The Russian invasion of Ukraine, whiplashing post-pandemic demand for RCBI solutions, crashing asset markets, Portugal’s golden visa crisis (and its subsequent resolution), and a host of consequential program policy adjustments contributed to an exceptionally eventful year for investment migration in 2022. These were our ten most-read stories this year:
Within 72 hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union had mounted a what would form the early stage of a common response that included sanctions, bans, and general condemnation. Among the earliest measures was the exclusion of Russian nationals from many of the EU’s most popular investment migration programs. In the hectic early days, a number of government officials made statements that gave the impression not everyone was on the same page. In Portugal, this was manifested by seemingly contradictory statements as to whether Russians in general, or merely those Russians named in sanctions lists, would be excluded from the country’s golden visa program, where they had until then constituted the third-largest applicant group. In the end, Portugal opted to ban Russians qua Russians, sanctioned or not.
Investment migration policy changes, particularly those involving price changes, tend to get a great deal of attention in IMI, which is why we always endeavor to publish such changes within 24 hours of their publication. In September this year, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis caught the market off guard when he made a surprise announcement during a business conference in Thessaloniki; the Greek Golden Visa program, Europe’s most popular of its kind, would double the minimum investment requirement for its real estate option, from EUR 250,000 to EUR 500,000. Only months later did we learn the details: The higher price point will apply only to municipalities in Greater Athens, Greater Thessaloniki, and the islands of Santorini and Mykonos. Moreover, a transition period will run from the beginning of May and until the end of the year.
#8 – European Council Suspends Vanuatu’s Visa-Free Travel to Schengen for Post-2015 Passport Holders
In early March, Vanuatu’s nightmare scenario became a reality when the European Council, following months of what they characterized as unsuccessful attempts at dialogue with the Pacific island nation, instated a partial suspension of the country’s visa-waiver agreement with the EU’s Schengen area (only applying to those whose passports stem from 2015 onwards, when CBI began in earnest in Vanuatu). The move deprived Vanuatu of its citizenship by investment program’s primary benefit and, thereby, any hope of independently funding its government. In May, the Council extends the ban to all ni-Vanuatu citizens, including natural-born ones.
In a move that appears to have been a surprise even to the country’s top leadership, Armen Sarkissian resigned from his post as President of Armenia upon the public’s discovering that he had been a citizens of Saint Kitts & Nevis; dual citizens may not hold the office of president in Armenia, indicating his presidency may have been invalid from the beginning. The protagonist himself claims he thought his citizenship had already “been returned” and indicated he was as surprised as everyone else to learn that he was a Kittitian.
Young, dynamic, disruptive, and controversial, El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele shares many attributes with Bitcoin, the currency on which he has staked his political reputation. In February 2022, both are flying high and making headlines. Bukele, whose party holds a supermajority in the country’s national assembly, submits a raft of modernization laws in parliament, including one that would see El Salvador open a residence-cum-citizenship by investment program. The plans, mirroring the valuation of risk-assets like bitcoin, fizzle out later in the year. Both, however, remain on the backburner.
Emboldened by the astonishing popularity of its citizenship by investment program (bolstered by a sharp uptick in demand from Russians), Turkey’s Interior Ministry reckons it can command higher investment requirements for its program-qualifying real estate. In April, the country announces a 60% increase in the minimum investment from US$250,000 to US$400,000. Taking USD inflation in the 2017-2022 period into account, however, the actual price increase is only about 30% in real terms.
Published almost two years ago, this article has become a long-lived IMI classic. In early 2020, it was possible to gain visa-free access to more than 90% of the world’s countries by holding just a single passport (that of Japan). To close the gap to cover 100% of destinations, however, a further eight passports would be necessary, each marginally improving mobility.
Say what you will about Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin; nobody can accuse him of undervaluing his country. In September, he announces (with a straight face), that estimates thousands of “global tycoons” will take up his offer of a five-year, renewable visa with no path to permanent residency or citizenship against a bank deposit of at least US$223,000 and application fees (for a family of four) amounting to more than US$100,000. Just a few days later, the Minister makes the dubious claim that the new program received more than 20,000 applications in the first 24 hours.
#2 – Portugal’s Golden Visa Crisis: Civil Suit Against State Only Option if Stonewalling Continues, Say PAIIR-Founders
Six months into the SEF-induced golden visa stalemate that had seen the program closed to new applications over a bureacratic impasse, the founders of the Portuguese Association of Immigration, Investment, and Relocation (PAIIR) are at the end of their tether: “Given the inertia of decision-makers and responsible entities, if they maintain this policy of non-openness to dialogue, there will be no other solution than to go to court in civil liability actions against the State,” says Sara Sousa Rebolo.
Lo and behold, six days later:
Portugal’s SEF, suddenly and without prior announcements, reopens for new golden visa applications, setting off a frantic race to submit already-prepared-but-not-yet-submitted applications, of which there are thousands. At least 1,000 applications are filed in a single day, said Porto-based golden visa lawyer Pedro Catão Pinheiro. “On June 15th,” he added, “just a one-hour difference in filing time could mean a one-month difference in the biometrics appointment booking.”
2022 was also the first year in which IMI organized in-person events. See the highlights from IMI Connect Lisbon in May and IMI Connect Istanbul in November. Because both events enjoyed success beyond our most hopeful expectations, we’ll be organizing both a Spring and Fall edition of IMI Connect also in 2023. Keep an eye out for an announcement of our Spring event in the coming weeks.