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Rachel Sanderson

The Golden Visa Doors Are Closing. But Windows Are Open.

Southern Europe needs capital from oligarchs and digital nomads even if it widens inequality.

Lisbon street art.

Lisbon street art.

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

Portugal has shut down its golden visa program, which offered residency to foreigners in exchange for an investment of at least 350,000 euros ($370,000). But American digital nomads and wealthy Chinese don’t need to worry about missing their chance to settle into the Mediterranean lifestyle. Southern European policymakers won’t give up offering incentives to lure the restless global elite. A toxic mixture of long-term low growth, high debt and stubborn unemployment means they can’t afford to.

While the numbers for Portugal aren’t huge — just a few dozen applications in January and an average of less than 100 a month the past decade — their impact has created an outpouring of angst. European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen expressed dissatisfaction with golden visa programs after they reportedly provided a loophole for Russian oligarchs to avoid sanctions. Ireland stopped a similar program recently. Even post-Brexit Britain, itself badly in need of foreign investment, has tightened its non-dom tax deal.