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Want A Spanish Residency Permit? Buy A House

What's the Latest Development?

Spain is the latest European country to propose offering residency permits -- which would allow freedom of movement across most of Europe -- to foreigners willing to invest in real estate properties. Interested buyers must purchase a property valued at a minimum of €160,000 (about $205,000), a steal compared to similar minimums required by Portugal (€400,000, or about $513,000) and Ireland (€500,000, or about $641,000). The announcement was made yesterday by the country's secretary of state for trade, who said that it was a good starting figure: "Any lower and it might create a massive demand for residence permits with housing as the excuse to get them."

What's the Big Idea?

While demand for Spanish properties has declined in the rest of Europe, both China and Russia have a growing pool of interested buyers, and it is these markets that the plan is targeting. One third of the empty housing is in coastal tourist areas, and in the last five years at least 400,000 homes have been repossessed for lack of mortgage payments. Not everyone is on board with the idea: Spain's second-largest union said in a statement that immigration policy changes should be based on labor needs, not on "foreigners who are obviously rich...and can supposedly remain in Spain without working."

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