Business
June 5, 2024
Reading Time: 8 min

Business immigration to Europe: Portugal, Malta or Spain?

The fastest way to get European citizenship or residence is to participate in an investment program. The most sought after financial options include purchasing real estate, buying fund units and business investment.

Which European country can be called ideal for investment immigration. For comparison, we take on Malta, Spain and Portugal.

Albert Ioffe
Albert Ioffe

Compared Malta, Portugal, and Spain's investment immigration programs

Business immigration to Europe — Portugal, Malta or Spain

Business immigration to Europe: Portugal, Malta or Spain?

How to immigrate to Europe by investment

Before choosing a country for investment immigration, you need to consider your family’s official status. Getting visas is not suitable since they are valid for a limited time and are not suitable for all family members.

For legal residence in the country, you need a more long-term and solid status, e.g. a temporary or permanent residence permit. Compared to obtaining citizenship, getting a residence permit and permanent residence require fewer costs and is suitable for wealthy families.

It is impossible to obtain a residence permit in Europe quickly and easily. Getting a residence permit in France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, and even more so in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark will be highly problematic, with the process taking many years.

Moreover, everything can end in a fiasco since no one guarantees you a positive result, even if you buy real estate, open a business or get a job in these countries.

We recommend paying attention to European countries with government programs for investors — Portugal, Malta, and Spain. If you meet all the conditions, you will receive a residence permit in 4—8 months for your entire family.

Business immigration to Europe: comparing investment options in Malta, Portugal and Spain

Half of Immigrant Invest clients are interested in not only moving to Europe but also starting a business there. They want to choose a proper tax jurisdiction for the company with benefits and protect their savings.

mt-flag Malta has one of the most favourable conditions for entrepreneurs in Europe and provides numerous benefits. There are government programs in operation that are designed to help develop entrepreneurship.

There are three primary forms of companies registered in Malta:

  1. A closed company with limited liability: the entire capital of the business is distributed in shares between company members.

  2. Partnership with unlimited liability: all partners are equally liable for their debts and liabilities.

  3. Limited liability partnership: each partner’s liabilities are limited by their share in the company’s capital.

pt-flag Portugal provides a residence permit for opening a new business or investments in an сurrent Portuguese company. Investors can choose an appropriate investment object depending on their budget, objectives and investment strategy.

Options for Portugal investment immigration and obtaining residence permits:

  1. Invest in a business from €500,000 with the creation of at least 5 jobs.

  2. Open a company and create at least 10 jobs.

The most common registration of joint-stock companies of closed and open types:

  • Closed Joint Stock Company — Sociedade por Quotas. The size of the company’s authorised capital depends on the field of activity and ranges from €1 to €5,000. The minimum number of shareholders is two.

  • Open a Joint Stock Company — Sociedade Anónima. This form of enterprise is suitable for large businesses. The size of the authorised capital is not less than €10,000, and the minimum number of shareholders is 5 people.

Investors can get a special tax status of a Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) in Portugal. Its owners are exempt from paying taxes on global income. Income earned in Portugal is taxed at a flat rate of 20%.

es-flag Spain provides a residence permit by investment to open a company in the country and create jobs for Spanish citizens. The most common form is a closed joint-stock company — Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada.

Option for Spain investment immigration under the Golden Visa program:

  1. Purchase shares of companies that are residents of Spain for €1,000,000.

  2. Opening a company and creating jobs.

The amount of investment and the number of jobs created are not strictly required. However, it is obvious that when considering applications, preference is given to large business projects that will bring more income to the state treasury in the form of tax deductions.

When extending a residence permit, the company’s assets must remain at the same level or more as when it was opened. In addition, the business must be successful and profitable, and all taxes must be paid on time.

Other options for investment immigration to Europe

Malta has two state investment immigration programs. An investor can obtain Malta citizenship only by naturalisation, and one of the paths is for special services by direct investment.

Residence permit in Malta for tax optimisation. Malta is one of six EU countries with a VAT below 20%. Simultaneously, you become a tax resident of the country, and you also rent a property in Malta worth €12,000 per year.

Malta does not have taxes on gifts, inheritance and, in some cases, property.

Another significant advantage of Malta’s tax system is that you can be a tax resident even if you spend less than 183 days in the country. To do this, you need to obtain domicile status.

Permanent residence in Malta is granted to investors who fulfil four conditions:

  1. Rent or buy housing in the country. The rental price starts from €10,000 per year in the south of Malta or the island of Gozo and €12,000 in the north or centre of the country. The minimum purchase price is €300,000 in the south of Malta or Gozo and rises to €370,000 in the north or centre of the country.

  2. Pay a state contribution: €58,000 when renting a home and €28,000 when buying.

  3. Pay an administrative fee of €40,000.

  4. Make a charitable donation of €2,000.

The investor also confirms that he owns assets worth at least €500,000. Of these, €150,000 must be liquid financial assets.

George, 32

A businessman from Ukraine

Malta permanent residents for expanding business and improving life quality for all family members

George and Catherine have been thinking about relocating and obtaining status in another country. They had a prosperous business in Ukraine and were looking for a new opportunity to expand. Furthermore, they considered relocation as an investment in their children’s future.

We drew the client’s attention to Malta’s state permanent residence program. As a result, George decided that this particular program was the optimal solution to his problems.

Learn a case

Malta citizenship by naturalisation for special services by direct investment is also available. The applicant first receives a residence permit and passes a Due Diligence check. After a year or three years, he gets the opportunity to apply for citizenship.

To obtain a passport, an investor needs to:

  1. Rent or buy housing on the island. Rental price starts at €16,000 and purchases are around €700,000.

  2. Make a non-refundable contribution to the state fund of €600,000 if they apply for citizenship three years after the residence permit and from €750,000 a year later.

  3. Make a charitable donation of €10,000.

Portugal residency by investment. The Portuguese government offers a maximum of investment options to the countries we compare. The most popular of them are related to real estate.

Portugal real estate investment options:

  1. Purchase of any residential or commercial property from €500,000.

  2. Purchase objects over 30 years old that require reconstruction from €350,000.

Since 2022, residential real estate is allowed to be bought only in thу country’s interior regions and autonomous areas like Madeira and the Azores. It is no longer possible to obtain a residence permit in Portugal to purchase residential property in large and coastal cities popular among tourists, such as Lisbon, Cascais, Porto and others. Commercial property is not subject to limitations.

To get Portugal residence by investment, applicants can also:

  1. Capital transfer to Portugal for €1.5 million.

  2. Buy shares in investment funds for €500,000.

  3. Finance scientific research from €500,000.

  4. Invest in the restoration of national heritage from €250,000.

Spanish residence permit program confers investor and his family members' residential status in exchange for property, business, and securities investments. Buying property is the most sought after option in the Spanish investment program. The residence permit is issued for a year and can be renewed twice for 2 years. After 5 years, the property can be sold, and the investment returned to you.

Spanish resident permit program options:

  • Purchase of residential, commercial real estate or land in the amount of €500,000.

  • Deposit in one of the banks of Spain for €1,000,000.

  • Purchase of government bonds for €2,000,000.

In addition to investments, applicants for a residence permit need to confirm their financial solvency. An amount at least 4 times the annual minimum wage must be transferred to a Spanish bank account.

Ultimate comparison of Golden Visa programs

Practical Guide

Ultimate comparison of Golden Visa programs

Costs of investment immigration to Europe under programs in Malta, Portugal and Spain

From the perspective of the costs of obtaining a status, the permanent residence program in Malta looks preferable: an investor spends a minimum of €150,000.

In Portugal, applicants are offered seven investment options. The minimal investment opportunity is $250,000 in culture and art. But this option is not in demand at all. The most popular choice is a real estate purchase costing $350,000, reducing expenses by 20% for property in low-density areas.

Immigration by investment in Spain will cost from €500,000 as that’s how much you need to buy liquid real estate.

In all three countries, investments are returnable: you need to own assets for 5 years, after which they can be sold.

Costs of participation in the residence programs through real estate investments

Malta permanent residence

Portugal Golden Visa

Spain Golden Visa

Rent

Purchase

€50,000
+Rental costsIf in the south of Malta or Gozo

€60,000+
Rental costsIf in the north or centre of Malta

€40,000
Administration fee

€58,000
Contribution fee

+ €7,500 per each parent or grandparent

€2,000
Charitable donation

€300,000+
Purchase priceIf in the south of Malta or Gozo

€370,000+
Purchase priceIf in the north or centre of Malta

€40,000
Administration fee

€28,000
Contribution fee

+ €7,500 per each parent or grandparent

€2,000
Charitable donation

€280,000+
Purchase priceIf commercial, over 30 years, in a low density area

€350,000+
Purchase priceIf over 30 years

€400,000+
Purchase priceIf commercial and in a low density area

€500,000+
Purchase priceIf none of the above

€500,000+
Purchase price

Government fees:

  1. Portugal Golden Visa: application fee — €533 per person; residence permit card issuance fee — €5,340 per person.

  2. Spain Golden Visa: application fee — €975; residence permit card issuance fee — €5,000.

Taxes:

  1. Malta permanent residence (Purchase of real estate) — 5% of the real estate value.

  2. Portugal Golden Visa — 6 to 8% of the real estate value.

  3. Spain Golden Visa — 7 to 12% of the transaction amount for new buildings$ 6 to 10% of the cadastral value for secondary housing; up to 25% for commercial real estate.

Other expenses that are not regulated by law:

  1. Malta permanent residence (Rent a property): medical insurance — €400+ per person; translation and apostille of documents, notary fee — €4,000+.

  2. Malta permanent residence (Purchase of real estate): medical insurance — €400+ per person.

  3. Portugal Golden Visa: medical insurance — €400+ per person.

  4. Spain Golden Visa: medical insurance — €400+ per person.

Investors choose insurers, translation agencies and notary services themselves. It is not stated in the programs’ terms which companies investors should turn to.

Family members who can immigrate with the investor

Malta permanent residence program enables you to have children, parents, and grandparents of any age in the application. But you can’t bring siblings with you as in the Malta residence permit program.

Each Malta investment program allows participation for not being a married couple.

In all cases, children over 18 years old and parents and grandparents should be principally dependent on the principal applicant and provide proving documents.

Who can participate in the investment programs with the main applicant

Country and status

Spouse

Children

Parents

Grandparents

Siblings

Yes

Including common-law marriage

Yes

Under 25 years old

Yes

Without age restrictions

Yes

Without age restrictions

Yes

Without age restrictions

Yes

Including common-law marriage

Yes

Without age restrictions

Yes

Without age restrictions

Yes

Without age restrictions

No

Yes

Including common-law marriage

Yes

Under 29 years old

Yes

Over 55 years old

Yes

Over 55 years old

No

Yes

Yes

Under 26 years old

Yes

Financially dependent if younger than 65

No

No

Yes

Yes

Without age restrictions

Yes

Without age restrictions

Yes

Without age restrictions

No

Benefits of investment and business immigration to Europe

Time of getting a residence permit. Spain and Portugal are in the lead regarding registration time as applications for a residence permit are considered 3 to 8 months. The cards themselves are prepared within a month.

3 to 8 months

Terms of obtaining a residence permit in Portugal and Spain

Malta citizenship by naturalisation for particular services by direct investment offers two terms of obtaining a passport depending on the investment route — one and three years. It’s quite a fast process, considering general naturalisation in EU countries takes 5—10 years.

3—4 months take to obtain a Malta temporary residence permit. Application for Maltese permanent residence is considered within 4—6 months. Another month or two is spent on document preparation.

Visa-free travel across the Schengen Area and other countries. Residents of Malta, Portugal and Spain have the freedom of travel within the Schengen Area, which includes 26 European countries. The visa-free stay in any region’s country is 90 days in half a year.

Malta citizenship provides investors with visa-free entry to more than 180 countries. The list includes the Schengen states, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong. It is enough to get an Electronic Travel Authorization to visit Canada and the USA.

Residing in the EU. Permanent residency allows living in any EU country. Residence permit cards give such an opportunity only in the country which issues the resident cards.

Prospect of obtaining EU citizenship. Malta permanent residence is granted for life. To obtain citizenship, you must apply separately and pass an English or Maltese language proficiency test.

Conditions for obtaining a European passport in Portugal are similar. A residence permit allows you to apply for citizenship after 5 years of residence, provided that you know Portuguese at the basic A2 level.

A residence permit in Spain, combined with living in the country for 10 years, gives you the right to apply for citizenship.

Andrew, 31 years old

IT company owner

Portuguese citizenship after a “Golden Visa”

Our client Andrew wants to promote his services to European markets. He needs to visit Europe often and open a bank account. He also does not want to constantly apply for or renew visas and control the number of days spent in the Schengen area.

Under the Portugal Golden Visa Program, he can get an EU passport after 5 years of residency. At the same time, it is not required to live in the country for 183 days a year, and the investment amount is from €500,000.

Andrew was in no hurry to obtain a second citizenship, so he was quite satisfied with the period of 5 years. Moreover, the program solved all his main tasks at this stage of life.

Learn a case

How to choose the best country for investment immigration

Malta, Portugal, and Spain have the same living standards and occupy high European and world rankings positions. For example, in the Prosperity Index ranking from the Legatum Institute in 2021, Spain ranked 24th, Malta — 25th, and Portugal — 28th.

Malta, Spain and Portugal are southern countries with a friendly culture, a high level of security, and a mild climate. It should be noted that Malta is chosen mainly by people who want to connect to the UK, as British culture is actively developed on the island.

We will not draw unequivocal conclusions since the programs of all three countries address various issues and problems. However, as a versatile option that suits most families and is the most popular, we recommend paying attention to the Malta Permanent Residence Program.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence by investment programs in the EU, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Take advantage of our global 15-year expertise — schedule a meeting with our investment programs experts.

Ultimate comparison of Golden Visa programs

Practical Guide

Ultimate comparison of Golden Visa programs

Frequently asked questions

  • How can I legally immigrate to Europe?

    The fastest and easiest way is to participate in government investment programs. We recommend paying attention to Malta, Portugal and Spain. If you meet all the conditions, you will receive a residence permit in 5—6 months for your entire family.

  • How much are Europe's immigration investments?

    Depends on the country’s investment program and options.

    For instance, Portugal offers seven opportunities to invest:

    1. Business investment — €500,000.

    2. Capital transfer — €1,500,000.

    3. Buying property — €280,000.

    4. Purchasing units in investment funds — €500,000.

    5. Supporting culture and art — €250,000.

    6. Investment in researching projects — €500,000.

    7. Opening a company and creating 10 job positions.

  • Which European country gives a residence permit by buying a property?

    Malta, Portugal and Spain offer to get a residence permit by purchasing a property.

    In Malta, you need to rent or buy housing. It will cost at least €10,000 per year when renting or €300,000 when buying. But that’s not the only investment condition.

    In Portugal, applicants are offered two real estate investment options. If you buy a property for restoration, the minimum investment amount is €350,000. New properties must cost at least €500,000.

    Immigration by investment in Spain costs from €500,000 as that’s how much you need to buy liquid real estate.

  • Where can I get citizenship easily?

    Malta citizenship by naturalisation for special services by direct investment confers two investment routes of obtaining a Malta passport during one or three years.

    Conditions for obtaining a Portuguese passport include 5 years of holding a residence permit and knowledge of Portuguese at the basic A2 level.

    A residence permit in Spain, combined with living in the country for 10 years, gives you the right to apply for citizenship.

  • Is it necessary to live in the country when immigrating by investment?

    Under the terms of the Portuguese program, its participants spend 7 days a year in the country. If you do not plan to reside in Europe permanently, you can go with the whole family on vacation for a week.

    According to the Spanish program, you need to spend 1 day in the country.

    As for Malta, there are no such requirements for permanent residence holders for investment. It is not required to live in the country.

  • What is the best European country to immigrate to?

    Malta, Spain and Portugal are southern countries with a friendly culture, a high level of security, and a mild climate. Malta is chosen mainly by people who want to connect to the UK, as British culture is actively cultivated on the island.We will not draw unequivocal conclusions since the programs of all three countries address various issues and problems. However, as a versatile option that suits most families and is the most popular, we recommend that you pay attention to the permanent residence program in Malta.