The Portugal Golden Visa Program: The Ultimate Guide 2024

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The Portugal Golden Visa Program is one of the most popular residency by investment schemes in the world. It has granted residency to more than 12,000 investors and over 20,000 accompanying family members since its inception in 2012. In that time period, more than more than €7.3 billion has been invested in Portugal through the Golden Visa investment program. Implemented to attract foreign investment into the country and benefit the Portuguese economy, the Portugal Golden Visa Program is designed for non-EU citizens and non-EEA citizens who want to get a Portuguese residence permit. One of the most notable aspects of this Golden Visa program is that it only requires its investors to spend an average of seven days per year in Portugal while providing them with all the benefits of being a European Union resident.

Benefits of the Portugal Golden Visa

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The main benefits of the Portuguese Golden Visa Program are:

The relatively low minimum investment amount

Starting at around €250,000, investment options include cultural and artistic project donations, investment funds. This minimum investment amount is much lower than those required for many other residency by investment programs and Golden Visa programs around the world, with some having minimum investment requirements starting at double that amount or even more.

Visa free travel access to the Schengen Area

The Golden Visa grants its holders visa exemption in the 27 countries within the Schengen Area. With this increased travel mobility, successful Golden Visa applicants who receive residence permits are able to enjoy travel for leisure or take business trips without the hassle of having to apply for various travel visas.

A pathway to Portuguese citizenship

After five years of having legal residency in Portugal through the Golden Visa, it’s possible to apply for permanent residence status or for Portuguese citizenship and, consequently, a Portuguese passport. The Portuguese passport is widely regarded as one of the most desirable in the world, particularly because it provides visa-free access to more than 180 countries worldwide. Please note that, in order to get Portuguese citizenship, you need to keep your investment in Portugal for at least five years and pass an A2 level Portuguese test.

The opportunity to live in a country with a high quality of life

For those who do relocate to Portugal with the Golden Visa, there are many lifestyle benefits available, as Portugal regularly ranks highly in quality of life indices. This is because it often scores highly for fields such as migrant acceptance, and it is regarded as one of the safest countries in the world.

Family reunification policy

When applying for the Portugal Golden Visa, it is possible to include family members in an application, granting them the same rights the main applicant has and giving families the opportunity to relocate together.

Access to education and employment opportunities

For successful Portugal Golden Visa applicants, there are opportunities to access Portugal’s public services, including education as well as the public healthcare system.

Recent Changes to the Portuguese Golden Visa Program

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In recent years, the Portuguese Golden Visa has undergone major changes, particularly in terms of the investments that qualify for the visa. There has even been speculation that the program is ending or will end. However, the program continues to be one of the world’s most popular residency by investment schemes in 2024. In January 2022, the residential real estate investments in the major cities of Lisbon and Porto, as well as in coastal areas, were made ineligible to qualify for a Portuguese Golden Visa. This meant that investors hoping to apply for the visa through residential real estate investments had to focus on Portugal’s interior areas as well as in its autonomous areas — Madeira and the Azores. As the law that brought about these changes only referred to residential real estate investments, commercial real estate investments, such as the purchase of pre-approved tourist apartments and hotels were still eligible for the Portuguese Golden Visa program. Then, in October 2023, the Portuguese Government effectively ended the option to qualify for a Portuguese Golden Visa via all real estate purchases. With the real estate investment route no longer qualifying, the opportunity to subscribe to investment funds that focused on investing in real estate was also eliminated as a qualifying investment for the Golden Visa program. Meanwhile, it also discontinued the option to apply for a Portuguese Golden Visa through a capital transfer, also known as the Golden Visa bank deposit option. Until this point, it had been possible to make a Golden Visa application by transferring €1.5 million into a Portuguese bank account or into other regulated financial institutions. This was a particularly popular option because depositing money into a Portuguese bank account was a secure, risk-free investment strategy, enabling investors to grow their funds over time at a fixed interest rate.

Portuguese Golden Visa Program Investment Options

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Following the changes to the Portuguese Golden Visa in recent years, including the elimination of the real estate property purchase and capital transfer routes, the options available for Golden Visa investors are as follows.

Qualifying Golden Visa Investment Funds: Venture Capital Funds, Private Equity Funds, and Mutual Funds

Subscribing to investment funds, such as a private equity fund, a venture capital fund or a mutual fund, with a minimum investment of €500,000 has now become the preferred route for many investors. As well as meeting that €500,000 threshold, there are a couple of other requirements for the fund investment option. Qualifying funds are those that are focused on capitalizing companies under Portuguese law and must have a minimum maturity of five years at the time of the investment. And at least 60 percent of the fund’s capital must be invested in companies whose headquarters are in Portugal. Investors must be willing to maintain their fund investment for at least five years. Generally, they can expect to have access to the capital they invest within six to ten years, depending on the term of the fund or funds they select. The funds that are eligible often focus on specific sectors, such as energy, health, tech, agri-business, and hospitality, while others have an agnostic approach. The investment fund option has several benefits for investors. For example, it offers a potential return on investment, with annual yields and expected capital appreciation outperforming other Golden Visa investment pathways. Another advantage of investment funds is that they are generally well established, with many funds opting to secure support from institutional investors such as banks and pension funds before they invite investments from individuals. The investments are managed by experts with vast experience, and they’re required to comply with regulations set by the Portuguese Securities Market Commission, commonly known as the CMVM. There are also tax efficiency benefits: For non-tax residents, there’s a 0 percent tax on returns from funds from the Portuguese government. For tax residents in Portugal, there is a 10 percent tax on returns for funds.

Company Set Up

Foreign investors can apply for Portuguese Golden Visas by establishing or investing in a Portuguese commercial company. To qualify for the Golden Visa via this investment route, there are two options. One option is to incorporate a company in Portugal with a share capital of at least €500,000. Investors who choose this option will be required to create five permanent jobs in the process. The other option is to increase the share capital of an existing Portuguese company. For this option, an investor must increase the share capital by at least €500,000 and meet the job creation requirements designated by the government.

Cultural or Artistic Project Donation

Sometimes known as the Portugal Cultural Golden Visa Program, one of the most affordable investment options that qualifies for the Golden Visa is to donate to an artistic project or a project focused on preserving national cultural heritage. Launched in 2015, this investment pathway starts at €250,000, with a discount in Portugal’s “low density areas,” bringing the minimum investment required to €200,000. A low population density area is defined has less than 100 inhabitants per km² or with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita below 75 percent of the national average.

Investment in scientific research

To qualify via this route, the requirement is to invest €500,000 in research activities that are carried out by either public or private scientific research institutions

Creation of 10 jobs

This investment option requires creating 10 jobs and maintaining them over a five-year period. In low-density population areas, the number of jobs needed is reduced to eight.

Portugal Golden Visa Requirements

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Before starting the Portugal Golden Visa process, an applicant must ensure that they can meet the following requirements:

  • Be a non-EU, non-Swiss, or non-EEA national.
  • Have a clean criminal record (if an applicant does not have a clean criminal record, they should seek legal counsel to assess their situation.
  • Make a minimum investment of €250,000 (for some investment routes, a €200,000 investment will qualify in low density areas), with various investment options available.
  • Be able to an average of 7 days annually in Portugal, ensuring a total of 14 days throughout the validity of each 2-year residence card.

A Guide to Golden Visa Applications: About the Portuguese Golden Visa Application Process

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Decide on the investment: An application should decide which of the Golden Visa investment options they are going to take.

Prepare the required documents

To apply for the Golden Visa, an applicant must submit a completed application form, a copy of a valid passport, proof of health insurance if the investor intends to live in Portugal, a declaration of honor stating that they will maintain the investment for five years, a criminal background check. The required documents can be changed at the discretion of the Portuguese government.

Get a Portuguese bank account and a Portuguese tax number

To apply for the Golden Visa permit, applicants are required to have a Portuguese bank account as well as a Portuguese tax number, which is known as a NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal).

Make the investment

In this part of the process, Golden Visa applicants transfer the money from their original bank account to their Portuguese bank account so that the money can be invested in the chosen pathway in Portugal.

Apply for the Portugal Golden Visa

At this point, a lawyer will submit an application for the Golden Visa with AIMA, which is the Portuguese government agency responsible for immigration matters, having replaced SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) in this role in late 2023.

Pre-approval for the Golden Visa

Applications are pre-approved by AIMA, provided that the applicants meet all the necessary requirements.

Attend a biometrics appointment in Portugal

Once an application is approved, the applicant should schedule a biometrics appointment in Portugal.

Receive residence permit

This is the final stage in the Golden Visa process; once an applicant receives the residence permit, it is valid for two years and renewable for two years.

Portuguese Golden Visa Cost

As well as meeting the minimum investment requirements, there are various other costs in applying for the Golden Visa in Portugal, including the application fee, various legal fees and the fee for the issuance of the permit. Of course, the fees increase with any accompanying family members. The application fee for the main applicant is around €800, then the cost of the permit issuance is roughly €8,000. For a couple, the fees increase to just over €1,500 and about €15,500 respectively; for a family of four, they are roughly €3,100 and €31,000

The Portugal Golden Visa Residence Permit Renewal Process

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The Portugal Golden Visa residence permit must be renewed every two years. After five years of legal residency, it’s possible to apply for permanent residency. The alternative is to renew the residence card, which requires applicants to prove that they still hold the investment.

Getting Portuguese Citizenship with a Golden Visa

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One of the major benefits of Portugal’s Golden Visa program is that Golden Visa holders have a clear pathway toward Portuguese citizenship. With the residence permit that a Golden Visa holder receives, they are able to maintain legal residence status for five years. At the end of that five-year period, it’s possible to apply for either permanent residency in Portugal or to apply for Portuguese citizenship. In order to apply to become a Portuguese citizen, it’s necessary to maintain a clean criminal record as well as to reach a basic understanding of the Portuguese language. It’s possible to meet the Portuguese language requirement either through a language or course or by taking a Portuguese language test.

The New Nationality Law: Positive News for Golden Visa Holders

Portugal Introduces Changes Allowing Residency Waiting Time to Contribute to Nationality

In January 2024, the Portuguese parliament approved crucial amendments to the nationality law, providing relief to numerous applicants affected by delays in the processing of residency applications by SEF, now AIMA. This significant revision focuses on the waiting period necessary for Portuguese nationality applications. The law, published on March 5, 2024, is set to take effect on April 1, 2024.

What are the alterations to the nationality law?

Previously, according to Article 6, Paragraph 1 of the Nationality Law, individuals seeking Portuguese nationality through naturalization had to maintain residency in Portugal for a minimum of five years, among other prerequisites. The commencement of the five-year period for nationality application was dependent on the issuance of the initial residency permit. With this recent legislative development, the revised Article 15, now encompassing Paragraph 1 of the nationality law, explicitly states that the time between the submission of the temporary residency permit application and its final approval will be considered in calculating the necessary legal residency period for nationality, provided the residency permit is granted.

Positive Impact on Portugal Golden Visa Applicants

The substantial adjustments to Portugal’s nationality law create a sense of anticipation regarding positive changes for Golden Visa applicants. Previously, applicants were subject to the stringent requirement of a minimum five-year residency period starting from the issuance of the initial residency permit. This often led to prolonged waiting times, with candidates experiencing delays due to processing backlogs at the former SEF. This means that individuals facing delays in residency approvals due to factors such as COVID-19, the Ukrainian War, and the restructuring of the Portuguese immigration department will now have their waiting period taken into account. Consequently, they can apply for Portuguese nationality at an earlier date. For instance, individuals planning to apply for Portuguese residency in 2024 would meet the five-year residency requirement for citizenship by 2029, regardless of potential delays in processing the residency application. This change represents a significant stride towards improving the overall experience for individuals intending to relocate to Portugal or those seeking Portuguese citizenship through naturalization.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Portugal Golden Visa Program

Is Portugal getting rid of the Golden Visa?

No, Portugal’s Golden Visa program is not ending, but there have been major modifications to it in recent years. For example, it is no longer possible to qualify through real estate investments or capital transfers. In 2024, qualifying investments include projects involving artistic production, fund investment, job creation, and company setup. As there have been many changes to the program in recent years, it’s advisable to keep up to date with the latest Portugal Golden Visa news.

How long does it take to get Portugal’s Golden Visa in 2024?

The Portugal Golden Visa processing times usually take between 12 to 24 months for the approval and issuance of your residence card.

How long can I stay in the country with the Portugal Golden Visa?

The Portugal Golden Visa is a residence permit that is valid for two years and can be renewed every two years, provided an applicant maintains their investment.

What is the minimum investment for Portugal’s Golden Visa program?

The minimum investment amount for the Portuguese Golden Visa depends on the type of investment. In some cases, it can also depend on where the investment is made. For example, donations to an artistic project or a national heritage project are subject to 20 percent discount in low density areas, bringing the required investment down from €250,000 to €200,000.

Applying for a Portuguese Golden Visa by investing in venture capital funds, private equity funds, and mutual funds has gained traction as an investment option in recent years following the discontinuation of real estate acquisition and capital transfers as qualifying investment methods. Fund investment is also seen as a good option for those seeking a potential return on their investment, as the potential yields and capital appreciation can generate income.

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How does the Portuguese Golden Visa compare with other Golden Visa programs?

As well as the Portuguese Golden Visa, there are several other Golden Visa programs around Europe, including in Spain and Cyprus. One of the key differences from the Spanish program is that the Portuguese Golden Visa provides a pathway to apply for citizenship in five years, while the timeline is longer with the Spanish program, which requires a legal residency period of ten years. The main difference with the Cyprus Golden Visa is that the minimum investment amount is €250,000 (with some discounts in low density areas reducing the amount to €200,000) compared to €300,000 in Cyprus.

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