency permits to about 100,000 others in return for investments, such as real estate sales or investment in local companies.
The countries that have made the most profit from the applications are Spain, Greek Cyprus, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Hungry, Greece, Malta and Latvia, according to Berlin-based Transparency International.
Thanks to its legal system, Spain earns around 1 billion euros per year from the applications. Greek Cyprus comes in close second with 914 million euros annually, followed by Portugal with 670 million euros and the U.K. with 498 million euros per year.