Updated: May 3, 2023
Since its inception in October 2012, the Portugal Golden Visa program has become one of the most popular residency by investment programs of its kind, with more than 10,000 applicants benefitting from the scheme.
In this ultimate guide to the Portugal Golden Visa, we’ll arm you with everything you need to know about the residency-by-investment scheme, guiding you through the following:
- Investment options
- Golden Visa requirements
- Application process
- Plus much more!
Is the Portugal Golden Visa ending?
On 16 February 2023, the Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, announced that the Portugal Golden Visa is ending.
Head to our article, Portugal is Ending its Golden Visa Program, to learn more.
The announcement comes in the wake of the rising cost of rental and housing in Portugal. In an attempt to address this lack of affordable housing, the Portuguese Government has chosen to end the Portugal Golden Visa scheme.
14 April 2023: Final Proposal Regarding the Ending of the Golden Visa
On 14 April 2023, the Portuguese government revealed the final proposal for the new law relating to the country’s Golden Visa program. This proposal will now be discussed in Parliament on 19 May, later than first expected.
Due to the nature of the legislative process and the complex issues being addressed, we expect the earliest date at which the procedure will be completed is the end of June. The Golden Visa will remain open until at least this time.
The following section describes the stages of the legislative process expected to unfold:
Step 1 – Discussion in Parliament
The proposed law will be discussed in a general discussion during the Parliament plenary session.
Step 2 – Review by the committee/s
Relevant committees will review the proposed law while also consulting with experts and stakeholders.
Step 3 – Parliament voting
If necessary, Parliament will propose any amendments as determined through the discussions and reviews outlined above. This will then be debated and voted upon.
Step 4 – Ratification by the President
The President can either formally consent to the proposed law or veto it on political grounds. If the latter occurs, it will be returned to the Parliament for reassessment. Alternatively, it will be sent to the Constitutional Court, where its compliance with the Portuguese Constitution will be assessed.
Step 5 – Validation by the Constitutional Court
If the proposed law is sent to the Constitutional Court for ruling, the Court will do so based on the legal provisions that have caused doubt within the President and resulted in him returning the proposal for reassessment.
This analysis must be completed within 25 days. Based on the results of this analysis and the Court’s formal announcement, the President can do one of two things:
- Using a constitutionality veto, return the proposal to Parliament for revision.
- Enforce the law and send it to be formally published.
Step 6 – Official publication in the Diario
If the President chooses to enforce the law, it will be published in the Diario. This publication will state the law in the exact terms in which it will enter into force.
The final proposal of the law
The final proposal of the law states the following:
- The new law will not apply retroactively to those already granted a Golden Visa.
- The seven-day-per-year stay requirement will remain in place.
- Pending Golden Visa applications will remain valid and protected.
- Renewed visas will be reframed under the D2 Visa but will have the same flexibility as the ARI (Residence Permit for Investment Activity).
- The law will come into effect when published in the official journal.
- Considering the various stages of the legislative process and assuming everything moves forward without delay, we expect this approval process to take at least 35 days.
The main takeaway from this news is that no retroactive action will be taken against existing and pending Golden Visa applications. This guarantees that all requests submitted before the new law comes into effect (expected by the end of June) will be dealt with in accordance with the existing rules. It also guarantees that application renewals are contained under the law still currently in effect and that family reunification requests associated with the Golden Visa are also protected.
The future law is expected to come into effect the day following its publication. There is also no grace period expected to allow for the revocation of the Golden Visa. While it is possible for this aspect to still be debated and changed, we can safely assume that the time between now and the end of June is the last chance for applicants to apply for Portugal’s Golden Visa.
30 March 2023: Government Announcement Regarding the Portugal Golden Visa
On 30 March 2023, Portugal’s Ministerial Council held a press conference regarding the fate of the country’s Golden Visa Program. At the conference, Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced the Portuguese government’s final stance on the Golden Visa, as well as the Housing Package Policy.
At this point, we are not able to analyze any document regarding this announcement and, as such, can only provide the following summary of the information released at the conference.
Existing Golden Visas put up for renewal will be assessed based on existing requirements reframed under a standard type of visa rather than under the Golden Visa. As a result, some advantages of the Golden Visa program may no longer be applicable under standard visa types.
For example, the Golden Visa affords a reduced period of stay of seven days per year. As this advantage is not available under other visa types, it may be at stake moving forward. However, any such consequences remain unclear at this point in time.
Authorizations pending approval
Pending applications will no longer be assessed in line with the Golden Visa Program. They will now be assessed according to the standard visa-granting regime, although it is currently unclear which such cases the government will choose to apply this measure to. Eventually, investors will be directed away from the Golden Visa in favor of existing traditional visas.
As to why the Golden Visa program is being brought to an end, the government has stated that it can no longer justify continuing the scheme. As the process of ending the program moves forward, from parliamentary discussions to the bill being approved as law, investors will feel some disruption. We do anticipate that this process will be lengthy and that more details will emerge in the coming days.
What is the Portugal Golden Visa?
The Portugal Golden Visa, also referred to as the Residence Permit for Investment Activity (ARI), is a Portuguese residency by investment program for non-EU nationals. The program was launched by the Portuguese government in October 2012 with the main objective being to attract foreign talent and international capital into Portugal. Given the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis, in which Portugal was greatly impacted, the program generated over €6 billion since October 2012.
Portugal is in many ways the perfect country to call home, with spectacular landscapes, pristine beaches, more than 300-days of sunshine per year, and a very high quality of life. The country also has a very good education system, the healthcare system is one of the best in the world, and is one of the most affordable countries to live in Europe.
Through the Portuguese Golden Visa program, successful applicants will have the opportunity to secure permanent residency after five years, provided that they hold their investment for the duration of this time. Subsequently, there is the possibility to apply for Portuguese citizenship, provided you meet all the requirements under Portuguese Nationality Law.
Portugal Golden Visa: Benefits
Below we have outlined some of the key benefits of the Portugal Golden Visa program.
- Minimum investment of €250,000, through the donation pathway and of €280,000, through the real estate rehabilitation pathway, if the property is located in an interior and low-density area. This is one of the lowest investment thresholds in Europe.
- Short-stay requirement: You don’t have to move to Portugal to retain your residence permit. Staying in Portugal for seven days a year on average will be sufficient.
- You can be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship after five years, one of the quickest routes to European citizenship.
- Once you become a Portuguese citizen, you will have visa-free access to 172 countries.
- Access to 26 nations in the EU and travel access to the Schengen Area
- A sound investment in a buoyant market that can reap real returns in your investment.
- The option to become a non-habitual resident and receive significant tax benefits for ten years.
The Portugal Golden Visa program allows you to travel freely across the EU and Schengen Area.
After five years, you can be eligible to apply for a Portuguese passport, provided you meet all the criteria. Armed with a Portuguese passport, you will have visa free travel to 172 countries.
The Portuguese passport is one of the most powerful in the world. Our Residency and Citiznehsip division, Global Citizen Solutions created an innovative Global Passport Index that measures the strength of a passport, not only on visa-free access but also takes into account investment opportunities and quality of life, using three standalone indexes that together generate the overall ranking. Portugal ranks in 30th position in the index, performing particularly well in the Enhanced Mobility Index (8th) and the Quality of Life Index (12th).
Live, work, and study
Holders of the Portugal Golden Visa can live, work, and study in Portugal. Note that if you opt to live in Portugal full-time, then you will need to have medical insurance. However, you will have full access to all the public services in the country, which include healthcare and education.
Public schools follow the Portuguese curriculum, although there are many private British and American international schools available. You will also find German and French international schools in the country.
You’ll be able to work in Portugal without any issues, including starting or running your own business in the country.
The Portuguese government has made a particular effort in encouraging foreign businesses to relocate to Portugal, attracting top talent, digital nomads, tech companies, and startups. This can be seen with Websummit, the biggest tech festival in the world, moving to Portugal in 2016.
As the primary applicant, you’ll be able to extend your Golden Visa to your family members. The application can be done simultaneously for the main applicant and the dependents.
The following family members are eligible to apply alongside the primary applicant:
- Children under 18 years old,
- Dependent children under 26 years old. Dependent children need to be full-time students and not be married,
- Parents of the main applicant, if they are over 65 years old.
After five years of securing your Golden Visa and holding your investment, you may apply for citizenship in Portugal. To qualify for Portuguese citizenship, you must have the following:
- No outstanding tax payments in Portugal,
- Clean criminal records in both Portugal and your home country,
- Completed the CIPLE Portuguese language A2 exam. We’ll provide you with more details on the language test later in this article.
You will not have any tax responsibility as a Golden Visa holder, unless you spend more than 183 days in the country per year. If you do, then you become a Portuguese tax resident. However, the country has a very favorable tax regime in place for foreign nationals.
The Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) scheme allows foreign nationals to receive significant tax benefits when living in Portugal. The program changed slightly in 2020, exempting foreign pensioners from receiving tax breaks on their pension income.
In this part of our ultimate guide, we’ll provide you with all-important information on the eligibility requirements for the Portugal Golden Visa scheme.
If you are a non-EU, non-EEA, or non-Swiss national then you can apply for the Portugal Golden Visa.
You will need to be at least 18 years old and have a clean criminal record in both your home country and Portugal. The funds for the investment should be from outside Portugal.
To qualify for the Portuguese Golden Visa, you will need to make a minimum investment into the country. There are several options to choose from, including real estate, an investment fund option, company formation, and a donation route.
The Minimum investment is €250,000, through the donation pathway. For real estate, a minimum investment of €280,000 is needed in a real estate rehabilitation project. The property will need to be located in an interior and low-density area. This is one of the lowest investment thresholds in Europe. We’ll provide you with the full list of qualifying investments later in this article.
As mentioned, you can extend the Golden Visa to the rest of your family members under family reunification.
US citizens applying for the Portugal Golden Visa scheme
US citizens can apply for the Portuguese Golden Visa. Indeed, many American citizens are heading to Portugal, due to the affordable cost of living, high-quality life, excellent healthcare and education, and progressive legislation. This is without mentioning the fact that English is widely spoken in Portugal and the climate is sensational.
As Brexit has come to pass, UK citizens have seen some changes to their freedom of movement around the world. The Portuguese Golden Visa is now available to UK citizens. Armed with the Golden Visa, they can have the ability to travel freely across the EU and potentially secure citizenship after five years through naturalization, provided they meet all the requirements. A high quality of life increased travel freedoms, and a favorable climate are some of the key reasons why British nationals have their sights set on Portugal.
Portugal Golden Visa Investment Options
The Portuguese economy is stable and offers a wide array of investment options and has great potential to receive strong returns on your investment. The booming startup and tech scene has made it a top location in Europe for companies looking to relocate to Europe and the real estate market has proved to be one of the key factors in the country’s recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, alongside the booming tourism sector, that continues to move from strength to strength.
To secure a residence permit in Portugal, a significant investment must be made before the application can be filed. In this section, we’ll provide you with an overview of the qualifying investments on the table.
Purchasing real estate has proved to be the most popular route for Portugal Golden Visa applicants, making up over 90% of the total number.
The Golden Visa investment options are as follows:
- Residential real estate: Buy residential real estate in a designated interior area of Portugal that is worth at least €500,000, or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project. If the residential property is located in a designated ‘low-density’ area, then a 20% discount will apply.
- Commercial real estate: Buy commercial real estate anywhere in Portugal that is worth at least €500,000, or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project. If the residential property is located in a designated ‘low-density’ area, then a 20% discount will apply.
- Purchasing real estate on Madeira or the Azores: Buy residential or commercial real estate on the autonomous islands of Madeira or the Azores, that is worth at least €50,000, or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project.
- Fund subscription: Make a contribution to an investment qualified fund, that is worth at least €500,000.
- Capital Transfer: Make a capital transfer of at least €1.5 million
- Scientific Research: Science or Technology research contribution of at least €500,000
- Job Creation: Company incorporation and creation of ten jobs amounting to a minimum value of €500,000
- Donation: Support the arts or reconstruction of national heritage with a donation of at least €250,000.
It’s important to note the Portugal Golden Visa program changes that came into force on 1 January 2022, significantly altered the program’s investment criteria. As a result of these changes, it is only possible to invest in residential real estate in interior areas of the country, ruling out Lisbon, Porto, and much of the Algrave. However, concerning commercial property, there are no location restrictions.