UPDATE: On February 16, 2023, the Portuguese Government announced the planned ending of its Golden Visa program, subject to Parliamentary discussion. Here’s the latest information based on our discussions with Portuguese lawyers and other experts. As of May 2023, applications are still open. Funds are the fastest way to lodge your Golden Visa application before the program ends.
Want to get started on Europe’s most flexible pathway to citizenship?
Then the Portugal Golden Visa could be a perfect fit for you.
It’s one of Europe’s most successful residency by investment schemes.
Since 2012, when the Golden Visa scheme began, over 10,000 investors have been granted residency. For investors seeking a pathway to EU citizenship, the Portugal Golden Visa is one of the best routes available.
- Fast pathway to EU citizenship – you can apply after 5 years
- One of the strongest passports in the world – travel visa-free to 183 countries
- Affordable investments with good ROI potential – no ‘cash for passports’
- Nine investment pathways available to suit every type of investor
- Extremely low physical stay requirements – just 7 days per year (great if you don’t want to live in Portugal)
- Potential for significant tax benefits with the NHR scheme
- Visa-free tourist access to the Schengen zone
- Access to Portugal’s excellent healthcare and education systems
The Portuguese government launched the Golden Visa program in October 2012, with the goal of attracting inward investment to reinvigorate the Portuguese economy after the 2008 financial crisis.
The program was a resounding success. It raised billions in funds for Portugal, while granting EU residency to over 10,000 investors.
Unlike most other golden visa programs, and residencies in general, Portugal’s program allows investors a lot of freedom, as it only requires them to spend around 7 days per year actually in-country.
So far, the program has attracted thousands of investors and provided a significant boost to the Portuguese economy.
Investors can choose from one of the many routes, including real estate, investment funds and capital transfer.
Chinese citizens have been the main adopters of the program, followed by Brazilians, South Africans, Turkish and Russians.
In 2022, Portugal Golden Visa applicants are likely to include increasing numbers of US and British nationals, due to the growing need to escape from the legacy of Trumpism and post-Brexit fallout.
The Golden Visa is also an excellent choice for Hong Kong citizens.
Hongkongers have special rights in the UK, including a pathway to citizenship.
But, post-Brexit, more Hongkongers are turning away from the UK in favor of EU member countries like Portugal, where residency (and citizenship) allow free access to the entire Schengen area of 26 countries.
Portugal is extremely attractive as a pathway to EU citizenship via a Portuguese passport.
Although the Golden Visa program is not an instant citizenship by investment scheme, it offers you an easy route to apply for citizenship after five years – one of the fastest pathways in the EU.
What’s more, Portugal has a winning combination of appealing climate, low cost of living, and high quality of life – all set within a neutral, peaceful country with a stable government, that historically doesn’t get involved in international conflicts.
In these uncertain times, Portugal offers a safe haven for you and your family.
Here at Digital Émigré, we’ve researched every pathway to citizenship available in the EU. So we’re confident that the Portugal Golden Visa offers the best all-round option to secure your future as an EU citizen.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the benefits.
Visa-free travel in Europe
Your residency permit allows you to travel freely around the Schengen area of 26 countries – without needing a Schengen visa. After five years, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship, which gives you a Portuguese passport with huge benefits.
Pathway to a powerful passport
As an EU citizen, you’ll have the right not only to travel freely, but also to live, work, do business, study, or retire in the 30 countries of the EU and EEA. That’s not all – the Portuguese passport is one of the world’s strongest, allowing you to travel to 188 countries visa-free.
Bring your family with you
It’s possible to include your family members on your application, so they can also benefit from residency in Portugal. Here are the details of eligible family members:
- Your spouse or legal partner (you must have proof of having lived together for over two years).
- Your children under the age of 18, or dependent children under 26 who are also unmarried and in full-time education.
- Your parents, as long as they are over 66 or financially dependent on you.
Excellent ROI potential in a thriving economy
Portugal’s economy is on the upswing, which offers opportunities to generate exciting returns on your Golden Visa investment.
Property has long been an interesting area of investment in Portugal, with up-and-coming regions such as Madeira having the potential for good capital gains combined with healthy rental income.
If you decide to go down the investment funds route, you can choose from a wide range of funds with different investment profiles, from lower risk real estate renovation projects with a focus on capital preservation, all the way through to venture capital funds that invest in Portugal’s early-stage start-ups.
Affordable investment options to suit a range of budgets
Portugal has a wide range of investment options, starting from a €250,000 minimum investment (for investing in art and heritage projects), or €280,000 for investment in a rehabilitation property in one of Portugal’s low-density regions.
This makes Portugal’s Golden Visa one of the EU’s most accessible residency by investment programs.
Access to a preferential tax regime via the NHR program
Portugal’s NHR tax program gives tax residents the opportunity to access preferential tax treatment on many kinds of foreign-sourced income, as well as certain kinds of Portugal-sourced income.
Eligibility for the NHR depends on several factors, including your tax residency status, tax treaties between Portugal and the country from where you draw your income, and the nature of your profession. You can read more in our guide to Portugal’s NHR.
Low physical stay requirements
Unlike many other residency permits, the Golden Visa allows you to spend as much or as little time in Portugal as you please. That can be as little as seven days each year, or you can become a full-time resident and live in Portugal. The choice is yours.
You might be wondering what the Golden Visa means for your taxes. The most important concept to remember is that residency and tax residency are two different things.
With the Golden Visa, you can maintain your residency status and the right to live in Portugal, without actually ever living there full-time. On the other hand, tax residency is usually triggered by spending over 183 days in country.
Depending on your individual situation and current country of tax residency, you could gain some advantages in becoming a tax resident of Portugal with your Golden Visa.
Golden Visa holders can access the non-habitual residency (NHR) tax program, which offers preferential tax treatment on a range of foreign-sourced income (and some Portuguese sourced income, if you meet the criteria).
For cryptocurrency investors, becoming tax resident in Portugal with the Golden Visa could be a great move. At present, Portugal doesn’t tax cryptocurrency gains, so you could become a Portugal tax resident and cash out your portfolio.
But keep in mind that the Portuguese government could decide to change this at any time. You’ll also need to consider any tax implications from your home country, especially if you’re a US citizen.
This is not tax advice. As always, we recommend speaking to an experienced cross-border tax advisor before making any tax related decisions. Contact us for a recommendation.
All 2023 Investment Routes
You can get your Portuguese Golden Visa through a number of different investment routes.
Whichever route you choose, keep in mind that you must have completed the investment before you can submit your Golden Visa application. Some investments are faster than others.
The Golden Visa program underwent significant changes in 2022. Those changes fell into two categories:
- Real estate purchase route – Several oversubscribed regions have been removed from the Golden Visa scheme altogether. This has mainly affected Lisbon, Porto, and some areas of the Algarve. The rationale here is to redirect Golden Visa capital into under-invested regions.
- Minimum investment threshold increases. These affected several routes including investment funds and capital transfer. All information in this article reflects the 2022 changes.
- Purchase Real Estate
- Investing in Portuguese Venture Capital or Private Equity Funds
- Company Incorporation & Job Creation
- Capital Transfer
Let’s look at each one in more detail.
Category 1: Real Estate Purchase
Investing in Portugal real estate is the most well-known Golden Visa route. There are several different investment thresholds available.
Note, the qualifying areas list has changed in 2022. Residential property investment in Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve no longer qualifies for the Golden Visa.
However, commercial real estate investment in these locations does qualify. Please contact us for more details on commercial real estate investment opportunities.
€500,000 threshold – standard option
This is the most flexible real estate investment threshold for the Golden Visa. At the €500,000 level, you can choose any sort of property in any qualifying area of Portugal.
€400,000 threshold (20% discount) – low-density area option
Next is the €400,000 threshold, which applies to residential real estate investment in one of Portugal’s official low density areas.
Low-density regions are defined as having less than 100 inhabitants per square km or a per capita GDP of less than 75% of the national average.
These mainly cover the country’s inland and more rural regions. Note: Madeira is not included in the low-density zones.
€350,000 threshold – standard rehabilitation option
At this level, you can invest in and renovate real estate investments over 30 years old and in an urban rehabilitation area (as defined by the local municipality).
There are four possible levels of rehabilitation, ranging from light refurbishment to total structural rebuilding. This threshold can represent good value, but it can also be fraught with complications.
We recommend that you work with a reputable real estate agent and experienced surveyor if considering the rehabilitation option.
€280,000 threshold (20% discount) – rehabilitation in low-density area option
The final and least expensive Golden Visa real estate investment option involves investing in real estate for rehabilitation (conditions as defined above), but that’s also in a low density area.
Category 2: Investing in Venture Capital or Private Equity Funds
The Golden Visa funds route is rapidly catching up to real estate in popularity.
Fund investment is typically faster, less complicated and has a lower cost of investment when compared to real estate. It’s also a very tax-efficient way to get your Golden Visa.
Minimum threshold for fund investment: €500,000
For full details of the funds process and more information on available funds, please see our detailed guide to Golden Visa Investment Funds.
Category 3: Company & Job Creation
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 option – No minimum threshold
As above, but 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.
Category 4: Capital Transfer
€1.5 million threshold – capital transferred to a Portuguese bank.
This capital can be used in various investment vehicles via the bank, so there’s potential for return on investment through this route.
The main point is to keep the total capital in Portugal for the duration of the five years until you get citizenship.
Category 5: Donation
€250,000 threshold – preserving Portugal’s national heritage and art
€500,000 threshold – supporting scientific research and development projects
At present, the donation routes aren’t widely used. But if you’re interested in one of these options, please contact us. We work with lawyers with deep knowledge of the Golden Visa program, having been involved with it from its beginnings in 2012.
We’ve looked at the different types of Golden Visa investments available.
Next, let’s look at what makes foreign investors eligible for the Golden Visa, and the list of supporting documents required.
Who is eligible for the Golden Visa?
These are the basic requirements to qualify for the program:
- Be a non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss citizen
- Make a minimum investment in Portugal of €250,000 (although €500,000 is the most standard threshold)
- Provide evidence of a clean criminal record
- Spend at least seven days in Portugal every year for five years
Portugal Golden Visa for UK citizens
Since Brexit came into effect at the end of 2020, UK nationals have become eligible to apply for the Portugal Golden Visa.
The Golden Visa is a great option if you’re from the UK. You can use it to regain EU rights for yourself and your family in the most flexible way possible.
If you have young children, their Portuguese citizenship will allow them to access the entire EU, opening up a multitude of work and study opportunities in the future.
The Application Process
- Select your preferred investment
- Collect documents for all applicants
- Apply for your NIF and open a bank account
- Make your investment
- Submit your Golden Visa application online
- Receive application pre-approval
- Attend biometrics (fingerprints) appointment
- SEF approves and issues your residency permit
- Spend five years either enjoying a great quality of life in Portugal and/or reaping the benefits of your investment while living elsewhere.
- Apply for citizenship, become a Portuguese citizen and the proud holder of a fine red Portuguese EU passport. 🇵🇹🇪🇺
- Application form
- Receipt for payment of the application fee
- A 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 (find out the best ways to transfer large amounts of money abroad)
- Proof of having made the minimum Portuguese Golden Visa investment (e.g. property deed or fund documents – your fund manager will be able to provide these)
- Health insurance policy covering Portugal
- Criminal record check from your country of origin or of legal residency of over one year (must be a certified copy and 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)
Renewing your Residency Permit
The first five years of your residency in Portugal are classed as temporary residency.
That means you’ll need to renew your residency permit several times before reaching the five year point.
At that five-year point, you can either apply for permanent residency in Portugal, or convert your residency into full Portuguese citizenship. After that, you’ll no longer need to renew anything.
The five year ‘citizenship clock’ begins at the moment you receive your residency permit. Therefore, if you’re looking for the fastest possible timeline to citizenship, it makes sense to seek the fastest possible investment option.
The funds route typically fits this bill very well – check out our guide for more info.
Let’s take a quick look at what you’ll have to do to keep things on track during those five years of temporary residency.
Years 1 and 2 – the journey begins
Your initial residency permit is valid for two years. During those two years, you’ll need to spend a minimum of 14 days physically in Portugal.
Before the end of year two, you’ll need to renew your residency permit.
As SEF can be prone to delays, we typically advise that you do this in good time before the deadline, typically at least two months prior.
It’s also a good idea to arrange your renewal procedure at a SEF office outside of the major cities. Lisbon and Porto can become extremely overbooked.
For renewal, you’ll need to submit updated versions of the same documents as before, conduct a new set of biometrics, and pay the renewal fees for all applicants on your Golden Visa.
Years 3, 4 and 5 – getting closer
Once you’ve renewed your residency permit, it’s valid for another three years. During that time, make sure you spend at least 21 days physically in Portugal (that’s just seven days per year – perfect for a nice beach vacation!)
Year 5 – the magic year!
Once you’ve reached year five, your journey is almost over. You can now convert your temporary residency status into a permanent option. Or, if you prefer, you can simply keep renewing your temporary residency status, but we don’t advise this, as dual citizenship is a fantastic thing to have.
The permanent options are as follows:
- Apply for permanent residence
- Apply for citizenship followed by a Portuguese passport
Once you become a permanent resident or a citizen, you no longer need to keep your original Golden Visa investment.
If you invested in property, now might be a good time to sell and hopefully reap the gains.
If you invested in funds – depending on the fund’s timeline – you might consider cashing out your units. After securing a permanent stake in Portugal, that choice is entirely yours.
Fees and Other Costs
Making the actual investment in Portugal isn’t the only cost involved in the Golden Visa process.
You’ll also have to pay several government fees along the way, plus fees for lawyers to handle your application.
Note: Although it’s technically possible to do everything yourself, we highly recommend appointing an experienced lawyer to handle the Golden Visa for you.
After all, there’s a lot at stake. You’re making a significant investment in a new country, and you want the process to be smooth.
- Processing: €533 for main applicant + €83.30 per dependent (Paid at start and at each renewal)
- Application fee (paid at start): €5,325 per applicant
- Renewal fee (per renewal): €2,663 per applicant
- Citizenship application fee: From €175-250
These vary according to which law firm you use. Fees over the full five years, including all renewals, typically start from around €10,000 for a family of four.
This payment is typically divided up over time, as the lawyers complete various tasks along the way.
Certain investment routes – such as the real estate route or the company setup route – will require additional legal assistance and consequently incur additional fees.
We work with several experienced law firms in Portugal, some of whom have been involved with the Golden Visa program since its inception in 2012.
Contact us for a lawyer recommendation.
Different Portuguese Golden Visa investment routes attract different costs.
In the below comparison table, we’ve rounded up associated costs for the most popular investment routes: the various types of real estate, plus investment funds.
|Real Estate Standard Option||Investment Funds|
|Transfer tax (IMT)||€28,040 (5.6%)||0|
|Stamp duty||€4,000 (0.8%)||0|
|Municipal tax (IMI, annually)||0.3-0.8%||0|
|Performance fee||0||Approx 35% of profit (varies by fund)|
|Management fee||0||Approx 1.5% annually (varies by fund)|
|Golden Visa legal fees (typical, can vary)||€8,500||€7,500|
|TOTAL INITIAL INVESTMENT COST (not incl. govt. fees, municipal tax, fund management fees or fund exit fees)||€540,540||€507,500|
How Portugal taxes your Golden Visa investment
Potential taxation on entry, exit and over the lifetime of your Portuguese Golden Visa investment is an important factor to consider when choosing which route to follow. Some routes are more tax efficient than others.
Let’s look at how real estate and investment funds measure up in terms of tax.
Taxes on real estate in Portugal:
- IMT (Transfer tax) – 2 – 8 %, depending on property value. Calculate yours here: Simulador de IMT
- IMI, or municipal tax (set by your municipality) – IMI varies from around 0.3% to 0.45% of the value of a home in urban areas. In rural areas, it can be as much as 0.8%. Payable annually.
- Tax on rental income 28% – If you choose to rent out your Golden Visa property.
- Capital gains tax 28% – payable on any value increase when you sell.
In contrast, investing in a fund is a lot more tax-efficient, particularly if you’re not a Portugal tax resident.
Taxes on investment funds:
- Entry tax: Nil
- Taxes on profit – 0% (both on dividends and capital gains, assuming you’re not a Portugal tax resident and not resident in a jurisdiction that’s classed as a tax haven)
The Golden Visa and EU Citizenship
The Portuguese Golden Visa is not an instant citizenship by investment program (such as Malta’s), but it allows you to access citizenship within a reasonable timeframe of five years.
Depending on which route you choose, you’ll have the potential for good returns on your investment.
In contrast, Malta’s citizenship by investment program has a much shorter timeline, but the amount of capital required is a lot higher.
Crucially, in the case of Malta, you’ll be DONATING capital to the government, rather than making an investment.
With the Portugal Golden Visa, not only can you generate returns while waiting for citizenship, but you’ll also get your whole investment back upon exit, typically with some amount of capital gains.
That’s five years to be eligible for one of the world’s best passports with full EU rights – plus extra income on top!
Do I need to live full time in Portugal with the Golden Visa?
No. Having a Golden Visa gives you the option to move to Portugal whenever you want, but it’s not compulsory to live there full time.
Is the Golden Visa a citizenship by investment program?
No. The Portuguese Golden Visa is a residency by investment program. It puts you on the pathway to citizenship, but you can’t fast track the process by paying more. But the money you spend on your Portugal Golden Visa is an investment that you’ll get back, rather than a large donation to government coffers (as in the case of Malta).
What are the advantages of EU citizenship?
The main advantages of EU citizenship are the rights to freely live, work, study, do business, and retire in any of the 30 countries in the EU and EEA (European Economic Area).
Does Portugal allow dual citizenship?
Yes, Portugal allows dual citizenship.
With my Golden Visa, which countries can I visit without getting another visa?
You can use your Golden Visa to travel freely as a tourist in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in every 180. This is a significant benefit for applicants from countries that need a visa to access Schengen. Brits, Americans and others who already have visa-free access, won’t notice much difference in this sense.
As a Golden Visa holder, can I work or study in Portugal?
Yes. You and your family can do both. You can also open a business in Portugal.
Is it essential to engage a lawyer for my application?
No. It’s technically possible to complete the whole process on your own. But it’s a complicated process with large sums of money at stake. So most people prefer to leave it in the hands of an experienced professional.
How long does it take to receive my residence permit?
After submitting your completed application to SEF, you can expect to receive your biometrics appointment in around six weeks. Once that’s done, SEF currently takes 4-6 months to issue the residency cards. This timeline may get shorter in 2023 if SEF receives additional staffing. The program remains highly in demand.
Does having the Golden Visa mean that I’ll need to pay taxes in Portugal?
Not necessarily. Residency and tax residency are two different concepts. With a Golden Visa, you can maintain residency rights without ever becoming a tax resident.
However, if you choose to live full time in Portugal (meaning you spend more than 183 days per year in country), you’ll be considered a tax resident and you’ll need to declare your worldwide income to Portugal. Thanks to Portugal’s NHR tax program, you may be eligible for preferential tax treatment on various parts of your income.
What is a NIF and how do I get one?
The NIF is the Portuguese tax identification number. Everyone who applies for a Golden Visa must first get one, whether or not they actually live in Portugal. Having a NIF does NOT automatically make you a tax resident of Portugal.
You can apply for your NIF in person at the tax office in Portugal. But most Golden Visa applicants let their lawyer get the NIF on their behalf, or apply for it online.
Is it better to get permanent residency or Portuguese citizenship?
Citizenship makes you an EU citizen able to access EU benefits, such as freedom of movement. Permanent residency means you can stay in Portugal as long as you want, but you don’t have rights anywhere outside of Portugal.
What are the language requirements for Portuguese citizenship?
For citizenship, you’ll need Portuguese at A2 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). There are no language requirements for the Golden Visa.
What are real estate taxes like in Portugal?
Portugal taxes real estate quite heavily. The most significant tax is known as transfer tax (or IMT), payable when you sign the deed upon purchase. IMT is typically 6.5% of the property’s value, but varies according to the band the property is in.
There’s also an ongoing annual municipal tax of 0.8%. When you sell your property, you’ll be liable for Portuguese capital gains tax. Portugal also taxes income from rentals, whether or not you’re a tax resident.
Can I get NHR tax status with the Golden Visa?
Yes. But only if you live full time in Portugal and register as a tax resident. As a Golden Visa holder, you can maintain your immigration status whether or not you’re a Portugal tax resident, but the NHR scheme only works in conjunction with tax residency.
If I invest in real estate, do I also need to live in it?
No. You can rent it out if you want to.
Can I sell my investment at any time if I change my plans?
In most cases yes, but it will interrupt your citizenship timeline. Investment funds may have a lock-in period.
Can I use a mortgage to make my investment?
You can use mortgages to invest beyond the threshold, but you must meet the minimum without one. You can borrow money from outside Portugal to raise the capital for your Golden Visa, but not from within Portugal. This is because the main aim of the Portugal Golden Visa program is to bring foreign capital into the country.
Can US citizens invest in Portuguese funds for the Golden Visa?
Yes. Due to FATCA regulations, not every fund is open to US citizens, but many of them are.
Are there any specific nationalities who can’t apply for the Golden Visa?
Citizens of the EU, EEA, and Switzerland are not eligible for the Portugal Golden Visa. All other nationalities are treated equally. Update: Russian and Belarus nationals are excluded from the Portugal Golden Visa program until further notice.
Can British citizens apply for the Golden Visa?
Yes. Since the UK left the EU, British citizens have become third country nationals and hence eligible for the Portugal Golden Visa. It’s an excellent route for Brits who wish to regain their stolen EU rights.
Can I get the Golden Visa if I have a criminal record?
It depends on what penalty the crime carries in Portugal. If the crime would have been punishable by less than one year of prison time in Portugal, then you can still be eligible for the Golden Visa. However, it’s best to consult a lawyer.
What’s the best investment route for the Golden Visa?
It depends on your personal situation and objectives. The investment funds route is the fastest, most tax-efficient Golden Visa with the lowest overall cost of investment. Capital transfer is also straightforward, but the minimum threshold (€1.5 million) is far higher than that of investment funds, with less overall benefit for the investor. You should always seek advice from a qualified financial advisor before making any investment decisions.
Before you go…
The Portugal Golden Visa is by far Europe’s most flexible investor residency pathway.
It’s the only one that allows you to maintain residency status without actually living full time in the country.
So if you’re looking to put a foothold in Europe in 2023 – and start your journey to citizenship – consider investing in Portugal this year.