Portugal’s Golden Visa program is one of the most popular residence by investment programs in Europe and in the world. The program started in October 2012 and since then more than 10,000 applicants have received their Golden Visas.
What makes Portugal Golden Visa so sought after?
In a nutshell:
- It provides a range of relatively affordable investment options for you to choose from in obtaining your residence permit.
- You are only required to spend a minimum of seven days in Portugal per year.
- It gives you visa-free access to the Schengen states.
- You can become a Portuguese citizen within five to six years.
- Portugal is a safe, secure, affordable country with a high quality of life, solid infrastructure, superb climate, and good health and education systems.
What Is the Portugal Golden Visa?
The Portugal Golden Visa program, also known as the residence permit for investment activity (ARI), is a residency by investment scheme designed for non-EU citizens.
Portugal launched the program in October 2012. The main objective was to attract international capital into the country, as it was much in need after the 2008 economic crisis. The program proved to be a great success, raising over €6 billion since then.
Portugal offers a dreamy landscape, a wide coastline, a climate full of sunshine, hospitable people, and delicious cuisine. Better yet, it provides this high quality of life at a very affordable cost of living. These features make Portugal a very attractive destination for international investors to invest in and obtain the right to live, work, and study in the country.
Furthermore, the Portugal Golden Visa program provides the opportunity to become a permanent resident or a citizen in Portugal in only five years.
Benefits: What Are the Benefits of the Portugal Golden Visa?
- You can qualify for residency by investing €280,000 which is one of the lowest investment thresholds in Europe.
- You don’t have to move to Portugal to keep your residence permit. Staying in the country for seven days on average per year will suffice.
- You can be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship in five years. This is one of the quickest in Europe.
- Once you become a Portuguese citizen, you get visa-free access to 188 countries.
Travel and Visa-Free Countries
The Golden Visa permit registers you in the Schengen Area central system. So, you can freely travel within Europe without an additional visa.
At the end of five years, if you decide to get Portuguese citizenship, you can get a Portuguese passport. The Portuguese passport allows you to travel to 188 countries without the need for a visa.
Living, Working, and Studying
The Portuguese Golden Visa allows you to live, work, and study in Portugal.
If you decide to live in Portugal full-time with this permit, then you will be required to have medical insurance. You will, however, have full access to all public services including healthcare and education.
State schools follow the Portuguese curriculum, though there are numerous private British and American international schools.
The work permit allows you to work anywhere, as well as start and run your own business in Portugal.
As the main applicant, you may extend the Golden Visa to your family members. The application process is simultaneous for the main applicant and the dependents
Following members of the family are eligible to apply along with the main applicant:
- Children under the age of 18,
- Dependent children under the age of 26, provided that they are full-time students and not married,
- Parents of the main applicant, if over the age of 65 years old.
Citizenship and Passport
You may apply for citizenship after five years of holding a Golden Visa in Portugal.
In order to qualify for citizenship, you must have:
- No outstanding tax payments in Portugal,
- Clean criminal records from Portugal and from your home country,
- Entered and passed a basic language test in Portuguese.
The Golden Visa program will not bring any tax responsibility to you unless you spend more than 183 days of the year in Portugal. In case you do, then you become a tax resident in Portugal.
Portugal has a favorable tax regime for foreigners who consider relocating to Portugal and becoming tax residents. Through the non-habitual residency (NHR) program, the country offers certain exemptions from income tax for the first 10 years of residence. The program slightly changed in 2020, exempting foreign pensioners from getting tax breaks on their pension income.
As a Golden Visa applicant, you have the right to live and work in Portugal, but there is no requirement to do so. The country offers a favorable tax regime if you decide to relocate to Portugal. With your Golden Visa, you can enjoy free travel within the European Schengen visa zone. After holding a Golden Visa for five years, you can apply for citizenship or permanent residency in Portugal, leading to a passport. The Portuguese passport allows you to live, work, study anywhere within the European Union.
Eligibility: Who Is Eligible for a Golden Visa in Portugal?
Any non-EU/EEA/Swiss national can apply for the Portugal Golden Visa.
You’re required to be at least 18 years old and hold a clean criminal record from your home country, as well as from Portugal. The funds for the investment should arrive from outside of Portugal.
Golden Visa Minimum Investment
In order to qualify for the program, a qualifying investment has to be made. Investment categories include real estate, venture capital fund, transfer of capital, company formation, and donation. Later on in this guide, you can find a list of qualifying investments.
Under family reunification, you may extend the Golden Visa to the rest of the family members. A comprehensive list of eligible dependents is listed in the previous section.
Portugal Golden Visa Investment Options: What Types of Investments Qualify for the Golden Visa
Portugal Golden Visa program offers different investment options.
- Real Estate Acquisition
- Fund Subscription
- Capital Transfer
Real Estate Acquisition
Acquire real estate worth more than €500,000 in Portugal,
→If in a low-density area in Portugal, the minimum amount drops 20 percent to €400,000
Acquire real estate that is older than 30 years old, in an urban rehabilitation area, and renovate it for a minimum of €350,000 in Portugal.
→If in a low-density area in Portugal, the minimum amount drops 20 percent to €280,000
The real estate acquisition does not need to pertain to one property necessarily. As long as the minimum amount is met in total, the transaction may include the purchase of multiple properties.
Conversely, if multiple applicants are purchasing one property of a larger purchase amount, they may also combine their investments. This means that if two siblings purchase real estate worth €1 million, they may each apply for the Portugal Golden Visa, as they each spend €500,000 in total.
*Note that residential properties in Lisbon, Porto, and coastal towns of the mainland don’t qualify investors for a Portuguese Golden Visa. However, you can choose a commercial property in these locations and still qualify.
Capital transfer of a minimum of €1,5 million to Portugal.
A minimum of €500,000 subscription in a qualifying Portuguese fund.
Creation of a minimum of 10 new full-time jobs in a Portuguese business that is owned by yourself as the main applicant.
→Create a minimum of eight new full-time jobs in a Portuguese business formed in a low-density area in Portugal, owned by the main applicant.
Invest a minimum of €500,000 in an existing Portuguese business, where the incorporated business must create a minimum of five new full-time jobs for at least three years.
Invest a minimum of €250,000 in preserving national heritage in Portugal.
Invest a minimum of €500,000 in a research and development activity in Portugal.
Are Loans Allowed for the Golden Visa Investment in Portugal?
A common question is if you can use a loan or a mortgage in making your Golden Visa investment in Portugal. Portugal expects you to bring in the minimum required amount from outside of Portugal into the country. So the minimum amount cannot be taken out as a loan from a Portuguese financial institution.
However, you can take the amount as a loan from a non-Portuguese financial institution and then bring it into Portugal. Additionally, if your investment exceeds the minimum amount, there is nothing stopping you from taking a loan for the exceeding amount from a Portuguese bank.Requirements: What Are The Golden Visa Portugal Requirements?
Minimum Residence Requirement
Portugal Golden Visa program has a low stay requirement. Portugal requires the Golden Visa residents to spend a minimum of seven days annually on average in the country.
Important Note: As of April 2020, the initial residence permits became valid for two years (used to be one year) and the subsequent permits became valid for three years each. This was due to a legislative change in the Portuguese immigration law. In case the change is permanent, it is expected that the initial card that is valid for two years will require the cardholder to spend at least fourteen days within that two-year period physically in Portugal. Then the renewal cards will be valid for three years each and the applicants will need to spend at least twenty-one days physically in Portugal within the three-year periods.
Make and Maintain a Qualified Investment for Five Years
You’re required to present supporting evidence that you have individually made the investment of the minimum amount required. As the main applicant, you must maintain the investment as long as you and your dependents hold the Golden Visa residency status.
If and once you become a permanent resident or a Portuguese citizen, the investment no longer needs to be maintained. You can then liquidate whichever investment you made.
You need to provide the following documents in order to apply for the Golden Visa;
1) Copy of a passport or other government-issued travel document,
2) Proof of evidence of the qualifying investment made by the main applicant individually:
→ If real estate; a deed or promissory sale agreement with proof of deposit payment,
→ If investment fund; proof of fund subscription from the fund management.
3) Declaration from Portuguese financial institution confirming the transfer of funds,
4) Proof of healthcare coverage:
→ If in Portugal, from the National Health System in Portugal,
→ If outside of Portugal, from an internationally covered insurance company.
5) Criminal record of the current country of residence,
→ Must be issued within three (3) months of the form submission.
6) A completed form authorizing SEF to access criminal records in Portugal,
7) A sworn declaration on compliance with the minimum investment requirements for the necessary time period of five years,
8) Documents outlining good standing with the Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority & Social Security system,
→ Must be issued within 45 days of the form submission.
9) Receipt of ARI application payment,
Unless otherwise stated, it is best to have the documentation issued within three months of your Golden Visa application submission.
All the above documents issued by a non-Portuguese entity need to be legalized. The legalization must have an apostille if the subject country is part of the Hague convention.
Any original document that is not in Portuguese needs to be translated into Portuguese and certified. The certification is typically performed by a notary.
Below is a chart of Portugal Golden Visa government application fees;
Bank Account and NIF Number
Portugal requires you, the main applicant, to make the investment from your bank account in Portugal. Accordingly, it is mandatory for you to have an account in a Portuguese bank. You must also have a NIF number, which is a tax identification number in Portugal, to open the account.
Both obtaining a NIF number and opening a bank account in Portugal are pretty straightforward. They can both be done in half a day.
Getting a NIF Number
- Get a proof of address from your country of residence,
- Bring a government-issued identification and your proof of address to a Finanças office in Portugal,
- Get your NIF number on the spot within an hour.
You can also provide your lawyer with a power of attorney and they can complete this step without you even being present in Portugal.
Opening a Portuguese Bank Account
Unlike many countries in the world, Portuguese banks make it quite easy to open a bank account for non-residents and foreigners. The banking and maintenance fees are also quite low compared to the rest of Europe. Just follow the below steps:
What you will need:
- Passport or government-issued travel document,
- NIF number,
- Portuguese phone number,
- Proof of address from your country of residence,
- Proof of income/payslip,
What you will do:
- Go to the bank branch and open your account.
Simple as that. Typically, each law firm has one or more banks and branches they work closely with. It is best to get their advice in order to keep things moving quickly.
How To Get a Golden Visa in Portugal: Application Process
The Golden Visa application in Portugal is quite straightforward. Below is a detailed list of steps to take toward a successful application process.
Step One: Decide on Your Investment Type
First things first. You need to analyze the list of available investment types and decide on which investment you will move forward with. Tip: More than 90 percent of all Portugal Golden Visa applicants have chosen to move ahead with a real estate investment. Nevertheless, the fund option also started gaining traction in recent years.
Step Two: Gather All Necessary Documents
You need to gather all necessary documents for yourself, the main applicant, as well as all those for your dependents if you have any. This step may get a bit tiring, especially with all the translations, notarizing, apostilles, and certifications. However, a professional advisor will help alleviate the boredom.
Step Three: Get a NIF and Open a Bank Account
As mentioned above in the article, getting a NIF and opening a bank account in Portugal can practically both be done within a day. This is a task that you can delegate to your lawyers to complete without your presence in the country.
Step Four: Finalize the Investment
Now that you chose which investment type to go with, it’s time to pay up and lock in your investment in Portugal.
Step Five: Submit Pre-Application
With your qualifying investment made and your paperwork ready, you will submit your pre-application online to SEF. In most cases, your law firm will do this on your behalf and notify you if there is anything missing.
In standard times, it takes roughly two months from the time you submit your documents until your appointment date.
Step Six: Schedule and Attend Your SEF Appointment
After analyzing your per-application, SEF will provide you with a set of available dates for a biometrics appointment. On the chosen appointment date, you and your dependents need to physically show up at the corresponding SEF office in order to submit your fingerprints and make your application official.
Step Seven: Get Your Golden Visa and Renew
Bingo! You and your dependents receive your Golden Visa residence cards. Your law firm or your professional advisor will collect the cards and send them your way. Each card is valid for two years and at the end of the validity period, you will renew your Golden Visa card to receive a new one.
In standard times, it takes roughly four months from your biometrics appointment until you receive your cards.
Step Eight: Become a Portuguese Citizen
After you renew your initial Golden Visa card twice and complete a total of five years, you are eligible to apply for permanent residency or citizenship in Portugal. The citizenship application typically takes anywhere from six months up to a year. Once you receive your permanent residence or citizenship, you will no longer need to maintain your investment in Portugal.
Timeline: What Is the Timeline for the Golden Visa Process?
The initial application and the supporting documents are submitted online to Serviço de Fronteiras e Estrangeiros (SEF). SEF is the official immigration and border services office in Portugal. Once they approve your application, you then need to appear for an interview in person.
There are numerous SEF offices across Portugal, and you may apply for any of them, regardless of where you made your investment. That way, you can avoid districts with long waitlists such as the SEF office in Lisbon. It can take up to six months for SEF to approve and provide a biometrics appointment date, as long as it is not one of the high-demand locations.
As the main applicant, you and all your dependents can book the SEF appointment simultaneously. After the in-person interview, you will receive your Golden Visa cards. It typically takes around four months to receive these residence permit cards.
Your residence clock starts ticking on the day your Golden Visa card is issued.
Year One and Two
Your initial Golden Visa residence card will be valid for two (2) years. In these two years, you must spend a total of fourteen (14) days in Portugal.
At the end of this period, you need to renew your residence permit. So, between 30-90 days prior to the expiration date of your card, you need to repeat the above SEF appointment to renew your cards. For the renewal, you need to re-submit the up-to-date documentation (ie. criminal records), biometrics, and necessary application processing fee.
Year Three, Four, and Five
Your renewed Golden Visa residence permit will be valid for three (3) years. Within those three years, you must spend at least twenty-one (21) days in Portugal.
At the end of the fifth year, you have three options:
- Apply for Permanent Residence in Portugal
- Apply for Citizenship in Portugal
- Continue with the Golden Visa temporary residence program
If you decide to become a permanent resident or a citizen in Portugal, you no longer need to maintain the Golden Visa investment you made in the country.
The above application, stay, and renewal requirements always apply to all Golden Visa cardholders, including the main applicants and the dependents.
Fees and Costs: What Are the Government Fees and Legal Costs Related to Golden Visa?
In addition to the minimum investment you make and the necessary fees related to the transaction of the investment property, you will be faced with legal fees and government application fees. Below, you may find a detailed list of all the associated costs.
The legal fees depend on the law firm you choose to work with.
The Portugal Golden Visa investment is quite a sizable one, so it is best if you assign an experienced law firm to take care of your due diligence, as well as the application and renewal process. The legal fees can add up to a significant amount, but it is best not to take chances by going with a newbie in the field.
The fees can land somewhere between €10,000 all the way up to €30,000 for a family of four, taking into account the complete five-year span. The good thing is, you will not have to pay this upfront, but in installments depending on the completed tasks within the five years.
We would be happy to guide you to a number of different experienced law firms in the field of Portuguese Golden Visa.
Costs Related to Investment
Depending on your preferred type of investment, the associated costs differ. Below, you can find a table that covers the costs associated with the most popular investment types; real estate acquisition, fund investment, and transfer of capital:
* Varies on the fund, it is typical for the performance fee to be between 20 percent-50 percent above a hurdle on the profit
** Varies on the fund, it is typical for the annual management fee to be between one percent-two percent of the invested amount
*** Legal fees vary widely between law firms, the number of dependents, and other variables; it would not greatly differ between different investment routes
Taxes: What Are the Portuguese Golden Visa Tax Implications?
Tax residency and legal residency are different concepts. Becoming a Golden Visa holder in Portugal does not necessarily turn you into a Portuguese tax resident.
Even as only a legal resident, however, you will pay taxes related to your investment in Portugal, as long as the investment generates an income.
If you decide to become a tax resident in Portugal, you will need to spend more than 183 days out of a fiscal year in Portugal. Becoming a tax resident in Portugal has some appealing advantages, thanks to the Non Habitual Resident (NHR) tax program.
Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) Tax Program
Through the non-habitual resident tax regime, Portugal attracts professionals and investors of high cultural and economic value to the country. The program grants significant tax savings to foreigners of qualifying professions, planning to move their tax residence to Portugal.
The scheme started in 2009 and now holds over 10,000 applicants. In 2020, the program went through a few changes, mainly preventing foreign pensioners from tax breaks on their pension income.
Real Estate Tax Implications
Buying a property in Portugal comes with a number of acquisition costs that we laid out earlier in the guide.
Real estate acquisition taxes are significant, however, the costs do not stop there. There are also annual local taxes and rental income taxes, in case you rent your property out.
Annual Local Taxes
Imposto Municipal Sobre Imoveis (IMI) is the annual tax rate that needs to be paid by property owners in Portugal. The IMI tax rate ranges from 0.3 percent to 0.8 percent depending on the type, age, and location of the real estate.
Property Rental Taxes
Regardless of your residency, the income from Portuguese property rental is always taxable in Portugal. The net rental income faces a flax tax rate of 28 percent.
Maintenance, repair costs and IMI may be deducted from this tax amount.
The rental income taxes may differ if you decide to rent out your property on a short-term basis to tourists.
If you decide to sell your property at a profit someday, capital gains tax applies for property purchased after 1988.
Statistics on Portugal Golden Visa
Below you may find the overall statistics regarding the Portugal Golden Visa program between October 8th, 2012, and February 28th, 2022.
The total number of main applicants reached 10,442 with 17,426 dependents accompanying them. These applications directed over €6 billion of global funds into Portugal.
Out of all the applications, the investment types were:
Real Estate Acquisition: 9,729 residence permits
→Real Estate at a minimum value of €500,000: 8,667 residence permits
→Real Estate urban rehabilitation at €350,000: 1,131 residence permits
Capital Transfer: 693 residence permits
→Capital Transfer in a Portuguese Bank: 510 residence permits
→Investment Fund: 198 residence permits
→ Capital Transfer + Creation of Jobs: 6 residence permits
→Donation to cultural heritage in Portugal: 3 residence permit
Creation of Ten Full Time Jobs: 20 applications
2022 Portugal Golden Visa Changes
The Portuguese Parliament passed a budget proposal in February 2020, which seeks to change the Portuguese Golden Visa program. The objective of the parliament is to promote investment in low-density areas, urban renovation, job creation, and cultural heritage.
IMPORTANT February 12, 2021 Update: In February 2021, the official changes and their timeline were announced by the Portuguese Government.
Check out our article on the Portugal Golden Visa Changes in 2022.
What Are the Changes?: Portugal Golden Visa New Rules
The approved changes refer to two different aspects:
- The required investment amounts in the various Portugal Golden Visa investment types to be raised
- Investment Fund option increased from €350,000 to €500,000
- Capital Transfer option increased from €1 million to €1,5 million
- Other options went through a change,too
- The real estate investment route locations to only cover property investments made in low-density areas within Portugal
- This means that buying residential real estate in Lisbon or Porto will no longer qualify for the Golden Visa program
- The properties have to be located in the Autonomous Regions of the Azores and Madeira or in the interior territories
Lisbon and Porto have been the most popular real estate acquisition destinations among the Golden Visa applicants in Portugal. However, the proposed changes only allow the real estate purchases in municipalities of the interior or the autonomous regions of Azores and Madeira to qualify for the program. So, this is quite a major proposal.
When Were the Changes Be Implemented?
The Portugal Golden Visa changes came into effect on January 1, 2022.
Objectives Behind the Proposal
The Portuguese Parliament chose to propose changes on possibly the most popular residence by investment program in Europe. There are a number of reasons for this proposal.
- To protect the locals in large cities from having to move out of the cities due to the rising prices,
- To stimulate investment in the interior parts of Portugal,
- To alleviate the pressure of the European Commission on the Portugal residence by investment program.
The most popular form of investment for the Portugal Golden Visa is the real estate acquisition option. The Golden Visa real estate investors have chosen Lisbon and Porto as investment destinations, with a landslide.
This potential change prevents applicants from buying residential real estate in major cities like Lisbon and Porto. Nevertheless, there are still attractive destinations among the interior municipalities of Portugal such as part of the Algarve region in the south or areas like Braga and Guimaraes in the north.
Investment options that are not related to real estate such as transfer of capital or creation of a company will continue to be available to prospective Golden Visa applicants.
My Global Citizenship: Who We Are and How We Can Help You
My Global Citizenship is a bespoke investment advisory firm in Ahmedabad, India. We help people get an additional residency and citizenship by making a qualifying investment through property acquisition, fund subscription, or other investment vehicles.
With our team of partner specialists in Lisbon and Porto, we offer our clients a tailor-made and transparent journey in their quest for Portugal Golden Visa through real estate acquisition and investment funds.