The golden visa’s golden era is not over for Indians

More than 4,000 Russians have paid $3.3 billion in Europe over the last decade to obtain residency. But that’s all changed in light of the Russia-Ukraine war, with Portugal, Greece, and the Czech Republic along the countries suspending golden visas for Russian nationals. The UK, which has awarded 2,581 Russians its version of a golden visa since its introduction in 2008, scrapped the program entirely.

For Indians with means, there are still expensive routes towards residency elsewhere, just not as many as there used to be.

No more UK golden visas

The suspension of the UK’s tier 1 investor visa is not a massive blow to Indians.

Since 2008, only around 250 Indians, including infamous diamond merchant Nirav Modi, have moved to the UK on the investor visa. That’s just 3% of the visas issued overall.

This visa always saw “very weak interest,” according to Poorvi Chothani, managing partner at immigration law firm LawQuest. It was also “ridiculously expensive” at upwards of £2 million ($2.7 million).

Indians love Portugal

The Portuguese golden visa can be obtained for investments as low as €280,000 ($310,000). And the investor only needs to be in the country for seven days annually.

Indians in the UK, whose heirs would face massive inheritance tax bills there, are increasingly investing for residency in Portuguese properties instead, Chothani says.

But the Portuguese government is also making things difficult. Foreign investment in coastal cities like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve — all prime real estate hotspots — is no longer an option, as authorities attempt to curb rising prices.

The US EB-5 visa

In the US, a key investor visa program is getting a new lease of life. The most popular route to an EB-5 visa will now cost a minimum of $800,000 instead of $500,000, but that is unlikely to be a deterrent, and the fact that it’s been renewed for five years has instilled confidence in Indians.

“The US still the best destination to move to, especially for people starting out, recent graduates, and H-1B parents with young kids who might age out,” says Chothani. Aggressive marketing of the EB-5 in the last few years has boosted its popularity, and the new reforms will only push demand up further.

There’s a huge backlog of applications. But even then, “people feel the chance of getting a delayed green card is better than not getting one,” Chothani adds. But for those with less patience, there’s another option nearby.

The US via Grenada

Mehul Choksi, another fugitive jeweler and uncle of Nirav Modi, has been in the Caribbean. But even for people who are not on the wanted list, there are compelling investment options in these island nations.

Take Grenada, for instance. Maintaining a $150,000 to $220,000 investment over five years will get you citizenship. Once that happens, you are eligible for the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, which allows Grenadian citizens to set up a business and live in the US. Several Indians are already adopting this roundabout route, because it’s still faster than waiting in the EB-5 queue.

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