What is a Golden Visa?
Although the past few years have attracted significant attention, many people still don’t understand what is a Golden Visa.
A Golden Visa is for people who want to reside in a country for a period of time. It is usually a visa for residency, but it can be temporary as well. Golden Visas are usually issued to people who have already invested in a country. In this article, we’re going to help you understand what a Golden Visa is, why they exist, and their main benefits. We'll also provide some examples of different programs around the world.
Golden Visa Programs Worldwide
A Golden Visa is a residency permit or visa that is available to foreign nationals who invest a certain amount of money in a country. In some cases, the investment may be in a new or existing business.
Golden visa programs are becoming increasingly popular worldwide as a way to attract foreign investment. There are many countries with Golden Visa programs, including Portugal, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, and the United Kingdom.
Do Golden Visas Lead to Citizenship?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the requirements and benefits associated with these programs vary from country to country. However, in general, Golden Visas do not automatically lead to citizenship but may provide certain visa or residency rights that can eventually lead to citizenship.
Why do Countries have Golden Visa programs?
Golden Visa programs offer a path to residency or citizenship for foreign investors who make a significant financial investment in a country. These programs are often seen as a way to attract foreign investment and stimulate the economy.
Their popularity has been increasing in recent years as more people are looking to take advantage of the benefits they offer.
What are the benefits of getting a Golden Visa?
Golden Visa programs are attractive to investors because they offer a number of benefits, including:
- Residency permits or visas for the investor and their family
- The ability to travel freely within the Schengen Area
- The ability to work in the country
- The ability to own property in the country
- The ability to qualify for citizenship in the country
Each country's program has its own specific requirements and benefits, so it's important to research the program carefully before applying.
What are the Requirements for a Golden Visa?
Below is a list of popular European Golden Visa programs and what their requirements are:
- Portugal: €280-500k into investment funds or real estate. Visit Portugal for 7 days each year (on average). Basic language test. 5 years
- Spain: €500k to purchase real estate. Live in Spain more than 183 days per year + basic language. 10 years.
- Greece: €250k to purchase real estate. Live in Greece more than 183 days per year + fluency language test. 7 years.
- Malta: has many pathways, the cheapest requires €360k. No requirement to live there. €135k is non-refundable (taken by the government and fees). 5 years.
- Netherlands: €1.25M into a Dutch startup or VC fund. 5 years.
- Austria: €3M in government Development Fund. Unspecified timescale.
- Ireland: €1M in Investment Fund, or €500k non-refundable government donation. 3 years.
What are the Main Drivers of Demand for the Golden Visa?
There are an almost infinite number of reasons someone would want a Golden Visa. In today’s globalized world in which travel is just a click away, people have many options on where they can live. Below is a list of some of the most common reasons people give for pursuing a Golden Visa:
I am worried about:
- Security/gun violence in the home country
- Political Instability
- Polarized society
Instead, I would like:
- A passport that allows me to live and work in any European country
- A passport that allows me to travel visa-free all over the world
- Tax benefits
- Free, high-quality healthcare
- A better quality of life elsewhere
Benefits of the PortugalGolden Visa
One of the most popular Golden Visa programs over the past few years has been the Portuguese. With over 10,000 applications granted in the last 10 years, attracting over €6.5 Billion in investment it's no wonder there is some hype around the program. Here are 12 reasons why the Portuguese golden visa is one of the most attractive in the world:
- Unlimited travel within Europe (26 Schengen Area countries)
- Free quality healthcare
- Free education
- 3rd Safest Country in the world
- Tax efficiency for foreign investors
- Mediterranean diet & excellent wine
- English speaking
- Voted best ex-pat quality of life in Europe
- Affordable Cost of Living in Western Europe
- 300 days of sunshine per year
- Political Stability
- Welcoming population
Eligibility for a Portuguese Golden Visa
In addition to making a “qualifying investment”, investors must:
- Not be from the European Union, European Economic Area, or Switzerland
- Have a clean criminal record
- Demonstrate a legitimate source of funds for the investment, with supporting paperwork e.g. salary, sale of assets, inheritance, etc
- Tolerate some tedious form filling, signing, and sometimes posting documents around the world
Choosing the right lawyer to assist your Golden Visa investment (see law firms here) is the best way to outsource the maximum percentage of hassle. But be warned, you can’t outsource 100% of the hassle - it will be surprisingly old-fashioned!
How to Apply for a Portugal Golden Visa
So, we’ve got your attention as to why the Portuguese Golden Visa is so appealing. But what are the steps to actually get one?
There are 5 main requirements that you’ll need to complete to acquire a Golden Visa in Portugal.
- Find a lawyer. The visa application system is complex and ever-changing. To navigate the labyrinth alone is to invite unnecessary uncertainty around your application. For a list of immigration law firms see our curated list here.
- Get a NIF (tax number). Obtaining a NIF is a legal requirement for a visa application. Your lawyer will sort this out for you as part of their package. It should take around a week.
- Open a bank account: Opening a bank account in Portugal is a legal requirement for your visa application. Your lawyer will be able to take care of this for you.
- Complete a “Qualifying Investment.” While there are technically 10 different options to make this qualifying investment, in reality, 99% of investments fall into two categories:
- Investing in an investment fund. As of the regulatory changes on January 1st 2022, this route to a Golden Visa requires an investment of €500,000. See our list of funds here.
- Direct real estate investment. Options are a little more complex than investing through funds as there are 4 options available to investors:
- No building work required: €500,000 investment: This is the default option. Any property (or combination of properties) costing at least €500,000 will let you and your family qualify for a Golden Visa.
- No building work required, low-density discount. €400,000 option: The same as the €500,000 option except the property must be in a low-density area. It can be difficult to find a good deal since this is expensive for these areas. Risk of low/zero demand when you want to sell.
- Building work required. €350,000 option: A cheaper option in return for refurbishing a property that is 30+ years old or is located in a designated rehabilitation zone. This option requires significantly more paperwork for approval and you’re less likely to find a good deal.
- Building work required, low-density discount. €280,000 option: The same as the €350,000 option except the property must be in a low-density area.
- Submit Golden Visa application + follow-up actions. Your lawyer will submit your application to SEF (Portuguese Immigration and Border Service). SEF will schedule a “biometrics appointment” to take your picture and fingerprints. For this, you must attend in person. After this your application is complete. You will be issued with your Golden Visa - a Portuguese residency permit, valid for 2 years. Every 2 years your lawyer must renew your Golden Visa. 5 years later your lawyer can apply for your citizenship.
Real Estate Investment vs The Investment Fund Option
Real Estate Investment Option
Direct purchase of real estate is the traditional route to a Golden Visa and, in spite of funds growing at a faster rate, still dominates the market.
Pro Tip: Real estate is not considered part of the financial markets which means it is unregulated in Portugal. In practice, this means that real estate sales professionals - agents and developers - are not held accountable.
Many investors look for real estate as they want to have a tangible physical asset that they own. However, there will be significant bureaucracy involved in the purchase as well as taxes up front and annually.
Investment Fund Option
The market has adjusted to the popularity of the Investment Fund route and to meet that demand a large number of Golden Visa eligible funds have opened up in the last 12-18 months.
Like most markets, a small group of these funds stand out and will take up 80% of investment coming in. As of the regulatory changes on January 1st 2022, this route to a Golden Visa requires an investment of €500,000.
Below are just a few of the advantages of Investment Funds over direct purchase of real estate:
- Regulatory protection for investors
- Professional management
- Choice of asset classes
- The ability to diversify
- Lower taxes and fees
For a list of investment funds servicing the Golden Visa space in Portugal, see here.
How to Find Out More
This has been an introduction to what is a Golden Visa and the steps you can make to acquire a Portuguese Golden Visa. For more information check out our Insider’s Guide. Or check out our continuing coverage of the space on our blog.