Spain to scrap 'golden visas' for foreign real estate investors

Spain to scrap 'golden visas' for foreign real estate investors


Spain to scrap 'golden visas' for foreign real estate investors

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MADRID (Reuters) - Spain will scrap its so-called "golden visa" programme granting residency rights to foreigners who make large investments in real estate in the country, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told reporters on Monday.

Ending the scheme would help make access to affordable housing "a right instead of a speculative business", Sanchez said.

The programme awards non-EU citizens investing at least 500,000 euros ($541,250) - without taking out a mortgage - in Spanish real estate a special permit, allowing them to live and work in the country for three years.

"Today, 94 out of every 100 such visas are linked to real estate major cities that are facing a highly stressed market and where it's almost impossible to find decent housing for those who already live, work and pay their taxes there," Sanchez said.

He added that the government would launch the process to eliminate the scheme at Tuesday's weekly cabinet meeting after studying a report submitted by the Housing Ministry.

From the start of the golden visa scheme in 2013 until November 2022, Spain issued almost 5,000 permits, government figures show.

Chinese investors top the list followed by Russians who invested more than 3.4 billion euros, according to a 2023 Transparency International report that questioned whether authorities investigated the origin of the funds.

The measure is unlikely to affect the property market since less than 0.1% of 4.5 million homes sold during that period were purchased under the scheme, according to property website Idealista.

Spain's housing problem was not caused by the golden visa scheme, but rather by a lack of supply and a spike in demand, said Idealista spokesperson Francisco Inareta.

"The measure announced today, which focuses on international buyers rather than encouraging new homes to come onto the market, is yet another misdiagnosis," Inareta said.

Neighbouring Portugal has recently revamped its own "golden visa" scheme and excluded real estate investment to tackle a housing crisis. Foreigners who want to secure residency rights can still put their money into investment funds.

The European Commission has long called for an end to such programmes, citing security risks.