Why the Portuguese Golden Visa Program continues to be successful

For the past years, the tourism sector has been growing, bringing millions of tourists from all around the world to Portugal and making the economy grow at an impressive rate. In 2019, Portugal has won 39 awards at the World Travel Awards, and has been consecutively chosen as Europe’s leading destination in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

It is considered one of the most global countries in the world with a positive approach towards international investment. It offers a strategic location, access to key markets, highly skilled human resources, competitive costs and top infrastructures.

Further more, it is also one of the most peaceful countries in the world with the lowest crime rate in the European Union.[1] Portugal has a great quality of life, enjoys an excellent reputation and has a high Human Development Index Ranking[2]. 

Portugal is a full member of the European Union since 1986 (former European Economic Community), as well as a member of the Schengen area since 1995 and also a Euro-area member since its adoption in 1999.

Portugal offers a high quality education system. Families can choose between public, private and international schools which can be found all over the country. As far as higher education is concerned, Portugal has several top tier universities. The QS World University Rankings (2020) [3] and the U.S. News & World Report Ranking (2019) feature seven Portuguese universities; and the Times Higher Education Ranking (2019) features 12 Portuguese universities. [4] In a nutshell, studying in Portugal will not only provide you with excellent education, but also the possibility of learning the third most spoken European language in the world. 

Tourism has the highest growth rate amongst EU countries and one of the highest in the continent. In 2018, tourism grew by 8.1%.[5] For 2019, the WTTC predicts the Portuguese travel and tourism sector will grow 5.3%, more than double the European average.

 In 2018, Portugal welcomed 12,76 million tourists. In 2019, this number is expected to reach around 19 million tourists, which is excepcional for a country with a population of slightly over 10 million people. 

PARTICPATING IN PORTUGAL’S RBI PROGRAM

Portugal has been ranked 2nd in the 2018-2019 Global Residence Program Index,[6], which considers the Portuguese golden visa residence program one of the best in the world, offering low and attractive corporate and personal income tax regimes, fast processing time for the golden visa application, secure compliance and low processing fees.

The program offers the investors a path to a passport with visa free access in 184 countries. Portugal has been ranked in the 5th position in the Henley & Partners 2019 Passport Index ranking[7].

 The capital city, Lisbon, has welcomed an array of different international events, attracting business people and investors from all over the world. Lisbon has been hosting the Web Summit – the most important IT conference in the world – since 2016 and will continue until 2028; the Financial Times Business of Luxury Conference in 2017 and the Condé Nast Conference in 2018 are also events triggering international attention to Portugal. 

Following the global financial crisis, in an effort to improve the economy and to encourage foreign investment, the Portuguese Government launched a residency permit for investment program/golden visa residency program for non-EU and non-EEE citizens in October 2012.

 According to official information from the Portuguese Immigration and Border Office, from 2012 till July 31, 2019, Portugal has issued 7,738 golden visa residence permits, and 13,108 family reunification permits representing a total investment of over 4.7 billion euros.[8]

The country’s investment process is clear, simple and objective.

Due to “Simplex” – a program launched by the Government to facilitate  investment – opening bank accounts, requesting and submiting documents in public authorities has become simpler.

The most popular options are purchasing real estate in the minimum amount of 280,000 euros.

As far as real estate investment, Portugal is a safe choice. The main reasons why investors choose real estate is to have a second home in Portugal; to invest in Airbnb or tourism related activities (there is a huge demand for short-term rentals in Portugal); or to rent out (long-term rentals). For instance, rental yields in Lisbon range from 5.4% to 6.2%.[9]

 The Portuguese Golden Visa residence permit provides several benefits including: visa-free travel within Europe’s Schengen Area; a residence visa waiver to enter in Portugal; the possibility of living and working in Portugal on the condition that the applicant stays in the country for seven days in the first year and 14 days in the subsequent renewal periods; family reunification; the ability to apply for permanent residency after five years; and the chance to apply for Portuguese citizenship by naturalization after five years, provided all other requirements set out by the Nationality Act are fulfilled. 

The golden visa program brings new and sustainable investment to the country, allowing people and companies to create jobs, build new infrastructures, create new businesses, develop innovative products, renovate old properties and consequently transforming the historic city centres, along with an increment of the tourist sector.

Regarding taxation, Portugal has a special tax regime designed to attract non-residents within high added value professions, as well as beneficiaries of pensions received abroad. In consequence, applicants for a Portuguese residency permit may benefit, under certain conditions and for a maximum of 10 years, from a flat tax rate of 20% on the income obtained in Portugal.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENTREPRENEURS 

Portugal is also thriving in the European Startup scene.[10] Due to the support of accelerator funding and tech incubators, newly refurbished coworking spaces have been popping up all over the country. The biggest startup campus in the world is currently under construction in Lisbon – the Beato Creative Hub. This is a joint project between Lisbon City Hall and Startup Lisboa. The complex is composed of 20 buildings in the neighbourhood in the east part of the city, Beato. Portugal is also the native land of some high-profile well-known unicorns, such as Farfetch, OutSystems and Talkdesk.[11]

Given this evident entrepreneurship atmosphere that can be felt throughout the country, the Portuguese Government has recently created the D2 Visa. The D2 has been specifically created for entrepreneur immigrants wishing to invest in the Portuguese Startup scene. Its main purpose is to attract investment, talent and innovation to Portugal.

The D2 establishes a special residence visa for foreign citizens who intend to carry out an investment activity in Portugal. The D2 investment must be made through a company set up in Portugal and within the framework of a specific business plan, mainly from the perspective of economic, social, scientific, technological or cultural relevance of the investment.

As far as foreigners living off their incomes (retirees, pensioners or people with a recognized stable income), the Portuguese Government has created the D7 Visa. The D7 allows non-EU citizens to apply for a residence permit based on the existence of means of subsistence whose value must be transferred to Portugal. The D7 visa enables the holder to obtain a residence permit in Portugal for a period of one year, which can then be renewed for successive periods of 2 years and can be converted into a permanent residence permit after 5 years. In this case, family reunification is also applicable, meaning that the family members of the D7 visa holder are also entitled to a residence permit.

Portugal’s golden visa residence permit grants non-EU nationals the same treatment as Portuguese citizens, particularly regarding social security, tax benefits, EU citizenship, as well as the recognition of diplomas, certificates and other professional titles. Holding the Golden Visa residency permit grants non-EU nationals, European citizenship rights.

In comparison to other similar programs in Europe, the Portuguese regime guarantees a safe investment, visa-free travel in the Schengen area, and a favorable and stable tax regime.



 

[1] The Portugal News – Portugal’s National Newspaper in English, “Portugal amongst safest and most peaceful”, by Brendam de Beer, available at https://www.theportugalnews.com/news/portugal-among-safest-and-most-peaceful/43302

[2] United Nations Development Programme – Human Development Reports, available at http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/PRT.pdf

[3] QS World University Rankings 2020, https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2020

[4] Best 12 Universities & Colleges in Portugal: https://www.mastersportal.com/ranking-country/21/portugal.html

[5] https://www.wttc.org/about/media-centre/press-releases/press-releases/2019/1-in-every-5-euros-in-portugal-comes-from-tourism/

[6] Data from Henley & Partners Global Residence Program Index, available at https://www.henleyglobal.com/books-details/global-residence-and-citizenship-programs-2018-2019/

[7] The Henley Passport Index, available at https://www.henleypassportindex.com/passport

[8] Information from the Portuguese Immigration and Border Office, available at https://www.sef.pt/pt/Documents/Mapa_ARI_PT_julho19.pdf

[9] The Global Property Guide, https://www.globalpropertyguide.com/Europe/Portugal

[10] For more information on startups in Portugal: https://www.forbes.com/sites/heatherfarmbrough/2018/02/28/all-roads-lead-to-lisbon-why-startups-are-booming-in-the-portuguese-capital/#2e55218f77ea

[11] For more information about the ongoing Startup scenario in Portugal: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/best-startups-in-lisbon-2019

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About the Author

Tiago Gali Macedo
Tiago Gali Macedo

Tiago Gali Macedo is a Portuguese immigration consultant. He serves as the managing partner of NEXT/Gali Macedo & Associados, a law firm based in Porto and Lisbon with offices in Angola and Belgium.

Established in 2005, the firm offers a large variety of legal services. Its main practice areas include immigration law, real estate, project management, contracts, national and international mergers and acquisitions.

Gali Macedo is a professor at various universities in Portugal and the U.S. He is the author of several international publications and a frequent speaker at conferences in Portugal and overseas.

Gali Macedo holds a law degree from the Catholic University of Portugal and a master’s degree from Santiago University in Spain. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. from Salford University in the U.K.

Gali Macedo has been a member of the Portuguese Bar Association since 1994. He is also a member of the Belgian Bar Association.

Gali Macedo speaks Portuguese, English, French and Spanish.

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