10 Mar

MEPs demand a ban on ‘golden passports’ and specific rules for ‘golden visas’

Concerned that EU citizenship is for sale, Parliament proposes new common rules to address the many problems linked to ‘citizenship/residence by investment’ schemes.

On Wednesday (9 March 2022) MEPs adopted a legislative initiative report calling on the Commission to table a proposal by the end of its mandate. The commitment by the Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Canada, and the US to limit wealthy Russians with ties to the government from accessing ‘golden passports’ was raised during Monday’s debate in plenary. The text passed with 595 to 12 and 74 abstentions.

Ban ‘golden passports’

Parliament stresses that ‘citizenship by investment’ (CBI) schemes, under which third country nationals obtain citizenship rights in exchange for a sum of money, undermine the essence of EU citizenship. Parliament describes the practice -in place in Malta, Bulgaria and Cyprus- as “free riding”, as member states sell what was never intended to become a commodity.

Applications have been accepted even when requirements were not met, MEPs say, and demand that these schemes be phased out due to the risks they pose.

About ‘golden visas’

Noting the less severe risks posed by ‘residence by investment’ (RBI) schemes, Parliament asks for EU rules to help tackle money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion, including:

  • stringent background checks (also on applicants’ family members and on sources of funds), mandatory checks against EU databases, and vetting procedures in third countries;
  • reporting obligations for member states, including a “notification and consultation” scheme to allow other member states to object; and
  • requirements for minimum physical residence (for applicants) and active involvement, quality, added value, and contribution to the economy (for their investments).

No passports, nor visas for Russian oligarchs

Parliament welcomes the commitment by the relevant member states to limit the sale of citizenship to Russians with ties to the Russian government, and calls for all CBI and RBI schemes in the EU to exclude Russian applicants with immediate effect. MEPs urge EU governments to reassess all approved applications from the past few years and ensure that “no Russian individual with financial, business or other links to the Putin regime retains his or her citizenship and residency rights”. In addition, they call on the Commission to ban Russian nationals who are subject to EU sanctions from all RBI schemes.

By: Estela Martín

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