Spain has received a record number of applications for its residency-by-investment programme, which critics warn is being used for money laundering.

A total 546 foreigners have reportedly obtained a so-called “golden visa” in Spain the first 10 months of the year. Formally, it is known as the Law to Support Entrepreneurs and their Internationalisation. Residency is granted to foreigners who invest more than €500,000 in real estate.

As reported by Spain’s daily El País, statistics suggest that Spain will end the year 2018 with a new residency-by-investment record. From January to October the figure already nearly matches the number for all of 2017 (5,876 visas, 563 of them for investing in property).

Ever since the programme was launched in 2013 to attract investment during the economic crisis, the number of visas issued has continued to grow each year.

Spain is not the only country in the world to offer this kind of advantage to the wealthy. There are 13 EU member states that offer residence or citizenship through big investments.

“European residency and nationality have become luxury goods,” notes Daniel Amoedo, of Transparency International Spain.

“Besides the fundamental ethical question of selling passports, there is also a sinister side to those programs,” he adds, alluding to applicants who have been linked to corruption cases in Brazil, Russia or Ukraine.