Residence and Immigration Update: Spain, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Hong Kong

Spain: Residency offered to foreign investors
Spain has announced the introduction of Spanish residency to investors who are prepared to invest in Spain through a Special Investor Residence Visa, that has also become known as the “Golden Visa” Programme.

The Golden Visa Scheme is open to both non-EU and EEA nationals who make a significant investment in Spain. This can be made directly by the individual or indirectly through a company controlled by the individual, though investments through companies registered in certain jurisdictions considered by Spain to be tax havens will not qualify. If granted the visa initially allows residence for one year before applying for a renewable two year resident permit, subject to the investment being maintained.

The thresholds for the investment depend on the nature of the investment. Real estate including residential, commercial and agricultural the investment must be €500,000 or more. Investments in listed or unlisted Spanish companies or bank deposits must be €1million increasing to €2million for national debt titles or national projects that are of public interest.

Understandably certain compliance due diligence and source of funds must be provided, together with evidence of the investment. If granted the visa will include the applicant’s close family members, spouse and children up to 18yrs, without a requirement for any additional investment.

We consider this is an interesting development aimed at revitalising the depressed Spanish property market. The threshold is far lower than elsewhere in Europe where countries have sought to attract wealthy investors. Spain has set its sights lower to appeal to the mass market.

We expect further details of the programme will be provided shortly.

Portugal: Similar scheme to Spain
A Portuguese Golden Visa has been introduced. The Spanish scheme closely follows the requirements of the Portuguese scheme.

Individuals who invest in Portugal, whether directly or indirectly through a company and meet one or more of the following requirements:
  • Transfer of at least €1million; or
  • Creation of at least 10 jobs;
  • Purchase of real estate of at least €500,000, free from charge or mortgage; and
  • Maintain that investment for at least five years.

The minimum period of stay required of the visa holder is 7 days in the first year and 14 days in the following two years. Permanent residence may be granted 5 years after the grant of the applicant’s visa and a passport can be requested after 6 years of residence.

Malta: Individual Investor Programme
Malta has enacted amendments to its Citizenship Act to allow for the introduction of an Individual Investor Programme for non-EU nationals. Under this programme (as clarified on 29th January 2014 in a Joint Press Statement by the EU Commission and the Government of Malta) individuals who satisfy the strict due diligence and vetting of applicants, have resided in Malta for at least one year prior to the application and have invested a minimum of €1.15 million in the country, will be offered the opportunity to acquire Maltese citizenship with all the advantages of citizenship of an EU Member State.

The applicant will be required to pay a fee of €650,000, including a non-refundable deposit of €10,000 plus €25,000 for their spouse and a further €25,000 for each child under 18 yrs. For unmarried children between 18 and 25 yrs and dependent parents the fee is €50,000.

Applicants, who meet the strict vetting requirements, must also be able to demonstrate that they and their families are reputable and able to make an extraordinary contribution to the economic development of Malta. Those who meet the requirements will be granted a certificate of naturalisation as a citizen of Malta.

Cyprus: Incentives to HNW Individuals
The government of Cyprus has revised the criteria to make Cyprus a more attractive destination to high net worth individuals and families wishing to invest in the jurisdiction. As such Cyprus is an attractive destination which offers access to the EU.

Immigration Permit/ Passport:
The immigration permit: A ‘fast-track’ procedure has been introduced by the Interior Ministry to reduce waiting time and procedures for those investor applicants to receive a permanent resident permit under the category F procedure. To qualify for residency the applicant must submit the application for a permit together with an application for a permanent immigration permit evidencing:
  • Purchase of a new residential property worth at least €300,000;
  • Certificate of no criminal record;
  • Evidence of a minimum annual income of at least €30,000 plus €5,000 pa for each dependent;
  • A bank certificate from a Cypriot bank confirming the deposit of at least €30,000 in an account blocked for at least 3 years;
  • Self-certification that the individual does not intend to be employed or self-employed in Cyprus;
  • Evidence of visiting Cyprus at least once every two years. In case of breach of this obligation the permit can be revoked.

Passport and Citizenship
It is possible for citizenship to be granted in special cases, subject to the approval by the Cypriot Council of Ministers.  The requirements are broadly as follows, though each application is considered individually on its own merits:
  • Mixed investments of at least €2m in shares and/or bonds in the state investment company plus a donation of at least €500,000 to the Cyprus Research and Technology Fund; or
  • Direct investments in Cyprus of at least €5mwhich includes the purchase of real estate, Cyprus companies, securities, bonds  and debentures issued in Cyprus or invest in a company commissioned to undertake public works; or
  • Personal deposits or deposits of own companies or trust with a Cyprus bank of at least €5m. The fixed term deposits must be for a period of three years or more; or
  • A combination of the above investments and deposits of at least €5m or more; or
  • The beneficial owner or shareholder of a Cyprus managed company that has over the three years before the application was submitted has paid to the state and to local services at least €500,000 a year, or if the company employs at least 5 Cypriot citizens the sum is reduced to at least €350,000 a year and  reduced further to at least €200,000 a year if the company employs 10 or more Cypriot citizens; or finally
  • Depositors with Laiki Bank and Bank of Cyprus whose deposits were impaired by at least €3m in the restructuring in March 2013 can apply for naturalisation. If the impairment is below €3m application can still be made if additional direct investment is made.

These are not inflexible rules and if the financial limits are not quite attained the application might nonetheless be accepted if the applicant is committed to investing in Cyprus and is otherwise suitable.

Hong Kong
Read more about the Hong Kong Visa requirements at

or watch the video on "Relocating to Hong Kong for work or business: the visa question" at: