Italy suspends ‘golden visas’ for Russians and Belarusians more than a year after EU recommendation

Adriana Lima
By Adriana Lima 4 Min Read
origin 1Italy has just suspended its investment visa programme. ©Getty via Canva

Italy has suspended its golden visa programme for Russian and Belarusian citizens, the country’s Business Ministry has announced on its website.

Italian media reports that it made the decision in mid-July – more than a year after the European Commission recommended the move following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Investor visa programmes or ‘golden visas’ offer people the opportunity to obtain a residency permit by purchasing a house, investing significant amounts of money or making a donation.

For EU nations, this also often means gaining access to the benefits of being a resident of the bloc – including free movement between countries.

The Italian programme offers a two-year residency permit (which can be extended for three years) in exchange for a €2 million investment in Italian government bonds, a €500,000 investment in an Italian limited company, a €250,000 investment in an Italian innovative startup or a €1 million donation to a philanthropic initiative in Italy.

It can be extended for three years and after 10 years you may be eligible for citizenship.

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Why did the EU recommend suspending golden visa schemes?

In March 2022, the European Commission called on all EU member states to suspend their investor visa programmes for Russian and Belarusian nationals.

It warned that those “who are subject to sanctions or significantly supporting the war in Ukraine” may have acquired EU citizenship or privileged access to the EU – including freedom of movement in the Schengen area – under these schemes.

origin 1Investment visa schemes often offer many of the benefits of living in the EU.Canva

Italian magazine Altreconomia reports that Italy issued at least 32 Russian citizens with two-year “investor” visas out of 36 applications last year, based on data provided by the Business Ministry. This was more than the number issued to investors from the UK, the US and another 23 non-EU countries combined.

There was no data to show how many had been issued so far this year.

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EU countries are getting rid of their golden visa schemes

Italy is one of just a handful of EU countries that still have golden visa schemes.

The European Commission has previously said that programmes like this are a risk to security, transparency and the values of the European Union.

Earlier this year, Ireland axed its Immigrant Investor Programme – which offered Irish residence in return for a €500,000 donation or a three-year annual €1 million investment in the country.

Portugal too has put an end to its residence by investment scheme to tackle rising property and rent prices.

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