Governments can choose to terminate or suspend citizenship by investment programs for various reasons. Some common reasons include concerns about national security, weak security checks, potential risks of money laundering or illicit activities, tax evasion, lack of transparency in the program’s operation, or public backlash regarding perceived inequality or unfairness in granting citizenship based on financial contributions. Many countries are opposed to selling citizenship for money, rather than of bringing talent to build the country. In her speech, Ursula Von der Leyen said, “European values are not for sale”
Economic citizenship programs (ECP) are attractive for a number of legitimate reasons, including the wish to start a new business in the jurisdiction, greater mobility thanks to visa-free travel, better education and job opportunities for children, or the right to live in a country with political stability.
Moldova, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Comoros have already ended their economic citizenship programs citing various issues with granting golden passports for investment. The European commission has expressed serious security threat of criminals who use an alternative passport entering schengen area using visa waivers by changing their name. Economic citizenship amended acts have provisions to denaturalize the investor and their family members immediately for fraud, concealing facts, and wanted persons by law enforcement. Cyprus has rescinded passports granted for investment to many sanctioned persons. United Kingdom is also reviewing the threat posed by spies who acquire passports from third countries.
Economic citizenship programs (ECP) also known as citizenship-by-investment or golden visa programs, offer individuals the opportunity to acquire citizenship or residency in a country in exchange for making a significant financial investment. While these programs have gained popularity in recent years, they often have limited shelf life due to several factors:
1. Poor security checks – Weak security checks is the no.1 reason for demise of economic citizenship program, as criminals, financial frauds and traffickers and convicts abuse these schemes to get hands on their passport. White collar criminals find a way to pass the security checks applying for passport well ahead in advance.
2.Public Backlash: Economic citizenship programs can be controversial, as critics argue that they create a pathway for wealthy individuals to buy citizenship or residency rights without fulfilling traditional requirements, such as long-term residency, language proficiency or cultural integration. This can lead to public backlash and political pressure to curtail or end these programs.
3.Sovereignty Concerns: Some countries may view economic citizenship programs as a threat to their sovereignty. Granting citizenship or residency rights solely based on financial contributions can be seen as undermining the integrity and value of citizenship. Governments may decide to limit or terminate such programs to protect their national identity and control over immigration policies.
4. Risk of Money Laundering and Corruption: Economic citizenship programs have been scrutinized for their potential to facilitate money laundering, tax evasion, and other illicit activities. When the due diligence processes associated with these programs are perceived as weak or ineffective, it can lead to reputational risks for the countries involved. To mitigate these risks, governments may impose stricter regulations or ultimately phase out the programs. Banks are also under pressure to increase compliance checks on funds received from people, entities and countries under international sanctions to avoid fines and risk of losing their correspondent bank relationships.
5.Changing Political Landscape: Political dynamics and priorities can shift over time. Governments that initially establish economic citizenship programs may experience changes in leadership or policy direction, leading to a reevaluation of the program’s value and alignment with their objectives. This can result in the termination or modification of the programs.
6.International Pressure and Compliance: Countries face international pressure to align their citizenship and residency policies with global standards and commitments. International organizations, such as the European Union, have expressed concerns about the potential risks associated with economic citizenship programs and has pressured all member states to phase out investment schemes by 2025. To maintain good standing and adhere to international norms, governments may choose to limit or end these programs.
7.Tax Evasion – OECD has blacklisted all citizenship and residence by investment schemes for possible tax evasion, avoiding the CRS by opening bank accounts with their economic passports and hiding unreported assets offshore without spending much time in the country.
8. Housing crisis – Large inflow of investments in property market from foreign investors, contributes to housing bubble, with sudden rise of housing prices making it unaffordable to locals and students to invest or rent in property market. Many foreigners do not live in the property and rent out in the Airbnb or to tourists. As a result of this locals are forced to move out to country side away from city centre. The funds invested in real estate projects are not completed or built, siphoned off by developers.
9. Xenophobia – Language issues, rise in unemployment and social issues have lately contributed to increase in xenophobia against foreigners.
10.Visa waiver agreements – Canada and EU have already suspended visa waiver agreements of countries running investor citizenship programs citing abuse of visa free agreements. (Eg. Vanuatu, Caribbean). This happened due to inadequate checks done on citizenship applications who have been already refused visas.
11.Lack of Transparency – Billions of dollars go unaccounted, goes into the pockets of corrupt politicians and government officials with sale of passports by microstates, ultimately not to the benefit of local people. The lack of transparency and lack of proper regulation on governance of funds, causing a huge backlash.
12.Dual nationality Restricted – Dual nationality is restricted in many countries eg (India, China, UAE, Saudi Arabia etc) as acquiring second citizenship, risks their original nationality from being revoked. Many nations such as South Africa still require prior permission and register their new citizenship. There is also a limited consular support for dual nationals (from the country of citizenship)