Portugal launched a residence permit by investment (ARI) program in late 2012. The program is called the Golden Visa in Portugal. Since its inception, the program went through numerous changes.
Some of these changes came in February 2020, when the Socialist Party approved restricting the locations in which investments may be pursued. With that, rumors appeared stating that the Portugal Golden Visa is ending or is suspended. Wrong. It is still available, and more popular than ever.
In this website, we aim to help you understand how Golden Visa Portugal works, who can apply, and the most recent changes. You can then decide for yourself if it is still worth investing.
What is Golden Visa Portugal?
The Portugal Golden Visa is a residency by investment scheme. Portugal grants these residence permits, allowing authorization to live in Portugal and enjoy the perks of being a resident, in exchange for an investment in the country.
Once the investors maintain the investment for five years and upkeep the Golden Visa requirements, they are eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship.
Who can apply for Golden Visa Portugal
The Golden Visa Portugal program welcomes all applicants that are non-EU, non-EEA, and non-Swiss citizens. Investors need to be over 18 with a clean criminal record, and they need to make a qualifying investment in Portugal.
Golden Visa Portugal Investment Options
So what are the qualifying investments for the Golden Visa program in Portugal? Suitable investment options are as follows:
1. Acquire Real Estate in Portugal worth 500 thousand euros or more
The most popular investment option by far is acquiring a real estate property in Portugal with a minimum value of 500,000 euros or more. As long as the total amount is equal to or more than 500,000 euros, you may buy one or more properties. The acquired real estate property/properties can be rented out.
In case you invest in low-density areas, the minimum investment amount is reduced by 20% to 400,000 euros instead of 500,000 euros. Here is a list of low-density areas in Portugal.
2. Acquire old Real Estate in urban rehabilitation areas in Portugal and renovate it, for a total amount of 350 thousand euros or more
If the real estate is older than 30 years old, the minimum investment value drops to 350,000 euros, provided that you renovate the property following the city requirements. The 350,000 euros limit is for the property price + renovation costs together.
Of course, most investors cannot leave their home country, go to Portugal, and get the permits and renovate the unit. So, there are local developers in Portugal that are willing to go through the trouble and sell the renovated units for a minimum of 350,000 euros, which then qualifies the investors for Portugal Golden Visa. To find out more about such developers, you can contact an agency focused on Portugal Golden Visa.
Additionally, in case you invest in low-density population areas, the minimum investment value drops 20% from 350,000 euros to 280,000 euros.
3. Invest a minimum of 350 thousand euros in an investment fund in Portugal
Introduced in 2018, this investment option is growing in popularity in recent years. If you choose to invest a minimum of 350,000 euros in a qualifying risk fund in Portugal, you can apply for the Golden Visa.
What are the benefits compared to real estate investment? Well, for one, the acquisition fees are much smaller than those of real estate transactions.
If you would like to learn more about this option, The Get Golden Visa did an excellent job with a comprehensive guide focusing on the Golden Visa Portugal investment fund option.
4. Capital Transfer of 1 million euros or more to Portugal
You may also choose to transfer capital to Portugal. This option requires you to deposit a minimum of 1,000,000 euros to an account under your name in a Portuguese financial institution. You may also use this amount to buy public debt instruments or securities in Portugal.
5. Create at least 10 jobs in Portugal
Feeling like opening or expanding your business to Portugal? With this option, the Portuguese government allows you to apply for a Golden Visa as long as you generate a minimum of ten full-time jobs in Portugal. However, you will need to upkeep this minimum employment commitment to sustain your Golden visa status in Portugal.
This option is also reduced by 20% from ten employees to eight employees if the employment is pursued in Portugal’s low-density population territory.
6. Invest a minimum of 250,000 euros in artistic preservation or conservation of cultural heritage
Portugal introduced a new Golden Visa investment option in 2015, allowing investors to invest a minimum of 250,000 euros in artistic preservation or conservation of national cultural heritage.
The investment must be made through the services of central Portuguese administration or public entities. Although not a very popular investment option, it sure sounds sweet that the Portuguese government incentivizes these activities.
7. Invest in Research and Development in Portugal
Like the previous option, investing 350,000 euros in an R & D activity to qualify for the Golden visa was also introduced in 2015. In order to be eligible, the activities must be carried out by scientific research institutions, following national scientific and technological criteria.
With the current additions in investment options; diversified
Important: The minimum investment amount in all options has to come from outside of Portugal, and the funds cannot be financed in Portugal.
Golden Visa Portugal Advantages
Portugal’s Golden Visa program is a win-win between the country and the investors. While Portugal attracts foreign capital, the government provides the Golden Visa applicants with several advantages in return. The beneficiaries of the investor visa in Portugal access the following benefits:
- The right to Live and Work in Portugal,
- Travel freely within the Schengen area, without the need for a visa,
- Benefit from family reunification, allowing family members to get Portugal Golden Visas,
- Be able to apply for permanent residence at the end of five years,
- Be able to apply for Portuguese citizenship at the end of five years,
If you choose to live in Portugal full time;
- Be able to make use of the education and healthcare systems in Portugal.
So, it is an excellent opportunity for investors to take advantage of Portugal’s investment opportunities while also obtaining the right to live and work in Portugal and travel within the Schengen countries without the need for a visa.
One major advantage of the investor immigrant program in Portugal is that it gives the applicants the ability to apply for citizenship at the end of five years. We will cover this in the next section.
Ease of Acquiring Portuguese Citizenship
Does Golden Visa lead to Portuguese citizenship? This is quite a popular question among those considering applying for the residency by investment program. The answer is yes. It can eventually lead to citizenship. And the good part is, it does so without necessarily having to reside in Portugal full time. Although indirect, Portugal’s citizenship by investment is possible.
According to the Portuguese Nationality Law, anyone with a valid residence permit in Portugal has the right to apply for citizenship after holding the permit for five years. This includes the Golden Visa holders. So the program is ideal for those who do not intend to or cannot reside in Portugal full time for five years.
Minimum Stay Requirement in Portugal
In addition to the investment requirement, the residence program also requires the applicants to reside a minimum number of days in Portugal:
Each Golden Visa card is valid for two years at a time. Within the two year validity period, you need to spend a total of 14 days in Portugal. So on average, the stay requirement is seven days per year.
The stay requirement is the same for each Golden Visa cardholder, regardless of if it is the main applicant or one of the dependents.
Validity and Renewals
Each Golden Visa permit is awarded for two years periods at a time. At successive periods of two years, the permits are renewed.
As previously mentioned, after five years of holding a Golden Visa, it is possible to apply for Portuguese citizenship. So this corresponds to the middle of your third Golden Visa card, after renewing your initial card two times.
The validity and renewal periods are the same for each Golden Visa cardholder, main applicants, and their dependents.
Golden Visa Specialists
As the demand for the Golden Visa program increased, specialized services started to appear, assisting prospective investors.
Suppose you want professional assistance to help you understand what the best scenario for your specific case is. Or to invest with peace of mind and security, and to have an expert taking care of all the legal and bureaucratic procedures to get your Golden Visa and your residency in Portugal. In that case, I highly recommend working with a consultancy specialized in Golden Visa.
In particular, I would recommend the Get Golden Visa. They are a full-service provider for residency and citizenship by investment programs. They have their own local team in Portugal, and they are also a licensed Portuguese real estate brokerage company. In short, they will handhold you throughout the whole Golden Visa process and even help you find the best real estate deals in Portugal, at the best price. Suppose you already saw some potential properties online. In that case, they can also help evaluate your options, go to viewings on your behalf, and negotiate the price for you, among many other services. Here is their Golden Visa Portugal page, and if you are interested, I can also make an intro to the director of their office in Portugal. He is particularly knowledgeable and helpful.
Many players are popping up in the market. Just like in any industry, there are some good apples and some bad apples. I pay great attention not to share any recommendations that were not tried by myself or my close circle. Hence, the above recommendation is confirmed through my family.
Golden Visa Portugal Statistics
As of the second half of 2020, a little over nine thousand families applied and received their Golden Visa permits in Portugal. According to SEF, the governmental institution in charge of all immigration processes in Portugal; the number of applications by nationalities are as follows:
- Chinese: 4,652
- Brazilian: 956
- Turkish: 433
- South African: 370
- Russian: 340
- Other Nationalities: 2,264
Out of 9,015 applications, 8,487 chose to move ahead with a real estate acquisition. Within this, 7,797 purchased a property worth 500 thousand euros or more, and 690 purchased properties 350 thousand euros or more and renovated them.
475 applicants moved ahead with capital transfers, and 17 applicants chose to start a business that employs a minimum of ten full-time employees in Portugal.
Since the start of the program, Portugal was able to raise close to 5.5 billion euros with the help of its Golden Visa scheme.
Changes to the Golden Visa Portugal rules are expected
In February 2020, the state budget law for the year 2020 was approved. One of the approved bill topics pertains to changes to the Golden Visa program during the year 2020.
The legislative meaning consists of favoring the promotion of investment flow to regions with low population density and investment flow to cultural heritage, environmental and social activities, urban rehabilitation, and job creation. With these goals in mind, the government authorized the Golden Visa program to change in two aspects.
- Restriction of qualifying real estate investments for the Golden Visa to the interior territories of the country, as well as the Azores islands. Thus, major cities such as Lisbon and Porto would be excluded from the program,
- Increase the minimum investment amount and the number of jobs required to grant the Golden Visa in Portugal.
The changes were not in force as of the passing of the budget bill, as the government did not proceed with its legal approval. Initially, it was hinted that the changes would be taken into effect by the end of 2020.
However, with the pandemic in place, most investment activities were affected. Subsequently, the changes are currently postponed without a specific date in sight.
Is Portugal Golden Visa Suspended?
No. Golden Visa Portugal is active and quite popular among investors interested in immigration through investment. The number of Golden Visas applicants in Portugal has been steady, even during the pandemic period.
Golden Visa Portugal: measure is not retroactive
A common question asked by prospective investors is, “What happens to my rights if the Portugal Golden Visa program changes?” Any legal change to this regime will not be retroactive. So, those who have already acquired their Golden Visa through a real estate investment in Lisbon or Porto will keep their rights intact.
Why was the Golden Visa Portugal program changed?
The residency and citizenship by investment programs have been under scrutiny in Europe. Portugal is not the only country in Europe, which offers investor visas; many other countries, including Spain, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, among others, have such RBI and CBI programs.
The European Commission made a statement stressing out the lack of transparency in the Golden Visa program. This statement indicated that some of the properties could be purchased with laundered funds. Thus, the European Commission pointed out the security risks and prompted the member countries to revoke such investor immigrant programs. They also asked for the existing programs to make a more significant effort in preventing money laundering and tax evasion, not giving way to oversight.
Golden Visa and Real Estate Markets in Lisbon and Porto
In addition to the European Commission’s pressure, the Golden Visa Portugal was considered by many Portuguese as one of the main reasons for the appreciation in the real estate prices for the last couple of years.
Property prices in both Lisbon and Porto have been rising in recent years, making it difficult for some local residents to afford rents and stay in these cities.
Increasing tourism in Portugal also led many Golden Visa investors to manage their properties for short term rental. This also played a role in the diminishing supply of residential real estate for long term rental in Lisbon and Porto. Although both municipalities came up with quotas to restrict the number of short-term rental units, some historic and central areas became tourist hubs. Thus, these areas were vulnerable to seasonality, with impacts on trade, labor, and, therefore, the overall economy.
Who is investing in Portugal’s Golden Visa?
The majority of the Portuguese Golden Visa investors are wealthy individuals interested in the possibility of living in Europe themselves or the potential of their kids studying or living in Europe one day. The reason why Portugal’s program is preferred against others is mainly because it can lead to a European passport after five years.
What did foreigners invest in to get the Golden Visa?
Close to 95% of all Golden Visa investment was directed to through real estate acquisitions. Most of these properties were in Lisbon and Porto, and they were rented out short term or long term.
Which nationalities showed the most interest in Golden Visa in Portugal?
In decreasing order, the Golden Visa applicants in Portugal came from China, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, and Russia. In recent years, some of the increasing nationalities are represented by Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, and the U.S.
Why do so many people want to invest in Portugal?
Many factors come into effect. These include security, stability, good climate, strategic location, low cost of living, ease of doing business, good infrastructure, active tourism, hospitable people, centuries of culture, good food, and very high quality of life. You can read our article on living in Portugal for detailed information.
Is buying a property in Portugal a good investment?
Buying a property in Portugal proved to be a reliable financial instrument through the 2010s. The rental yields are attractive compared to other European capitals. Also, property prices have been on the rise, both because they were recovering from the crash in 2008, and because Portugal has an attractive value proposition to many international investors. With the demand for accommodation growing both for short term and long term rentals, property prices keep going up steadily.
Can foreigners buy property in Portugal?
Yes, foreigners can easily buy property in Portugal. There are no restrictions against this. As a matter of fact, it is exceptionally encouraged by programs like Portugal’s Golden Visa and Non-Habitual Residence (NHR).
Can I take a loan when investing in Portugal’s Golden Visa?
The minimum amount you are required to invest has to come from outside of Portugal, into your account in Portugal. That minimum amount cannot be taken as a loan in a Portuguese financial institution, but it can be taken as a loan outside of Portugal, at the source. Also, any amount above the minimum required investment amount can be taken as a loan within Portugal.
Can I include my family members in the Golden Visa program?
Yes, you can. Under family reunification rules, the main applicant can include his or her spouse, children under 18, dependent children above the age of 18, and dependent parents within the programs. The dependents can apply for their Portugal Golden Visas at the same time. Apart from the initial investment, they have to abide by the exact requirements, and they hold the same rights as the main applicant.
Is the Golden Visa program successful in bringing foreign investment into Portugal?
Portugal started its Golden Visa program in October 2012. Back then, Portugal and the rest of Europe were still looking to recover from the devastating economic crisis it went through in 2008.
The scheme enabled Portugal to offer an attractive value proposition to the wealthy internationals. It turned out to be an excellent way to increase foreign investment coming into the country, particularly in the form of real estate acquisition. As of the end of 2020, Portugal attracted more than 9,000 families to its program, who, in return, brought in more than 5.5 billion euros to the country.