El Salvador’s National Bitcoin Office (ONBTC) has reported significant interest in its new “Freedom Visa” program, anticipating that it will reach its capacity by the end of this year. Since its launch on December 7, the program has garnered numerous inquiries and applications, both online and at Salvadoran embassies and consulates.
A spokesperson for ONBTC said they had received “many dozens of applications” and numerous inquiries for the Freedom Visa, a citizenship-by-donation initiative. The program, developed in partnership with stablecoin issuer Tether, offers residency visas and a pathway to citizenship for 1,000 individuals willing to contribute a $1 million donation in Bitcoin or Tether to the country. This program is capped at 1,000 slots annually.
Despite some market commentators, like Altana Digital Currency CIO Alistair Milne, labeling the program as “uncompetitive” compared to other countries’ citizenship programs, such as Malta’s $810,000 full European citizenship offer, the National Bitcoin Office maintains that the Freedom Visa’s $1 million price is reasonable. The ONBTC spokesperson argued that El Salvador’s unique status as a “Bitcoin Country” adds significant value to its program.
El Salvador’s pro-Bitcoin stance, established under President Nayib Bukele’s leadership, may be a key factor in attracting applicants. In September 2021, Bukele recognized Bitcoin as a legal tender and eliminated capital gains taxes for Bitcoin investors. He further incentivized tech and crypto firms to establish operations in El Salvador by offering tax exemptions.
However, as of December 1, Bukele has stepped down from the presidency to focus on his reelection campaign, with the country’s general election scheduled for February 2024. Despite this political shift, the strong interest in the Freedom Visa suggests that El Salvador’s Bitcoin-friendly policies continue to appeal to a global audience.