Revoke US visa waiver eligibility over golden passports

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Two American congressman have urged the US House of Representatives to revoke US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) eligibility for countries who sell passports through citizenship by investment. Congressmen Burgess Owens (Democrat) and Steve Cohen (Republican) recently issued a bipartisan bill – the No Travel for Traffickers Act - to the House.


The bill specifically calls to ban the participation of countries from the US Visa Waiver Program that sell so-called golden visas. Malta has been labelled as one such country, which is currently a part of the VWP, but is also under investigation by the European Commission over its continued ‘sale of citizenship’.

The bill also urges the US government to ‘cooperate’ with the United Kingdom and the European Union to scrap Schengen area visa-free travel for countries that sell passports, as well as prohibiting the use of American money to ‘vet golden passport applicants’.


Bipartisan bill backed

The bill presented to the House of Representatives by Owens and Cohen has the backing of the former assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the United States Department of Treasury, Marshall Billingslea, who visited Malta back in 2019 and raised concerns about Malta’s role in fighting financial crime.

In a statement supporting Owens and Cohen, Billingslea said: “Congressmen Owens and Cohen are leading to protect our security by introducing bipartisan legislation to clamp down on the dangerous practice by some countries who sell their citizenship and passports.”

“These so-called ‘golden passport’ schemes are abused by criminals and traffickers from around the world, and this practice needs to come to an end,” Billingslea added.


Malta visit

Following his visit to Malta, Billingslea revealed that so-called golden passport schemes need ‘careful scrutiny’. He said: “One might even question why it is necessary in a country like Malta with such an outperforming economy. The revenue [from citizenship schemes] might be nice to have, but we certainly hope the government recognizes the risks that this brings with it.”

Owens and Cohen claim that golden passport schemes are ‘notoriously abused by human traffickers, international criminals and corrupt oligarchs. The two congressman took aim at Russia in particular, accusing Russians of being ‘chief golden visa buyers’.

Owens said: “Human trafficking kingpins and other international criminal enterprises rely heavily on their passport purchasing power to freely travel the world, establish a foothold in multiple countries, open bank accounts, and evade accountability.”

“The No Travel for Traffickers Act addresses the severe security risks of golden passports, signalling a critical step in our efforts to isolate bad actors around the globe,” Owens added.


Golden Visa Accountability Act

Back in 2021, another bill – the Golden Visa Accountability Act – was presented and called on the Department of State to establish and maintain a database for investor visa denials due to applicant involvements in corruption or serious human rights abuses.

An excerpt from the bill reads: “Initially, the database must include records related to such denials of US investor visas. The bill also requires the State Department to eventually expand the database to include records of such denials of investor visas in other countries.”

“The State Department shall prioritize including records from European Union countries and from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom,” the bill adds.

The bill goes on to state: “The Secretary of State shall expand the database to include foreign investor visa denials. Foreign states that provide records related to foreign investor visa denials for inclusion in the database shall gain access to records contained therein. Priority foreign states for inclusion in this database are the foreign states of the European Union.” can help with US employment-based visas

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