CITIZENSHIP AND RESIDENCY: Portugal’s golden visa stays as EU votes to restrict citizenship-by-investment programmes.

As published on iol.co.za, Tuesday 13 December, 2022.

The future of Portugal’s popular Golden Visa investment programme was thrown into doubt in November when Prime Minister António Costa said the programme was being re-evaluated, but Portugal’s parliament subsequently voted against a proposal to terminate the programme. Given this recent vote in Parliament, it is highly unlikely to be closed in 2023, and still has widespread support within the Portuguese government.

This development comes in the wake of the European Parliament formally voting in favour of a legislative report requesting that the European Commission take action to end citizenship-by-investment in both Europe and third country states.

The proposed changes to the EU's citizenship-by-investment programmes are important for those looking to invest. The changes proposed are focused on preventing people that are involved in money laundering, tax evasion, and other crimes, from benefiting from such visas.

There is a clear distinction between residency-by-investment programmes and citizenship-by-investment programmes. The Golden Visa Programme, which focuses on residency-by-investment, was introduced in 2012 to help the Portuguese economy recover from the 2007 financial crisis. It encouraged foreign investment by offering residency in exchange for a large capital investment.

While there are a range of investment options that could qualify you for a “golden visa”, the most popular is a property investment of at least EUR 280 000

Opposition to the programme focuses the fact that 90% of investment so far has been in real estate rather than job creation, and foreigners have been snapping up properties in the prime areas of Lisbon, Porto, Cascais and other coastal areas.

The programme was adapted in January 2022 to exclude residential property investment in these prime locations. In order to qualify for residency through an investment in a residential property, you now need to invest in rural or low-density areas and on the islands of Azores and Madeira.

So far, the programme has generated approximately EUR 6.5 billion for the Portuguese economy and over 10 000 residency permits have been granted.

Part of the programme’s success is thanks to the fact that there’s no “government contribution” and the full amount can be invested. The GVP also has a low physical presence requirement – you can obtain residency in an EU country with only 35 days spent in Portugal over five years.

While potential investors can rest assured that there is still time to take advantage of the Golden Visa programme, we would recommend that interested parties proceed sooner rather than later, in case the policy changes.

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