The investor visa has been a popular way for Western countries to attract foreign capital. In exchange for a substantial chunk of change, individual investors can obtain permanent residency and a path to citizenship for themselves and their family members. North American, Australian, or European permanent residency can be highly valuable for wealthy citizens of developing countries. For example, Chinese passport holders with US permanent residency enjoy the privilege of visa free entry to a number of countries that otherwise require visas for Chinese citizens. US permanent residents and citizens also have preference in admission to many US universities.
The amount of capital required to “buy” permanent residency in the West is generally quite high. Under the US EB-5 visa scheme, a foreign investor may get permanent residency in exchange for a $1 million investment, or a $500,000 investment in a rural or high-unemployment area. This is significantly more generous than equivalent schemes in other English-speaking countries of immigration. New Zealand requires a NZD 1.5 million (USD 1.28 million) minimum investment, while the United Kingdom wants GBP 1 million (USD 1.68 million) and Australia a whopping AUD 5 million (USD 4.62 million). None of these schemes grant permanent residency automatically.
I became aware of Portugal’s unique investor visa scheme through my Tumblr, migrantography. User ebolavir posted a photo of a storefront in Lisbon with signage in Chinese and English advertising the Golden Residence Permit. In exchange for a EUR 500,000 (USD 682,000) real estate investment, the investor gets a Portuguese residence permit that can be converted to permanent residency and citizenship. As Portugal is part of the Schengen Zone, permit holders could travel, live, and work freely in much of continental Europe.
While the doors to the US, Australia, and Europe are open to wealthy foreigners, they are ever more firmly shut for foreigners without means. Deportations, border fences, and militarized intimidation of land crossers and boat people keep out the needy, while investor schemes and student migration pathways draw in the wealthy. Give me not your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses, but your talented and your moneyed elite.