'Cash for visas': €185m invested in exchange for right to live in Ireland in 2020

More than 250 Chinese citizens invest six-figure sums for visas

Successful applicants under the Immigrant Investment Programme secure the right to live, study and work in the Republic for themselves and their families. Photograph: iStock

Successful applicants under the Immigrant Investment Programme secure the right to live, study and work in the Republic for themselves and their families. Photograph: iStock

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More than 260 wealthy non-EU citizens pledged to invest €185.6 million in the Republic under the Government’s “cash for visas” scheme last year, official figures show.

Non-EU citizens and their families can secure the right to live in the Republic in return for investing €1 million in social housing or other activities, or donating six-figure sums to charity, under the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP).

Department of Justice figures show that its officials approved €185.6 million worth of investments under the scheme last year, granting 267 people and their families the right to live in the Republic.

These investments bring to more than €1 billion the total raised under the programme since its launch in 2012. Up to the end of 2019, it had raised €826 million.

According to the department, 254 – or 95 per cent – of the successful applicants last year were Chinese citizens.

Most of those who have used the programme to get residency rights here since 2012 have been from China. Up to the end of 2019, a total of 1,088 Chinese citizens had invested here under the scheme.

The 2020 numbers show that, last year, six investors came from the US, with South Africa and the rest of the world accounting for the rest.

Successful applicants under the IIP secure the right to live, study and work in the Republic for themselves and their families, according to the Department of Justice.

Criteria

“Their permission remains valid for an initial five-year period consisting of two and three years subject to meeting the stated criteria,” said a statement.

“Having completed this five years, their permission will continue to be renewed for periods of five years.”

To qualify, applicants must show their net worth is at least €2 million. Applicants do not qualify for citizenship. Anyone wishing to apply for citizenship must meet criteria set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956.

About one-third of the cash committed last year was destined for charities, 41 per cent was for enterprise investments, 24 per cent was promised to investment funds, with 3 per cent going to mixed investments, bonds and real estate investment trusts (Reits).

The Department of Justice approves the specific investment projects and charities that qualify for the scheme.

Much of the money raised was earmarked for social housing, with figures showing that investments were meant to support the construction of 3,500 homes between 2012 and 2019.

Hospitals

Housing charities, nursing homes and hospitals have also received money from non-EU citizens through the scheme.

Meanwhile, the department confirmed that it has been auditing IIP schemes set up between 2012 and 2020.

“The audit is being carried out as part of the routine audits of various programmes in the department, and will determine if each project is delivering on the commitments and obligations set out in the project application,” officials said.

Experts believe that Brexit could spark an increase in the numbers seeking residency in the Republic through the IIP in coming years as it will be the only English-speaking country in the EU.

Chinese and other nationals want to locate in the EU, but favour English-speaking countries. The UK and many European countries operate similar programmes to the IIP.