Europe recommends ending golden passports and visas for Russians

There are concerns people hit by sanctions may be holders of EU golden visas or passports.

The European Commission called for an immediate end to existing national programmes for the sale of passports. The National
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National EU governments should end golden passport programmes through which wealthy people such as Russian oligarchs are able to buy citizenship and bypass other visa rules, the European Commission said on Monday.

The move follows a new push from the European Parliament to shrink and regulate the multibillion-euro citizenship and visa industry which the EU has long considered a security risk.

The commission also urged national governments to suspend the sale of visas to Russians and Belarusians and to assess whether oligarchs linked to the Kremlin or who support the war in Ukraine should be stripped of citizenship rights previously granted.

“Some Russian or Belarusian nationals who are subject to sanctions or are significantly supporting the war in Ukraine might have acquired EU citizenship or privileged access to the EU, including to travel freely in the Schengen area, under these schemes,” the European Commission said.

Since the start of Russia's campaign in Ukraine, the EU has blacklisted about 700 senior politicians, businessmen and military staff accused of supporting the Kremlin.

Several EU countries run golden visa and passport programmes.

The commission said it did not know whether sanctioned people were among the beneficiaries of the golden passport or visa programme, but suggested national governments check whether sanctioned people held them.

The commission also called for an immediate end to existing national programmes for the sale of passports.

Currently only Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria have such programmes and they have all committed to ending them.

Countries should determine whether to annul those passports and should immediately withdraw residence permits, the commission said.

An EU spokesman declined to clarify whether it had asked states to provide lists of people who had bought visas or passports.

The commission refrained from calling for the end of golden visa programmes, but called for strict checks and asked EU governments to suspend the granting of residence permits to Russians and Belarusians.

Updated: March 28, 2022, 4:12 PM