Cyprus’ Golden Visa Program Under Increased Scrutiny

Cyprus’ Golden Visa Program Under Increased Scrutiny

Recent developments in the Cyprus’ Golden Visa Program have brought about significant changes, with the Cyprus Ministry of the Interior agreeing to enforce stricter controls. This decision, influenced by an audit report, has sparked debate over the future of the program.

Strengthening the Golden Visa Framework

The Interior Ministry has confirmed its alignment with the audit report’s recommendations for more stringent checks in the Golden Visa Program. These measures include toughening the criteria for the fast-track visa program for third-country nationals.

The Ministry’s response follows revelations from the audit service’s special report highlighting the risk of abuse due to the program’s weaknesses. As a result, new criteria have been implemented, requiring annual data submissions from beneficiaries to maintain their immigration permits.

Additionally, investors must now provide a clean criminal record from their country of origin every three years. Failure to meet these requirements will result in the cancellation of their and their family's immigration permits.

The Ministry also emphasized intensifying checks on beneficiaries and revoking visas when violations are detected.

Audit Service’s Call for Abolition

The audit service has urged the interior ministry to consider abolishing the Golden Visa Program altogether. This recommendation comes after an investigation into the scheme, which grants permanent residence in Cyprus for an investment of €300,000.

Approximately 5,800 people have acquired permanent residence through this program. The investigation found significant lapses in compliance checks, including issuing permits without official proof of investment and in cases where investors acquired permanent residence in another country or remained outside Cyprus for over two years.

Golden Visa Explained

A Golden Visa is an immigration program offering residence permits to wealthy individuals in return for significant investment, usually ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. While citizenship is not guaranteed with a Golden Visa, it can lead to eventual citizenship after a specific period of residency.

The eligibility criteria typically include owning the investment money, legal acquisition of funds, no criminal history, and the ability to sustain oneself and family members.

The Cyprus Papers Impact

The Cyprus Papers, a collection of leaked documents revealing approved applications for the Cyprus Investment Programme, highlighted issues within the program. It showed that Cyprus granted passports to nearly 2,500 individuals, including criminals and those at high corruption risk.

These revelations have led to criticism from the European Commission and anti-corruption NGOs, calling for the program’s phase-out.

What it Means for Travelers and Immigrants

The stricter controls on Cyprus’ Golden Visa Program could impact EU visitors, particularly those seeking long-term residency or citizenship through investment. The new criteria could affect families, investors, digital nomads, and students considering Cyprus as a destination.

For EU immigration policy, these changes reflect a broader trend of tightening investment-based residency programs, aligning with EU efforts to curb abuse and maintain the integrity of residency and citizenship pathways.

The decision to implement stricter controls on Cyprus’ Golden Visa Program marks a significant shift in the country’s approach to investment-based immigration. While it addresses concerns of abuse and corruption, it also raises questions about the future of such programs in Cyprus and the EU. The balance between attracting investment and ensuring security and compliance remains a key challenge for policymakers.