Golden visas lose their shine

If you’re a zillionaire looking to ditch Canadian winters and live it up on the Portuguese coast, we have some bad news: You can no longer “invest” your way into residency. 

What happened: Portugal will stop offering so-called golden visas—which grant wealthy non-EU nationals residency permits in exchange for investments into the country starting at ~CA$500,000—in an attempt to tackle the country’s lack of affordable housing. 

  • Portugal introduced the scheme a decade ago, as a way to grow investment in the country’s real estate market following a bailout from the EU and IMF in 2011.

  • The program raised ~CA$9.8 billion (90% of which went into real estate), with Chinese investors accounting for almost half of the 11,628 permits granted.

Why it matters: There are downsides to the economic boost. As Portugal can now see, demand from foreign nationals can jack up housing prices. They also provide avenues for tax evasion and money laundering and let not-so-upstanding individuals find new homes. 

  • Bureaucrats also can develop a case of sticky fingers. For example, in 2014, Portuguese officials were booked for taking bribes when issuing golden visas.

In Canada: The country has a business immigration program that grants residency to foreign nationals in exchange for starting a business. Québec, the only province to set its own immigration policies, has a (somewhat criticizedimmigrant investor program.

Bottom line: Programs like this tend to last until enough opponents emerge for them to be scrapped, per Bloomberg. Across the world, that opposition is growing. Last year, the EU came out against golden visas, and both Ireland and the UK have ended their schemes.