CHINESE CITIZENS are the largest demographic within the Irish government's cash-for-residency scheme, it has been revealed.
Each Chinese applicant– 1,088 of them, to be exact – has contributed up to €1 million to Irish social housing, nursing homes, and other initiatives in order to gain Irish residency since the scheme was established in 2012.
Figures from the Department of Justice seen by The Irish Times show that non-EU citizens have paid a total of €826.5 million to various businesses and charities in return for the right to reside in the Republic under the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP).
The lion’s share of this figure is claimed by Chinese nationals, who make up 1,088 out of the 1,166 total applications since the scheme began – the US came in second with 21 investors, Vietnam was next with seven, then Saudi Arabia with four, and a further 42 participants from the rest of the world.
In line with the IIP stipulations, non-EU citizens can acquire the right to live in Ireland if they invest €1 million in companies within specific sectors or make six-figure donations to charity.
Officials have given no indication of which organisations have benefited from the scheme, although property developer Richard Barrett confirmed that his firm, Bartra, has raised funds through the cash-for-residency initiative.
Mr Barrett said the cash injection both contributed toward the development of social housing and nursing homes and helped 200 Chinese citizens become permanent Irish residents, the outlet reports.
The scheme was launched in 2012 to attract much needed outside investment when the Irish economy was in the depths of financial recession.
A breakdown of the cash inflow shows that €249 million was invested in social housing, €165 million in nursing homes, and €108 million in the hospitality and tourism sector, over the duration of the scheme.
Though these industries were the largest recipients of funds, the Department of Justice said that investment was considered across a variety of areas, and that the independent evaluation committee made decisions in alignment “with Government policy”.
Overall investment figures have fluctuated over the years: €1.5 million was raised in 2012, €12.2 million the following year, €4.4 million in 2014, and an impressive €38.8 million in 2015.
The Irish Times reports that the IIP managed to raise €253.7 million (its highest sum) in 2017, followed by a reduction to €139.75 million in 2018, and another climb up to €209.3 million in 2019.
Despite the economic uncertainty from the Covid-19 pandemic, €184.6 million was paid in exchange for Irish residency in 2020.
To satisfy IIP criteria, applicants must be of good character, have a minimum net worth of €2 million, and invest €1 million into specified areas of the Irish economy – though, charitable donations do not have to meet the €1 million benchmark.
Enhanced vetting of applicants has been undertaken by the department to ensure investors aren’t “politically exposed persons” and to deter would-be tax evaders from exploiting the scheme.
Information is shared across EU departments in relation to investment-based citizenship and residency schemes.