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Second citizenship

Spain vs Portugal golden visa: which residency by investment program to choose

Both Spanish and Portuguese golden visas are quite attractive investment programs. They offer the opportunity to travel to the Schengen countries visa-free and get European residency not only for an investor but for family members.

It takes less time to obtain Spain residency by investment, while the Portugal golden visa program implies a faster way to EU citizenship. Depending on your priority, one of these programs may be more advantageous in your particular case.

Golden visa Spain vs Portugal

The Spain and Portugal golden visa programs allow wealthy people to obtain an EU country's residence permit by investment. Investors get the possibility to travel in the Schengen Area without visas, develop their business on the international scene, optimise taxation, and provide their relatives with access to high-quality healthcare and educational systems. 

Requirements for investors to get Portugal and Spain golden visas

To obtain Portugal or Spain residency by investment, one must be eligible for the golden visa program, choose an investment option and fulfil the condition.

To be eligible for the Spain or Portugal golden visa program, the investor must be:

  • over 18 years old;
  • with proven legal income; 
  • with valid medical insurance; 
  • with investment funds originating outside of the country whose residence permit the investor wants to obtain;
  • without any debt in the country whose residence permit the investor wants to get;
  • without a criminal record;
  • without rejections of Schengen visas.

The Spain residence permit by investment program also requires that the candidate confirms their financial solvency. In 2022, the minimum monthly income for the main applicant is €2316.08. Each family member will need an additional €579.02 per month.

The amount is based on a special IPREM indicator. The acronym stands for Indicador Público de Renta de Efectos Múltiples, which can be translated as “Public Income Indicator”. In 2022, IPREM is €579.02. The minimum monthly income is calculated as 400% of IPREM per month for the main applicant and an additional 100% of IPREM for each family member.

Ways to obtain Portugal and Spain residency by investment

€250,000+
In Portugal
€500,000+
In Spain

Under the Portugal Golden Visa program, the threshold for participating is twice as low as under the Spain Golden Visa program. The Portugal program offers more investment options than the Spanish one: eight and six, respectively.

The most affordable option within the Portuguese residency program is a contribution of €250,000 to the culture, art or national heritage. The Spanish residency may be obtained by a minimum investment of €500,000 in real estate. 

Investment options under the Portugal and Spain golden visa programs 

Investment amountWhat to invest in
Under the Portuguese programUnder the Spanish program
€500,000+Real estate under construction or built less than 30 years ago. If residential, located on the islandsMadeira and Azores or in some interior territories of Portugal;

Shares of investment funds with at least 60% of investments made in commercial companies headquartered in the national territory;

Research programs participating in the national science and technology program;

Business followed by the creation of at least 5 jobs in Portugal
Real estate of any type in any region of the country
UndefinedBusiness followed by the creation of at least 10 jobs in Portugal Business projects of interest to Spain
€250,000+Culture, art or reconstruction of the national heritage
€280,000+Commercial property over 30 years old or included in the renovation program that is located in areas with low population density
€350,000+Real estate older than 30 years or located in certainredevelopment areas.

If residential, located on the islandsMadeira and Azores or in some interior territories of Portugal
€400,000+Commercial property under construction or built less than 30 years ago that is located in low-density areas
€1,000,000+Deposit in a Spanish bank;

Shares of Spanish companies;

Shares of investment or venture funds
€1,500,000+Deposit in a Portuguese bank
€2,000,000+Government bonds

Both the Portuguese and Spanish golden visa programs provide the possibility of returning the investment after 5 years. Under the Spanish program, this rule applies only to those who have lived in Spain for these five years. The investment made for obtaining a Portuguese residence permit can be returned without moving to Portugal.

The most popular investment option that is most often chosen to obtain a Portuguese or Spanish residence permit is investing in real estate. The minimum investment under the programs is €280,000 in Portugal and €500,000 in Spain.

Even though since 2022, a Portuguese residence permit cannot be obtained by investing in residential properties in popular large and coastal cities, interest in buying property in Portugal has not much decreased. Real estate purchase is still preferred by 77% of investors who apply for a residence permit in Portugal by investment. 

How a large family obtained a residence permit in Portugal by buying a villa

A married couple with three children of different ages wanted to obtain a residence permit in a European country to move to a warm country with a high standard of living, travel freely around the EU and optimise taxation.

Given the family’s combination of conditions and preferences, the Portuguese and the Spanish golden visa programs best suited their case. After comparing the pros and cons of both programs, the family chose to buy a property in Portugal and get Portuguese resident permits.

Case study

Family eligibility for Spain and Portugal investor visas

Both programs apply to the investor's close relatives: their spouse, children and parents. However, there are some differences in who exactly can apply for a residence permit in the country along with the main applicant.

Family members eligibility

Family memberPortugal Golden Visa programSpain Golden Visa program
SpouseOf any sex, if officially married;

Not necessarily officially married if the sex is different
Of any sex;

Not necessarily officially married
Children under 18 yearsFinancially dependent on the investor
Children over 18 yearsUp to 26 years old;

Students;

Registered at the same address as the main applicant;

Financially dependent on the investor
No age limit;

Not married;

Without children;

Financially dependent on the investor or under their guardianship
ParentsNo age limit;

Financially dependent on the investor
SiblingsUnder 26 years old;
In the investor’s custody
Not eligible

Citizenship prospects after Portugal and Spain golden visas

After holding a residence permit in Portugal or Spain for 5 years, different ways open up for investors. The path to Portuguese citizenship does not require mandatory relocation to the country and is two times shorter.

The Portuguese legislation allows dual citizenship, while the Spanish does not. If an investor gets Spanish citizenship, they have to renounce their first citizenship.

The path to Portugal citizenship

1
Portugal residency obtainment
2
+ 5 years
Application for citizenship or permanent residence

The investor may apply for Portuguese citizenship by naturalisation after continuously holding a Portuguese residence permit for 5 years. This can be done immediately, bypassing the stage of a permanent residence permit. 

To apply for Portugal citizenship, the investor does not need to move to the country. It is enough that they spend at least 7 days per year in Portugal in total. It is also necessary to pass a Portuguese language A2 test.

The path to Spain citizenship

1
Spain residency
obtainment
2
+ 5 years
Application for permanent residence
3
+ 5 years
Application for citizenship

Spanish citizenship, however, can not be immediately acquired after 5 years of holding a residence permit in Spain. First, the investor must obtain a permanent residence permit. To do this, they must live in Spain for all these 5 years, and during this period, they may not leave Spain for more than 10 months.

After obtaining a permanent residence permit, the investor needs to continue to live in Spain for another 5 years and pass the Spanish language test at level A2. Only after that one can apply for Spanish citizenship.

Portuguese citizenship by investment after 5 years of holding a golden visa

Portugal is recognised as one of the best countries for expats making its citizenship a highly attractive option

Portugal and Spain: among the most popular golden passport countries

Generally, the experience of living in Portugal and Spain is quite similar: both countries provide a very high standard of living. However, Spain tends to be ranked below Portugal in a few international ratings

Spain residency by investment in real estate

To obtain a Spanish residency by investment, one can buy a property in any region of the country. This is the most popular investment option under the Spain golden visa program

Quality and cost of living in Portugal and Spain

Portugal is widely recognised as one of the world’s best places for immigration and provides a very high standard of living. It was the only European country among the top 10 best expat destinations according to the InterNations rating.

Likewise, Spain is known for its high living standards and occupies high European and world ranking positions. In the Legatum Prosperity Index, Spain and Portugal are ranked 24th and 28th, respectively. 

However, Portugal remains one of the cheapest countries in the EU. The average consumer prices in Portugal are 12,74% lower than in Spain, excluding rent.

Cost of living comparison between Portugal and Spain

Cost itemPortugalSpain
A single person estimated monthly costs without rent€542€631
Private preschool, full-day for 1 child, monthly€336€358
Basic utilities for an average apartment, monthly€105€120
Three-course meal for 2 people at a mid-range restaurant€35€50
Price per square metre to buy an apartment in the city centre€2,937€3,031

Data source: numbeo.com

The experience of living in Portugal and Spain is quite similar in terms of climate, lifestyle, food, landscapes and people. Nevertheless, Spain is ranked below Portugal in the ratings assessing the level of peacefulness and safety in countries.

Both countries are considered good places to spend your retirement there. However, Portugal consistently outperforms Spain in the ratings of attractive countries for retirees due to the best balance between price and quality of life.

For the 15 years that I have linked my life with Portugal, I have never regretted my choice. I enjoy low prices, a friendly attitude towards foreigners, quality education for my children, a warm climate, safety and a lot of opportunities for recreation and entertainment.

Victor Esik - Immigrant invest
Victor Esik,
Head of the Portuguese office who moved to Portugal with his family

Taxation features of Spain and Portugal

Tax residents in Portugal and Spain are obliged to pay taxes. Even non-residents have to pay taxes if they buy a property or receive any income in the country, for example, by running a business or renting a property. 

If a person spends more than 183 days a year in the country, they automatically become a tax resident. Yet, in Spain, tax residency can arise even when buying property. So, investors who obtain a Spain residence permit by purchasing real estate may become subject to double taxation: they can be taxed on their global income both in Spain and in their country of origin. 

Income tax rates and preferential tax regimes. The income tax varies and can be as high as 48% in Portugal and 47% in Spain, depending on the income level. 

Both Portugal and Spain have special tax regimes for new tax residents that can help significantly reduce mandatory income tax. In Portugal, new tax residents pay a flat 20% income tax. In Spain, those who have been granted a beneficial tax regime pay a flat 24% tax.

The preferential taxation system for new tax residents in Spain is only applicable for residents employed in Spain or directors of Spanish companies whose share does not exceed 25%. In Portugal, investors do not have to be working for a Portuguese employer or managing a Portuguese company to get a beneficial tax status.

The special beneficial tax status of a Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) can be obtained by a new Portuguese tax resident that has not paid taxes in Portugal during the previous five years. If the NHR status holder is a pensioner who receives a pension from another country, they pay 10% tax instead of 20%.

The holder of the NHR status does not need to pay tax on:

  • dividends, interest and royalties;
  • capital gains;
  • rental income from a real estate outside of Portugal;
  • income from employment in another country.

Validity of the preferential tax regime

10 years
In Portugal
6 years
In Spain

Tax rate when buying an investment property. If the applicant chooses to purchase real estate as an investment, he will have to pay taxes in addition to the property's value. The tax rate depends on whether the property is commercial or residential, where it is located, and how old the building is. 

In Portugal, the tax depends on the property type as well, but the location and the age of the building also matter. For instance, the tax on the purchase of a residential property can be 0% if the property is new, relatively cheap and purchased for permanent residence. Otherwise, a progressive taxation scale applies, and the tax on buying a residential property can reach 7.5%. The tax on commercial property is fixed at 6.5% regardless of location.

In Spain, the tax depends on whether the property is bought in the primary or secondary market and the property type. It will be the highest if a commercial property is purchased: up to 25% of the object's price. The tax rate for buying residential real estate ranges from 6 to 12%. 

Costs and time when applying for Spain and Portugal Golden Visa

6—8 months
Portugal golden visa obtainment
2—3 months
Spain golden visa obtainment

It normally takes 6—8 months to obtain a Portugal golden visa. The duration depends on the procedure consisting of several steps, two of which involve a personal visit to Portugal.

The process of acquiring a Spanish golden visa takes 2—3 months. Processing of the application takes up to 20 days. The process cannot be delayed: if the migration office does not respond within the prescribed period, the residence permit is considered approved.

The cost of obtaining a Portugal or Spain golden visa consists of a mandatory investment and additional expenses. The amount of the contribution depends on the chosen investment option. Service fees and taxes are sometimes fixed and sometimes vary depending on different factors. 

The application fee will be €533 when applying for the Portugal golden visa and €975 for the Spanish one. The residence permit card issuance costs €5,340 when acquiring a Portuguese residence by investment. The Spanish golden visa program implies a card issuance fee of €5,000.

Conclusion

The investor who chooses a Spanish residence by investment benefits from visa-free travels to the Schengen countries and access to European education and healthcare and may get citizenship of Spain in 10 years, provided that they have moved to the country. 

The main advantages of Spain residency by investment are the speed of obtaining a residence permit and the opportunity to get a residence permit for an investor's children, regardless of age.

The Portugal golden visa program offers similar benefits and has some additional strong points: a much shorter way to citizenship and a more beneficial tax regime.

Benefits of Spain and Portugal golden visa programs

Comparison criteriaPortugal Golden VisaSpain Golden Visa
Minimum investment€250,000€500,000
Recovering the initial investment after 5 yearsNo need to move to the countryRelocation is required
Preferential tax regime10 years

Tax rate 20%
6 years 

Tax rate 24%
Tax when buying an investment property 6—8%6—25%
When it is possible to apply for citizenshipIn 5 yearsIn 10 years
Time spent in the country to be eligible for citizenship7 days per year, 35 days in total10 years in a row
Opportunity to retain first citizenshipYesNo
Processing time6—8 months2—3 months
Family eligibility Some age restrictions apply;

Siblings may participate in the program
No age restrictions for parents and children;

Siblings are not eligible

The choice of a specific program is individual and always depends on the investor's priorities.

Frequently asked questions

Which Golden Visa is best?

Each golden visa program has its advantages and disadvantages. Immigrant Invest professional consultants can help you choose a perfect program for your needs.

What does the Spanish residence by investment offer?

Spanish residence by investment allows you to travel visa-free to the Schengen countries, get access to European education and healthcare and the opportunity to get citizenship in Spain in 10 years.

What does the Portugal golden visa offer?

Portuguese golden visa offers the opportunity to get tax benefits, travel in the Schengen visa-free, and claim EU citizenship.

Which Golden Visa program suits me best?

The choice of a specific program is individual and always depends on what the main priority of the investor is.

Which Golden Visa is cheaper?

The minimum investment for a Portugal golden visa is €250,000, while the minimum amount to invest for obtaining a Spain golden visa is €500,000.

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Spain vs Portugal golden visa: which residency by investment program to choose