Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rich Portuguese, Poor Portuguese

There appear to be a pair of paths to gaining citizenship, or at least residency, in Portugal as of late, should that be a thing you're inclined to do. Neither of them are exactly paths the average reader would be able to pursue, though. One path is for the very rich, one is for the very poor.

THE POOR PATH: Asylum. For this path to work, of course, you have to be in a country deemed by the one you're entering to be a country worth seeking asylum from. This generally requires living in an active warzone or an extreme dictatorship. The 74 asylum-seekers we're referring to here happen to have a country of origin that qualifies on both counts, namely Syria, but they weren't really supposed to make it all the way to Portugal. Using fake Turkish passports, they managed to fly from Turkey to Morocco, and then from Morocco to Guinea-Bissau- a former Portuguese colony- and then on Tuesday, they flew from Guinea-Bissau to the airport in Lisbon via Portuguese flagship airline TAP.

Since they're already there, Portuguese authorities figured they might as well go ahead and hear the refugees out, and began the application process for asylum, which at least permits them to stick around for however long that takes (which, think about two months). However, citing security lapses in Guinea-Bissau- and by 'lapses' they mean 'the authorities in Guinea-Bissau forced the plane crew to board the refugees'- they have also suspended all flights to the country, an action which predictably made Guinea-Bissau unhappy.

THE RICH PATH: Buy your way in. Literally buy your way to citizenship. In response to a flagging economy and money heading outwards as opposed to inwards, in October 2012, the Portuguese government introduced what's been called the Golden Visa program. It's very simple: if you buy a house in Portugal for at least half a million Euros, you get citizenship for five years. They intend to limit the program to 400 visas per year, lest some rather obvious, shall we say, hostile-takeover schemes emerge from a sufficiently wealthy nation, such as China, who in September leased 5% of the land in Ukraine. You can also get in by investing one million Euros in the country, or by creating ten jobs. China, where you cannot actually own land, only lease it, is leading in application count, followed by former Portuguese colonies Brazil and Angola.

Portugal is far from the only country to attempt such a scheme, with several other nations in Europe- Latvia, Ireland, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Malta just last month (though Macedonia has reversed course)- offering similar or sometimes better citizenship situations, with prices and offers varying depending on the country. This CNBC article and this CNN article note countries outside Europe, selling citizenship of some sort by investment or purchase.

Such as the United States, where the Immigration Act of 1990 permits (PDF) foreign investors to obtain a green card- specifically, an EB-5 visa, valid for two years- on condition that they invest $1 million and create ten jobs. The investor and immediate family don't count. Or, you can get in at the $500,000 level presuming that your investment is made in high-unemployment or rural areas. Again, China leads the way. There is a limit of 10,000 visas available this way per year, and while that hasn't been hit yet, as of late the cap is getting a run for its money, a development that's drawn the attention and concern of Senator Chuck Grassley, who believes that China and Iran may be exploiting the rule for purposes of espionage.

No word on what he thinks about what Guinea-Bissau might do.

No comments: