Portugal citizenship by investment

Portugal Citizenship By Investment in 2023: Which Route Is Best For You?

Do you want Portugal citizenship by investment and a second passport in Europe?

In this ultimate guide, I’ll talk you through all possible pathways, including income thresholds, investment types, eligibility, and what the process looks like.

First, let’s clarify some key terms, namely ‘citizenship by investment’.

Portugal doesn’t have a citizenship by investment program in the traditional sense.

You can’t invest in Portugal and immediately receive citizenship in return.

In Portugal, everyone who wishes to naturalize as a citizen must follow the same five-year residency timeline.

The main difference is – investors can follow that timeline without ever living in Portugal.

So it’s almost as good as receiving immediate Portuguese citizenship. You can continue your life elsewhere while your investment lives in Portugal for five years on your behalf.

In the meantime, you’ll gain tourist access to the Schengen zone plus the rights to live in Portugal for as long as you want.

Once those five years are up, assuming you’ve fulfilled the criteria, you can submit an application for citizenship by naturalization.

In most other EU countries, those seeking to naturalize as citizens must first relocate to the country and spend at least 183 days per year living there as legal residents.

That’s hugely restrictive, because it means uprooting your life and relocating to a totally unfamiliar country.

But Portugal citizenship by investment programs allows you to establish residency (and start the timeline to citizenship), while spending a minimal amount of time physically in Portugal – just 7 days per year.

Of course, you also have the option to live full-time in Portugal – one of the world’s safest countries.

With Portugal citizenship by investment, the choice is yours.

What’s more, Portugal offers some of the most affordable investment options in the EU.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through all of the Portugal citizenship by investment pathways available in 2022 and beyond – so you can make an informed choice about which one would work best for you and your family.

Portugal Citizenship By Investment: All 2022 Pathways

In this section, we’ll explore all available Portugal citizenship by investment options for 2022. Most of these pathways fall under the umbrella of the Portugal Golden Visa.

We’ll also look at a new hybrid investor-entrepreneur visa option (the Portugal HQA Visa) that offers several appealing benefits over the typical Golden Visa route.

Portugal Golden Visa

The Portuguese government launched the Golden Visa program in October 2012, to attract inward investment and reinvigorate the Portuguese economy after the 2008 financial crisis.

The program has raised billions in funds for Portugal, while granting EU residency to over10,000 investors. 

So far, the program has attracted thousands of investors and provided a significant boost to the Portuguese economy.

Chinese citizens have been the main adopters of the Golden Visa program, followed by Brazilians, South Africans, Turkish and Russians.

There’s also been an upswing in US applicants for the program, as well as British nationals seeking to regain their lost rights in the wake of Brexit.

Let’s examine the different Golden Visa routes available.

Venture Capital or Private Equity Funds

Minimum threshold: €500,000

With the investment funds route, you can get Portugal citizenship by investing in Portuguese venture capital and private equity funds

Investing in funds is one of the fastest, easiest, and most tax efficient routes to the Portugal Golden Visa.

Just choose the fund you like best (you can invest in more than one as long as you meet the overall minimum threshold), undergo the due diligence checks, and make the investment.

Once that’s done, your appointed lawyer can submit your application to the immigration authorities (SEF). Investing in funds typically has a much faster timeline than investing in property, as you don’t have to jump through all the legal hoops.

With Portuguese citizenship as your end goal, time is of the essence. The five-year eligibility clock starts ticking once you receive your residence permit. Investing in funds helps you reach that point as fast as possible.

Some funds focus on residential property, while others invest in commercial property including storage, student housing, hotels and retail units. Others invest in Portuguese start-ups, high-tech, energy and sustainability projects, and agriculture.

Not just any fund can qualify for the Golden Visa scheme. There are strict requirements. The fund must be registered in Portugal and have at least 60% of its capital invested there. 

All funds in the Golden Visa scheme are closely regulated – by the Portuguese Securities Markets Commission (CMVM), the Bank of Portugal, and the Portuguese tax authority (Finanças).

Real Estate #1: Standard Route

Minimum threshold: €500,000

You can also begin your journey to Portugal citizenship by investment by purchasing property in one of Portugal’s eligible areas.

At this threshold, you can invest in any kind of residential property, from a brand-new apartment to an old quinta in the countryside.

However, recent government changes to the Golden Visa real estate route mean that prime locations (including Lisbon, Porto, and some parts of the Algarve) are no longer eligible for Golden Visa investment.

That makes the real estate route less appealing than before, although some good options are still eligible, such as Madeira Island.

Real Estate #2: Low Density Area Route

Minimum threshold: €400,000

You can save 20% on your real estate investment threshold by choosing a property in one of Portugal’s low density zones. The low-density classification is different from the standard real estate investment eligibility.

You can still choose from any kind of residential property, including brand-new developments, as long as it’s located within one of the low density zones. NB, Madeira doesn’t qualify for the low-density area designation.

Real Estate #3: Rehabilitation Project Route

Minimum threshold: €350,000

The third real estate option is the rehabilitation route. Here, you can snap up a Portugal Golden Visa for a minimum of €350,000.

To be eligible for this route, the property must either be located in a rehabilitation zone (as defined by each municipality), or more than 30 years old.

Bear in mind – you’ll have to undertake rehabilitation work on the property as part of the Golden Visa criteria. As you can imagine, getting involved in construction projects in a foreign country can be fraught with difficulty. That’s why we don’t recommend the real estate rehabilitation route.

One excellent option at the same threshold is investing in a hotel development project. Many of these are underway all over Portugal, and they offer a convenient way to secure the Golden Visa while avoiding the hassle of rehabilitation work.

Many hotel development projects offer great perks – such as guaranteed annual returns, and/or guaranteed buyback at the end of the five-year period. Typically, they also include a 7 to 14 day stay per year for free – perfect for fulfilling your minimal residency requirements.

If you don’t plan to live in Portugal but want a lower investment threshold than the funds route, then investing in a hotel development project could be a great fit.

Want more details on current hotel investment projects?

Real Estate #4: Rehabilitation in Low Density Area Route

Minimum threshold: €280,000

The fourth and final real estate route is rehabilitation in a low density area. At just €280,000 minimum, this is one of Europe’s cheapest Golden Visa pathways.

However, not only must you rehabilitate the property, you also have to make sure it’s in a low-density area in the first place.

Basically, the lower the investment threshold, the higher the level of complexity.

Fortunately, hotel investment projects also offer a good solution at the €280,000 threshold.

A number of projects around Portugal offer Golden Visa applicants the chance to invest at the lowest real estate threshold – while avoiding the complexity of undertaking a rehabilitation project by themselves.

Commercial Real Estate: Prime Areas!

Remember that part about prime locations (Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve) being removed from the Golden Visa program?

Well, you might be interested to learn that this change only applies to residential real estate investment.

That’s right, if you wish to invest directly in commercial real estate, those prime areas of Portugal are still available to you.

Capital Transfer to a Portuguese Bank

Minimum threshold: €1,500,000

The capital transfer route might be a fit for you if you don’t want the hassle of investing in any sort of real estate, nor the risk of investing in funds. You simply transfer a minimum of €1.5 million into a Portuguese bank and hold it there for at least five years.

It’s a fast and relatively low risk option, if you have sufficient funds.

The main downside is the minimum investment threshold – €1.5 million – which is three times higher than funds or the direct real estate standard route. And despite the size of the investment, your pathway to citizenship by naturalization is still five years – just like everyone else.

What’s more, Portuguese banks (like most banks across the Eurozone) will only protect customer deposits up to the value of €100,000. In the event of a financial crisis, your money might not be as safe as expected.

If you want a fast and hassle-free Portugal citizenship by investment route (with potential to generate significant returns) – then investing in funds is a much better choice than capital transfer.

Company Incorporation and Job Creation Route

Minimum threshold: Between zero and €500,000

If you want to go down the entrepreneurial pathway, there’s a Portugal citizenship by investment route for you. Portugal offers applicants the opportunity to get the Golden Visa either by incorporating a new company, creating a certain number of jobs, or investing in an existing Portuguese company.

Here’s a rundown of available options in the company incorporation/job creation route.

Standard option – No minimum threshold 

Incorporate a new Portuguese company with the main Golden Visa applicant as director, and create a minimum of 10 new full-time job for Portuguese residents. 

Low-density area option – No minimum threshold

As above, but incorporated in a low density area of the country and creating a minimum of 8 new full-time jobs.

Existing company investment option 

Invest €500,000 in an existing Portuguese company (it doesn’t have to be your own) and create a minimum of five new full-time jobs for three years. 

Although two of these options have no minimum investment threshold, you shouldn’t underestimate the complexity (and associated costs) of incorporating a Portuguese company and creating the required number of full-time jobs.

If you want to get Portugal citizenship by investment through entrepreneurial activities, we recommend looking at the Portugal Highly Qualified Activity (HQA) visa instead.

Supporting scientific research and development work

Minimum threshold: €500,000

Here, you can invest €500,000 in supporting scientific research and development work in Portugal. This route is not widely used, and does not offer any particular advantage over better-known routes at the same threshold (such as fund investment).

If being involved in Portugal’s scientific research and development work really appeals to you (perhaps because it fits with your professional background), then we recommend looking at the Portugal Highly Qualified Activity (HQA) visa instead – which has a much lower minimum threshold.

Preserving Portugal’s national heritage and art

Minimum threshold: €250,000

The national heritage and art projects route is the lowest Portugal Golden Visa investment threshold currently available. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most obscure and least widely used.

You have to choose from an existing list of eligible projects. There may also be scope to submit a proposal for a project of your own creation, but exact criteria are unclear.

If the national heritage and art projects route really appeals to you, we recommend working with a specialist consultant focusing on this route in particular.

Portugal Highly Qualified Activity Visa

Minimum threshold: €175,000

Introduced in 2019, the Portugal HQA Visa is a new breed of investor visa. It’s aimed at entrepreneurial individuals who wish to undertake a ‘Highly Qualified Activity’ in Portugal. 

As a Portugal citizenship by investment pathway, the HQA Visa program combines two key components:

  1. Incorporating a new company in Portugal,
  2. Making an investment in a high-value research and development project at one of Portugal’s universities.

The HQA visa a great fit for those with an existing background in entrepreneurship, scientific research, or senior management.

Key benefits of the Portugal HQA Visa

  • Fast 30 day decision timeline for all applications
  • Faster journey to citizenship than the Golden Visa – get your residency permit more quickly
  • Lower minimum threshold – just €175,000
  • Low risk – full refund if your application is rejected
  • Full access to the Schengen zone as a tourist
  • Low minimum stay requirements (just seven days per year)
  • Flexible program requirements – no performance or job creation criteria
  • Establish EU business presence and create IP in Europe

It also has several advantages over the Portugal Golden Visa.

Portugal HQA Visa vs Golden Visa Comparison

Portugal HQA Visa Golden Visa
Application decision timeline30 days (mandated by law)Variable, could be up to 6 months
Refund policy Full refund if application failsNo refund policy
Minimum investment threshold€175,000Variable, from €250,000 to €1,500,000
Minimum stay requirements7 days per year 7 days per year
Timeline to citizenship by naturalization5 years 5 years

Want to know more about the HQA Visa?

Who is eligible for Portugal citizenship by investment?

To successfully invest and start your journey to Portuguese citizenship, you’ll have to meet several eligibility requirements. These are broadly similar for all investment pathways.

  • You must be over 18 years of age
  • You must not be an EU/EEA or Swiss citizen
  • You must have a clean criminal record
  • You must have available funds to meet the minimum threshold for your chosen route
  • You must be willing to spend at least seven days physically in Portugal each year
  • All funds must undergo due diligence and anti-money-laundering checks
  • You must not hold Russian or Belarusian citizenship (these countries are currently suspended from all Portugal investor residency programs due to the Ukraine war)

Typical Application Process

  1. Select your preferred investment route
  2. Collect documents for all applicants (including any family members)
  3. Apply for your NIF and open a Portuguese bank account
  4. Make your investment and obtain proof of investment
  5. Submit your Golden Visa application online
  6. Receive application pre-approval
  7. Attend biometrics (fingerprints) appointment
  8. SEF approves and issues your residency permit
  9. Maintain residency status for the next five years
  10. Apply for citizenship, become a Portuguese citizen and then apply for a Portuguese EU passport. 

Documents Required

  • Official application form
  • Receipt for payment of the application fee
  • Passport copy for each person on your application
  • Declaration from your Portuguese bank confirming the transfer of funds and that they originated outside of Portugal
  • Proof of having made the minimum investment (e.g. property deed or fund documents)
  • Health insurance policy that covers Portugal
  • Criminal record check from your country of origin (less than 90 days old)
  • Authorization for SEF to check your Portuguese criminal record
  • Proof from Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority and Social Security system that you have no outstanding debts
  • Your signed declaration stating that you intend to follow the investment requirements (i.e. to maintain the investment for the required period of time)

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve examined all Portugal citizenship by investment routes currently available – including the various Golden Visa options, as well as the new Highly Qualified Activity visa.

Although you can’t get instant citizenship by investment in Portugal, you can still use these flexible options to create a situation that’s almost as good.

With Portugal investor residency, your investment lives in Portugal while you continue your normal life in your home country.

After five years (and subject to meeting all criteria), you and your family can submit your applications for Portuguese citizenship.

A Portuguese passport is one of the most powerful passports in the world. It allows you to travel to 187 countries without applying for a visa in advance.

More importantly, Portuguese citizenship also makes you an EU citizen. You and your family will gain the right to live, study, work, do business and retire freely across the 30 countries of the EU/EEA and Switzerland.

That’s a benefit well worth waiting for.

Need personalized guidance to choose your perfect Portugal citizenship by investment pathway?

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