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Is a Portugal Golden Visa Right For You?

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In recent years, 'golden visas' have become a popular option for those wishing to move to a new country via an investment route.

If you have the required amount of money to invest in the economy of your target country, these visa routes will allow you to do so in exchange for residence and eventual citizenship.

While it's far from the only country to use a visa offering to attract investment, the Portugal golden visa has proven to have a wide-ranging appeal. While it's easy to see why Portugal would be popular as a destination, the terms offered by its investment visas are equally tempting, combining relatively low investment amounts with very short minimum residence requirements.

The rules can vary depending on your country of origin, and US citizens should engage a Portuguese immigration lawyer, who can make the entire process much smoother.

Although there are several investment types, each with its own minimum amount and specific terms, the lowest amount you'll need to invest is €250,000. Below, we're going to list the minimum investment amount for each of the main investment routes, along with any specific conditions.

The minimum amounts are as below:

Donation route: If you choose to make a donation to an organization based in Portugal, the amount you need to give differs based on the organization's sector. For scientific research or technological enterprises, you'll need to give a minimum donation of €500,000. If you choose to make a donation to a heritage or arts organization, however, you will only need to given €250,000, which makes this the least costly way to gain the golden visa.

Fund Subscription: If you wish to invest in a hedge fund based in Portugal, you will need to invest a minimum amount of €500,000.

Capital transfer route: If you choose to directly transfer funds into the Portuguese banking system, you will need to transfer a minimum amount of €1.5 million to obtain a visa in this manner.

Job Creation route: The number of jobs you need to create through this route will depend on whether you intend to create a new business or invest in a Portuguese business that already exists. In either case, the jobs will need to be worth a minimum of €500,000. If you are starting your own business, you'll need to create a minimum of 10 jobs in order to qualify. If you choose to invest in an existent business, the €500,000 will be used to create a minimum of 5 jobs, lasting at least 3 years on a full-time basis.

Real Estate route: for this route, the amount you need to invest depends on the type of property you intend to purchase. For most modern properties, you will need to spend a minimum of €500,000. If the property is more than 30 years old, and is situated in one of Portugal's urban rehabilitation zones, then the minimum will drop to €350,000. If you choose this type of property, however, you should note that you will need to commit to refurbishing the property and as such, will need to ensure you have the additional funds to do so.

As well as the low cost, Portugal's terms for minimum residence and it's location within Europe are also a great benefit to those considering this visa route.

In order to gain residence via a golden visa in Portugal, you'll need to maintain your investment (and as a result, your visa) for 5 years. However, within those 5 years, you'll only need to be resident in Portugal for an average of 7 days per year. This is ideal for those who prefer the option of maintaining another residence before they gain Portuguese citizenship.

Once you meet the residency requirements and are able to gain citizenship, Portugal's membership of the European Union means that you will be able to take advantage of the EU's free movement rules within the 26 Schengen area countries.

Although eligibility for this visa type is fairly simple, there are a few factors to consider when applying, as well as some processes to follow in order for your investment to be eligible.

Whichever investment route you choose, you'll need to store the required funds within a Portuguese bank account. In order to open an account with a Portuguese bank, you'll need to obtain an NIF number, which is a Portuguese tax identification number. Once you have obtained this, you'll be eligible to open the account and can transfer the funds needed for your investment.

Applicants for this visa type should have a clean criminal record, which you'll need to provide proof of to the relevant Portuguese authorities. In addition, you'll need to be over the age of 18, and from a country that is not part of the European Union, a Swiss national, or a country that is part of the European Economic Area. Some of these elements may require documentation in order to evidence them to the proper authorities. If this is the case, it is best to ensure that any documentation used is acquired within 3 months of your application, as recent documentation will be more likely to be accepted. If the documents are acquired from outside Portugal, you may also have to have them notarized to ensure their validity.

Once your documentation is in place and you have the required funds available to you, you can make your application through the ARI portal. This is an online portal controlled by the Portuguese border agencies. At this point, you'll also need to pay the relevant fees to ensure your application is processed. The fees are as follows.

Initial fee: €5325 per person.

Processing fee: €533 for the main applicant, €83 per dependent.

Renewal fees: €2663 per person plus the above processing fees.

While the online nature of the application means it can be conducted personally, it is not always a straightforward process and, in some cases, can take up to 10 months to complete. As a result, it is recommended that you seek the aid of a legal expert who has experience dealing with the immigration system in Portugal who will be able to ensure that the process runs smoothly.

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