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Property investment and immigration

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Author-Mark Burns

If newspaper headlines are to be believed, the announcement of Brexit led to a sudden upsurge in UK nationals rushing to exercise their ancestral right to citizenship of other European countries and thus keep the right to live and work in the EU should they so wish.

Taking out citizenship of an(other) EU member country may be the most pragmatic option for those who can exercise it, but it is unlikely to be available to everyone.

Fortunately, there is a widely-accessible alternative in the form of “Golden Visa” schemes.

What are Golden Visa schemes?

Golden Visa schemes are schemes which allow an individual (and usually their family as well) to claim residency of a country based on their investment in it.

In principle, individuals wishing to use these schemes can often choose from a wide range of investments.

In practice, they have become very closely linked with property investment since this allows investors to tick off two boxes at once. In other words, they can obtain residency through buying the home they will need (and/or an investment property which will generate a local-currency income for them).

Golden Visas aren’t necessarily visas at all

In principle, visas relate to travel and residence permits relate to residency. In practice, some countries keep very clear lines between visas and residence permits, while others (notably the U.S.) have different forms of visa, some of which do double-duty as residence permits.

This means that, depending on where you want to live, obtaining your “Golden Visa” may or may not be all you need to take up residence there.

As a working rule of thumb, therefore, it’s probably best to proceed on the assumption that there will probably be other immigration-related boxes to tick before you can more into your new home, but that having been accepted for the Golden Visa programme will make it faster and easier for you to tick them.

Golden Visa programmes tend to require evidence of longer-term commitment

From the perspective of the host country, Golden Visas are basically away to encourage investment over at least the medium term if not the long term.

Host countries most certainly do not want to encourage (or even facilitate) people buying assets in a country, holding them for as long as it takes to get the Golden Visa and then promptly moving them somewhere else.

Because of this, Golden Visa programmes often require an applicant to demonstrate a longer-term commitment to their new home country (think at least five years).

This is another area in which property investment scores if only because it is widely understood that property is generally a buy-and-hold purchase if only because transactions costs tend to be high enough to make it uneconomical for people to buy it purely for use on a short-term basis.

Additionally, the type of property a person buys can be a powerful indicator as to their intentions. For example, if an applicant says they wish to move to a country with their family and live there for the foreseeable future, then buying a family home underlines their sincerity about this.

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