Europe Rethinks Nationality—Have EU Second Passports Peaked?

It’s become increasingly common over the past decade for people to obtain European nationality by investing a set sum of money in an EU country. They get a second passport, with which they can freely work and travel throughout Europe and the country gets inward investment. But as the cost of living bites for the average European, the very idea of second European passports is being revisited, and for those that have the money, options are narrowing.

Passport Power Rises And Falls

Our nationality affects where we can travel and work. Passports are political. In 2010, for example, it was an exceptionally good thing to have a British passport, but by 2022 the U.K. passport had dropped to joint 13th in the annual ranking of passport power (tied with Portugal).

Since Brexit, Spain now requires British holidaymakers to prove upon arrival that they have £85 per day to support themselves ($96) and France now limits Brits to a 90-day stay or they need to apply for a visa, even if they own second homes.

Japan, Singapore and South Korean passports now provide more uninhibited, visa-free access to more countries in the world, followed by the larger European countries (Germany, Spain, Finland, Italy)—something The Telegraph called “the Great British demise.”

Second Passports Offer Greater Movement

During the pandemic, the power of the American passport plummeted and during Q3, 2022, the U.S. passport is currently in 7th place. American demand for second passports has increased, partly due to the increasing parity between the dollar and euro, because that makes it a good time for Americans to buy real estate in Europe. But also because it’s pretty good value—a passport in one European country allows unlimited movement in more than 27 others—something an American passport does not.

Many countries have been offering second passports to non-Europeans for over a decade. In Portugal, anyone who invests €350,000 ($340,000) in real estate can apply for a Portuguese passport and thereby be granted access to travel freely through Europe. For the first time, Americans are outnumbering the Chinese in applications, but this is mostly because it has to be obtained through an in-person interview and Chinese hopefuls have not been able to leave the country due to lockdowns (so far in 2022, only 16% of candidates are Chinese compared to 81% in 2014).

Europe Is Restricting Access to Second Passports

But Europe is trying to clamp down on countries that offer second passports through such investment opportunities, seeing the policy as unclassy and against the very notion of what it means to be European.

Cyprus and Malta have recently reconsidered their passport schemes (requiring far more investment than in previous iterations) and the other ten countries in the EU who run similar schemes are under pressure to end them. Portugal, from this year, is now only offering the scheme if investment is in hinterland and rural areas, not near the coast or large sought-after cities such as Lisbon or Porto.

Greece recently announced that it has raised the investment required from €250,000 to €500,000 for obtaining a second passport—Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister announced the decision and explained that it had been taken in order to “increase the affordability of real estate for Greeks”. It is also seen by some as an attempt to to decrease avenues for money laundering and corruption across the region.

It seems as if obtaining a second passport through investment is becoming increasingly difficult, chiming something that Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President recently said, that the values of the region should not be for sale in such a way.

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