EU Passports For Sale To Wealthy Expats

Lisa Smith, BA (Hons), CeFA

Cyprus is the place to go for wealthy families looking for fast access to a European Union passport.

The government has just changed ‘citizenship by investment’ rules so rich foreigners can buy a EU passport for around 2.5 million euros on one of two fast track schemes.

Cyprus boasts the deal is approved by the EU and is the simplest and fastest way to gain an EU passport for wealthy investors and their families.

After only three months in the program, a residency visa and passport is granted that allows the investor free access to the EU’s borderless Schengen zone.

European Parliament members have spoken out against the scheme, accusing Cyprus of selling passports to the highest bidders.

Outrageous and unacceptable

However, the leading critic, Ana Gomes, the EU parliamentary Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee member is Portuguese – and Portugal runs a similar citizenship by investment scheme.

“I’m really appalled to see that these programs are proliferating, it really is outrageous. Selling passports is unacceptable,” she said.

Meanwhile Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet suggested the Cyprus citizenship schemes offering passports were risky and could undermine security.

In defence, the Cyprus government claims to have raised more than 3 billion euros from =wealthy foreigners only too willing to part with their cash in return for EU citizenship.

To qualify, investors have to buy a home in Cyprus worth at least 2 million euros and must own the property for three years – but do not have to live there.

Zero tax incentive

After the 36 months, the property can be sold, providing another home worth 500,000 euros or more is bought.

Alternatively, investors can stake 2 million euros in Cyprus government bonds, property, a business employing at least five people or an investment fund, plus a home worth at least 500,000 euros.

The government also offers wealthy foreigners a 17 year zero tax incentive on dividends and interest earned off the Mediterranean island.

The main beneficiaries of the citizenship program are wealthy Russians.

Russian tourism is also booming on the island – up 43% to 556,000 visitors between January and August compared with the same period last year, the second largest group of tourists behind the British.

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