Spain to scrap controversial golden visa scheme

Spain will eliminate its Golden Visa scheme for non-European nationals on April 8.

The Golden Visa, also known as the investor visa, was created in 2013 to allow citizens outside the EU to gain legal residency in Spain for three years by investing at least €500,000 (£428,000) in Spanish property without leveraging a mortgage.

The visa is also extended to the investor’s spouse and children if they make a joint application.

Spain is one of the most popular European countries for British migrants.

According to a report, the UN estimated that 303,000 British expats resided in Spain as of 2020.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that 94 of every 100 visas are linked to real estate investment, particularly in areas such as Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Alicante, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands. Sanchez added that these cities already have a highly stressed housing market, which makes it difficult for locals to find decent housing.

He said: “We are going to take the necessary measures to guarantee that housing is a right and not a mere business speculation.”

Culture Minister Ernest Urtasun called the golden visas a European shame.

He added: “It cannot be that someone, just because they are a multimillionaire, is granted a residence permit.”

However, real estate company Idealista claimed that fewer than 5,000 residence permits were obtained through the golden visa from 2013 to 2022.

This amounted to less than 0.1% of the 4.5 million homes sold in the same period.

Francisco Iñareta, a spokesperson for Idealista, said: “The purchase by non-EU foreigners has not caused any conflict in Spain.

“The housing problem in Spain, both for sale and rent, is not caused by the golden visa but by the increasing lack of supply and the exponential increase in demand.”

Sean Woolley, managing director of real estate agency Cloud Nine Spain, said: “It’s certainly made life a little tougher but not impossible for those British buyers looking to make a permanent move to Spain.

“But it isn’t the only visa option, and in fact, less than 10% of our transactions to foreign buyers are Golden Visa related.”

Miguel Romero-Salas, a retired businessman from the Philippines, obtained the golden visa for his family in 2021 after purchasing property in Barcelona to establish residency and gain Spanish citizenship.

He said: “I think they’re overreacting and not looking at the whole economic picture.

“In my opinion, the people going for these golden visas are buying medium-to-high-end housing so they’re not exactly driving up the price of entry-level housing.

“I haven’t seen the statistics, but the people Pedro Sanchez is thinking of helping are not affected by the price increase of that market.”

Maxine Grossman, an LM Real Estate Group advisor, talks to Canadians and Americans who are considering moving to Spain. S

he also holds a golden visa after moving her family from Montreal to Marbella in 2022 to escape Canada’s long and harsh winters.

She said: “Now that I’ve moved here, I realised the weather unlocked greater health – mental health, nutritional health, physical health for our family because we can just be outdoors, being active and eating fresh produce and with a less stress levels than what I had in Montreal.”

Another reason for moving her family to Spain was the cultural and linguistic exposure for her children, who are 10 and 12.

They are enrolled in a local school and have picked up the language quickly.

She said: “Spanish is really a language that they can take with them anywhere in the world.

“Kids are sponges.

“It’s one thing to hear it, but it’s truly unreal to watch it happen in front of your eyes.”

While Spain has yet to announce an exact date for removing the visa, Woolley believes the recent news may attract more potential buyers instead of deterring them.

He said: “I actually think the announcement may bring a spike of renewed interest from those seeking to secure the Golden Visa before it gets abolished completely.

“There is a window of opportunity now, so there is no excuse to wait.”

Grossman added: “We’ve helped so many clients move here.

“All I can say is that I just hope that if anybody has been on the fence, they don’t sit around and wait too long.

“I don’t know how long it takes to amend or repeal a program like the golden visa, but if there is a window [to buy], it’s now.”

Featured image: Ysabel Cacho

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