Europe’s Having a Distress Sale on Visas

LONDON — Mayfair, a well-heeled neighborhood in central London, has attracted the world’s elite for decades.

Only a short walk to Hyde Park, its luxury townhouses include spacious basements with swimming pools and can easily cost over $10 million. Ferraris and other high-end sports cars often line the streets. Wealthy foreigners are drawn to the area because Britain’s immigration rules have made it relatively easy to settle in the city, as long as they invest at least 2 million pounds, or $3 million, in the economy.

But lately there are alternatives if that’s too rich for a well-off immigrant’s blood. Rival residency programs have sprouted across the European Union to give wealthy investors access to the 28-country bloc for as little as 250,000 euros, or $280,000, for instance, in Latvia.

Analysts said cost-conscious investors were attracted by Portugal’s relatively low-key demands, including buying property valued at about $560,000. And Portugal requires people to spend only one week in the country during the first year of the program to maintain their residency, while they can travel to almost all of Europe without additional visas.

“In Portugal, you can gain residency relatively easily and then travel throughout Europe,” said Kamal Rahman, head of the immigration unit at Mishcon de Reya. “If you’re looking to get another passport, these programs make a lot of sense.”

Read the full article here.