Check failings on Golden Visa applications
The Portuguese government is failing to carry out adequate due diligence checks on applications for Golden Visas which provide residency status in Portugal and unfettered travel in the European Schengen space in return for investment of €500,000.
Under Portuguese law, audits have to be undertaken on an annual basis, but have not been carried out for five years.
The last audit in December 2014 revealed a “lukewarm control of applications” and the origin of applicants’ investments which have been described as “ineffective and fragile”.
Audits have to be carried out by the Inspectorate-General of Internal Administration (IGAI) but this body has failed to carry out a single inspection concerning the concession of Golden Visas for investment, usually property.
The European Commission, which is seriously questioning the ethics and effective regulation of this type of investment mechanisms, states that such audits should be annual and is concerned that they have not been taking place in Portugal.
The IGAI admitted to the radio news station TSF that the last audit was undertaken in December 2014 while the EU report scathingly calls that audit “wishy-washy, weak and fragile” with areas that were “ineffective”.
The report adds that while the Internal Ministry does have “internal regulations” these are of a “sporadic, opaque and general nature”.
“A lack of clarity” which lends an “illegitimate” power to the so-called Supervisory Group (Grupo de Acompanhamento) comprising the National Director of SEF (Borders and Immigration authority), the President of AICEP (the overseas trade and investment agency) and the Director-General of Consular and Portuguese Communities Matters.
While the Government Internal Ministry body IGAI, which oversees the Authorisation for Residency through Investment programme (ARI) and the application of regulations defined by it, it doesn’t specify “what should be done, how it should be done and under what conditions the supervision and audit should be carried out”.
Instead the EU report criticises to a “lack of clarity in basic regulations”
From 2012 to 2018 Portugal issued 6,575 Golden Visas though its programme, mainly on the back of property investment, not counting the thousands of family members and dependents that also have to right to reside in Portugal.
In 2018 alone, investment attracted via Golden Visas netted €838 million.
Last month, a report from the European Commission based on a special EU parliamentary commission, concluded that Golden Visa regimes within the EU should be abolished because the economic benefits did not outweigh the serious risks of security that they represented such as money laundering and tax evasion.
Portugal, Spain, Malta (€350,000), Cyprus (€2,000.000) and Greece all operate Golden Visa programmes, while the United Kingdom also offers a residency by investment programme set at €2 million. Italy too launched a residency by investment programme in at €359,000.
Countries outside the EU with Golden Visa programmes include: Grenada, St. Kitts (€150,000), Dominica (€150,000), Antigua (€100,000), Moldova (€100,000) and St. Lucia (€100,000).