Portugal’s Golden Visa
With the U.S. EB-5 program on the verge of “sunsetting” on September 30, 2015, and renewal uncertain, investors are looking to other countries with permanent residency or citizenship- through-investment programs. International programs vary in their degree of similarity to the U.S. EB-5 program, with some offering property ownership options. Portugal is one such program that has proven to be quite popular, especially compared to other European programs. Portugal’s Golden Residence Permit Programme, or “Golden Visa” is a residency-through-investment program that is gaining international attention because it allows investors to apply for the program by transferring capital, creating jobs, or acquiring real estate. Furthermore, the application process is fairly straightforward, rendering the program even more attractive.
The process of becoming a permanent resident of Portugal—and potentially even a citizen—requires first making an investment. After the investment has been made, either through capital, job creation, or real estate, the investor applies for the Golden Residence Permit. If approved, the investor is eligible to apply for permanent residency for all eligible family members. Residency under the program lasts two years and can be renewed, provided the investment is sustained. After five years of residency, investors can apply for permanent residency, and after six years, can apply for citizenship. The requirements, timeline, and associated costs of the Golden Resident Permit Programme are detailed below.
The initial information and documents required for the Golden Residence Permit Programme include the following:
- Valid passport and Schengen Visa for entry into Portugal
- Proof of medical insurance
- Proof of means of income and proof of address in Portugal, showing proof of accommodation
- Proof of no criminal history
- Proof of no immigration violations
- Proof of eligible investment for the Golden Residence Permit (details below)
The eligible investment can take one of three forms: 1) capital transfer; 2) job creation; and 3) investment in real estate.
The capital transfer into Portugal must be at least €1 million, and poses the highest upfront cost of the three options. The transfer of capital must be accompanied by a declaration from a financial institution that is accredited in Portugal confirming the deposit of the capital evidencing the investor is the sole or first holder of capital, or that the investor acquired stocks or shares of companies. Further, the law stipulates that the company be either listed on the Portuguese stock exchange or, if unlisted, must be a Portuguese-owned company (proven with a statement by the company’s administration or management).
Creation of 10 Jobs:
If pursuing the job creation method of investment, the investor must show proof that he or she has created at least 10 new jobs in Portugal. Evidence of this will be a certificate issued by the social security attesting to the creation of 10 jobs. These workers must be registered in the social security system. The job creation can stem from the investor’s business in Portugal, or demonstrated through his or her investment in a company. There is no set minimum investment or type of business that must be utilized to fulfill the job creation requirements.
Investment in Real Estate:
The investment in real estate option requires a purchase of at least €500,000. The real estate must be located in Portugal, and the investor must have evidence of having “free hold ownership” of real estate property, without any covenants or encumbrances attached. This can be demonstrated through deeds of purchase.
Upon completion of the investment for any of the three methods, and submission of the appropriate documents to the regional directorate and regional delegation of the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF), the case will be adjudicated, and if approved, a Golden Residence Permit will be granted. As stated above, the investor must show that he or she has a valid Schengen Visa for entry into Portugal, and may be within Portugal at the time the Golden Residence Permit is granted. These applications are typically adjudicated within 60 days.
The investor may apply for family members to join him or her as a holder of a residence permit under the right to “family reunification” after the investor shows that he or she qualifies for the Golden Residence Permit. The following individuals qualify to immigrate with the investor under family reunification:
- Minor child under guardianship of the couple, or of one spouse, or adopted
- Children who are not minors, but dependent on the investor and/or spouse, and who study in a Portuguese institution
- Dependent minors
- Minor siblings of the investor
- Partners, where a de facto union is recognized under the law, and their children as well
To apply for a family member under family reunification, the investor will need to prove the following:
- Ensured accommodation for family member/s
- Means of subsistence
- Documents evidencing the relationship
- Certified copies of the travel documents for each family member
Once the application is submitted, it will be adjudicated within three months. The validity of the residence permit for the family member will match the validity of the investor’s residence permit. It is also possible for SEF to interview the family member/s.
The Golden Residence Permit is valid for two years, and must be renewed prior to its expiration. The renewal process consists of showing that the investments have been sustained, whether through capital investment, job creation, or real estate. There are minimum periods of required physical presence in Portugal, which is seven days in the first year, and 14 days every two years thereafter.
The following are costs associated with the application process, aside from the mode of investment:
- Application fee - € 514.80
- Cost associated with issuance of the Golden Residence Permit (per investor and family members) - € 5,147.80
- Cost associated with the renewal of the Golden Residence Permit (per investor and family members) - € 2,573.90
Permanent Residence Permit
After five years, the investor may apply for a permanent residence permit, which must be adjudicated within 60 days. For application of a residence permit via sustained investment, the investor must submit the following documents as part of the application:
1) Proof of five years as a residence permit holder;
2) Proof of no criminal activity that individually or cumulatively exceeds one year;
3) Proof of means of subsistence;
4) Proof of accommodation;
5) Proof of command of basic Portuguese language
If the permanent residence permit is issued, the holder of the permit has the following rights: education and teaching; employment; self-employment; healthcare; and access to the law and courts. This includes social security, tax benefits, trade union memberships, and other rights afforded to permanent residents.
After six years of legal residence in Portugal, one may apply for citizenship if the following requirements are met:
- Applicant is over 18 years of age and legally considered an adult;
- The applicant has been a resident of Portugal for at least six years;
- The applicant has a basic knowledge of the Portuguese language (considered as the equivalent of A2 international level); and
- The applicant has not been convicted of a crime for which the penalty is at least 3 years according to Portuguese law.
It is important to note that Portugal allows for dual citizenship, however, investors must also consider the citizenship regulations of their home country.
Portugal’s Golden Residence Permit Programme is becoming increasingly popular. The stated purpose in the law for the enactment of the program is to “promote competitiveness,” and the program is certainly competitive on the international investment immigration market. Like the EB-5 program, China has been the main user of the program, with 1,914 applications since October 2012.