The Material World Column from the May 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
Socialists have decried the erection of fences and the building of walls to keep out refugees and migrant workers who politicians accuse of undermining their identity and culture. Across the world, nations are tightening up their visa regulations to exclude those either seeking sanctuary or economic security.
Nevertheless, many nations have embarked upon a policy of what is called ‘citizenship by investment programmes’ (CIPs). Such schemes offer rich individuals who invest in a country’s economy easier access to either citizenship or residency. Thousands of wealthy people acquire passports of other countries via CIPs every year. In 2014, the global rich spent an estimated $2 billion acquiring nationalities.
The wealthy already diversify their business assets for protection. Now they want to ensure their residency is diversified as well with a portfolio of passports. A second passport is more than a hedge against political uncertainty, it enhances the mobility of the rich. Passports from Iran or Pakistan, for example, will get you into fewer than 40 countries visa-free, but a passport from St. Kitts and Nevis will get you into 131. By selling passports, St. Kitts and Nevis slashed its debt from 164 percent of GDP in 2010 to 104 percent of GDP at the end of 2013. By 2014, passports were the country’s biggest export, and income associated with the passport business accounted for at least 25 percent of GDP.
Dominica offers dual citizenship at a budget price of $100,000 with no residency requirements and it comes with other useful perks such as no tax regulations on foreign-based income, wealth, and capital earnings. While being a British colony it retains certain privileges such as freedom to start a business in other British Commonwealth countries.
The government of Cyprus perk offers access to the European Community and its ‘golden visa scheme’ is a lucrative source of revenue, generating £4.3bn (€4.8bn). Cyprus made it even easier for rich foreigners to gain citizenship in 2016. An earlier requirement for investors to have at least €5m in domestic assets was reduced to €2m.
Malta started selling citizenship for a fee of €650,000 with no residency requirements. In the first six months, more than 200 investors signed up, earning the government $200 million. Because Malta is a European Union member, citizenship also gives holders the ability to travel and settle within the European Union.
Not all countries sell citizenship outright. Some, including the United States and the United Kingdom, offer residency with a path to citizenship to wealthy investors. Both countries expect investors to spend roughly half the year in residence for several years before applying for citizenship. In the US aspiring citizens who invest US$500,000 and create 10 jobs can apply for an EB-5 visa. An investor who can show that a project creates or preserves at least 10 jobs can get a green card and eventual citizenship.
The UK requires an investment of at least £2 million. Applicants are eligible for ‘indefinite leave to remain’ after five years. But the government recently added fast-track programmes for people who invest £5 million (requiring a wait of only three years) and £10 million (a wait of two years).
Australia announced its Premium Investor visa, nicknamed the platinum visa. That nation already has a golden visa, called the Significant Investor visa, which offers permanent residency after four years in exchange for an investment of A$5 million. More than 436 visas have been granted under the programme, bringing in more than 2 billion Australian dollars in investments. The new programme will give faster residency (in just 12 months) in return for A$15 million in investments.
Portugal started a ‘Golden Visa’ program in 2012, under which the purchase of a property worth at least €500,000 will get you a residence permit. Spain implemented an almost identical programme. Greece hands out residence permits for the purchase of a property worth €250,000. In Hungary, you can buy residency by investing €250,000 euros in a five-year state fund. The Netherlands has jumped on the bandwagon: an investment of €1.25 million in the Dutch economy will entitle you to live in the country.
Some critics suggest countries offering citizenship or residency for cash are aiding and abetting fraudsters and criminals. As countries around the world compete to attract global millionaires and billionaires who are the real economic migrants, those who really do require a safe haven, fleeing from war, hunger and economic hardships, do not receive a warm welcome. The xenophobes who denounce immigration because it supposedly changes their nation ignore that parts of their country are unaffordable to locals due to the increase in house prices.
Inside world socialism, there will be no countries and no national borders. Everyone on Earth will be free to roam the whole world without passports or visas, free to settle wherever they desire or for as long as they wish.