Hungary revives ‘golden visa’ scheme
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Hungary revives ‘golden visa’ scheme

Earlier programme shut down because of corruption and lax vetting

People shop for food at a market in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: Reuters)
People shop for food at a market in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: Reuters)

Hungary will offer residency permits to foreigners who purchase expensive property in the European Union nation, six years after corruption allegations led authorities to shut a similar golden-visa scheme.

The “guest-investor programme” allows those who invest at least €250,000 (US$270,000) in local property funds or €500,000 in Hungarian real estate the right to apply for a 10-year, renewable residency permit, according to legislation filed by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Donations worth at least €1 million to so-called public trusts, which the government set up to oversee universities, will also be eligible.

Hungary shut down a similar programme in 2017. That one granted residency and unfettered travel in the EU to buyers of €300,000 of government bonds. The programme led to a surge in migration from China and Russia. It was closed following media reports of alleged corruption and lax vetting of applicants, which may have allowed spies to enter the EU.

Golden visas are controversial in other parts for Europe. Some blame such residency programmes for fueling a housing crisis. Portugal this year shut down a programme after real estate prices soared, particularly in Lisbon. Ireland shut down its scheme on Feb 15.

Hungary’s programme is included in legislation that Orban says is part of his get-tough approach to immigration. It’s a signature issue of the nationalist prime minister whose anti-immigrant message has kept him in power for more than a decade.

The bill was presented after opposition parties began to criticise the government for loosening regulations earlier this year allowing workers from non-EU countries to come to Hungary to help with a labour shortage. It also comes at a time when Orban is trying boost revenue after amassing a record cash-flow based budget shortfall this year.

The government, by its own estimate, says the economy is in need of 500,000 new workers to meet rising demand. A surge in battery industry investments, which is set to make Hungary one of the world’s top producers, is a particular source of concern when it comes to filling positions on factory lines.

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