MPI Report Findings on Immigrant Investor Programs Such as EB-5
The demand for immigrant investor programs that offer citizenship in exchange for financial investments worldwide is growing, as the demand from China and other emerging economies grows. As more countries set up programs, other countries with long-standing ones are questioning the programs’ economic benefits and are looking for ways to increase their impact, reports the Migration Policy Institute in a new report.
The report, Selling Visas and Citizenship: Policy Questions from the Global Boom in Investor Immigration, examines the increasing mix of players and types of immigrant investor programs, their policy design, benefits and other considerations. During the past decade, the number of countries with immigrant investor programs has increased dramatically, and about half of all European Union member states now have dedicated routes. Demand has increased as well, with the U.S. EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, for example, nearing its annual cap of 10,000 visas this year for the first time, after two decades of relatively low uptake.
“Cash-for citizenship” policies have not been without controversy, however, as Malta experienced in 2013. Its plan to sell passports for 650,000 euros (later upped to 1.15 million euros in cash and investments) sparked an outcry in the country — as well as in Brussels, since a Malta passport grants immediate access to EU citizenship.
“In theory, the benefits of investor programs are straightforward: investors obtain new residency rights, while destination countries gain revenues or job-creating investments,” authors Madeleine Sumption and Kate Hooper write. “In practice, policymakers have often found the results disappointing.”
The report argues that the clearest economic benefits come from programs that encourage cash payments to the government or national development funds, though it notes that these are the most controversial as they accentuate public concerns about whether it is appropriate to sell citizenship. Programs requiring private-sector investment — such as the U.S. EB-5 program — are promising in theory but raise some thorny compliance issues. In particular, the government may have little control over where and how the money is invested, as well as whether investments actually create the expected number of jobs.
Citing concerns over economic benefits, Canada earlier this year scrapped its federal program. And the United Kingdom’s Migration Advisory Committee has argued that the country is giving away residence rights in return for a government bond investment with no economic value. Australia, meanwhile, has adjusted its program to target investors who will make clearer economic contributions.
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. Learn more at www.migrationpolicy.org.
- District Of Columbia
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