EU urges crackdown on 'golden passports' for big investors


"The EU Commission has told EU states to tighten checks on non-EU nationals who acquire citizenship - so-called "golden passports" - through investments."

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"The Commission plans closer monitoring of those schemes and of "golden visas" granting residence in exchange for big investments. It says they can be abused for tax evasion and money-laundering.

EU citizenship gives an individual free movement in most of the EU, easy access to the single market and other rights.

Twenty EU countries have such schemes.

Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria give passports to non-EU nationals who make sufficient investments in their countries. Rich foreigners can buy passports there for between €1m (£870,000; $1.1m) and €2m.

They and 17 other EU member states, including the UK, also grant residence rights to investors. That right puts an individual on the path to citizenship.

The scale of investment required to obtain residence ranges from about €13,500 in Croatia to more than €5m in Luxembourg and Slovakia.

In a new report the Commission says there is not enough information about how the schemes work. It is setting up a special team to monitor the schemes and boost information-sharing.

The report says applicants can acquire citizenship of Bulgaria, Cyprus or Malta, and hence EU citizenship, "without ever having resided in practice in the member state"."

Commission documents (pdfs)

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