Portugal is a hospitable multicultural country. There are now 590,000 foreign citizens living there – the highest number of residence permits recorded in Portugal since 1976, when the special service for foreigners, SEF, was created and immigration statistics began to be kept.
A residence permit gives the holder the right to legally stay in the country for more than 90 days in a calendar year. Buying real estate for at least €350,000 allows a foreign investor to spend a minimum of just 7 days a year in the country.
In this article we discuss all the options of obtaining a residence permit in Portugal: the terms and conditions, requirements for applicants and other important nuances. Let us dwell in more detail on the investment methods that we have been recommending to our clients since 2006.
All the ways of obtaining a residence permit in Portugal
- Golden visa by investment in the economy
- Creating a startup
- Working under an employment contract
- Studying at university
- Family reunification
- Service to the country
- Program for senior citizens
Portugal residency by investment
The fastest way of obtaining a residence permit in Portugal is through the Portugal Golden Visa program. It is issued in exchange for investment in the economy.
The Portugal Golden Visa offers foreign investors the quickest path to a free, comfortable and safe life. The holder can travel around Europe without a visa, live in the country for any amount of time and reliably protect their savings.
Compared to European standards, the Portugese program makes less stringent requirements on applicants and is quite affordable. The minimum investment amount is €250,000.
Portugal residency program by investment: statistics
The state investment program has been operating since 2012. Since then, 9,340 investors and 15,965 members of their families have received golden visas. Over €5.6 bln has been invested under the program.
The program has been expanding from year-to-year. The number of applicants barely dropped even despite the restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In eleven months of 2020, 1,182 main applicants and 1,958 additional family members received a residence permit.
Investment in Portugal golden visas from 2012 to 2020
|Year||Direct investment, € mln||Investment in real estate, € mln||Total investment, € mln|
The largest group of investors is from China, followed by investors from Brazil, a former Portuguese colony. The two countries still have deep cultural and economic ties, and for Brazilians, Portuguese is their mother tongue.
The last three years have seen a sharp increase in the number of applicants from Turkey: they are probably looking for a similar Mediterranean climate and greater investment security. Over the years, investors from Russia have also been ranked in the top five groups of investors by country.
Golden visa holders in Portugal from 2012 to 2020
Together with the investor, their family members can also receive a golden visa: spouse, children and parents. Compared to other methods of obtaining a residence permit, the procedure is very simple, which has attracted an increasing number of applications for golden visas each successive year.
Reasons for the popularity of the Portugal golden visa
The program’s popularity is such that SEF does not always have time to cope with the flow of applicants. In Lisbon in 2017, applicants had to wait up to 12 weeks for an interview due to delays in processing applications.
The main advantages of a Portugal residence permit by investment:
- Visa-free travel in the Schengen countries.
- After obtaining a residence permit, the holder does not need to permanently live in the country. It is sufficient for them to spend 7 days in the first year, and 14 days per year in the next two years.
- 5 years after obtaining a residence permit in Portugal, the holder can apply for Portugal citizenship by investment. Moreover, a number of countries recognise second citizenship and allow their citizens to keep their original citizenship.
- Property prices in Portugal are below the European average. The cost of housing per square meter in Lisbon is lower than the prices in the capitals of its closest neighbors: France, Spain and Italy.
- Portugal is one of the safest countries in Europe and the world. It was ranked third in the Global Peace Index 2020, which is calculated for 163 countries.
- Portugal's economy grew steadily from 2012 to 2019. How long it will take to recover from the pandemic is unclear, but many economists have praised the government's efforts.
- The country has a mild Mediterranean climate, clean beaches and comfortable conditions for living, working and leisure
A Portugal passport offers even more opportunities for international investors. There are several ways of getting it, but the golden visa is the most convenient and fastest option. The application for citizenship can be submitted after 5 years. We have discussed in detail all the ways of obtaining a Portugal passport in our previous articles.
Recent changes in the Portugal residence permit program
May 2020 was a record month for the Portugal residence permit by investment program. Golden visas were issued to 270 investors, 5 times more than the number issued in April, for a total investment of €146.2 mln in May.
The growth in May compensated for the decline at the beginning of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the closed borders and the difficult global situation, the program still achieved stable annual growth by the end of 2020.
Interest in the Portugal golden visa has also increased due to the closure of the Cyprus program. In August 2020, it was discovered that a number of Cypriot passports had been issued to investors with a criminal record. As a result, some of the passports were revoked, and the program was permanently closed.
In Portugal itself, the program enjoys the support of all the main political forces. When the Socialist Party came to power in 2015, not only did they not cancel the program they even added new investment options and reduced the minimum investment required.
Significant changes are expected in January, 2022. The additional fiscal revenues allow the government to solve some of the country’s internal problems through foreign investors. The program is also contributing to demand for real estate and supporting the creation of new jobs.
How to get a Portugal residence permit by investment
The Portugal residence program offers 7 investment options in the economy. Some are more suitable for those who want to get residency with the least amount of effort, while others are preferable for entrepreneurs or professional investors.
The program permits investments in the following areas:
- residential or commercial real estate;
- stocks, bonds and deposits;
- research activities;
- buildings of national, cultural and natural heritage;
- shares in venture and investment funds;
- Portuguese companies;
- opening a new business and creating new jobs.
Immigrant Invest helps investors choose the right investment object, depending on their budget, objectives and investment strategy.
Buy property in Portugal and get residency
The most popular way to obtain a golden visa is by buying real estate. This option is chosen by 95% of foreign investors.
The most popular way to obtain a golden visa is by buying real estate. This option is chosen by 95% of foreign investors.
The main advantages of buying real estate:
- a huge selection of property to cover any investor's requirements;
- the opportunity to earn rental income or subsequent sale;
- no special knowledge is required, such as experience in trading stocks on financial markets;
- the ability to spend time in Portugal in your own home;
- high level of liquidity.
Apart from the cost of the property, registration costs and taxes also need to be taken into account. Over a 5-year period of ownership, taxes amounting to about 9% of the cost of the property will have to be paid.
We help the investor solve most of the related organizational and legal issues: we organize a visit to several candidate properties, check the terms of the deal and help the investor obtain a discount.
The interest of foreign investors in the Portuguese real estate market is fueling demand. In 2017, more than a quarter of property transactions were carried out by foreigners.
This is higher than we expected and allows us to forecast that the real estate market will grow again this year.
President of the Portuguese Association of Professionals and Brokerage Associations (APEMIP)
The minimum investment in real estate under the Golden Visa program varies by region and property. Below we discuss these features in more detail.
Buy any property for €500,000. It can be one or several properties of residential or commercial real estate. The investor can buy one villa in an elite resort worth several million euros or five studios in an apartment-hotel each for €100,000.
Buy property over 30 years old for €350,000. This type of real estate is located in areas of cultural and historical heritage, needs to have been built at least 30 years ago and cannot have been renovated during this time. In sparsely populated areas, the minimum investment can be reduced by another 20%, to €280,000. This amount includes the cost of restoration work.
The first golden visa in this category was issued in July 2016, and almost 800 applicants had been granted a golden visa by the end of 2020.
Investment in real estate in need of renovation. These properties are often located in central city districts and have a unique aesthetic. After restoration, their value can greatly increase in price and earn exceptionally high income for the investor when they are subsequently rented or sold.
It should be borne in mind that the requirements for reconstruction are very strict. For an investor, compliance can be a real challenge. In this case, development companies, who do all the work themselves and offer a guaranteed yield of up to 7%, can ease the burden.
The developer finds a suitable property, such as an abandoned hotel, prepares all the documents and restores it to the highest standards by installing new plumbing and electrical equipment, as well as repairing the walls and floors, while keeping the external facade of the property unchanged in the style of traditional architecture.
General conditions. Real estate must be purchased before applying for a residence permit in Portugal. Immigrant Invest checks all documents in detail and assists applicants throughout the process to ensure that the applications are not rejected. The application must be submitted no later than 90 days after entering the country.
The purchased property can be rented out legally. To do this, the new owner must obtain a license and a personal tax number from City Hall. The owner must also notify the relevant authorities when the property is rented out by e-mail.
After 5 years, an application can be submitted for Portugal permanent residency or citizenship. Please note that the property must be kept for at least five years. If it is sold earlier, the residence permit will be revoked.
Portugal residence permit by direct investment
Investments from €350,000 in funds. In 2018, Portugal reduced the minimum investment required in investment and venture funds to €350,000. This is now the best way to get a "golden card" for those investors who do not plan to live or vacation in Portugal.
There are several requirements for such investments:
- the fund must use the investments to capitalize companies established under Portuguese law;
- the remaining maturity of the funds at the time of investment must be at least five years;
- at least 60% of the investment must be in commercial companies headquartered in Portugal.
All funds can be divided into three categories:
- Funds created for obtaining a golden visa. Taking into account the requirements of the program, they require a minimum investment amount of €350,000 and allow investors to withdraw money after 5 years. Their main strategy is focused on minimizing risk with an emphasis on capital preservation. They invest in real estate and other predictable low-risk assets.
- Traditional venture capital funds. They aim to maximize profits and invest in technology companies in the early stages of development. The amount and duration of the investment may vary. The main strategy is high risk and a high return.
- Traditional private funds. They offer different combinations of risk and reward. The amount and duration of the investment often exceeds the minimum requirements for obtaining a golden visa. Each fund can have its own advantages, such as paying annual dividends, higher returns, or working only in certain sectors of the economy.
The total costs, including taxes and registration costs, will be less than buying a property for the same €350,000. When investing in funds, the total costs are about €380,000, whereas when buying real estate, they can easily exceed €400,000. Another advantage is that the investor can “forget” about their investment for five years and enjoy the freedom of travel offered by a Portuguese residence permit.
Transfer capital of €1 mln to Portugal. Directly transferring capital to Portugal is the easiest way to obtain a Portugal Golden Visa and requires minimal investor involvement. However, it also requires the highest investment.
The 1 million euros can be used as follows:
- open a deposit in a Portuguese bank;
- buy shares or a stake in a company with a Portuguese representative office;
- buy government securities, such as bonds.
The method is designed for the most affluent investors who want to benefit from all the opportunities a golden visa offers and save capital. Conservative funds can provide the same investment security, which is why this method is falling in popularity.
Residence permit in Portugal by investment in a new or existing business
Open a business and create 10 jobs. This option is suitable for those wishing to do business in Portugal and personally develop it. There are no requirements for the minimum investment amount, so all the money can be used to develop the business at the investor’s discretion.
The main requirement is to create at least ten new jobs for Portuguese citizens. All employees must be registered with the state social service and be tax resident in Portugal.
Most often entrepreneurs register their company as a private limited company (LDA) in Portugal. It is an attractive option with minimal government interference in business.
Both local and foreign entrepreneurs in Portugal are provided with various benefits, depending on the form of the business created, field of activity, region, and other conditions.
Invest €350,000 in an existing company and create 5 jobs. In 2017, a law came into force, according to which it is possible to invest €350,000 to create a new business or increase the capital of an existing company by this amount.
There are three requirements for such a company:
- the head office must be located in Portugal;
- at least five permanent jobs must be created;
- the investment contract must be valid for at least three years.
In order to determine the viability, liquidity, profitability, debts, and other key information of an existing company, it is better to contact qualified specialists to analyze its activities. After buying or creating a company, the investor must send certified financial statements to the state tax authorities regularly and on time.
Portugal residence permit by investment in science and culture
Although these methods were stipulated in the law from the very beginning of the program, according to the government statistics, not a single investor has taken this path.
Invest €350,000 in research activities. The investment can be in a public or private institution integrated into the national scientific and technical system.
Invest €250,000 in cultural heritage: for example, artistic productions or cultural institutions.
Other ways of obtaining a residence permit in Portugal
A Portugal residence permit can also be obtained without investment or with relatively low financial costs. As these methods are not suitable for everyone, we will only outline the main features.
Startup visa for Portugal. In 2018, a new Startup Visa program was launched, which is aimed at attracting intellectual capital. The following conditions need to be met in order to file an application:
- an entrepreneur wants to develop their project in Portugal; they are not required to have an operating startup in another country;
- place of residence outside the Schengen area;
- no criminal record or outstanding tax liabilities;
- aged over 18;
- Minimum bank balance of €5,146.08 for the past 12 months per person.
The entrepreneur will also need to prove that the startup is focused on technology, has the potential for development, will create new jobs and achieve a certain turnover.
An important advantage of this program is that the applicant does not need to live in Portugal for a certain number of days a year. However, a physical presence is required to effectively run the company and achieve its financial goals. Participants in the program also have the right to receive non-refundable grants from the European Union on the same terms as Portuguese citizens.
Residence permit in Portugal under an employment contract. Working legally in Portugal gives the foreign worker an opportunity to obtain a residence permit after three years. First, an annually renewable work permit is issued. In order to register it, the foreign worker needs to sign an employment contract with their employer and receive an official invitation to work for them.
The permit is revoked if the income tax due is not paid or the employment contract is terminated. The holder can apply for a residence permit only in the fourth year of the contract.
Student residence permit in Portugal. The residence permit is issued to students at private and public universities, technical schools and other educational institutions. The applicant needs to provide a number of additional documents, including confirmation of admission to the educational institution, payment of tuition fees and the availability of means for subsistence.
A student residence permit is issued for a maximum of five years, and it must be renewed annually.
Residence permit for family reunification. An application for a residence permit can be made one year after marriage with a Portuguese citizen.The applicant can also apply for minor children and financially dependent children aged over 18 years studying at university.
Residence permit for services to the country. A residence permit can be issued to people who have performed special services for Portugal, such as helping identify an organized criminal group. The relevant authorities apply for this status to be assigned to the foreign citizen.
Residence permit for senior citizens. A separate program exists for wealthy retirees from foreign countries. For them, the conditions for obtaining a residence permit have been eased and tax benefits have been created.
To obtain a residence permit, a pensioner needs to meet the following conditions:
- buy real estate at a price above the average cost of property in the region;
- prove a permanent monthly income outside
- Portugal of above €500;
reside in the country for more than 183 days a year.
Which path suits you?
The most convenient and understandable way of obtaining a residence permit in Portugal is by buying real estate. This is a popular option for those who want to obtain a residence permit in Europe by investment.
If the applicant needs to diversify their income and risks, then investments in companies and shares of investment funds are suitable. Portugal is part of the euro zone and can offer investors financial security in the event of economic turmoil in their country of origin.
Entrepreneurs can open their own business and work without being exposed to corruption, high taxes or unnecessary bureaucracy. This option allows the investor to use all the money for business development.
Details about the conditions and stages of obtaining a golden residence permit can be found in our article, Residence permit and Portuguese citizenship.
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1. Preliminary check
First, we carry out our own Due Diligence check. This reduces at the earliest stages the likelihood of an application for a residence permit being refused. There are many details that can affect the due diligence results. If any issues arise, we recommend alternative programs.
At Immigrant Invest, the due diligence check is carried out by a specialized Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Officer, who is certified by an international association.
2. Choosing an investment option
If the Due Diligence check is completed successfully, we help you select the investment property. The subsequent steps for obtaining a residence permit in Portugal will depend on this.
Our experts explain all the nuances of each option to help the investor make the right decision.
3. Selection of real estate
We offer suitable real estate properties, taking into account the applicant’s preferred location, cost and other parameters.
We work with the most reliable agencies and developers in Portugal. We have worked with them for over 15 years.
4. Preparation of documents
We prepare the documents that need to be submitted for a residence permit in Portugal: we translate these documents into Portuguese and apostille them. Our lawyers advise investors on how to correctly fill out questionnaires and forms.
As a general rule, all documents must be issued no later than 90 days before the date of application.
5. Submission and consideration of documents
Up to 2 months
We accompany our clients when they submit their biometric data at the immigration office (SEF). We take on the responsibility of addressing all further questions related to the submission of documents and registration.
The applicant must fly to Portugal 7 days before submitting an application for a residence permit.
6. Receiving a residence permit
The applicant does not need to be present to receive the residence permit. Our lawyers can collect the residence permit and transfer it to the applicant in a convenient way.
Due to the large number of applications received by the immigration service, it may take longer than the established three months for the application process to be completed.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most popular option for getting a residence permit by investment in Portugal is by purchasing real estate. The property must be owned for at least 5 years. There are two options:
- The investor buys one or more properties worth (in total) at least €500,000 in the primary or secondary market. In sparsely populated areas, the minimum investment is reduced by 20%, to €400,000.
- Buying a property over 30 years old, which is located in areas of cultural or historical heritage. The minimum investment is €350,000 with a commitment to renovate and restore the property.
The minimum cost of similar real estate in a sparsely populated arearnis €280,000.
The program also provides for other investment options:
- Capital transfer: the purchase of shares of local companies, government securities or opening a deposit account for at least 1 million euros.
- Purchasing shares in investment or venture funds. The minimum investment is €350,000.
- Investment in a Portuguese business and creation of 5 jobs. The minimum investment is €350,000.
- Investment in research and development. The minimum investment is €250,000.
- Investments in the preservation of the cultural heritage of Portugal. The minimum non-refundable contribution is € 250,000.
- Creation of at least 10 jobs for Portuguese citizens. In this case, the investor registers a business in Portugal and receives a residence permit as the owner of the company.
The Portugal Golden Visa (residence permit) by investment offers access to all the benefits available to a resident of the European Union and a convenient travel document:
- Visa-free travel in Schengen with the right to live in any member country according to the “90 days in 90” scheme.
- Possibility to obtain Portuguese citizenship after 5 years.
- Investment in liquid assets: real estate, business and securities.
- Access to the services of European banks to preserve savings and accelerate business operations.
- Avoidance of double taxation for businesses.
- The investor’s children are eligible to study at Portuguese universities without a student visa.
- Investors are required to reside in Portugal for only 7 days a year, which can be used for recreation at local resorts.
Together with the investor, a Portugal golden visa (residence permit) can be obtained by the following family members:
- Children under 26 years old. Adult children must be university students, financially dependent on the investor and registered with them at the same address. Children under 18 years of age can be issued a residence permit for the same duration as the investor’s residence permit.
- The investor’s parents who are over 65 years old.
The cost of participation in the program increases for additional family members and is calculated individually in each case.
According to our experience at Immigrant Invest, it is possible to obtain a Portugal golden visa by investment (residence permit) within 2–6 months. The actual time taken depends on the number of family members of the investor included in the application and the queue of applications at the immigration service office at the time of the application.
The condition for compulsory residence of just 7 days a year in the country is one of the “softest” among European residence programs. They can be spent on holidays in resort regions or visiting cities with a rich cultural and historical heritage.
In order to participate in the Portugal investment visa program, an investor does not need to pass exams on knowledge of the Portuguese language or on the history of Portugal.
The holder of a Portuguese golden visa (residence permit) can apply for citizenship after 5 years of maintaining the resident status. In this case, the investor must comply with the following mandatory conditions:
- be at least 18 years old;
- maintain resident status for at least 5 years;
- show proof of knowledge of the Portuguese language at the A2 level;
- have no criminal record;
- must not pose a threat to the national security of the country.
Together with the investor, their minor children can obtain citizenship if they have been residents of Portugal for 5 years. Children under 12 and schoolchildren who are learning Portuguese do not need to take a language proficiency test.