Even better than Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets

I’m off on hols to Sri Lanka on Wednesday.  Go on, check out the weather forecast for Galle, and then weep with envy – we’re talking 30˚ and wall-to-wall sunshine.  To secure my week in the sun, I had to apply for a visa.  It was all very simple, just an online application and the handing over of about £25, because it is a standard 30-day tourist visa.  It is not – drum roll, please – a Golden Visa.

This is apparently the new name for what I used to call “citizenship for sale” or “passports for purchase”.  The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project defines them thus: “For a sizeable investment, wealthy people can zip to the front of the immigration line for a growing list of attractive countries”.  And a couple of weeks ago they published a series of stories detailing the availability of Golden Visas in seven EU Member States – Austria, Cyprus, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Portugal – as well as looking at Golden Visa schemes that are proposed in Armenia and Montenegro.  Transparency International is – unsurprisingly – concerned about the migration of Golden Visa schemes from standalone palm-fringed islands to the EU, as it fears that “European countries are selling access to the Schengen visa-free travel area, and even EU citizenship, to foreign investors with little scrutiny, transparency or due diligence”.  The European Parliament warned about the risks of Golden Visa programmes back in January 2014, and the European Commission is due to publish a report on the impact of Golden Visa schemes later this year.

From an MLRO perspective, when looking at a client’s shiny new passport, it is as well to be aware of the countries that operate these schemes, and perhaps to ask how (and why) he managed to obtain his new nationality.  Mind you, with Brexit looming, I might just consider communing with my own inner Austrian or Hungarian… if only I could afford it.

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5 Responses to Even better than Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets

  1. I may not need to travel as far afield as Austria or Hungary – a Guernsey reader has just pointed this out to me: http://www.locateguernsey.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Locate-Guernsey-%E2%80%93-Entrepreneur-and-Investor-Immigration.pdf

    I’d better start saving!

  2. CDWOS says:

    Trouble is if you managed to get a “Golden Visa” that would be the last the British isles would see of you!!

  3. You can afford it, but it would take a bit longer – 8 years stay in Hungary + citizenship exam in Hungarian and you may get one (yes, may, no guarantee). The nice thing in Hungarian Golden Visa was, that you could only buy it from an off-shore company, you had to buy USD 250K state bonds (for much more) and the beneficiary was not the state, but the owners of the pre-defined off-shore companies… You can imagine, this “extra” also landed at governing party heroes, just like other EU funds, where OLAF was on the opinion, that these were “maffia” crimes – no wonder they won the election now…

    • Welcome to the blog, Gabor, and thank you for your comment. I’m afraid this is not unusual: these schemes are often designed to favour family and friends of the rich and powerful, rather than to benefit the jurisdiction at large.

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