Last updated on November 2nd, 2021

Portugal Golden Visa 2021:
My Complete Journey

GoVisaFree Note: We figured, instead of playing the “expert” at a process we have not experienced ourselves, why not ask someone who actually went through the Portugal Golden Visa application process to write up on it. Barbara T. from our community was kind enough to contribute and share her journey with us below. – Robin

Table of Contents

Barbara T.

GoVisaFree Community

The Portugal Golden Visa is a residency by investment program in Europe.  It is one of the most popular investment immigration programs in the world.  

That’s why I chose to go ahead with the Portuguese Golden Visa myself.  

My name is Barbara. Robin is a good friend and when he asked me to contribute with an article, explaining my journey in getting my Golden Visa in Portugal, I was eager to help.

As an American citizen, the last couple of years have been eye-opening for me. The social turmoil, the pandemic issues, and a chaotic election year.  It was all too much. I knew I wanted to retire in Europe ultimately. So I figured, why not plant the seeds now.

The main attractions of Portugal Golden Visa program for me were:

  • In 5 years, a Golden Visa can lead to Portuguese citizenship,
  • Stay requirement is very low; an average of 7 days per year,
  • Wide range of investment options that are relatively affordable,
  • Access to Schengen countries without the need for a visa,
  • Once you become a citizen in Portugal, 
    • You can live, work, and study anywhere in the European Union,
    • Get a Portuguese passport (4th most powerful passport in the world),
  • Portugal is a safe country with great quality of life, strong healthcare and education systems, good infrastructure, wonderful climate, and hospitable people.

There are more than five different investment routes available to attain a Golden Visa in Portugal.  But two options really stand out in terms of their value proposition:

  • Real estate investment in Portugal
    • Minimum investment requirement starts at €280,000, but €350,000 and €500,000 programs are more popular
  • Private equity or venture capital fund investment of €350,000 in Portugal

Both of these options will go through changes as of January 1, 2022.  I’ll elaborate later on in the article.

I can be annoying when it comes to research

This was a significant investment for me that dug into my life savings.  So, I wanted to make sure that I gathered all the necessary information I could get my hands on and vet all the potential companies that offer services.

I corresponded with 11 investment advisory firms, 9 funds, and 6 law firms before finally making a decision.  

Too much? Maybe. Worth it? Totally.

Throughout my research, I was not surprised to see a lot of cacophony; biased reviews, out-of-date information, misleading pitches, and all that schmooze.  Well, the democratization of information has its cons as well as pros.

That’s why, I want to outlay the whole program, its process, timeline, advantages, disadvantages in an unbiased and transparent light in this article.

Having said that, I am neither an accountant, nor a lawyer, nor a financial advisor.  So, please don’t take anything in this article at face value, dig deeper, do your own research before taking any action.

With that, let’s get started!

Background of Golden Visa Portugal

The Portuguese Golden Visa Residence Permit (ARI) program was launched in 2012. It is a residency by investment program designed to encourage investment to Portugal from non-EU/EEA citizens. It provides a quick way to get a residence permit in Portugal.

What makes the program different from other European Golden Visa programs is it can lead to Portuguese citizenship in five (well, more realistically six) years without actually residing in Portugal.

As of March 2021, the program attracted roughly 9,550 investors.  This in turn brought almost €5.75 billion to the country. Not too bad…

Benefits of Golden Visa Portugal

All residency by investment programs offer various benefits to the investor. The advantages of the Portuguese Golden Visa that stood out for me were:

  • Right to Live & Work in Portugal

Your Golden Visa residence permit will give you the legal right to live and work in Portugal.  This does not mean you need to settle to Portugal and live there. You only need to spend an average of seven days a year to maintain your residence permit.

  • Visa-Free Travel in the Schengen Area / EU Countries

Your Golden Visa residence permit card will allow you to travel freely within the Schengen Area without an additional visa. The card will funcion just like a Schengen visa. As a non-EU citizen and a frequent traveler (well, at least until the pandemic), this was a big plus for me.

  • Family Reunification

As a main applicant, you can include your spouse, dependent children, and dependent parents under the program. They get their Golden Visa cards at the same time you do. They benefit from all the advantages and qualify to apply for citizenship at the end of five years, just like you do.

  • Low Stay Requirement

The Portuguese Golden Visa has one of the lowest stay requirements in Europe. It requires you to only spend an average of seven days annually in Portugal.

  • Portuguese Citizenship at the end of 5 Years

This was the most important factor that made me choose Portugal’s Golden Visa program as opposed to its alternatives. Without actually moving to Portugal, by merely spending seven days a year in the country, the program allows me and my family to apply for Portuguese citizenship in 5 years.

Once you become a Portuguese citizen, you are an EU citizen.  You can live, work, and study anywhere in the EU or the EEA and you can travel to 184 countries without a visa. For me, this is where the jackpot is.

  • Tax Benefits

This may or may not be relevant depending on your specific case. But, Portugal has some attractive tax benefits. Firstly, Portugal does not tax your international income outside of Portugal, they only care about your income in Portugal. Secondly, they have a program called Non-Habitual Residency (NHR), which can exempt you from many income taxes for ten years, in case you choose to become a tax resident in Portugal.

  • Portugal Golden Visa is a Legitimate Program

The program abides by the European Union immigration standards. Unlike numerous residency and citizenship by investment programs, The Portuguese golden visa residency program is not blacklisted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD.)

  • Not a Donation, but an Investment in a Stable European Economy

I like the fact that Portugal is not asking investors to donate money in exchange for a residence permit.  They transparently offer a number of actual investment methods that can lead to a Golden Visa in the country. This way, I was able to make an investment in a promising economy with my money, chasing a competitive ROI, while also getting the residency as a bonus.

Eligibility for the Golden Visa Portugal

In order to be eligible to apply for a Golden Visa in Portugal, you need to;

  • Be a non-EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and,

  • Make a qualifying investment in Portugal.

Investment Options for the Portuguese Golden Visa

Note: The investment amounts will go through an increase at the end of 2021.  The real estate option amounts will remain the same, but there will be geographical restrictions as to where you can invest.  I’ll explain it in more detail in a later section in the article.

One of the most attractive qualities of the Portuguese Golden Visa for me was that there were various investment methods available to choose from.

You need to make one of the below investments in order to apply for Portuguese residency through investment.

Real Estate Investment: The Most Popular Option for Portugal Golden Visa

This is by far the most popular method. It bears multiple options within the category.

  • €500,000 Real Estate Option

Real estate investment of at least €500,000 in Portugal. It can be any type of real estate, located anywhere within the country.

Many investors choose this route as it is a smart idea to invest in the ever-growing Portuguese real estate market. There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Portugal.

  • €350,000 Rehabilitated Real Estate Option

This is also a very common route. The Portuguese government encourages foreign investors to contribute to the renovation of older real estate properties through this option.

In order to complete this investment, the property needs to be older than 30 years old or located in an urban rehabilitation area.  The property then must be renovated.

The purchase price plus the cost of rehabilitation must equal a minimum of €350,000 in total.

  • €280,000 or €400,000 Real Estate in Low-Density Areas

If the subject property is in a low-density area, the minimum investment is reduced by another 20%.

So, for the €500,000 real estate option, the minimum requirement drops down to €400,000.

As for the €350,000 real estate rehabilitation option, the minimum requirement drops down to €280,000.

Portuguese Fund Investment: What I Chose to Go With

A minimum of €350,000 investment in a qualifying Portuguese investment fund. There are specific requirements that the fund needs to fit to qualify for the Portuguese Golden Visa program.

This option was relatively new when I first started assessing the program. I chose to go with it due to reasons I will go into detail later on in the article. Now, there are plenty of interesting funds available in the market.

GoVisaFree has a detailed article on the Portuguese Golden Visa program through the Investment Fund option.

Creation of Jobs: The Least Costly Option in Golden Visa Portugal

Creation of ten jobs in a Portuguese business. The positions need to be newly created and full-time. The business needs to be a limited company with a single owner. And that one owner will qualify for the visa, along with his family members as stated above.

This option is very popular with those who wish to found a start-up or a tech company. Many entrepreneurs choose to establish their new companies in Lisbon due to its bustling lifestyle and capable workforce, plus it is one of the cheapest capitals in Europe.

Capital Transfer

Transfer of capital of at least €1 million to Portugal or a Portuguese business

Scientific and Technological Research Investment

A minimum investment of €350,000 in scientific or technological research. The research needs to be conducted by an accredited national institution in Portugal.

Arts & National Heritage Investment: The Most Ambiguous Option

A minimum investment of €250,000 into the conservation of national heritage, arts, or culture in Portugal.

Business Investment & Job Creation: The Hybrid Option

(i) Investing a minimum of €350,000 into an incorporated business in Portugal and (ii) creating five full-time jobs for a minimum period of three years.

Portugal Golden Visa Application & Renewal Process

Note during Covid-19: You can make your investment remotely and submit your GV application online. It will take roughly 8-12 months for SEF to give you a biometrics appointment. You will only need to physically go to Portugal at the appointment date.

The initial application and the supporting documents are submitted online at Serviço de Fronteiras e Estrangeiros (SEF). 

Once SEF approves your application, they will provide you with alternative appointment slots to choose from. At the appointment date, you and your dependents need to appear in person to submit your biometric data and perform a basic interview.

There are various SEF offices across Portugal.  The Portuguese government used to require investors to apply at the local SEF office where the investment was made. You can only imagine the kind of backlog this created at the Lisbon SEF office.  Luckily, this changed in 2017. Now, regardless of where your investment is made, you can apply at any SEF office.  So, it’s best to choose an accessible office with low waiting times.

You may technically complete the application process on your own, but I certainly would not recommend doing so.  It is a significant investment, so it’s best not to risk anything and leave it to a professional with experience. That’s what I did. I corresponded in detail with six different law firms and did not choose the cheapest one, chose the one I thought would make the process most smooth for me.

You can submit your application along with your family at the same time. They will be processed simultaneously.

Portugal Golden Visa Government Application Fees

Initial Application processing fee €532.70 for the main applicant
€83.10 for each dependant applicant
Initial Application approval fee €5,325 for each applicant
Renewal Application Processing fee €532.70 for the main applicant
€83.10 for each dependant applicant
Renewal Application approval fee €2,663 for each applicant

You will receive your first Golden Visa card, which will be valid for a two-year period.

  • GV Card #1:

     

    Year 1-2

    You can use your residence card to make use of all the benefits of Golden Visa.  This includes traveling freely across the Schengen countries, without the need for any additional visas.  You will need to present your passport along with the Golden Visa card.

    You are required to spend a minimum of 14 days in Portugal within these two years.

    In order to renew your residence card, you need to set a biometrics appointment with SEF, provide up-to-date documentation, and pay the renewal fees for yourself and for your dependents, if you have any.

    You need to pursue the renewal process between 1 and 3 months before your current residence permit expires. 

  • GV Card #2:

     

    Year 3-4

    Similar to your first Golden Visa residence card, the second one is valid for another two years. Again, you will need to spend a minimum of 14 days in Portugal within these two years.

    The Portuguese government is debating whether or not they should extend the duration of the second card to three years instead of two year.  Nothing concrete yet.

    At the end of the two-year period, you need to once again go through the renewal process.

  • GV Card #3:

     

    Year 5+

    Your third Golden Visa residence card will also be valid for two years. In the middle of its validity, you reach your five-year milestone.

    At this point, you have three options to pursue:

    1. 1.Renew your Golden Visa and continue with the temporary resident status:
      • -You need to hold on to your investment as long as you renew your Golden Visa card
    2. 2.Apply for permanent residence in Portugal:
      • -You need to pass an A2 level Portuguese language test
      • -You need to provide a physical address of residence in Portugal
      • -You need to reside in Protugal the minimum number of months
      • -You can liquidate your investment
    3. 3.Apply for Portuguese citizenship:
      • -You need to pass an A2 level Portuguese language test
      • -You need to have no unpaid taxes in Portugal
      • -You need to have clean criminal records
      • -You need to show ties to Portugal
      • -You can liquidate your investment

    If you choose to get naturalized, you can get your Portuguese passport and become a European citizen.

Portugal Golden Visa Step-by-Step Process

  • Step 1

    Decide on an advisor & an investment

    Before applying for my Golden Visa, I went back and forth between hiring an advisory firm or not.  Finally, I chose to work with one. In hindsight, I’m glad I did. Technically, I could have done it by myself, but it would have involved a lot of headache and trouble.  

    I don’t want this to turn into an advertorial, so I will not share the name of the advisory firm here. I was extremely happy with their service and the level of effort they put in to make sure I had a smooth ride. I would recommend their services, feel free to email me and I’d share their contact information.

    I needed to make my investment. They shared with me my options and I chose to go ahead with a fund investment.  The advisory firm tireleslly went through each and every option, they set up call with the funds we shortlsted, and shared with me tables comparing the different funds.

    The time frame varies depending on the chosen investment option. The whole decision process about the type of investment and the chosing the specific fund took me about a month.

  • Step 2

    Collect all the Necessary Documents

    I had to prepare three sets of documents: (i) for my legal representation and bank opening, (ii) for my fund subscription, (iii) for my Golden Visa application.  It is a smart idea to streamline the process and start preparing the documents simulataneously as you are deciding on your investment, and waiting for the red tape in some of these steps.

    Among the documents, requesting a criminal record may take the longest. Other documents include proof of address, marital status, employment letter, and bank reference letter.  Most of the documents need to be translated to Portuguese, notarized, and apostilled. SEF requires the translation to be certified by a Portuguese notary or Portuguese consulate.  

    You need to have a Portuguese NIF (social security number) or a financial number and open a Portuguese bank account.  Opening a bank account for Americans can apparently get a bit tricky, but the advisory firm I worked with was able to make it quite smooth in my case.

    Step 2

  • Step 3

    Complete my investment

    SEF required me to transfer the investment amount from my bank account outside of Portugal (from my US bank account, in my case) to my bank account in Portugal.  Then I made the fund investment from my Portuguese bank.  It took about a month to complete my fund subscription.

  • Step 4

    Complete my registration before submitting the application

    The immigration office, Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF), has an online portal where you can submit your application.

    After completing the pre-registration through the website, you will need to pay the registration fee of €514.80 for your application and €80.29 for each family member. You will also have to send a copy of all the required documents at this time.

    Because Portugal’s residency under the investment program can be complex, I chose to use legal representative recommended to me by my advisor.  They handled this step for me.

    Step 4

  • Step 5

    Schedule & Attend my SEF Appointment

    In around 10 weeks, I received my pre-approval. With that, SEF shared with me a few appointment dates. They gave me an appointment for five months after the pre-approval date. I hear the wait times are getting longer with Covid-19.

    I had my appointment in the SEF office in Porto, where an immigration official interviewed me briefly and collected my biometric data. If you are applying with your family, it is better that you all go together with all your documents at once.

    Once I was done with the appointment and it was approved, I had to pay the licensing fee to the government.  After my appointment, I had to wait another four and a half months to receive my Golden Visa card. 

    This was a bit long, but I was glad to receive my residence card valid for two-years. I was expecting it to be valid for a year, but as of April 2020, the government apparently increased the first card’s validity to two years. Lucky me!

  • Step 6

    Golden Visa Extensions

    Each Golden Visa card is valid for two years at a time.  I am expected to spend 14 days in Portugal within the two-year period.  Then, the renewal application is submitted and I go through another biometrics appointment at SEF.

    Step 6

  • Step 7

    Become a Portuguese citizen

    If you have maintained your investment and minimum residency requirements, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship at the end of 5 years. Just remember that you will need to know some Portuguese, so if citizenship is your goal, make sure you study the language. If all goes well, you will receive a Portuguese passport, one of the most powerful passports in the world. 

    I haven’t got to this stage yet, but this is my ultimate plan. Hopefully, it’ll be a smooth transition into becoming a European citizen.

Portugal Golden Visa Changes In 2022

The Portuguese Parliament hinted in 2020 that the Golden Visa program would go through changes.  The details of the changes and their timeline were ambiguous for a long time.

In February 2021, the details were officially declared.

What Are the Changes to Golden Visa in Portugal?

There are two significant aspects that will change in the program.

  1. The Real Estate Option will change:
    • Where you buy your property in Portugal will matter
    • Only the Autonomous Regions of the Azores and Madeira or in the interior territories will qualify
    • Properties in Lisbon, Porto, or other coastal areas will not qualify for the program
  2. Minimum Investment Amounts will Increase:
    • Capital Transfer amount will jump from €1,000,000 to €1,500,000 
    • Investment Fund amount will jump from €350,000 to €500,000 
    • Research & Development amount will jump from €350,000 to €500,000 

Will my existing investment be affected?

No, no existing investments will be affected by the changes. They will not be retroactive.

What is the cutoff date for Portugal Golden Visa Program?

Changes will come into effect on January 1, 2022.

This means that you have the rest of 2021 to apply for the Portuguese Golden Visa at the more attractive current terms.

For more information on the changes, GoVisaFree has an article on Portugal Golden Visa Rule Changes in 2022.

Why did I choose the Fund Investment Method?

I went back and forth between the fund investment and the real estate investment quite a bit.

Ultimately, there were four reasons why I chose to go ahead with a fund:

  • Smaller ticket size of €350,000, compared to €500,000 real estate option,
  • Less acquisition costs in taxes and fees,
  • Well diversified options,
  • I do not have management hassle, professionals take care of that for me.

When I look back, I would probably change one thing about my application.  Instead of putting all my eggs in one basket, I would diversify.  I invested all €350,000 in one fund.  If I could go back, I would put it in two or three different funds.

Did I receive any help along the way?

Yes. Although I am an absolute control freak and love to do my own research, I was tempted to use a professional firm to help me along the process.

I live and work in the US.  Portugal is an ocean away; a different culture, a different language, a different way of doing business.  I wanted to have a local professional that would hold my hand to make sure all goes smoothly with such a significant investment.

That’s why I hired an advisory firm to help me choose and make my investment and apply for the Golden Visa.  I also used the law firm that they partner up with in order to make things super safe and smooth.

In hindsight, I am glad that I worked with a professional firm. Robin asked me not to share the name of the advisory company or the fund I chose here in order not to make it into an advertorial.  But, they were of great help and I would strongly recommend them.  I provided their contact information to Robin, so feel free to email Robin here, for an intro.

I hope this was helpful for you.  I wish you the best of luck along your journey.  Feel free to email me and ask me if you have any questions.

FAQ

The below questions are not part of Barbara’s article.  They are FAQs we answered as the GoVisaFree team.

What are the benefits of the Portugal Golden Visa Program?

The golden visa Portugal grants the holder many benefits, such as:

  • Residence visa waiver for entering Portugal.
  • Right to live and work in Portugal.
  • Visa-free traveling right within the Schengen Area.
  • Family reunification.
  • You can apply for permanent residence at the end of 5-years.
  • You can apply for Portuguese citizenship at the end of 5-years.

Do I have to hire a lawyer to apply for a Golden Visa to Portugal?

It’s always encouraged to hire legal advice when venturing into a significant investment like this. Technically, you can apply for a golden visa yourself. Still, it’s smarter to hire professionals because they are familiar with all the rules and regulations and can make your golden visa application run smoother.

Can I include my family members in my Golden Visa Portugal application?

Under the act of family reunification, the main Portugal Golden visa applicant can include their family within the Portuguese residency program. The Portugal Golden Visa grants all the benefits of living and working in Portugal to the family members.

The listed family members below are eligible to apply for the Golden Visa along with your application:

  • Spouse
  • Children under the age of 18
  • Single and financially dependent adult children as long as they are full-time students
  • Parents over the age of 66 years old

How long does it take to get residency in Portugal?

The process for Portugal’s golden visa program depends on both your availability to visit Portugal, to submit your biometric data, and the number of the applications at the office to which you applied. It may take around 8-12 months to obtain your Golden Visa for Portugal considering the above variables.

Do I have to reside in Portugal to keep my residency?

Portugal Golden Visa is subject to renewal at the end of the 2nd, 4th, and 6th years. The minimum stay requirement is 14 days in each two-year period.

Does the Portugal golden visa program lead to citizenship?

If you meet the below conditions, you are eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship at the end of 5 years:

  • Clean criminal records.
  • Proof that you fulfilled the minimum stay requirement for five years.
  • Proof of no tax obligation in the country.
  • Evidence of your knowledge for basic command of the Portuguese language.

Does Portugal accept dual citizenship?

Yes, you can keep the Portuguese passport as a second citizenship if your home country allows dual citizenship.

Can I exit Portugals Golden visa Program investment at the end of five years?

There are three options for Portugal’s golden visa program at the end of five years:

  • Application to renew the Portugal Golden Visa.
  • Application to become a Permanent Residence.
  • Application for Portuguese Citizenship.

You don’t have to keep your initial investment after you obtain permanent residency or citizenship. You have to keep your initial investment as long as you renew your Golden Visas Portugal’s golden.

What’s the minimum amount I can invest in the Portugal Golden Visa program?

The minimum investment for the Golden Visa is €250,000.

If I’m in Portugal Golden Visa program, can I work there?

The Portuguese Golden Visa is technically a temporary residence permit. It allows you to live and work in Portugal.

What fees do I have to pay for the Portugal Golden Visa?

The legal costs of the golden visa can start from €8,000 Euros, with extra charges for meeting the investment threshold. For the entire golden visa process, be prepared to spend an additional 10%-15% on top of your minimum investment amount.

Do I have to know Portuguese to apply for a Golden Visa?

No. Portuguese language knowledge is not necessary for the Golden Visa program, though it is necessary to obtain citizenship.

How long does it take before I can acquire Portuguese citizenship and passport?

Acquiring citizenship through the Portuguese golden visa takes five years. At the end of five years in the program you have three options:

  • Application to renew the Portugal Golden Visa
  • Application to become a Permanent Residence
  • Application for Citizenship

You don’t have to keep your initial investment after you obtain permanent residency or citizenship. You have to keep your initial investment as long as you renew your Golden Visas Portugal’s golden.

What option for investments do I have for the Portuguese golden visa?

The Portuguese Golden Visa offers a variety of investment options, such as:

  • Capital Transfer
  • Creation of Jobs in Portugal
  • Real Estate Investment: €500,000
  • Real Estate Investment: €350,000 Rehabilitated Property
  • Portuguese Venture Capital Fund Investment
  • Scientific and Technological Research Investment
  • National Heritage Investment
  • Portuguese Business Investment

These will change at the end of 2021.

Is it a good idea to invest in Portugal’s real estate market?

Portugal’s real estate market experienced a tough period after the 2008 economic crisis. This led the real estate prices to tank in the early 2010s. With the right economic policies, the Portuguese real estate market started a recovery period beginning with 2013.

As a result of the growth in the country’s popularity, it experienced a strong come back in the real estate market. Portugal is still quite affordable by European standards. So it is a smart idea to invest in this growing market right now.

Can I take out a mortgage to pay for my Portugal Golden Visa investment?

Yes. You can take a mortgage to pay for your Golden Visa investment, as long as the minimum investment threshold is met without a mortgage. This is the most common way to finance the purchase of a property in Portugal. Portugal banks provide mortgages to both residents and non-residents, provided that the requirements are met. Learn more about the Portugal mortgage process for foreigners here.

How many people have applied for Golden Visa Portugal?

As of 2021 July, 9,875 investors have applied for Portugal’s Golden Visa. You can check out our Portugal Golden Visa statistics page for the current figures.

I’m British. Can I apply for Golden Visa for Portugal?

Yes, you can. British citizens can apply for Portugal Golden Visa program since post-Brexit.

Which is the best route to get Portugal residency by investment?

This depends on your investment criteria. Real estate acquisition is very popular, however, the investment fund option is getting very popular too.

Are Americans eligible to apply for Portugal Golden Visa program?

Yes, they are. As Portugal Golden Visa is for non-EU citizens, Americans are welcome to apply.

About the Author

Barbara T. is a GoVisaFree community member from Charlotte, North Carolina, US.  She’s been an active member since 2020. Barbara recently went through the Portuguese Golden Visa program and she was kind enough to share her process in detail with our readers. Feel free to email Robin here, for an intro.