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Cabinet increases property value required to qualify for residency to US$100,000

Cabinet has amended the regulations allowing non-Egyptians to apply for residency permits on the basis of their property in Egypt. Previously, property worth US$50,000 was required to apply for a one-year residence permit, on Wednesday this was upped to $100,000. The changes followed a parliamentary committee’s approval of a bill granting Egyptian citizenship to foreign investors.

In an official statement the Cabinet claimed these changes to the nationality law are designed to cope with increasing real estate prices. Under the new regulations applicants wishing to obtain a five-year residence permit must now own property in Egypt worth at least $400,000.

Patrick Werr, financial reporter and US national living in Egypt, told Mada Masr that the decision will likely make it harder for foreigners to obtain a residence permit than under the previous regulations.

While some have speculated that this may be an attempt to increase the value of foreign investment coming into Egypt, Werr contends that this is not clear-cut. “The foreigners who do buy property will spend more, but fewer foreigners will be able to afford to buy property. The government seems to want to reduce the number of foreigners, while maintaining an investment flow,” said Werr. “Of course this makes it harder for people to buy property here. Most people don’t have a $100,000 to throw around without dipping into their retirement funds.”

Werr added that he considers the new regulations confusing, as it is unclear whether the amendments will be applied retroactively. “Is the one-year residence permit renewable? Will this be retroactive? Will foreigners who bought property earlier be allowed to continue to reside in Egypt? Is the government trying to maximize revenue, or reduce the number of foreigners — or both?” he asked.

Without Egyptian property worth $100,000, non-Egyptians hoping to apply for residency permits will have to resort to other means. This may include marrying an Egyptian, establishing a company in the country or obtaining a work permit. “None of which is easy,” according to Werr.

The amendments were introduced several days after Parliament’s  Defense and National Security Committee approved a bill presented by the Cabinet on Monday, granting Egyptian citizenship to foreigners who have deposited an unspecified amount of hard currency into an Egyptian bank and resided in the country for at least five consecutive years. According to the bill’s executive summary, this is intended to encourage foreign investment and to ease the application process for foreigners who have long-term commitments in Egypt.

“It aims to create an atmosphere of trust and stability, so that investors will be assured about their money and projects, and achieving stability for their families,” the summary reads.

In comments made to the press at the time, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail asserted that granting citizenship to non-Egyptians in exchange for investment and bank deposits is nothing new. He said that the application processes will continue to take place “in accordance with all the necessary security measures. A deposit will not mean forgetting these measures,” he said. He did not outline what these procedures would include. 

The State Council rejected an earlier version of the bill in October of last year, stating that it violated Article Six of the Constitution, which stipulates that the law is responsible for organizes the conditions according to which foreigners are given citizenship. According to the State Council the bill would have granted this power to the Interior Ministry.