Americans swarm golden visa programs as political tensions boil

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American nationals, weary of polarized politics and soaring costs of living, are moving abroad, a role reversal for what has long been considered one of the most powerful passports in the world.

Amy Leavitt, 66, and her husband, Ralph, 73, were appalled by the bitter divisions laid bare by the pandemic, so they traded their wooded Vermont farmhouse for 27 acres on Portugal’s southwest coast. The opportunity for a seaside stretch where Ralph, an organic farmer, can grow flowers and vegetables year-round was hard to pass up. It didn’t hurt that property taxes are a tenth of what they pay in Vermont.

The Leavitts plan to apply for Portuguese citizenship after five years, as permitted by the country‘s Golden Visa program, and they are also working on obtaining visas for their sons.

“It just doesn’t compare,” said Amy, writer and vocal coach. “The cost of living in Portugal is much lower than in the United States.”

Citizenship-by-investment programs are a backdoor way to effectively purchase a passport or visa, with government agencies granting residency and, in some cases, citizenship, in exchange for a specified minimum investment. Through Portugal’s program, for example, participants can obtain a visa by investing at least 350,000 euros ($365,225) in real estate outside the main urban or tourist areas or 500,000 euros in a venture capital fund. certified Portuguese.

Historically, these programs have been popular with wealthy individuals from places like South Africa or Russia who seek fewer visa restrictions when traveling or an escape route, usually to Europe, if things at home get tumultuous. Americans weren’t as interested, in part because the United States taxes all of its citizens, regardless of where they live.

But soaring spending, a resentful partisan atmosphere and a strong US dollar are prompting more Americans to move or get a second visa just for the choice. A poll published this week by the Wall Street Journal and the NORC research center found nearly half of those polled felt they didn’t have a good chance of improving their standard of living, while 86% agreed that Americans were very divided on values.

Andrew Henderson, founder of visa advisory firm Nomad Capitalist, said he had more than three times as many clients as in 2019, with some expressing frustration over vaccination mandates and many others considering inflation highest in decades as “the nail in the coffin.” Others, like computer programmer Eric Nelson, say the storming of the Capitol last year was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He left his home in Boulder, Colorado and now divides his time between six countries.

Of course, these programs are only accessible to those who have the financial means to leave their current residence, without family or professional obligations. You must be able to afford both the initial investment and the cost of frequent travel. Interest is strongest among remote workers, the crypto-rich and retirees, some of whom have stopped working earlier than expected in the upheaval of the past two years.

The pandemic has also shed light on the benefits of a second passport as nations closed their borders to contain the virus, according to Murat Coskun, founder of immigration consultancy Get Golden Visa. Since the start of the pandemic, it has increased the number of customers for Portugal’s Golden Visa sixfold, and Americans now make up a quarter of them, up from 5% two years ago. The American citizens he works with most often settle in Portugal, Spain and Greece due to the mild climate and travel opportunities in Europe.

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