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Spain has started issuing residency permits to non-EU nationals in return for real estate investments of €500,000 ($670,000) or more, almost five months after introducing a law to this effect. A businesswoman from Shanghai became one of the first foreign investors to receive this residency permit after she invested €520,000 to buy flats in Barcelona and Madrid.

Spain is one of the several European countries to have introduced schemes by which residency permits are granted to wealthy foreign real estate investors, in return for buying prime properties. Other countries are Portugal, Greece, Hungry, and Cyprus.

These residency permits aim to bolster ailing European countries, increase employment and boost real estate.

The investor has to retain the property in order to continue enjoying residency benefits. In Greece and Hungary, the minimum value of the property has to be €250,000 ($335,000). In Spain and Portugal, the minimum investment is €500,000 ($670,000), while it is €300,000 in Cyprus.

In Portugal, more than 330 visas were issued within one year of the scheme’s launch, fetching €225 million. In the first three weeks of January, 2014, Portugal granted a total of 49 fast-track golden visas and received investments of €27 million. Investors, mainly from China, Russia, Brazil, Angola, South Africa, and India, are applying for Golden Visas in Portugal, with Chinese topping the chart by a big margin.

Discontent with the current political set-up in China, the fall in real estate prices in Europe and the depreciation of the euro are some reasons behind growing Chinese interest in European property.

Mainland Chinese investment in Europe tripled last year as insurers, developers and private individuals joined the country’s sovereign wealth funds in seeking to diversify their assets outside Asia, according to research firm Real Capital Analytics (RCA).

This article was republished with permission from Global Property Guide.