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Europe’s Golden Visa Performance in 2020: A Mixed Picture

The pandemic’s effect on Europe’s residence by investment (golden visa) programs varied sharply in 2020. While the approval volumes for Portugal and Spain barely budged, the UK’s Tier 1 Investor Visa saw a significant drop, while Greece and Latvia cratered by some nine-tenths.

To compare the variation in 2020 performance among programs with different reporting schedules, we’ve calculated each program’s average monthly application approvals using the data that’s available. For Portugal, Greece, and Latvia, we already have full-year figures for 2020. In these instances, we have divided the full-year figure by 12 to arrive at a monthly average. For Spain and the UK, however, we only have figures for the first six and first nine months of 2020, respectively. In those instances, we have divided the total by six and nine to get a monthly average.

Portugal’s golden visa
Full year-figures for 2020, released last month, confirmed that interest in Portugal’s golden visa, as well as the country’s capacity to process applications, remained robust throughout 2020. Though the annual total approval numbers fell only 5% compared to the year before, 2020 saw considerable month-to-month fluctuation; the SEF approved only 50 applications in April but proceeded to set a new record with 270 applications in May. Throughout 2020, as the pandemic wreaked havoc on most of its neighbors, Portugal was largely spared the most paralyzing outbreaks. Since December, however, Portugal has been among the worst-hit countries in Europe and golden visa statistics now reflect that too.

Total main applicant approvals:

  • in 2019: 1,245
  • in 2020: 1,182

Average monthly main applicant approvals:

  • in 2019: 104
  • in 2020: 99

Year-on-year change: -4.8%

Spain’s golden visa
While we only have figures for the first half of Spain’s 2020 golden visa year, keep in mind that the brunt of lockdowns and deaths in the country came during those first six months. Despite crippling levels of hospitalizations, deaths, and restrictions, Spain approved 683 main applicants during the period. Part of this is attributable to legislation particular to Spain; residence permit applications to which the government provides no answer within 20 days are automatically approved, by default.

Total main applicant approvals:

  • in 2019: 1,422
  • in first six months of 2020: 683

Average monthly main applicant approvals:

  • in 2019: 119
  • in 2020: 114

Year-on-year change: -4.2%

Greece’s golden visa
In a parallel from the country’s mythological tales, the Greek golden visa program’s approval volumes had flown increasingly close to the sun in recent years, becoming Europe’s undisputed golden visa leader before the pandemic clipped the country’s FDI wings and sent approval volumes plunging. Some of Europe’s longest-lasting border restrictions, combined with (now mitigated) requirements for personal visits to the country, made successfully applying for Greek golden visas impossible for many investors 2020. Expect Greece to bounce back by this summer.

Total main applicant approvals:

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  • in 2019: 3,504
  • in 2020: 403

Average monthly main applicant approvals:

  • in 2019: 292
  • in 2020: 34

Year-on-year change: -88.4%

UK Tier 1 Investor Visa
For the UK Tier 1 investor visa, we have approval volume data for three of four quarters in 2020. Because Britain imposed harsh lockdowns in December, the true 2020 performance of this program may be even worse in the final tally than what’s reflected in the preliminary data. By March, we’ll know.

Total main applicant approvals:

  • in 2019: 360
  • in first nine months of 2020: 164

Average monthly main applicant approvals:

  • in 2019: 30
  • in 2020: 18

Year-on-year change: -40%

Latvia’s investor visa
Latvia’s golden visa has been dying a slow death since 2015 and the pandemic appears to have put the final nail in its coffin; only 30 applicants were approved during all of 2020.

Total main applicant approvals:

  • in 2019: 368
  • in 2020: 30

Average monthly main applicant approvals:

  • in 2019: 31
  • in 2020: 2.5

Year-on-year change: -91.8%

Note: The authorities of the residency by investment programs of Malta and Ireland have decided not to publish their figures.

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Christian Henrik Nesheim AdministratorKeymaster

Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.

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