Investor Visas in the European Union
Comprised of 28 member states, the European Union is an economic and political union of many of the most powerful countries in Europe including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Portugal, Netherlands, and Denmark to name just a few. The purpose of the EU, which came into existence after the Second World War, is to foster economic cooperation and therefore ensure political stability amongst all of the nations. To achieve this, the EU has adopted a single currency, its own European Parliament, multiple councils, and the European Central Bank. All of these institutions work to unify the member nations of the EU.
As another method to preserve and promote unity amongst the member states, the EU also maintains open door travel and work policies that allow citizens of one EU member state to travel, relocate, live, work, and study in another EU member state without the need of a country specific visa or work permit.
This open door policy is particularly enticing to foreign investors who are seeking to relocate to one of the EU member states and obtain its citizenship, since in doing so the investor will then have unfettered access to all of the other member states. Since many EU countries offer investor visas that lead to permanent residence and ultimately to citizenship, there are several opportunities available to foreign nationals to relocate to and retire in Europe. Each country’s program has its merits and its downfalls. This pamphlet offers a brief explanation and comparison of a number of countries’ investor visa programs. All of these programs are extensively detailed in other pamphlets.
Austria’s Investor Visa Program
Let’s start with Austria, one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Europe. One of the great benefits of the Austrian investor visa program is that it puts the foreign national on a fast track to Austrian citizenship. Normally, foreign nationals must be permanent residents of Austria for tor ten years before they can qualify for citizenship – but a foreign investor is immediately eligible for citizenship and does not need to meet the residency requirement.
To qualify, the foreign national must make an active investment into the country, most commonly into the formation of a new business that will be headquartered in Austria. Passive investments such as government bonds or real estate holdings will not qualify. While Austria does not require a minimum investment amount, usually the investment must be at least 2,000,000 Euros in order for the application to be approved. Importantly, once the foreign national invests the money, he/she cannot withdraw it at any point in the future.
Ireland’s Investor Visa Program
Ireland’s investor visa program has two categories: the Immigrant Investor Programme and the Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme.
Under the Investor Programme, the Irish government hopes to encourage investment into the nation’s specially created low interest Government Bonds. Investors who choose this option must invest a minimum of 1,000,000 Euros into the bonds.
There is another option for foreign nationals to choose if they do not prefer to have their money in government bonds. Rather, foreign nationals may invest a minimum amount of 500,000 Euros into one enterprise or more enterprises provided that all of the enterprises are headquartered in Ireland.
Another option under the Investor Programmer allows the foreign national to invest into property. The foreign national can invest a minimum of 450,000 Euros into a residential property combined with a 500,000 Euro investment into the government bonds.
Notably, investments in the cultural, sporting, educational or health areas will also be considered for the purpose of immigration benefits, and there is no fixed amount for these types of investments. However, the Irish government has stated that an acceptable amount will generally range from 500,000 Euros to 2,000,000 Euros.
Irish’s Start-up Entrepreneur Programme allows foreign investors who have a “good business idea” that will kickstart the economy, as well as funding of 70,000 Euros, to relocate to Ireland for the purpose of establishing and operating a new business. Importantly, under this option the investor is not required to create a minimum amount of new job positions for Irish workers.