If you’ve been dreaming of retiring or moving to the sunny climes of Portugal, you’re definitely not alone. You may have been attracted by the promise of the Golden Visa, but are you aware of the recent changes to this residency program? In this short read, we look at the Golden Visa and other options available to non-EU nationals seeking to relocate.
What is Portugal’s Golden Visa Program?
Launched in October 2012, Portugal’s Golden Visa program was probably one of Europe’s most successful. It was a way to attract wealthy investors, boosting Portugal’s economy and bringing in millions of Euros every year.
In simple terms, Portugal’s Golden Visa residency-by-investment program allows non-EU nationals to apply for residency or citizenship after five years of maintaining their investment.
They can live, work and/or study in Portugal under the provisions of a Golden Visa, initially through a one or two-year residence permit and – after five years – apply for a passport.
The scheme also allows foreign investors to make residency applications for spouses, children under the age of 18, dependent children under 26, dependent siblings under the age of 26 and financially dependent parents over 65.
It is estimated that between 2012 and 2023, nearly 12,500 people applied for Portugal’s Golden Visa, bringing approximately 20,000 dependents into the country through the scheme. Around 11,300 of the Golden Visas that were granted were down to investment in real estate.
Due to recent changes in Portuguese law, many people are under the impression that the Golden Visa has now ended, but this is not the case. Instead, there have been significant changes to the investment rules. Read on for more information, or skip to the updated rules here.
How the Golden Visa Program previously worked
Portugal has long been considered an attractive option for overseas investors. It’s got a bit of everything: beautiful weather, historic buildings, stunning coastlines, excellent healthcare, the hustle and bustle of city life and the slower pace of coastal living.
It’s also just a short flight to and from many European countries, and has a number of well-established expat communities in the cities of Lisbon and Porto. So, it’s easy to see why Portugal’s residency program has been so successful.
In fact, Portugal’s Golden Visa program was so well taken up, that it’s part of the reason the Government felt it needed to change.
Prior to October 2023, there were five ways to qualify for the Golden Visa:
- Real-estate investment over €500,000 (or slightly less if in less populated areas of Portugal or in property over 30 years old).
- Paying a minimum of €500,000 into a Portuguese investment fund supporting businesses.
- Making a capital transfer of €1.5million into Portugal.
- Creating employment opportunities. For example, creating at least 10 jobs through a business you own or investing a minimum of €500,000 into an existing Portuguese business which thereby creates jobs.
- Making donations to preserve national heritage or into scientific research and development.
It’s important to understand that while the Golden Visa scheme is still running, it now prohibits certain types of investments.
If you’re planning to relocate to Portugal, speak to one of our local iad agents to get your journey started.
New rules for Golden Visa applications
On October 7 2023, the Portuguese Government voted for significant changes to the residency-by-investment scheme. Investment into real estate and capital transfers are no longer eligible for Golden Visas.
The changes are down to the Mais Habitação (More Housing) bill, which aims to increase rental housing supply, control rental inflation, and make housing more affordable to Portuguese nationals.
Instead, to now qualify for a Golden Visa, foreign investors must choose one of the following paths:
- Employment creation of 10 or more jobs remains a viable route to obtaining a Golden Visa.
- Capital transfers of €500,000 or more into venture capital funds (without any real estate involvement) are allowed.
- Funding of €500,000 or more into public or private scientific research is permitted.
- Investing €250,000 or more to support national cultural heritage is allowed.
- Capital transfers of €500,000 or more into commercial companies, which create five or more jobs, are allowed.
If you applied for a Golden Visa prior to October 7 2023, this will still be considered according to the old rules.
Benefits of the Golden Visa Program
Despite considerable changes to the Golden Visa program, it still offers investors numerous benefits. These include:
- No need to stay in the country long term while your application for residency or citizenship is being considered. Investors only need to be in the country for between 7 and 14 days per year.
- Just five years of investment makes you eligible for a European passport.
- Once a person has obtained Golden Visa approval, they have access to 27 nations in the EU and visa-free travel.
- Investment options start as low as €250,000.
Portugal remains a great option if you’re looking to relocate and want to diversify your investments.
Why Choose Portugal?
Even with the new rules surrounding the Golden Visa, applying for permanent residency or citizenship in Portugal is still possible.
Some popular reasons for relocating to Portugal and finding your dream future home include:
- The country’s diverse landscape. Enjoy relaxed coastal living around areas such as the Algarve or Faro, a fun and fast-paced city life drenched in sunshine in Lisbon or beautiful green views in the mountainous Braga region.
- Portugal is easily accessible by air, with two major airports based in Lisbon and Porto and a smaller international airport in Faro.
- A lower cost of living when compared with other European countries.
- More affordable property prices when compared to Western European countries such as France, England and Germany.
- Tax benefits for certain professionals such as engineers or doctors.
- A ten-year tax exemption on retirement pensions for people with Non-Habitual Resident status (only valid until December 2024).
For younger families, Portugal offers the promise of a great education and healthcare system and a friendly and welcoming community spirit that can be found in whichever region you choose.
Other Visa/Residency Options
Non-EU nationals can stay in Portugal for 90 days in a 180-day period without a visa. However, if planning to stay for longer it is necessary to apply for a visa. This can be done online, via the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The two main types of visa required for non-EU nationals are a Temporary Stay Visa (valid for one year, then subject to renewal) or a Residency Visa (if planning to stay for longer).
To find out what type of visa you may require, before you make any plans, be sure to check the Portuguese Embassy and its requirements here. Once in Portugal, and if you plan to stay, you will need to apply for a residence permit at the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service.
Other visa options are detailed below:
Ideal for people who can demonstrate an income of €760 per month, show proof of a Portuguese address, stay in the country for more than 183 consecutive days in a year.
Digital Nomad Visa
Ideal for remote workers who want to live in Portugal. This offers a residency permit that can be renewed for up to five years or a temporary stay visa which lasts for one year.
If you have family living in Portugal, this may also help you obtain Portuguese residency.
As with most countries, the rules and regulations around visas and residency applications are subject to change, so it is important to consult official channels such as the Consulate General of Portugal (if you’re a UK citizen).
How iad can help
As a global property network, iad has consultants based in 8 different countries, including Portugal. So, if you’re considering relocating, our agents are here to help. They are fluent in English and Portuguese and will be able to support you in your relocation journey.
As a real estate agents specialising in overseas investment, we work closely with immigration experts, financial advisors and a whole host of professionals that can make your move to Portugal as stress free as possible.
We can help you find your dream home in the right region of Portugal and for the right price. We offer value for money, useful advice, and a network of professional contacts.
This article is a general overview of Portugal’s Golden Visa, it is not legal advice. If you want to move to or invest in Portugal, you will need to check your visa requirements with an official immigration source.