Spain and Portugal offer two of Europe’s most popular Golden Visa residency options.
Let’s examine the Golden Visa Spain vs Portugal in more detail.
How do these two programs really measure up as a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency in Europe?
And which one should you choose for one of the most important investments of your life?
We’ll look at 9 important factors, as follows:
Golden Visa Spain vs Portugal: Which One Should You Choose in 2023?
#1. Range of investment options
Portugal has a wider range of different investment options than Spain.
The below table shows how they compare, including the minimum investment thresholds for each one.
As you can see, Portugal offers more affordable options compared to Spain, with the lowest possible threshold set at €250,000 for investment in arts and heritage projects.
Several towns in Spain will even pay you to move there, with a range of special financial incentives on offer to attract new residents.
#2. Application costs
Golden Visa programs typically include hefty application fees. Spain and Portugal are no exception. Overall, the cost of applying for in Spain are slightly higher than in Portugal. Here’s a breakdown.
Spain Application Fees:
- Main applicant: €8,000
- Family members: €10,500
- Renewal: €2,500
Portugal Application Fees:
- Main applicant: €5,147
- Family members: €5,147
- Renewal: €2,573
#3. Residence permit processing timelines
Getting your residence permit in hand is the date when your timeline to citizenship officially begins. Any delays to this process will delay your citizenship journey.
So it’s important to look more closely at the typical residence permit processing timelines for the Golden Visa Spain vs Portugal.
- Portugal: 9 months
- Spain: 2-3 months
Spain is clearly the winner here!
#4. Physical stay requirements
Some investor residency permits allow you to maintain your residency status without living full-time in the country.
But when it comes to applying for citizenship, things get more restrictive. Most countries want you to live there full time (at least 183 days per years) in the years before applying.
For Spain, you’ll need to live there at least 183 days each year if your end goal is citizenship.
In contrast, Portugal allows Golden Visa holders to maintain residency status all the way to citizenship, with a minimal physical stay.
You can maintain your status in Portugal by spending just seven days per year in-country.
#5. Citizenship application timeline
Citizenship by naturalization is rarely immediate.
Most countries want you to hold residency for a number of years before you become eligible to apply. Let’s look at how that timeline measures up for the Golden Visa Spain vs Portugal.
In Spain, you can apply for Spanish citizenship after 10 years of residency. Plus, you have to spend five of those years as a permanent resident.
In Portugal, just five years of temporary residency is enough to make you eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship.
In terms of citizenship timelines, Portugal is a much better choice than Spain.
#6. Global passport strength
If a second passport is your ultimate goal, then you want to be sure it’s a powerful one.
Spain and Portugal are both ranked high on the list of the world’s most powerful passports.
Here, Spain beats Portugal by a couple of ranks, coming in at number three, while Portugal is there at number six.
That means a Spanish passport lets you visit 190 countries without a visa in advance, while a Portuguese passport lets you do the same with 187 countries.
But there’s something much more important at stake than mere visa-free travel.
Both the Spanish passport and the Portuguese passport automatically make you an EU citizen. That gives you the right to live, work, study, do business, and retire freely in any EU or EEA country, or Switzerland.
#7. Dual citizenship
We talk a lot here about the value of having dual citizenship in an unstable world.
When citizenship by naturalization is your goal, you should aim for countries that allow you to keep your original nationality.
Unfortunately, there’s a large gulf between Spain and Portugal when it comes to dual citizenship.
Spain, in most cases, doesn’t recognize dual citizenship. If you want a Spanish passport, you’ll probably have to give up your original one.
On the other hand, Portugal does recognize dual citizenship. So you can reap the benefits of a comprehensive Plan B – without sacrificing your original nationality.
#8. Language requirements for citizenship
None of Europe’s Golden Visa programs have any associated language requirements. At least, not if you only want residency.
But when it comes to naturalizing as a citizen, both Spain and Portugal require you to reach a certain level in the national language.
Luckily, it’s a fairly low level for them both: just A2 level on the European Common Framework of Reference for Languages.
#9. Tax benefits
As a potential Golden Visa applicant, you’re probably concerned about tax liabilities in your new country of residence.
Some countries in Europe have special tax programs designed to entice high net worth foreign residents.
But are there any particular tax benefits with the Golden Visa Spain vs Portugal?
Portugal offers the non-habitual residency (NHR tax program), available to all new residents (if they haven’t lived in Portugal during the last five years). This program gives you special tax status on several kinds of income, for a period of 10 years.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Portugal’s non-habitual residency program is only available if you choose to live in Portugal full time.
You can also take advantage of the Portugal Golden Visa’s flexibility to carry on living in your current residency country. That means you wouldn’t be considered a Portugal tax resident, and hence wouldn’t be eligible for NHR.
In contrast, Spain currently doesn’t have any particular tax incentives for new investors or residents.
If you choose to live in Spain full-time (which is necessary if you want citizenship), then you’d be liable for taxation on your worldwide income at the usual Spanish rates.
That concludes our comparison of the Golden Visa Spain vs Portugal – two of Europe’s most popular investor residency programs.
Based on our analysis, Portugal offers a more appealing overall package than Spain, especially for investors with EU citizenship as their end goal.
Spain could still be a good option for those who simply want EU permanent residency, or those who have a particular reason for wanting to become Spanish or live in Spain full-time.
Otherwise, Portugal ticks all the boxes as the best EU Golden Visa for a solid pathway to EU citizenship.