Transparency International's latest report claims that in the last 10 years, the EU has welcomed thousands of new citizens and close to 100,000 new residents through the Golden Visas scheme. Spain, Hungary, Latvia, Portugal and the UK have granted the highest number of golden visas.
A new report lays bare the cash-for-passports scheme in Europe. The work of Transparency International and Global Witness shows how countries including Malta, UK, Cyprus and Portugal have been raking in money in exchange for citizenship and residency, with few checks and balances over the applicants source of cash.
"We have got 4 countries selling citizenship, 12 selling residence, over 25 billion euros invested over the past decade in the EU," explains Laure Brillaud - Policy officer, Transparency International.
Portugal was one of the first countries to use this so-called Golden Visas starting in 2012. Portuguese socialist MEP Ana Gomes finds says the EU is pushing back poorer migrants, but is happy to take money for residence when the price is right.
"They are giving fast track to rich migrants who are often are kleptocrats, criminals, money launderers… it is a tremendous security risk for the whole EU and to the Schengen system. It is a prostitution of Schengen system."
Some argue that the years of economic crisis have meant countries needed to look for alternative means of funding. However, transparency groups argue that it comes at a price of accepting criminal activities and money laundering.
'We lost 70 million euros paid by Hungarian taxpayers all for to let in questionable people in the residency bond programme to Hungary and to Europe including perhaps Russians spies," claims MEP Benedek Javor (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance).
The authors of the report argue that such practices open up Europe's doors to security threats.