While fleeing hysteria persists in tandem as China continues its endless fight against COVID, at least one exit gateway for the Chinese ultra-rich is enclosing Portugal’s Golden Visa program.

As Bloomberg reported on August 2, for the first time this year, China falls from the top list of applicants to Portugal’s “Golden Visa” program, being replaced by the U.S. 

This used to be the most popular migrant portal for the wealthiest Chinese, as they could simply obtain a Golden Visa over an investment of 350,000 euros, over 357,000 dollars in properties, among other requirements.

Referencing information from Portugal’s Immigration and Borders Service and Investment Migration Insider, the outlet says that only 16% of applications accepted this year come from China. This represents an 81% decrease from the same period last year.

Chinese applicants are falling because the European Union and the Chinese government are adding more barriers. 

The E.U. is uncomfortable with the idea that citizenship can be for sale. There were also concerns over money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion. In a March statement, the bloc said that member states must conduct more thorough background checks and vetting procedures.

Bloomberg says Chinese government officials have also introduced subtle restrictions to hinder migration, such as delaying passport renewals and questioning the need to notarize some documents.

More to the hurdles, Portugal currently demands in-person interviews as part of the procedure for applying for the program. This clashes with China’s pandemic restrictions, as they mostly see traveling as a proscription.

Portugal has restricted “Golden visa” programs in Lisbon, Porto, and densely populated coastal districts beginning this year, encouraging investment in neglected rural areas.

Alexandra Victoria-Bonte, the co-founder of Lisbon-based One Stop Properties, said, “Golden visas are important for how much they’ve helped the economy. A lot of people think of it as a golden ticket, but it’s not. It’s much more than that — a secure investment that’s going to give a high yield.”

Geopolitical condition is also a driver for a switch in policy. Luis Santos, a managing partner at Alpac Capital, believed that the country is reviewing the influence of Chinese investment now as the U.S. increasingly sees China more as a rival. 

Santos said, “If you rely on one country, you will be dependent. If you rely on multiple ones, you won’t.”

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