Es­to­nia grants e-res­i­dency for as lit­tle as €100, spared from EU crit­i­cism due to lack of Schen­gen ac­cess

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

Es­to­nia has be­gun to of­fer e-res­i­dency for as lit­tle as €100, via an on­line ap­pli­ca­tion form, hop­ing to at­tract for­eign­ers with the chance to base their busi­ness and fi­nances in the Baltic state.

E-res­i­dency dif­fers from cit­i­zen­ship, and does not al­low e-res­i­dents the op­por­tu­nity for visa-free travel across EU mem­ber states. The aim be­hind the sim­ple e-res­i­dency pro­gramme is to at­tract for­eign­ers to use Es­to­nian banks and es­tab­lish Es­to­nian com­pa­nies, there­fore con­tribut­ing to the econ­omy.

The UK’s de­ci­sion to leave the EU has also re­sulted in a high num­ber of UK na­tion­als and com­pa­nies ap­ply­ing for this pro­gramme, gain­ing them ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket and all the perks that come with it.

Both Malta and Cyprus dif­fer due to the fact that Malta is sell­ing cit­i­zen­ship, and there­fore pro­vid­ing ac­cess to the Schen­gen travel zone (pass­port-free travel) and visa-free travel for all the coun­tries Malta and Cyprus have such an agree­ment with.

The EU has re­peat­edly slammed both Malta and Cyprus for their cit­i­zen­ship by in­vest­ment schemes, mainly due to the se­cu­rity risks they pose and doubts that the nec­es­sary due dili­gence are be­ing car­ried out. Oth­ers have mused that a coun­try’s cit­i­zen­ship is not some­thing that can be bought, but rather earned.

Cyprus’ pro­gramme has been op­er­a­tional since 2013, when the coun­try de­clared that it

E-res­i­dency dif­fers from cit­i­zen­ship and does not al­low e-res­i­dents the op­por­tu­nity for visa-free travel across EU mem­ber states

needed a bail-out in or­der to stop it from go­ing bust.

Cyprus has re­cent come un­der fire again be­cause of changes to the pro­gramme, where it is no longer needed to form groups of five or more in­vestors; the up­per thresh­old on the re­quired in­vest­ment for sin­gle ap­pli­cants has been halved to €2.5 mil­lion, more safe­guards for the in­vestors have been in­tro­duced and the main ap­pli­cants can se­cure cit­i­zen­ships for de­pen­dent par­ents.

An ap­pli­ca­tion is pro­cessed and a pass­port granted in three months, set­ting it apart from other EU mem­ber states cit­i­zen­ship by in­vest­ment schemes.

The Mal­tese cit­i­zen­ship by in­vest­ment scheme re­quires less in­vest­ment, still more than what was orig­i­nally pro­posed by this gov­ern­ment, be­fore the EU Com­mis­sion in­ter­vened.

The Mal­tese pro­gramme re­quires ap­pli­cants to give a €650,000 con­tri­bu­tion to a na­tional de­vel­op­ment fund, pro­vide a €150,000 in­vest­ment in gov­ern­ment stocks or bonds, and must own a prop­erty worth at least €350,000 for at least a year in or­der to es­tab­lish a res­i­dency link to the coun­try.

A spouse or a child costs an ex­tra €25,000 or €50,000 de­pend­ing on whether they are older than 18.

Fur­ther con­tro­versy sur­rounded the Mal­tese scheme when it tran­spired that users of the pro­gramme were be­ing given the right to vote when they had not ap­plied for one, nor did they meet the con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ments to have the right in the first place.

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