Citing security risks, the European Commission urged member states on Tuesday, to restrict issuing investor visas to non-nationals, with plans to publish new regulations in September.
In an interview to German daily Die Welt, Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said the so-called golden visa programs currently in force across Europe are posing a “serious security risk”.
“The EU Commission is very concerned about the development of so-called golden passports,” Jourova said, adding that “we do not want Trojan horses in the Union.”
Indicatively, a total of 863,300 citizenships were granted in 2016, up by 19 percent compared to 2015. Approximately 87 percent of those who acquired EU state citizenship in 2016 were citizens of a non-EU country.
Besides offering residency rights, investor visa programs also offer instant access to the Schengen Area, which is the main concern of EU officials.
“The granting of citizenship poses a serious security risk because it gives beneficiaries all the rights of EU citizens and allows them to move freely throughout the Union.” Jourova said.
“The EU must not become a safe haven for criminals, corruption and dirty money.”
Greece is among the EU countries offering golden visa programs. The Greek scheme grants five-year residence permits renewable for third country nationals who purchase, individually or through a legal entity, property in Greece valued at a minimum of 250,000 euros, or who have taken out a minimum 10-year lease in hotel accommodation or tourism facilities. Other countries offering similar programs include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and the UK.
Commissioner Jourova said member states would need to “quickly adopt” new laws on combating money laundering.
Earlier this year, Cyprus said it would limit the number of investor visas it granted to 700.
At the same time, all the more deception cases involving go-betweens that promise to secure investor visas for non-nationals are coming to the fore.