European Parliament votes to end ‘golden passport’ schemes
European Parliament votes to end ‘golden passport’ schemes

Members of the European Parliament Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a legislative proposal asking the European Commission to propose a law abolishing “golden passport” schemes by 2025.

The European Parliament stressed that golden passports, or “citizen by investment” schemes, allow third-country nationals to acquire citizenship rights in exchange for money and “undermine the essence of EU citizenship.”

The proposal comes in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where multiple EU member states have begun limiting the sale of these passports to wealthy Russians. Dutch MEP Sophie In’t Veld stated in a press conference before the vote that “the whole situation with the war in Ukraine has again put spotlight on the problem of people buying passports, buying residency, buying access to the EU.”

It has been estimated that from 2011 to 2019, over €20 billion ($21.8 billion) of investments came into EU countries through golden passport schemes, with Malta, Cyprus, and Bulgaria having the most lucrative schemes within the EU. In 2020 and 2021, the European Commission investigated and advanced legal action against Malta and Cyprus over these schemes.

The European Parliament’s vote is not binding. The European Commission must next prepare a legislative proposal to be put forward to the EU’s national government or justify its decision not to do so.

On March 3, two US congressmen also introduced a bill that seeks to remove eligibility for the US Visa Waiver Program for countries that sell citizenship through investment.