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Spain says alarm was raised over golden visas when 'numbers doubled'

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
Spain says alarm was raised over golden visas when 'numbers doubled'
Spanish Housing Minister Isabel Rodríguez talks about the cancellation of the golden visa scheme. Photo: AFP/LA MONCLOA/BORJA PUIG DE LA BELLACASA"

Spain’s Housing Minister on Tuesday shed some light on how a spike in golden visas issued to wealthy foreigners buying Spanish properties over the past two years spurred her government to cancel the scheme.

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Following a Spanish cabinet meeting on Tuesday April 9th in which the cancellation of the golden visa was at the centre of discussions, Housing Minister Isabel Rodríguez explained why her government had decided to scrap the ‘€500,000 property for residency’ scheme. 

The first point she clarified is how many golden visas have actually been issued since the launch in 2013, as there has been conflicting data regarding this since Pedro Sánchez made the initial announcement that he was scrapping the scheme on Monday.

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Golden visas issued through the purchase of Spanish properties worth more than half a million euros total 14,576, according to the minister.

“It was in 2022 when the alarm was raised as golden visas doubled,” Rodríguez told journalists.

“In 2016, 471 golden visas linked to Spanish real estate were issued. In 2017, 946. In 2018, 988. In 2019, 861. In 2020, 632. In 2021, 997. In 2022, 2,017. And in 2023, 3,272.

“This is why after analysing the data we are firmly taking steps to find solutions and end price speculation, which has increased exponentially since 2022.”

It's the first time the Spanish government had disclosed the golden visa data for 2023.

READ ALSO: When and why is Spain axing the golden visa?

Critics have been quick to point out that golden visa holders represent a far smaller share of the foreign buyers market than other foreign second homeowners without a visa (0.7 percent compared to non-resident foreign buyers who bought a Spanish home in 2023).

But according to governmental transparency data analysed by Spanish daily El Diario, these golden visa holders have pumped €5 billion into the Spanish property market over the last five years. 

Last November, the newly pointed Housing Minister vowed to protect second home owners, although she did not specifically mention foreign owners. 

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What remains to be seen as well is if the Spanish government will also look to scrap the other means of obtaining a golden visa: investing €1 million in shares in Spanish companies, or €2 million in government bonds, or transferring €1 million to a Spanish bank account

During the press conference Rodríguez did stress that she “encourages people to still invest in Spain, Spain is an attractive country to invest in, but if it’s property we need them to do so by contributing to the development of property that’s affordable and that can guarantee the right to housing”.

Furthermore, a report in Spanish newspaper ABC on Tuesday which cites government sources states that residency through financial investment will be maintained.

In order to scrap the golden visa through property scheme, the ruling Socialists will need to have the amendment approved in Parliament next, after the visa cancellation was initially ratified in the Spanish Cabinet on Tuesday by the country's ministers.

According to Spanish daily El Periódico de España, the intention of Spain's Housing Minister is to cancel the golden visa scheme as quickly as possible and to fast-track this process by attaching the legal amendment to another law, the upcoming modification of the Spanish Land Law (Ley de Suelo) which has already overcome some legal hurdles.

READ ALSO: What the end of Spain's golden visa means for foreigners

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