Golden Visa – Changes and Impacts

Considering the latest changes in the Golden Visa field, Pontos de Vista magazine had a conversation with João Santos Pinto, Partner of CVSP Advogados. What were the main changes? What impact will they have on foreign investment in Portugal? Find out more throughout this interview and get to know the main changes.

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Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is João Santos Pinto. I have been a lawyer for more than 21 years and I am the founding partner of CVSP Advogados, a law firm established in 2012, specialized in providing legal and tax advice. We are a boutique firm where the client always comes first and is always accompanied by me throughout the process.

 What are the challenges for 2022 and the upcoming years?
This year marks the tenth anniversary of our firm. It has been a real challenge to overcome the pandemic years, but it has also been rewarding to see a project develop from its inception to where it is now. There are numerous challenges in our path to maintaining a sustained growth of our office while providing our clients with the best possible service, which is based on a one-to-one relationship. In addition, as our clientele is mainly foreign, we must always be attentive to their particular needs and goals, as well as to understand the diverse underlying cultural background of each client. Lastly, the pandemic situation has forced us to become much more digital than we were before.

What are the main areas of your firm?
As I mentioned before, our clientele is primarily foreign. Therefore, we assist our clients not only with their investments in Portugal, but also with their relocation. In this regard, we provide support to all kinds of investments, namely business and real estate investments. Moreover, we also offer tax guidance and provide assistance with all types of visas, including the Golden Visa.

You just mentioned Golden Visa. What exactly is it about?
The Golden Visa is a residence permit for investment activities that is granted to nationals of states from countries that are not members of the European Union. Several means of investment are eligible, either business or real estate, in the Portuguese territory.

What are the main benefits?
The main benefits, among others, are the following:
– Residence visa waiver for entering Portugal;
– Living and working in Portugal, provided that the person stays in Portugal for a minimum period of seven days in the first year, and fourteen in the subsequent years;
– Visa exemption for travel in the Schengen Zone;
– Family reunification;
– Applying for a permanent residence permit;
– Applying for Portuguese citizenship under the naturalization laws, provided that all other requirements established by the Citizenship Law (Lei da Nacionalidade) are fulfilled (as amended by the Law No. 37/81 of October 3).

In your experience, what are the main reasons for choosing the Golden Visa?
There are a number of reasons why someone might opt for this kind of visa, as it is always related to the client’s goals and needs. For some of our clients, it allows them to continue living in their home country while being able to travel freely in the Schengen Zone. For others, it is the desire to relocate to Portugal and to learn the language, as their ultimate goal is to apply for the Portuguese citizenship, in order to be a citizen of the EU. Most of the clients in this situation have children and want to make this investment so that their kids can attend school in Europe and have better employment prospects. For this same reason, there are also investors willing to retire in Portugal due to the country’s pleasant climate and beautiful landscape.

In your view, what are the main reasons your clients give for moving to Portugal?
Safety is amongst the top reasons, since Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world. In addition, our clientele also acknowledges that our hospitality is a particularly good asset as well as our gastronomy.
Aside from these reasons, I would also point out that our country is politically stable and may offer a well-balanced lifestyle.

 Is there a high demand for the Golden Visa?
Undoubtedly. According to the statistics, the top five nationalities are China, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, and Russia. Since this programme’s creation, an impressive total of EUR 5,604,285,459.59 has been invested.

Does the Golden Visa offer different investment routes? Which ones?
There are several routes – eight different possible options. I do not want to get into too much detail, by any means, but I will say that the most popular investment routes are the real estate investment and the acquisition of investment funds units.

The Golden Visa programme has recently undergone modifications. Please let us know which ones?
The government decided to raise the minimum threshold, beginning of January 1, 2022, for some eligible investment activities and to restrict the areas in which residential real estate investment properties may be executed. Two of the main investment activities were affected by these changes:
– Increase the subscription limit for investment funds from EUR 350,000 to EUR 500,000;
– Residential real estate investment will be restricted to interior areas of the country, as well as the islands of Madeira and Azores. In urban areas, such as Lisbon and Oporto, it will be possible to buy commercial and touristic properties.
Also, in accordance with the new regulations, the investment activities that may be performed for a minimum period of five years can be any activity performed by an individual or through a company registered in Portugal that results in the materialisation of at least one of the following situations:
ii.  A minimum capital transfer of EUR 1.5 M;
ii. The creation of, at least, ten job positions (eight, if located in designated ‘interior areas’ of Portugal mainland);
iii. The purchase of real estate property:
a) Residential properties worth at least EUR 500,000 in designated ‘interior areas’ of the Portuguese mainland or Madeira and Azores (EUR 400,000 if in a ‘low-density’ area);
b) Commercial and tourism properties worth at least EUR 500,000 anywhere in Portugal.
iv. The purchase of real estate property with construction dating back more than 30 years or located in urban regeneration areas for refurbishing:
a) Residential properties worth at least EUR 350,000 in designated ‘interior areas’ of the Portuguese mainland or Madeira and Azores (EUR 280,000 if in a ‘low-density’ area);
b) Commercial and tourism rehabilitation projects anywhere in Portugal for a total value of at least EUR 350,000 or more (EUR 280,000 if in a ‘low-density’ area).

Due to the aforementioned changes, in your opinion, what would be the hottest investment options?
I would say that the investment fund route and the investment in resorts and hotels route are the hottest. In any case, the most conservative investors favour the acquisition of their own real estate. All in all, due to the variety of investment options available there is room to accommodate the different investor’s needs.

What are the pros and cons of the investment fund option vis-à-vis the real estate route?
First and foremost, I would like to emphasize that one option is not necessarily better than the other. Basically, the clients must ascertain which option best suits their needs. However, responding to your question, investing in a fund might be quicker and save the client from paying all the expenses associated with buying a property, such as taxes, notary fees, and land register fees. Moreover, the client will also avoid paying annual municipal taxes and, if that would be the case, also other expenses, like condominium fees and property insurance.
In contrast, by investing in a residential property you can at least use it or rent it.

Can you please summarize what are the steps for the Golden Visa?
In a nutshell, the basic steps would be the following:
– Obtaining a Portuguese tax ID (NIF);
– Opening a bank account in Portugal;
– Transfer the funds from overseas sources into your Portuguese bank account;
– Finalizing the investment;
– Preparing all the required documentation for the Golden Visa application;
– Apply online for the Golden Visa;
– Approval of the Golden Visa online application by the competent authority – SEF;
– Biometrics appointment and submission of the original documentation;
– Approval of the Golden Visa;
– Issuance of the Residency Card.

Finally, do you think this programme will continue to be in demand?
Despite the fact that SEF needs to make several improvements to increase transparency and to expedite the process, I believe foreign investors will continue to look for this programme. In this regard, I see an increase interest in this programme in the US, Brazil and in the Middle East.