Portugal is seriously considering ending its coveted “Golden Visa” program, which has been used by many wealthy South Africans to travel abroad and obtain EU passports.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced last week at a tech event in Lisbon that the program, which has been running for almost 10 years, has served its purpose and is no longer needed.
He said the program “probably has already fulfilled the role it was meant to fulfill and, at this time, is no longer justified in keeping it.”
Portugal’s prime minister said the Golden Visa – along with other visa regimes – is currently being reassessed. A formal decision will be announced once the evaluation is complete, he said. No timeline was given.
Officially known as the “Permission of residence for investment activity for people from non-EU countries”, the Portugal Golden Visa program allowed wealthy foreigners to have residency rights if they invested significantly in Portugal.
Many foreigners – especially from South Africa, China and Brazil – have used this program as a fast track to obtaining permanent residency and citizenship in an EU country. By investing – either buying real estate worth hundreds of thousands, creating at least 10 jobs for Portuguese nationals, or making a capital investment – foreigners could become eligible for Portuguese citizenship within five years. . Most have invested in real estate.
The scheme has not been as popular with residents of Portugal who have complained that it has caused property prices and rents to skyrocket. On top of that, the European Commission has also urged that these kinds of national programs – which lead to EU citizenship (and visa-free access to the Schengen area) – be scaled back.
The Golden Visa has, however, generated a pot of gold for Portugal, generating at least €6.5 billion in foreign investment.
Since January this year, the rules have been tightened to prevent foreigners from buying in major cities and to instead redirect their investments to less populated areas.
According to Global Citizen Solutions (GCS), if the Portuguese government’s proposal materializes, “changes to this type of legislation usually take some time to come into force”. Applications are always open, and “aAnyone currently going through the Golden Visa process in Portugal will not be affected. Your application is protected by law, even if the proposal is accepted.
According to GCS, the attractiveness of the Portugal Golden Visa for foreigners lies in the fact that family members are included in the application (spouse and dependent children), visa-free access to the Schengen area and the possibility of “to live in a safe country with an affordable cost of living and a high quality of life”.