Golden Visa investors sue Portuguese authorities for ‘unacceptable’ delays

Article By Uglobal Staff

By Moustafa Daly

The Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF), which issues and renews golden visas, is being sued by more than 60 golden visa applicants for delays in scheduling their application and renewal appointments, local media reports.

The news comes shortly after the SEF announced moving all visa renewal processes, including golden visa, online in order to cut waiting time and shorten queues for investors and other types of visa holders.

“The delays in processing and decision making by the SEF have long been known, having taken unacceptable proportions during the pandemic that drag on with no end in sight,” says Raquel de Matos Esteves, founding partner at RME Legal. “In the specific case of Golden Visas, the legal deadlines are manifestly and brutally exceeded.”

She continues: “We have seen, for example, that SEF has extended the possibility of "automatic renewal" to residents under the Golden Visa program. This being good news and solving a serious problem of people with expired permits and difficulties in entering the country due to lack of slots for appointments, is demonstrative of an almost pathological problem. In the wake of the pandemic, the special temporary automatic renewals and extension of validity of documents have succeeded each other, demonstrating the inability to implement real and definitive solutions.”

The lack of timely resolutions initially motivated 18 golden visa investors to successfully sue the SEF for delays in their visa issuance and renewal process. The success of these cases, as per media reports, has led to an increase in new cases being brought against the SEF in Portuguese courts, reaching a current total of 63 cases according to reports.

However, unlike other legal systems where combining several similar cases is possible, these lawsuits are judged on a case-by-case basis.

“The decisions handed down in the Golden Visa cases have its effects on the specific case, meaning that each applicant will have to go to court to enforce his or her rights, and will not benefit from decisions handed down in other cases,” says Esteves.

Limited SEF resources in Portugal to blame? 

The Portuguese golden visa is one of the continent’s most popular, and recent speculations that its end may be in sight beyond 2023 has led to a massive boom in its popularity. This, in addition to the SEF’s limited resources, is being seen as a main cause to the extended delays.

“The increase in the use of lawsuits against the Immigration Office to assert the rights of a candidate for a residency demonstrates the lack of resources that the immigration services have to respond to the significant increase of interest in Portugal,” says Sara Sousa Rebolo, partner at Lisbon-based Prime Legal.

“It should be noted that the foreign population in Portugal increased in 2022 for the seventh consecutive year and is currently more than 750,000, without any reinforcement of support services.”

Investors suing the SEF, Rebolo thinks, are to be commended for pursuing legal action against the same entity which has sole authority over their golden visa applications.  

Investors stuck in legal limbo in Portugal

What motivates many of the lawsuits are practicality on part of investors who find themselves stuck in Portugal or abroad for much longer than they expected, dramatically impacting their mobility and ability to travel to conduct business, which is the opposite of what they had sought out to do by applying for the golden visa.

“We have to be aware that some investors are already living in Portugal while they are waiting for their processes to be finished and these constraints with the SEF make it impossible for them to travel to another country of the European Union or to their countries of origin, because they run the risk of being denied return to Portugal,” explains Diogo Capela, co-managing partner at Lamares, Capela & Associados. “The Portuguese legislation provides a period of 90 days for SEF to make a decision on the Golden Visa applications, however, what happens is that investors end up waiting for months, we have cases of waiting for almost 2 years to get their residence cards,” he adds.  

The fallout of such delays is thus seen as detrimental to the program’s sustained popularity.

“It is not acceptable that Golden Visa processes drag on for almost two years after the applicant presents proof of investment and all supporting and compliance documentation,” says Rebolo. “The frustration generated, the loss of trust in the country, in its institutions and even in the providers that show their face is almost irremediable and naturally entails long-term consequences through the feedback that is shared between communities.”

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Uglobal Staff
Uglobal Staff, along with its peer-reviewed magazines and conferences series, focuses on the global investment immigration market, offering the latest trends and analyses. is a media platform built to provide professionals involved with global programs with the most comprehensive and credible sources of information in digital, print and seminar mediums. The platform was created out of the need for marketplace transparency and to more efficiently connect individuals interested in learning about the global programs - either as a potential capital source or as a solution for their immigration needs. The Uglobal publication collaborates with a network of leading experts and an authoritative board of advisors to uphold a high standard in all content delivered and events hosted by the organization.

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