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Portugal Golden Visa: Everything You Need to Know

By Bernardo Barbosa

Published on 9 January 2024

14 mins read

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The Portuguese Golden Visa has been one of the most coveted government-sponsored programs in Portugal for years. Since 2012, thousands of non-EU residents have completed their Golden Visa application successfully, been granted permanent residency, and even been awarded Portuguese citizenship!

The Portuguese head office has put the Golden Visa plan into place to tap into worldwide income and attract investment from wealthy foreigners outside of the European Union. However, the Golden Visa has been criticized by many, who see it as a cheap way of getting citizenship (sometimes, even without knowing the Portuguese language).

In this comprehensive guide, we will keep an open mind and tell you everything you need to know about the Portugal Golden Visa.

What is a Portuguese Golden Visa?

The Portugal Golden Visa is a residency-by-investment program introduced by the Portuguese Government in 2012. It allows non-European investors and their family members to obtain a Portuguese residency permit by making certain qualifying investments in the country.

Once investors from outside of the European Union make a qualifying investment, they can apply for the Portugal Golden Visa program, which grants them and their family members the right to live, work, and study in Portugal. After five years of maintaining the investment and having a permanent residency in Portugal, they can apply for a Portuguese passport and even Portuguese citizenship.

The Portugal Golden Visa program has been popular among international investors seeking residency in Portugal and the European Union due to its relatively straightforward requirements and the benefits it offers in terms of travel and access to the European market. However, it has also had its fair share of critics…

Portugal's Golden Visa Program Explained

The Portuguese Golden Visa program was first established in 2012 to boost foreign investment and improve the Portuguese economy. Golden Visa applicants had the right to a Portugal residence permit if they made a property investment of at least €500.000 or created a minimum of 10 jobs in the country.

Initially a real estate investment program, the Portugal Golden Visa scheme now encompasses different types of international capital transfer, including donations to private scientific research institutions. On the other hand, it has been subjected to changes in the meantime.

Portugal Golden Visa Criticism

Over the years, Portugal's Golden Visa program has helped the Portuguese economy to secure more than €6.5 billion in investment funds, originating mainly from China, Brazil, and South Africa. Most of the investment funds were used in real estate property investment, while others came from international capital transfer operations above €1.5 million.

Despite its apparent success, the Portugal Golden Visa program fueled outrage in Portugal and the European Union due to its nefarious effect on real estate property prices. With so many rich foreigners purchasing real estate to obtain a Portuguese residence permit, house prices in cities like Lisbon and Porto soared.

Widespread criticism inspired Portuguese politicians such as former Prime Minister António Costa to consider scrapping the Portugal Golden Visa operation, but the program still exists today. The Golden Visa route, however, has been slowly giving way to new types of capital transfer programs such as the digital nomads visa.

Why Has the Portugal Golden Visa Been So Controversial?

Despite helping the Portuguese economy to secure billions of euros in capital transfer in little over a decade and convincing many foreign citizens to move to national territory, Portugal's Golden Visa program is often perceived as a failure.

Golden Visa investors were expected to create jobs in Portugal, but most of them dedicated merely to purchasing real estate and reaping the benefits of accessing a residence permit, a Portuguese passport, and—ultimately—Portuguese citizenship for them and their family members.

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What Are the Benefits of the Golden Visa Program?

The Portugal Golden Visa offers several benefits to investors and their family members:

  • Residency: The Portugal Golden Visa grants a residency permit in Portugal for the investor and their family, allowing them to live, work, and study in the country.
  • Visa free access: Investors with a Golden Visa can enjoy visa free travel within the Schengen Area.
  • Path to citizenship: After holding a Portugal Golden Visa for a minimum period of five years, investors and their family members can apply for permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship. The latter grants them access to the rights and benefits of EU citizens without the usual constraints of the naturalization process, such as learning the Portuguese language.
  • Real estate investment: Investors can choose to invest in real estate, potentially gaining from property value appreciation and rental income. They will not only get a permanent residence permit but also a valuable new asset for their investment funds.
  • Diverse investment options: As we'll see, the Portugal Golden Visa program offers various investment routes beyond real estate, such as capital transfer, job creation, or investment in research activities, providing flexibility to Golden Visa investors.
  • Family reunification: The Portugal Golden Visa extends to family members, including spouses, dependent children, and dependent parents, allowing them to also live and study in Portugal.
  • Tax benefits: The Portuguese tax office offers certain benefits to new residents, including the non-habitual resident (NHR) tax regime, which may provide tax exemptions or reductions on certain types of income for a specified period. Golden Visa investors can double down on their real estate investment by leveraging these fiscal benefits.
  • Quality of life: Portugal is known for its high quality of life, pleasant climate, cultural richness, and excellent healthcare and education systems. For this reason, moving to Portugal for business is extremely appealing to wealthy foreign citizens residing in countries like China and Brazil.

These benefits have made the Portugal Golden Visa program an attractive option for investors looking for residency in Europe and seeking to benefit from its lifestyle, opportunities, and access to the European market.

Portuguese Golden Visas grant visa free travel and other social and economic benefits through relatively affordable investment options, but can anyone get one?

Who Can Get a Portuguese Golden Visa?

You're eligible to get a Portugal Golden Visa if:

  • You're not an EU, EEA, or Swiss national.
  • You're over 18 years old.
  • You have a clean criminal record.
  • You've made a qualifying investment.
  • You can prove that the investment funds used to apply for the Portugal Golden Visa have a legal source.

If you're in line with these five parameters, you can ask for your Portugal Golden Visa and apply for a permanent residency permit in Portugal.

Portugal Golden Visa for Family Members

As previously discussed, investors accepted into the Portuguese Golden Visa program can extend their fiscal and residential benefits to their families. The following members qualify:

  • Spouse or legal partner.
  • Biological and adopted children less than 18 years old.
  • Single dependent children under 26 years old who are still in school.
  • Parents of Golden Visa applicants over 66 years old.
  • Dependent parents of Golden Visa applicants over 55 years old.
  • Siblings less than 18 years old.

Please keep in mind that your spouse's under-18 siblings, parents over 66 years old, and dependent parents over 55 years old also qualify if you're granted a Portuguese Golden Visa.

Portugal Golden Visa for British Citizens

From 2021 onward, Brexit caused citizens from the United Kingdom to lose their freedom of movement in the Schengen area. Since British people no longer qualify as EU citizens, they're also eligible to apply for Portuguese Golden Visa programs.

Portugal Golden Visa Requirements

To reap the benefits of the Portuguese Golden Visa scheme, applicants must make a qualifying investment in Portugal. Initially, there were five types of investment accepted by the Portugal Golden Visa program. However, recent policy changes have scratched real estate investment and capital transfer off the list.

As of right now, these are the investments that can qualify you for a Golden Visa permit:

Golden Visa Investment 1: Subscribing to an Investment Fund

Fund subscription refers to the process by which an investor commits to investing a certain amount of money into an investment fund such as mutual funds, hedge funds, private equity funds, or venture capital funds.

When an investor decides to participate in a fund, they typically fill out a subscription agreement or form. This document outlines the terms and conditions of the investment, including the amount to be invested, payment schedule, investment objectives, fees, and any other relevant terms specific to the investment fund.

To qualify for a Portugal Golden Visa by subscribing to an investment fund, a minimum investment of €500.000 is necessary.

Golden Visa Investment 2: Creating a Commercial Company

In addition to subscribing to an investment fund, non-EU investors can apply to the Portuguese Golden Visa program by creating a commercial company in Portugal. However, they can also become a Golden Visa holder by making a qualifying investment in an existing Portuguese business.

In more concrete terms, you can apply for a Portugal Golden Visa if you...

  • Create at least 10 new full-time jobs with a commercial company founded and owned by yourself.
  • Create at least 8 new full-time jobs with a commercial company founded and owned by yourself that's formed in a low-density area in Portugal.
  • Invest a minimum of €500.000 in an existing Portuguese business that can create five permanent jobs active for the minimum period of three years.

Through job creation, Portugal's Golden Visa aims to stimulate the national economy by increasing income tax, reducing the unemployment rate, and invigorating impoverished regions in the interior of the country.

Golden Visa Investment 3: Making a Donation

If you don't want to make a qualifying investment in a fund or company, you can apply for the Portugal Golden Visa by making a generous donation. There are two ways of doing this:

1. By investing in preserving Portugal's national heritage with a donation of at least €250.000.

2. By investing in a national scientific institution or contributing to development and research activities conducted in Portugal with a donation of at least €500.000.

National heritage refers to the collective assets, traditions, landmarks, cultural elements, and historical artifacts that hold significant value to a nation or a particular group of people. In contrast, development and research activities may include private scientific research institutions.

By accepting donations in exchange for a Portugal Golden Visa, the Portuguese Government expects to enrich its cultural and scientific institutions via the Golden Visa process.

Golden Visa Investment 4: Making a Real Estate Investment (No Longer Available)

Due to the public backlash surrounding Portugal's Golden Visa program, making a real estate investment no longer qualifies non-EU citizens for a Portuguese Golden Visa. The amendment was made official by the Portuguese Government in October 2023.

Before October 2023, there were several ways of getting a Portugal Golden Visa by purchasing real estate property. The Portuguese Golden Visa was awarded to any investor who:

1. Acquired real estate in Portugal worth €500.000 or more.

2. Acquired real estate in a low-density area in Portugal worth €400.000 or more.

3. Acquired real estate in an urban area in Portugal and renovated it with an investment of €350.000 or more.

4. Acquired real estate in a low-density area in Portugal and renovated it with an investment of €280.000 or more.

Note that the renovation projects listed in 3 and 4 were only considered viable by the Portuguese Golden Visa program if the acquired property was at least 30 years old.

Golden Visa Investment 5: Making a Capital Transfer (No Longer Available)

Also before October 2023, acquiring a Portugal Golden Visa was as simple as making a capital transfer of €1.5 million or more into the country. However, this option is no longer available.

Back when capital transfer was still considered viable by the Portuguese Golden Visa officials, the main guideline was that the funds used in the transfer couldn't come from a Portuguese financial institution. They could still come from a Portugal Golden Visa mortgage or loan, as long as the mortgage or loan was financed by a foreign institution.

How to Get a Portugal Golden Visa

The Portugal Golden Visa application process involves the following necessary steps:

Step 1: Select the Investment

Would you prefer subscribing to a Portuguese venture capital fund, creating a new company, or making a donation supporting national cultural heritage? It's up to you and you alone!

Either way, the first step in getting your Portugal Golden Visa is to choose the type of qualifying investment that suits you the most.

Step 2: Collect the Necessary Documentation

Carefully collect all the documents required for applying for a Portuguese Golden Visa. Please keep in mind that the following need to be officialized by a legal representative in case they weren't issued by a Portuguese entity.

These are the documents you need to apply for the Golden Visa Portugal scheme:

  • Passport (or equivalent government-issued travel document).
  • Proof of the investment made.
  • Confirmation of the investment by a Portuguese financial institution.
  • Proof of healthcare coverage.
  • Criminal record document (including authorization for SEF to access such a document).
  • Sworn compliance declaration.
  • Portuguese tax compliance document (issued by the Portuguese Tax and Customs authority).
  • Receipt of application payment.

When submitting documents for your Portugal Golden Visa application, ensure that they're certified by a legal representative and accurately translated into Portuguese whenever necessary.

Step 3: Open a Portuguese Bank Account

You cannot have a Portugal Golden Visa without opening a Portuguese bank account. Before doing so, you need to request an official Portuguese tax number, best known as NIF. Once you have your NIF, you can perform most financial-related actions in Portugal, including opening a Portuguese bank account.

Step 4: Submit Your Application to SEF

Selecting and making the right investment is the most important step in the Golden Visa process. By the time you submit your Portugal Golden Visa application to SEF, it's crucial to have everything in order to avoid delays and potential penalties. When you do, follow this link to complete your application.

But before, make sure to:

  • Review your collected documents and convert them into PDF format.
  • Ensure that you have paid all submission and legal costs associated with your Portugal Golden Visa (we have more on that right below).

Once you have completed your Portugal Golden Visa submission, all that's left to do is wait for the decision of the relevant authorities. Before the finalization of the process, an in-person interview is required. The in-person interview is necessary for collecting biometric data relating to the main applicant (such as fingerprints, photos, and an official signature).

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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Portugal Golden Visa?

In addition to paying for the investment made in Portugal, getting your Portuguese Golden Visa requires paying for administrative and legal costs. These are the inescapable costs of all Golden Visa applications:

  • Applicant's processing fee: €533 per applicant
  • Dependant's processing fee: €83 per applicant
  • Initial application fee: €5,325 per applicant
  • Renewal application fee: €2,663 per applicant

Please keep in mind that, in addition to these mandatory legal costs, you will probably need to save some money to pay for lawyers and other non-official Golden Visa Portugal expenses.

Are there any tax benefits to the Portugal Golden Visa application?

The tax benefits associated with the Portugal Golden Visa can be subject to change, but generally include the following:

  • A 10-year income tax exemption.
  • A 20% flat tax for income produced in Portugal for the first 10 years.
  • 28% capital gains tax.
  • No wealth tax.
  • No inheritance tax charge.

Navigating Golden Visa tax exemptions requires constant monitoring. To learn more about Golden Visa tax benefits, consult with a certified accountant and/or request additional information from the Portuguese Securities Market Commission.

Has the Portugal Golden Visa Program Ended?

On October 2023, it was reported that Golden Visa Portugal applications for real estate investments were no longer accepted. This caused some people to wrongfully believe that the program was over. However, the Portugal Golden Visa is still pretty much alive and continues to accept residence permit candidacies for investing in an investment fund, creating a company, and preserving national heritage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How long does it take for applicants to get a Portuguese passport?

Generally, Portugal Golden Visa applicants need to hold their investments successfully for a minimum period of five years. They can then get permanent residency, Portuguese citizenship, and a Portuguese passport.

Do Portugal Golden Visa family members need to open a Portuguese bank account?

While the main applicant is required to open a bank account in Portugal, the same does not apply to the other people involved in his or her Golden Visa application. You can be covered by the program without having a bank account or making an investment.

How long does it take to be granted permanent residence?

With the Golden Visa program, getting a permanent residence generally takes five years. To live and work in Portugal without a permanent residence permit, you can ask for temporary residence status, which only takes 3-6 months to obtain.

How can Golden Visa candidates open a Portuguese bank account?

It's easy: all you need to do is get a NIF and then you can open a bank account in any Portuguese bank!

Do people with Golden Visas need to take the Portugal citizenship language test?

The Portuguese language test is a mandatory requirement for anyone applying for Portuguese citizenship, but you don't need to complete it to apply for a residence permit with your Golden Visa application.

What are the minimum investment requirements for preserving national cultural heritage?

A minimum investment of €250.000 is required. For supporting a private research/scientific institution, the minimum investment amounts to €350.000.

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Written by Bernardo Barbosa

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