A Resolution regarding both Citizenship by Investment (CBI) and Residency by Investment (RBI). was discussed and approved by the European Parliament on March 9th.
According to the President of the Commission, Mrs. Ursula Von der Leyen, ‘’be it about the primacy of the European Law, the freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary or the sale of the golden passports, European values are not for sale’’.
The Parliament criticizes both CBI and RBI Programs by several reasons, although the CBI Programs were the most targeted ones, being the Priority in the set of measures to still be applied. According to the European Parliament, it is not right to grant EU Nationality access to third country nationals, be it directly or indirectly, as CBI Programs require such a small presence in the country and are relatively quicker than other legal paths. They also are far more likely to have issues related to corruption, money laundering, security threats or tax avoidances, along with the inflation it provides to the internal market. Countries such as Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta offer CBI programs. Along with the above, it is also highlighted that there are different entities and companies that benefit from these Programs, which the Parliament would also like to contest.
One of the major concerns regarding these Programs is the lack of cooperation between the different Countries to improve compliance, background checking and other information regarding the third country nationals which is essential to improve security in European Territory. Although the European Union created a group for it, the group hasn’t met since 2019 and therefore there still is a lack control in this regard. For this Resolution several guidelines were issued, like the increase of background checks, the regulation for the cessation of the CBI programs by 2025 and the creation of a mechanism to control the applicants after citizenship has been granted. The aim is to set a European mechanism that will continue to verify compliance with RBI rules after the first application is successful.
Regarding RBI programs and therefore having an impact in the Portuguese Golden Visa, some of the following measures were proposed:
- Further legislation made by the EU in order to harmonize and enhance the transparency and control by both the receiving Country and the EU;
- Special measures, such as the creation of legislation for intermediaries and, in the same topic, specific rules for all participants in this process in order to enhance transparency and avoid third parties benefiting from the programs;
- Additional measures to improve background checking;
- Increased tax control through the cooperation of different tax authorities;
- Additional measures to verify documents. These measures will include independent entities and a new rule of two person verifying a document.
The Resolution is not a binding document but instead a “commitment” to legislate about the respective matter in the future. According to it, these measures will likely take the form of a Regulation. This means that the Regulation will be directly applicable in every member of the European Union from the time it goes into force without need of any internal legislative proceedings. The Commission will now prepare the Proposal that has to be presented to the EU Parliament for discussion and subsequently issue the Regulation. This is likely to take up to a year and a half.
As such, and even though the EU chose to end CBI programs first, the increase of control and measures regarding RBI programs indicates that it might follow suit in the medium term. Therefore, and in order to avoid a last minute sprint to apply or meet deadlines, those who are interested in a European Lifestyle, should take a moment to look at the available options.
Portugal has one of the most flexible immigration systems with specific Programs for investors, entrepreneurs, remote workers, pensioners and highly qualified professionals, alongside with specific solutions for PALOP citizens (those from Portuguese speaking countries). These options also offer family reunification and even though they are not connected with RBI and CBI Programs also allow access to Portuguese Citizenship after 5 years, the free entry into the Schengen Area and access to the Portuguese Educational and Health Service and the Labor Market.
Sara Sousa Rebolo / Miguel Cruz Silva