Speed Reads

All That Glitters is Gold

Americans applying for controversial 'golden passports' more than any other nationality, report says

A new report has determined that more wealthy Americans are looking to purchase a unique status symbol — not a yacht or a private plane, but citizenship abroad via a "golden passport."

Also known as "citizenship by investment" programs, golden passports "allow wealthy foreigners to receive citizenship in exchange for investing a certain amount of money in a country, often by purchasing real estate," according to InsiderThere are also "golden visas" that provide temporary residence instead of permanent citizenship. 

According to a recent wealth report by research firm Henley & Partners, 2022 saw more Americans than ever apply for a golden passport. The program had previously been dominated by the Chinese and the Russians, data shows, but a 447 percent jump in inquiries from 2019 has helped American nationals take the top spot. 

Golden passports have long been controversial due to their ties with shady business practices. While nations "are gaining income from these 'investors,' they are also allowing criminals into the country," PassportHealth.com noted, adding that "many of the millionaires and billionaires who want this kind of passport are trying to escape crimes" such as tax evasion and money laundering. 

Political controversies also abound, such as Forbes reporting in 2019 that British professionals had "talked of securing a so-called 'golden visa' for a member of the former Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi's family," in addition to other questionable applicants. 

As controversy grows, both Ireland and Spain recently announced they would be shuttering their golden passport programs. With these moves, Malta is now the only nation in the European Union that allows citizenship-by-investment for people without a "genuine link" to the country, according to the European Commission.