With just 324 residency-for-investment visas (the so-called golden visa) issued in a year, critics are wondering whether the visa is priced too high.
When the Spanish government announced its golden visa programme in the summer of 2013, many agents were disappointed that it was set at €500,000, rather than the €160,000 that had been proposed. With only six visas being issued on average each week since the launch, and only 72 since May, at a total investment of €256million, the critics seem to have a point.
While Spain has issued 324 in the year, over the past two years Portugal has issued 1,650 visas on its scheme, bringing in nearly a billion euros in investment, the vast majority of it in property. Although this also starts at €500k, Portugal offers other tax advantages to overseas buyers on top of this. Other visas are considerably cheaper – in Greece non-EU nationals can get citizenship for themselves, their children and parents for buying property worth just €250,000, while Latvia offers residency (and access to all 25 Schengen countries) for €150,000.
Should Spain be disappointed? Not yet, according to Alex Vaughan from agent Lucas Fox in Barcelona, who told The Local newspaper that “The numbers are comparable with Portugal in the first year of their Golden Visa programme, but given the current interest in Spanish property we believe that these numbers should increase significantly for the scheme to be classed as a success.”
A report on the Spanish website 20 Minutos suggested that at least one agent, selling a €400,000 apartment to Russians, was asked to state that it as in fact being sold for €500,000, while others were raising the genuine price when selling to non-EU buyers who might want a visa. It was because of the negative publicity surrounding foreign buyers in London raising property prices that the UK government recently removed the property-buying component of its own Tier One visa.
By Christopher Nye, Editor, OPP Magazine