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GOLDEN VISA: Investor numbers increase after “technical” improvements

The Spanish residency investor scheme, known informally as the “Golden Visa”, has encouraged €742 million worth of investment from Non-EU citizens purchasing Spanish property in order to get a type of residents visa, reports the Spanish press. Is that a good or bad result?

The so-called Golden Visa scheme, which offers a limited form of residency and a long-term path to Spanish citizenship in return for certain types of investment, including an investment of €500,000 in real estate, was introduced by the current Government in 2013 to attract foreign capital to Spain and stimulate demand for property after the crash. Learn more about the Spanish Golden Visa Residency Investor scheme.

DISMAL RESULTS TO BEGIN WITH

In the first 15 months of its existence, the Spanish Golden Visa scheme, which was introduced as part of a law to promote entrepreneurial activity in Spain, attracted just 530 investors, of which 490 were property investors, mainly Russian, Chinese and Arabs, according to one press report. Another report, in the Spanish financial daily Cinco Días, said that 3,266 residency permits were granted in the first year (to investors and their families), having encouraged €497 millions of investment.

The results were dismal compared to similar schemes in countries like Portugal and Hungary. Over the same period Portugal attracted around 2,200 foreign investors from outside the EU since the scheme was introduced in 2012, and Hungary attracted several thousand Chinese investors in a couple of months last year, according to trade sources.

The results were so bad that even the Spanish Government took notice and made some “technical improvements” to an overly-complex and bureaucratic scheme that put off many potential investors, as reported here in the article Spanish ‘Golden Visa’ scheme tweaked for better results.

Now Cinco Días reports here that, between launch and August of this year, the Government has issued 11,411 Golden Visa residency permits, having attracted a total of €2,173 milion of fresh capital to Spain. Of the 11,411 visas granted to date, 5,856 were for investors, and 5,555 for family members, report Cinco Días. Close to 50% of investments were in real estate (€742 million).

What is clear is that the changes to make visa applications easier for family members have had a positive impact, up from 1,312 in September 2014 to 5,555 a year later.

However, it’s hard to say that the Golden Visa is now humming along nicely, at least from a property sales perspective. The Cinco Días article does not clarify how many properties have been purchased by Golden Investor visas to date, and does not benchmark results against schemes in other countries.

If you take the figures at face value, then €742 million has been invested in Spanish real estate with a minimum investment of €500,000 per application. Assume everyone invested the minimum amount in just one property and you get just 148 properties sold to Golden Visa investors since the scheme was launched. Even if you assume everyone bought two properties, that still only gives 297 property sales. That doesn’t sound very impressive.

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