New investment structures are making it easier for people from outside of the European Union seeking to live in Portugal through the country’s golden visa programme.
The initial minimum investment of €500,000 has been reduced to €350,000 for investment in properties located in districts designated for urban renewal. Other new programmes are now available including scientific or technological research activities, artistic production, national cultural heritage and small or medium sized businesses.
‘It was already the most popular scheme of its kind in Europe, but the government wants to cast the net wider,’ said says Nicholas Leach of Athena Advisors. ‘Spain and Greece launched similar visa systems in 2013 and have taken some of the market share, so the authorities are using properties in regeneration areas across cities like Lisbon to inject more interest in the scheme,’ he explained.
According to the latest figures from the SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) 2014 was a record year for Portugal with 1,526 successful golden visa applicants in total. However this year there has been fewer, with only 398 successful applicants in the first six months.
‘After the initial surge of investment into the scheme, there was bound to be a let up in demand. The demand of immigration incentives peaks and troughs, and this is why the government has shaken up the terms, to try and keep the rhythm going,’ Leach pointed out.
Overall between its launch in October 2012 and the end of June 2015 the Portuguese golden visa scheme attracted €1.47 billion of investment, of which €1.33 billion or 90% was through the purchase of real estate, accounting for 2,289 golden visas. By comparison, the Spanish equivalent of the scheme generated around €700 million, granting 530 foreign buyers with a visa between its launch in September 2013 and March 2015.
As well as property investment opportunities in Lisbon, golden visa investors have been looking at the Algarve and the so called silver coast north of Lisbon, but Lisbon’s city centre has been the main target due to the value and potential uplift for returns on investment.
Following the recession of 2008, much of Lisbon’s city centre fell into disrepair as both businesses and people left the city. Developers have targeted these areas over the last few years, renovating historic properties and even entire districts, upgrading real estate to international standards, thus enticing golden visa investors.
‘Golden visa buyers wants properties which are easy to maintain, so only new-build or renovated properties will do. Most of the city centre’s sought after districts fall within the boundaries of the urban rehabilitation area. Areas like the prime and central Liberdade, trendy Chiado and Baixa and historic Mouraria will likely see increased interest from overseas due to the new minimum investment amount,’ said Leach.
In addition to the new €350,000 investment amount for real estate within urban regeneration areas, three other non-property investment categories have also been announced. Applicants can now apply for a golden visa by investing a minimum of €350,000 into scientific or technological research activities, €250,000 into artistic production or the maintenance of national cultural heritage or €500,000 into small or medium sized businesses.
Golden visa holders can move freely within the EU and can apply for family reunification visas then after five years they can apply for a permanent residence permit, then 12 months later it is possible to petition for Portuguese citizenship.