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Case Studies

Portugal citizenship in 5 years and with minimum investments

I’m used to building a safety net in advance. Right now I don't have many clients in Europe, but I want my company to grow in this direction. Therefore, I plan to open a branch and obtain citizenship in the European Union. I am taking the first steps right now — and with minimum costs.

Portugal citizenship in 5 years and with minimum investments
Andrew, 31
an owner of an IT company
The name and photo of the client have been changed
How to get Portugal citizenship in five years through a residence permit by investment

Andrew wanted to get a second passport in the European Union. But his budget was limited, so Andrew could not participate in citizenship by investment programs in Malta or Cyprus. The investor chose a longer, but less costly path to a second citizenship — through a residence permit in Portugal.

Learn about the advantages of the Portuguese residence permit program and how an investor can become a citizen of the country in five years.

Why did Andrew need an EU passport?

Andrew is the owner of a company that develops mobile apps. Andrew lives and runs business in South Africa. Sometimes orders come from Europe, but they are few. 

Andrew wanted to expand his business in Europe. To quickly enter the EU market, the businessman decided to open an office in the region.

To travel to the EU without visas. Andrew planned to travel frequently to the European Union. First, find a place for a new office, hire employees and organize the work of the branch, then meet with clients and partners, attend conferences.

As a South African citizen, Andrew needs a Schengen visa to travel to the European Union. But Andrew didn’t want to spend time preparing documents and getting a visa, and then checking its validity and counting the days of stay in the EU. He needed a long-term travel document that would allow him to travel to the region without visas.

To open accounts in a European bank. Andrew was going to open personal and corporate bank accounts in the EU. He planned to keep savings on a personal account. After a personal account, Andrew would be able to open a corporate account for business in order to make currency settlements with customers faster, not to lose money on the exchange rate and reduce transaction fees.

Why Andrew decided to get a residence permit in Portugal first 

On August 6th, 2018, Andrew turned to Immigrant Invest for advice. He wanted to know how to obtain EU citizenship by investment, in order to immediately and quickly solve all the tasks.

Immigrant Invest program experts analyzed Andrew's situation. The residence permit program in Portugal turned out to be the only one that met all the investor’s expectations.

Program participation costs. Andrew expected to spend no more than €600,000: he could withdraw such an amount from the business without damage.

When Andrew applied to Immigrant Invest, there were two citizenship by investment programs in the European Union — in Malta and in Cyprus. But participation in those programs required investments of at least one million euro. Such expenses did not fit into Andrew's budget.

Cyprus and Malta citizenship by investment programs closed in 2020

Cyprus hasn’t been accepting investors’ applications for citizenship since November 1st, 2020. The government does not plan to resume the investment program. Malta updated the national Citizenship Act on November 20th, 2020. The citizenship program was closed. Now investors can get a country’s passport only by naturalization for special services by direct investment. The applicant first gets a residence permit, and after a year or three years, he may apply for citizenship. The minimum investment amount under the new rules is €690,000.

Immigrant Invest lawyers offered Andrew a less expensive way: to obtain a residence permit by investment. In a few years, he would be able to apply for citizenship.

A residence permit by investment, temporary or permanent, is granted in Portugal, Greece and Malta. A residence permit of any of these countries allows to travel across the Schengen area without visas. One can stay in the country of residence without restrictions, in other Schengen states — up to 90 days in half a year.

It is easier for residents to open accounts with a European bank and register a business in the EU.

Terms of obtaining citizenship after a residence permit. Until 2018, it was allowed to apply for Portuguese citizenship after six years of maintaining residency. In July 2018, the Portuguese government reduced this period by a year: now you can apply after 5 years of residency.

Before applying for citizenship, the investor confirms the status of a resident in the program unit and renews the residence permit card every two years.

Malta citizenship can also be obtained five years after a residence permit. In Greece the period of residency is seven years.

Andrew was willing to wait a few years to apply for citizenship. But he did not want to move and live permanently in the country of residence.

Portugal citizenship

Portugal is one of the best European countries for living and doing business. There is a good environment and a high level of safety. Investors can obtain Portuguese citizenship five years after getting a residence permit. To maintain the status of a residence permit in the country, the investor needs to live in the country 7 days a year

Portugal citizenship

New tax Portuguese residents are entitled to benefits for 10 years if they apply for the status of a Non-Habitual Resident. For example, they do not pay tax on global income. To become a Portuguese tax residence, the investor needs to live in Portugal for 183 days a year. It will require a residence permit

Portugal citizenship

There are more than 150 banks in Portugal. The average rates on consumer loans in Portuguese banks are 3.9% per annum, on mortgages — 3.3%. A new car can be bought on credit at 5%, and a used car at 11.8%. To use banking services in Portugal, a foreigner needs to register as a country’s taxpayer and get an individual taxpayer number

Mandatory residing for citizenship. Portugal sets a minimum residing requirement. It is enough for an investor to spend seven days a year in the country to remain a resident and apply for citizenship.

To obtain Malta or Greece citizenship, one needs to permanently reside in the country for at least 183 days a year.

Andrew compared the conditions of European investment programs and signed an agreement with Immigrant Invest to participate in the Portugal residence permit program.

5 reasons why Andrew chose a residence permit in Portugal

Status and countryDo costs fit into the investor's budget?Visa-free entry to the Schengen countriesDoes the status give the right to run a business and open an account in a European bank?Terms of obtaining citizenshipResiding in the country to qualify for citizenship
Malta citizenship
under the old program
1+ yearNot required
Cyprus citizenship
under the old program
6+ monthsNot required
Portugal residence permit5 years7 days a year
Malta permanent residence5 years183 days a year
during the first four years

365 days
during the fifth year before applying for citizenship
Greece residence permit7 years183 days a year

Purchase of real estate in Portugal to participate in the program

90% of investors buy property in order to obtain a Portugal residence permit. The investor owns the property for five years, after which he can sell it and return the money invested. At the same time, real estate prices in Portugal are growing by an average of 7% per year, which increases the liquidity of real estate.

The cost of real estate for participation in the program is set depending on the property type:

  • from €350,000 — a property older than 30 years, for renovation;
  • from €500,000 — any property under 30 years.

The purchase of an old property for renovation reduces the costs by one and a half times. But Andrew did not want to spend money and time on repairs.

The investor decided to buy a new apartment in Lisbon, where he could live during his trips to Portugal.

Restrictions on buying property in Portugal

Since January 1st, 2022, investors can only buy residential property in the interior regions of mainland Portugal, the Azores and Madeira. The interior regions don’t include major cities such as Lisbon and Porto, nor coastal resort areas. Commercial real estate is allowed for purchase in any region of the country without restrictions.

The Immigrant Invest Real Estate Department selected a new apartment in Lisbon worth €510,000 and organized a viewing for Andrew. In Lisbon, the investor was accompanied by a representative of the Portuguese office of Immigrant Invest.

Andrew liked the apartment. Our lawyers checked the clean title to the real estate and the terms of the sale and purchase agreement in advance, so the investor immediately concluded a deal to buy the apartment.

Residence permit in Portugal for the purchase of real estate: apartments in Lisbon
An apartment in a residential complex in Lisbon
The property doesn’t qualify for participation in the Portugal residence permit program since 2022

The complex is located in the center of Lisbon: a three-minute walk from the Parque metro station and fifteen minutes from Chiado, the main historical street of the city. The one bedroom apartment is on the third floor of the residential complex. The apartment is sold furnished, has internet and TV. The windows overlook the historical part of the city.

€500,000+
apartment price
53+ m²
apartment area
1—4
number of bedrooms

Portugal residence permit in 8 months

1. The registration of a tax number is required for any major transactions, such as a purchase of real estate in Portugal.

To get the Portuguese equivalent of the TIN, Andrew needed the following documents:

  • an application for registration as a taxpayer;
  • copies of his national and international passports;
  • a copy of the certificate of TIN registration in South Africa;
  • a proof of income.

Andrew applied to a tax office in Lisbon in person while he was in Portugal. When submitting documents, he was accompanied by an Immigrant Invest lawyer.

The investor received the taxpayer number two weeks after contacting the tax service.

2. An account in a Portuguese bank is required to pay for the program participation and purchase real estate. The condition solved one of Andrew's problems. 

To open an account, he chose Novo Banco bank and transferred €600,000, which he planned to spend on participation in the residence permit program.

3. The purchase of the apartment was paid from Andrew’s new account in a Portuguese bank. The investor also paid taxes: 8% of the cost of the apartment for the transfer of ownership and 0.8% as a stamp duty.

€554,880 was spent by Andrew on the property purchase in Portugal

€510,000
apartment in Lisbon
€40,800
transfer tax on real estate
€4,080
stamp duty

4. To apply for a residence permit, our lawyers collected and prepared the following documents:

  • copies of the investor's passports;
  • a certificate of non-conviction;
  • a wealth history with a list of assets owned by the investor and a confirmation of his income legality;
  • a medical insurance;
  • a sale and purchase agreement for the apartment in Portugal;
  • a certificate of transfer of ownership for the apartment;
  • government questionnaires and forms.

Andrew paid the application fee of €533. The lawyers attached the payment receipt to the rest of the documents for obtaining a residence permit.

On October 25th, 2018, the lawyers submitted Andrew’s application to the Migration Service of Portugal. The answer came five months later: the investor passed Due Diligence and received approval for a residence permit.

5 months
application processing time in the Portuguese Migration Service

5. The submission of biometrics takes place at an office of the Portuguese Migration Service.

As soon as the lawyers received approval of the investor's application, they registered him for fingerprinting in Lisbon. The next free date was March 28th, 2019.

On the appointed day, Andrew flew to Portugal and submitted his fingerprints. He paid another fee for issuance of a residence permit card — €5,325.

6. Andrew received a residence permit card two weeks after the fingerprinting, on April 11th, 2019. At that time, he was still in Lisbon and got the document himself at the Migration Service. 

A personal visit is not necessary: usually investors receive residence permit cards by a delivery service.

Participation in the program took eight months from the moment of applying to Immigrant Invest.

The investor's expenses amounted to €561,138 taking into account the purchase of real estate, taxes and fees. Andrew did not exceed the allocated budget of €600,000.

€561,138 — the investor’s expenses on getting a residence permit in Portugal

€554,880
purchase of apartment
€533
application fee
€5,325
fee on issuance of the residence permit card
€400
medical insurance

Investor's plans for the future in the EU with a Portuguese residence permit

Business and travel. Andrew expected to open a branch of his IT company in Portugal by the end of 2019. To do that, he studied information about Portuguese taxes and benefits for business, the possibility of using European servers and ways to expand the client network in the EU.

In June 2019, Andrew rented an office space in Lisbon. Registering a business in Portugal took about a week. By September, the Portuguese branch of Andrew's company concluded the first contract with a European client.

In a year since obtaining a residence permit, the businessman has attended 15 conferences in Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Estonia and Ireland. As a resident of Portugal, he did not have to obtain a Schengen visa to travel. When crossing borders, he used the Portuguese residence permit card.

Andrew visits Portugal once every six months. He rests at local resorts and practices Portuguese: the investor will need to know the language in order to obtain citizenship.

If Andrew decides to move to Portugal and change his tax residence in the future, he will receive a beneficial tax status for 10 years. Under the terms of this status, the income tax in Portugal is levied at a flat rate of 20% instead of a progressive scale of up to 48%.

Residence permit in Portugal by investment: business in Lisbon

Andrew opened an office in the business district of Lisbon, which is called Baixа

Portugal residence permit by investment for visa-free travel within the Schengen area: Dublin, Ireland

In 2019, Andrew visited Dublin, the capital of Ireland, for the first time. The country attracts IT companies with tax incentives: industry giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Intel are headquartered in Ireland

EU citizenship. Andrew is going to apply for Portugal citizenship in May 2024, five years after obtaining a residence permit.

In five years, the investor is to extend the residence permit twice: in April 2021 and 2023. The Immigrant Invest lawyers will help him with this. They will prepare the documents in advance and submit an application for reissuing a residence permit card to the Migration Service of Portugal.

In 2024, Andrew plans to contact Immigrant Invest again, so that lawyers will accompany the application for Portuguese citizenship.

How to get Portugal citizenship: a step-by-step procedure

1. Maintain a residence permit for five years. A residence permit obtained by investment is to be renewed every two years. To do this, a resident needs to apply to the Portuguese Migration Service. To extend the status, the applicant confirms the ownership of an investment, such as real estate, and residing in Portugal for at least seven days a year.

2. Confirm knowledge of the Portuguese language. An applicant for citizenship needs to know Portuguese at A2 level or higher. As confirmation, they can provide a certificate of successfully passing the exam or state language courses.

3. Apply for citizenship at the Portuguese Migration Service. The candidate for citizenship submits an application in person or by mail. The application is accompanied by a copy of the identity card, a birth certificate, a certificate of good conduct and a certificate of proficiency in Portuguese.

There is an application fee of €250. The process of obtaining citizenship takes about a year.

4. Get a citizen's ID card. The issuance of an ID-card takes about two weeks. The card is sent by mail to the registration address in Portugal.

Andrew is going to receive both an ID card and a Portuguese passport. The document gives the right to visa-free entry to 187 countries.

We spoke in more detail about all the stages in an interview with the head of the Portuguese office of Immigrant Invest: “How to obtain Portugal citizenship after a golden visa”.

Frequently asked questions

How to get EU citizenship by investment?

Malta grants citizenship by naturalization for special services by direct investment. This is the fastest way to get the passport of a country which is a member of the European Union.  The investor first receives a residence permit, and after a year or three years gets the opportunity to apply for citizenship. The minimum investment amount is €690,000.

Can I get Portugal citizenship by investment?

No, you can’t. The Portugal citizenship is obtained only by naturalization. But you can get a residence permit by investment. The minimum investment amount is €250,000. You can apply for citizenship after five years of maintaining residency.

Does Portugal allow dual citizenship?

Yes, it does. Therefore, you will not have to give up your first passport when obtaining citizenship in Portugal.

What conditions must be met to qualify for citizenship in Portugal?

Adult applicants can obtain Portugal citizenship if they meet three conditions:

  1. They legally reside in the country for at least five years on the basis of a residence permit or permanent residence. For investors, the period of residence is equal to the period of possession of the residence permit card. At the same time, the investor needs to spend only seven days a year in the country.
  2. Proficiency in Portuguese at A2 level or higher.
  3. No criminal record.

Read more about how to obtain Portugal citizenship

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for government programs in the European Union and the Caribbean.

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Evgeniya Morozova
Head of the Legal Department
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