Since its inception in 2012, 9,015 investors and a further 15,431 qualifying family members of international investors have obtained residency through the Portugal Golden Visa programme. This has made it one of the most popular Golden Visa programmes of its kind in Europe. So far €5.4bn has been invested into this programme and property investment is the most popular way to apply for a Golden Visa.
Following the proposed changes announced at the start of the year and despite the new realities presented by COVID-19, May 2020 was a record-breaking month for the Golden Visa programme despite the pressures of the Coronavirus pandemic. During May 270 visas were granted bringing in a total of €146m of investment. June and July 2020 brought in a further €145.1m of investment.
At the beginning of the year, pre-COVID, the Portuguese government announced that they will be updating the eligibility criteria for the Portuguese Golden Visa programme. The new rules, originally planned to come into effect at the end of 2020, will mean that investors will no longer be able to purchase a Golden Visa property in coastal areas (like Lisbon or Porto) in order to obtain a Golden Visa. It’s also important to note that the changes will only apply to Golden Visa applications filed after the enacted date and will not affect submitted applications, be they pending or ongoing. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is uncertain whether these changes will be going ahead (see COVID-19 Update below).
Why does the government want to change the Golden Visa programme?
Though Golden Visa investments represent only 3% of all foreign property investment in Portugal, the Portuguese government wants to try to drive this investment into inland areas and the islands to promote regeneration, growth and job creation, all of which have been seen in Lisbon over the last years
However, these plans were announced very early on in the year, before the Coronavirus pandemic. It is now expected that the proposed Golden Visa changes will be suspended as this programme generates a substantial income for the country.
The Portuguese Golden visa is the adopted name for Portugal’s largely real estate-led residency programme which grants non-EU nationals and their families the ability to travel freely to countries within the Schengen zone. After five years, it is then possible to apply for a Portuguese passport and European residency.
The Golden Visa scheme is open to anyone who is not a Portuguese, EU or EFTA citizen. The scheme is particularly popular with investors from China who account for more than 50% of visa applicants.
There are several ways to apply for a Portuguese Golden Visa, but the most popular method is through a real estate investment of €500,000 or more. 90% of Golden Visas are awarded this way.
In addition, applicants will need to maintain the investment for at least five years and stay in Portugal for seven days per year until you apply for full citizenship or residency.
In addition to your €500,000+ real estate investment, there are some are administration fees which you will need to take into consideration. The application fee during the petition phase costs €533.90 per applicant. During the granting phase, all applicants will need to pay €5,336.40 each for their initial residency permit. You can expect to renew your visa twice after your 1st and 3rd year as a resident. This renewal process costs €2,668.20 per applicant.
While obtaining a temporary residency permit is almost immediate (around 1 year), full citizenship is possible after 5 years. Additional requirements for citizenship include passing an A2 Portuguese test, having a clear criminal record, paying all relevant taxes and showing a decent connection to living in the country.
Properties can be either commercial or residential. Off-plan properties are eligible for the Golden Visa scheme too.
At the moment, there are no geographical restrictions on the Golden Visa programme. However, the government has proposed no longer offering this incentive to those who invest in properties in coastal areas, like Lisbon or Porto, in order to funnel foreign investment into the centre of the country and to the islands.
The Portuguese government announced at the beginning of 2020 that the new changes would come into effect by the end of 2020. However, following the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, it is thought that the changes to the programme will be postponed in order to help the country generate revenue.
Yes, as long as the total amount invested is €500,000 or more.
Yes, but all individuals must invest at least €500,000 each to be eligible for the visa.
You do not necessarily need to become a Portuguese tax resident if you apply for a Golden Visa. However, it might be advantageous to become a tax resident as Portugal has a lucrative Non-Habitual Residential tax scheme. Providing that certain conditions are met, the NHR scheme can significantly reduce your taxes during the first 10 years of residency.
No, you do not need to take a language test in order to become a resident. However, you will need to take a test if you decide to apply for Portuguese citizenship.
Yes, you can include certain family members on the same Golden Visa application, in fact, 15,431 Golden Visas have been granted to family members to date. Qualifying family members for a Golden Visa include:
In order to qualify for a Portugal Golden Visa, you will need to stay in Portugal for 7 days during the first year of investment and in the subsequent years, you must stay in the country for at least 14 days.
Yes, if you hold a Golden Visa you are a Portuguese Resident which means that you are free to work and live in Portugal.
You will need to pay the minimum investment amount (€500,000) in cash but it is possible to take out a mortgage on the remaining sum.
It is important to stress that even before COVID-19 the changes were not confirmed but parliament gave the government permission to restrict the scheme in certain areas. The proposed change aims to funnel investment into low-density areas such as the Azores and the interior areas of the country. However, given the amount of revenue that this programme brings in and the effects of the pandemic, it is very unlikely that the changes will come to effect at the end of the year.
As soon as you have received your first residency card, you are free to travel unrestricted throughout the 26 countries which make up the Schengen area.
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