The golden visa scheme in Spain, which allows foreigners from outside of the European Union to be granted residency for investing in property and other assets, has attracted thousands of investors.

The law offering residency permits to investors was introduced in Spain in 2013 and similar programmes are offered in other EU countries including Portugal, Cyprus Malta and Greece.

The latest figures show that most non EU nationals who go down the so called ‘golden visa’ route invest in property. Under the scheme they can qualify for residency by investing a minimum of €2 million on Spanish treasury bonds, or €1 million in stocks or deposits in Spain, or purchase property valued at more than €500,000.

Business projects that generate jobs, have a wider positive impact on an area, or contribute to technological or scientific innovation are also accepted as investment. But it is property that has proved most popular with 72% of the €2.16 billion invested going into real estate.

The Government figures show that three years on from its launch the scheme had attracted
2,236 investors who also have the right to residency for family members, which means at total of 27,301 new residency permits.

The golden visa scheme has been most popular among Chinese and Russian investors who have accounted for 59.4% of total investment with 714 Chinese investing €716 million in property, financial assets and business projects and Russians 685 visas after investing €567 million.

During the first year of the scheme, only 500 or so investors applied, providing around €700 million. Given the limited uptake, in 2015, the Spanish Government relaxed the conditions, allowing spouses, children and elderly relatives to be included on visas, as well as extending the period of residency from two to five years.

The latest figures show that the number of investors has risen fourfold since 2014, with the amount they have invested increasing three times in the same period. The data also shows that the most popular locations are Barcelona, Malaga, Madrid and Alicante.

It has now emerged that British people could be interested in the scheme once the UK leave the EU. There is already a large British expat population in Spain and despite the Brexit process having begun negotiations have been put off until after the British general election on 08 June there have been no indication of what their status will be.

Portugal’s golden visa scheme has also proved popular with 4,000 applications successful since it was launched in 2012 with Chinese nationals making up the biggest group of foreign investors.

However, Portugal’s scheme has more limits that the one on Spain. For example, visa holders are only allowed to live in Portugal and not in other EU countries and the process of applying for citizenship is tougher.

Greece is a cheaper option with the minimum investment in property put at €250,000, but there is still considerable economic uncertainty in the country with international investors put off by the possibility that the country could still drop out of the Euro.