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Thursday 14 December 2017

Low take-up in visa scheme to attract wealthy foreigners

Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor

Only 42 wealthy foreigners have been granted visas under investment schemes set up by the Government two years ago.

Under the plans, foreign business people can be offered residency in Ireland in return for making investments or starting up companies here.

However, figures obtained by the Irish Independent show there has only been a trickle of interest for the schemes, with just €28.8m worth of investment attracted by them to date.

The immigrant investor and start-up entrepreneur programmes were introduced by former Justice Minister Alan Shatter in 2012 with the aim of attracting much needed investment into the economy from outside the EU.

Under the immigrant investor programme, foreign businesspeople can get visas in return for buying €1m in Irish bonds or investing more than €500,000 in an approved fund.

Other options under the scheme include making a philanthropic donation of €500,000, investing €500,000 in an Irish company for three years or mixed investments involving bonds and property.

The most popular options were investing in a company and mixed investments.

According to the department, 30 applications were made under this scheme, with 21 being accepted, resulting in investments totalling €22.5m.

Nine applications are still under consideration.

The start-up entrepreneur scheme also offered visas to foreign businesspeople looking to set up enterprises here.

The department said there had been 38 applications for this scheme, with 21 being accepted to date. This had resulted in investments totalling €6.3m.

Two applicants withdrew before a decision was taken, while a further ten were deemed not to meet the criteria for the programme.

Efforts to get access to further details about successful visa applications were rebuffed by the department, which refused to release the information following a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Officials also declined to reveal the nationalities of successful candidates and would only say they came from Asia, Africa, Eurasia, the Middle East, Australasia and North America.

Each application is evaluated by an inter-departmental team made up of justice, finance, foreign affairs and enterprise officials. Visas issued under the schemes are valid for two years, but can be renewed for a further three years if the investment is still in place.

Thereafter, immigration permissions will be granted for five-year periods and can be renewed indefinitely.

A spokesman for the department said renewals were contingent on "the migrant maintaining their good character and not becoming a financial burden on the State".

Despite the low numbers applying for the schemes, the department said it was satisfied there was "a significant amount of interest in both programmes". It said the Government had not set any targets for the performance of the schemes.

Irish Independent

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