Over four hundred agents in Cyprus are seeking a permit to be golden visa providers as criticism from the EU and stricter terms introduced by the government point to fierce competition among them.
Ten days ago, Transparency International criticised Cyprus for not scrutinizing enough its applicants’ sources of wealth, with foreign entities openly accusing authorities of approving passport applications without due process.
But the government says it came up with strict criteria and guidelines to rein in ‘passport-selling’ agencies, following a July decision to forbid the promotion of a Cyprus Republic passport in any advertisements, including online ads, where laws are being violated either by false or misleading statements, including inaccurate data.
The new terms prohibit agencies from using the emblems of the Republic of Cyprus or the European Union, while they may also no longer use the term “fast track” procedures or make references that point to “passports for sale.”
Critics say measures were much needed, not only in Cyprus but also other member states of the EU, where golden visa programmes continue to raise questions
According to daily Phileleftheros, initially 255 agencies signed up under the new scheme but more were added later with a total of applicant agent providers coming to 407 as of last Wendesday, October 17.
Media sources say over 300 citizenships were granted in 2018 so far through the passport-investment scheme, while the Cabinet is said to be favouring the enforcement of an annual cap to 700 foreign investors.
Critics say the measures were much needed, not only in Cyprus but also in other member states of the European Union, where golden visa programmes continue to raise questions with at least six thousand passports and nearly 100,000 residency permits sold in the last decade.
But with stricter criteria, Cypriot agencies that shape up according to the new rules are expected to face fierce competition according to media reports citing figures from previous years.
The citizenship-by-investment programme is designed to draw in millions in investment and development money in exchange for citizenship to individuals who make a lasting business commitment to the island.