Since the European Union (EU) pledged to tighten citizenship and residence by investment regimes, immigration consultancies have seen an increase in inquiries. Golden visas, which were introduced in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to attract foreign investment, were popular during the COVID-19 epidemic, as many U.S., Canadian, British and other citizens seeking an alternative destination rushed to Europe.

Although European politicians have talked a lot about restricting golden visas.

In July, Portugal eliminated its residency program for foreigners who invest in real estate, but still allows those who invest at least €500,000 in local non-real estate companies or funds to obtain residency.

Despite saying it will end the golden visa program, the Netherlands is still accepting applications at this time. So is Montenegro.

In May, Cyprus introduced minor changes to its golden visa system (previously, family members of an investor were also eligible for golden visas. This year, Bulgaria reopened its golden visa program, which was scheduled to end in 2021. Despite repeated requests from the European Commission, Malta has refused to change its plans. And Greece's recent move to tighten investment criteria is not seen as a major obstacle.

Are there alternatives to the suspended programs?

At the moment, there is no analogous program for the coveted "golden visa", but digital nomad permits are becoming increasingly popular because people can work remotely and live abroad.

However, there are special investment visas for entrepreneurs who want to settle in the UK, France, Ireland and Germany, among other countries, where you can obtain temporary residency and a pathway to permanent stay. In both situations, the conditions are stricter than for golden visas: Investor visas require solid business plans, annual reports and an initial investment, while digital nomad visas require applicants to spend most of the year working in the nation.

Portuguese and Greek golden visa inquiries rose 127% in the first half of this year, according to London-based Get Golden Visa. And according to consulting firm Henley Partners, inquiries for Italian-based programs have increased 125% recently. According to Global Citizen Solutions, interest in Portugal's "golden visa" is up 20% since last year.

In addition, more and more people are applying for it; in May 2018, the Portuguese government issued 180 golden visas, the most in previous years. In Greece, 412 were issued, 87% more than the previous year.

In 2017, Italy issued 79 golden visas, mostly to citizens of Russia, the United States and Great Britain. This is roughly double the number from the previous year, and is the highest number the country has granted since it started the program in 2018.

In our view, when governments threaten to end these programs, there is a surge in demand from people trying to get in before they are shut down.

Are Golden Visa programs too big to fail?

The money at stake is the main reason why many experts are not concerned about the possibility of these programs being eliminated.

Over the previous decade, some €25 billion in FDI has been channeled to European nations using the golden visa programs. Over the years, Portugal has reaped a substantial benefit, worth €6.8 billion ($7.3 billion).

This trend is more prominent in southern European economies, which are much more dependent on foreign capital.

According to Will Harvey, Professor of Leadership at the University of Bristol in the UK, who specializes in the study of reputation and skilled migration, believes that these southern European nations have been shown to be less likely to completely close their doors to golden visas.

Will Harvey, adds, "Many EU countries can end up in a pretty hairy situation. Governments want to show that they take a hard line on golden visas, but visas are crucial for the most vulnerable economies."

Economists agree that high-debt, slow-developing countries struggling to meet zero-emission climate targets are the most likely to need foreign financing. New tax incentives are therefore likely to be implemented in the event that the golden visa regimes are modified or abolished. Non-residents (including those on digital nomad visas) in Spain now have until 2021 to pay a flat tax rate of 24% on income up to €600,000, while citizens with higher income levels will pay 47%.


If the new limits on residency and citizenship by investment programs deter people from seeking their residence permit in the EU, then Latin America and the United Arab Emirates are viable possibilities, as they also offer golden visas.

Golden visas: what are they, how can they be obtained and what can they offer?

For those who can get up and move right away to countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, special visas for digital nomads are certainly an alternative.

There are still many possibilities.

Get an expert evaluation!

Book a 60-minute online consultation for your visa or residence permit requirements to invest in Spain and get practical advice on how to achieve success.

Book your consultation now