While China is on the road to prosperity, some wealthy Chinese are hedging their bets and eyeing residency abroad. Affluent Chinese are flocking to Europe to take advantage of attractive “golden visa” residence plans that some countries are offering.
Many EU countries, especially those suffering from economic recession, are offering residency permits to people outside of Europe. If someone puts down several hundred thousand euros on an apartment or house, they gain the right to live in a EU country and can travel freely among the other 25 countries in the union. These schemes often provide homebuyers with a smoother road to permanent residence in the country as well, if they feel inclined to stay.
The overwhelming influx of Chinese immigrants in response to such schemes speaks to the growth of personal wealth within China. The Boston Consulting Group reports that the country had 2.4 million millionaire households last year. Forbes Magazine also estimates that the country hosts 152 billionaires, a record number.
The number of wealthy Chinese who want to leave the country is also high — an estimated 64 percent of China’s millionaires have either already left the country or plan to in the future, citing overcrowding, pollution, stressful professions, and better educational opportunities for their children as reasons to emigrate.
Popular countries among Chinese buyers are Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, Greece, and Spain, but Portugal runs “the most successful visa scheme to date” in which “Chinese are by far the biggest buyers,” according to the Financial Times. The country launched its scheme in 2012 and has since issued 1,360 visas, 81 percent of which have gone to people from China. A €500,000 property payment qualifies the buyer to live in Portugal for five years and then apply for permanent status.
Regulations vary from country to country. Greece and Cyprus have lower property purchase thresholds — €250,000 and €300,000, respectively — but also offer residency plans. Like Portugal, Spain has a threshold of €500,000, but eligibility for permanent residency requires ten years instead of five. Nevertheless, a third of the 134 permits already issued in the country have gone to Chinese investors.
According to Yansi Xu, a Chinese graduate who works for the Portuguese property developers Libertas, Chinese buyers are largely drawn to these countries because of the possibility of residency.
“If people were buying property just for the return on their investment, they’d buy in the UK, Australia or the US,” he said. “Here it’s all about the golden visa . . . Chinese are the only nationality we sell to whose primary aim is to get a golden visa.”
image credit: flickr/francisco antunes