CITIZENSHIP: Portugal set to u-turn on golden visa axe?

As published on: international-adviser.com, Wednesday 21 June, 2023.

Portugal’s Socialist Party, which holds the parliamentary majority, has reportedly put forward a proposal to amend the Mais Habitação (More Housing) Bill that will look to keep the golden visa scheme open.

The Socialist Party has made a few changes to their original plan, which is a significant u-turn from their initial idea to scrap the programme in February 2023.

The revised proposal includes that investments of a real estate nature and capital investment through deposits and similar instruments will not be eligible for the golden visa.

However, the government proposes to maintain the following investment options:

  • Job creation options (with or without company creation) for a minimum of 10 jobs;
  • Investment in scientific research – €500,000 (£393,000, $458,000);
  • Investment in cultural/artistic areas – €250,000;
  • Venture capital funds – €500,000; or
  • Business ventures that maintains or creates five jobs.

The vote on the proposal is expected to be scheduled in the coming days, with indications pointing towards 19 July as the likely date.

John Westwood, chairman of Blacktower, said: “It’s interesting to see the Portuguese Socialist Party proposing to keep the Golden Visa program despite initial plans to make significant changes. It seems they have found a middle ground by eliminating real estate and certain capital investments as eligible options. The proposed changes, particularly the elimination of real estate as an eligible investment option, is likely to impact wealth management strategies for individuals seeking to obtain residency through investment.

“By removing real estate as an investment option for the Golden Visa, the Portuguese government is likely aiming to address concerns about rising housing prices and the impact on local communities. While this is much needed for local residents, the emphasis on job creation and investment in scientific or cultural areas in the revised Golden Visa proposal indicates a potential shift in investment strategies for wealth managers. They may need to assist clients in identifying and evaluating opportunities in these sectors to meet the program’s requirements.”

Jason Porter, business development director at Blevins Franks, said: “The February announcement to bring an end to the Portuguese golden visa programme was purely that – an announcement – the lack of any wider explanation or detail meant advisers were left somewhat in the dark.

“If this rumour proves true, then it appears the programme might remain in some shape or form.”

Patricia Casaburi, managing director at Global Citizen Solutions, added: “I am pleased to see that the recent revision of the bill proposal, which initially aimed to abolish the Portuguese golden visa programme, has now been amended.

“In essence, the current understanding suggests that the golden visa programme will be retained, albeit without real estate and investments in instruments like deposits. Instead, the government proposes to maintain the investment in job creation, scientific research, cultural investments and venture capital funds.

“This decision signifies the recognition of the immense value this program holds and there is still much to be explored and harnessed, as it continues to bring significant economic benefits to Portugal.”

Robert Webb, private wealth manager for Portugal at Chase Buchanan, added: This proposed amendment makes perfect sense. One of the main reasons for the initial golden visa abolition was the impact it was having on Portuguese property prices. Removing property is likely to be welcomed internally but still leaves incomers with golden visas on proposed limited choices, though D2 and D7 visa options are still fully available.

“The impact on immigration numbers is likely to be small but there is still a small window open during which golden visa applications can be made using the current conditions. Those looking at golden visas must act quickly.”

In February 2023, the Irish government approved the closure of its immigrant investor programme (IIP) to further applications.

But overall, this comes many months after members of the European Parliament (MEPs) overwhelmingly decided to demand a ban on golden passports.

The vote – which saw 595 in favour, 12 against and 74 abstentions – followed commitments by the European Commission, France, Italy, Germany, the UK, Canada and the US to limit wealthy Russians with links to the government from accessing golden passports.

The European Parliament deemed citizenship-by-investment schemes as “objectionable from an ethical, legal and economic point of view and pose several serious security risks”.

There are still a handful of EU countries with golden visa schemes such as Malta, but the European Parliament is continuing to crackdown on the schemes.