Ireland’s million euro visa
Photo credit: Trent Strohm
In an unusual attempt to encourage immigration and overseas
property investment, the USA proposed a B.O.G.O.F. bill last year that would
give foreigners a
free visa with every house purchased. Now, Ireland has decided to do the
same. But where America's offer applied to anyone spending $500,000 on US real
estate, Ireland places an even higher value on its visa: one million euros.
The proposal, to be outlined in full next month, will grant
residential rights to overseas investors if they spend €1m on property owned by
the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), at least €2m on a low interest
immigrant investor bond, or choose to put money into an Irish company or a
project benefitting the arts or education.
The scheme, which benefits those outside of the EU who
require permits to live and work within the Union, marks a new step for
Ireland, a country increasingly desperate to get its economy back on track.
"The further we are into the crisis the more you need to
come up with something a little bit more," Austin Hughes, an economist at Dublin's
KBC Bank Ireland, told Bloomberg.
"The various little tasters that the government is offering help create an
impression of an economy that wants to do business."
Indeed, Ireland's market is at rock bottom. In January, a
house was created
entirely out of euros by one artist to highlight the severity of the
country's financial deficit, while unemployment climbed to 14.2 per cent in
2011. NAMA, which has taken on a total of 74 billion euros of property debt
from Irish banks, is now hoping that the chance of a free visa will attract a
substantial injection of overseas cash.
Similar schemes have been tried in Europe before, but have
proved controversial. Latvian nationalists protested last year when the
government announced it would give visas to foreigners who spent over €60,000
on a house.
"If this continues,"
one protestor told the BBC,
"most of the country will belong to other people."
Despite the angry response, the initiative ultimately boosted
Latvia's economy and stimulated construction in its flagging real estate
industry. Ireland will be aiming to achieve the same result - and it may well
Indeed, overseas buyers from outside the EU are already showing
an increased interest in the country, where house prices have more than halved
in the last year six years. Russian investors are typically out in full force, according
to PathFinder, while Americans with Irish ancestry are starting to head back to
Irish citizens, on the other hand, are flocking in the other
direction. 17,755 US visas were granted to Irish emigrants in 2011, an increase
of 22 per cent from the year before. As unemployment worsens, Irish residents cannot
wait to leave the country, with another 75,000 predicted to emigrate this year,
adds Work Permit.
Whether they are attracted to America by the offer of a free
visa is unclear, but one thing is certain for Ireland's welcoming property
market: there will be more than enough room for the new residents.
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