Spain considers ending or curbing controversial ‘golden visa’ scheme

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MADRID  (Reuters) – Spain could pull the plug on its so-called “golden visa” scheme that grants residency rights to foreigners who invest in real estate in the country, according to the leader of a left-wing party negotiating the issue with the government.

Iñigo Errejon told reporters this week his Mas Pais party had reached a preliminary agreement with the Social Security Ministry to put an end to the programme, which allows buyers of property worth at least 500,000 euros ($551,650) and their families to get three-year residency permits.

“Spanish citizenship cannot be bought,” Errejon said, adding that golden visas had led to a “brutal” rise in housing prices and forced locals out of their neighbourhoods without creating any new jobs.

The ministry would not confirm any plan to terminate the programme. An official familiar with the talks said no agreement had yet been reached as the ministry was still studying proposals made by political parties.

On  Monday, El Pais newspaper reported Spain was considering tougher requirements for golden visa applications.

The European Commission has urged EU countries to end programmes allowing investors to obtain citizenship and tighten checks when issuing residency permits, describing them as a security and money laundering risk.

Neighbouring Portugal said it would end a similar scheme in March.

From the start of the golden visa scheme in 2013 until last November, Spain issued almost 5,000 permits, with Chinese investors leading the list, government figures show.

Errejon said the visas represented a “backdoor privilege” for millionaires, turning Spain into a “sort of colony, often attracting dark money”.

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