Russia’s Golden Visa to Launch on Jan 1st: Now “Primarily of Interest to Chinese”

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More than two years since Russia first revealed plans to open a golden visa scheme, President Vladimir Putin this week signed the law that will permit the program to formally open on January first. Analysts speaking to Izvestia say they expect “primarily Chinese” entrepreneurs to take advantage of the new program to occupy niches vacated by recently departed Western firms.

The program’s terms appear essentially unchanged from those signaled in April last year: Foreigners who invest 30 million rubles or more in real estate, government bonds, or businesses will be able to receive a residence permit in Russia within a six-month timeframe (reduced from the current 18 months). Investors will be permitted to include not only their immediate family but also grandparents, grandchildren, step-parents, step-children, and even daughters-and-sons-in-law.

In dollar terms, the 30 million ruble minimum investment has grown considerably more expensive over the last year: When the minimum was first announced, it equated to about US$400,000. In 2022, however, the ruble has been the world’s best-performing currency. At today’s rates, 30 million rubles cost US$515,000.

Residential real estate in Moscow (pictured) and St. Petersburg is expected to account for the lion’s share of investment under the new program.

Reduced investment thresholds for some regions

According to Izvestia, minimum investment thresholds may be reduced in areas where the state wishes to channel additional capital, such as the country’s easternmost regions or the Crimean Peninsula, which formally is part of Ukraine but which Russia controls and considers part of its national territory.

Yevgeny Mironyuk of BCS World of Investments told the newspaper he believed the reduced thresholds for certain regions would make a significant difference to demand for the program, once the specific amounts are determined, pointing out that applicants may invest in one part of the country and take up residence in another. For example, an applicant could buy securities issued by the regions in question.

Mikhail Burda, a Political Science professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, remarked that the program would primarily interest Chinese businessmen targeting Russia’s Far East for business expansion.

“As for the rest of the countries, perhaps it will be India, Iran, partly Turkey. Another category that can use such a visa is our former compatriots who have long had European or US passports and who, for one reason or another, have now decided to return to Russia and open some business. Now, taking into account the departure of many Western companies, quite good prospects are opening up here,” commented the professor.

Speaking to the same newspaper, TeleTrade chief analyst Mark Goykhman said the program was now unlikely to attract interest from Western investors but that it would, perhaps, “become more topical and attractive for investors from a number of CIS countries and countries in East Asia, with which Russia is now striving to develop relations. It is unlikely, however, that the program will attract broad numbers of participants.”

Adding that while most applicants would likely prefer to invest in residential real estate in the country’s two largest cities, some enterprising individuals might attempt to fill market voids left by departing Western conglomerates.