Obtaining residency in a foreign country can be one of the most important benefits of buying real estate abroad.
I write frequently about obtaining residency through property purchase, and the examples of good programs are almost always in Latin America.
Now it’s Europe’s turn… specifically, Portugal, which is offering a Golden Visa program targeting the foreign investor and property buyer.
For the average buyer with no family connections in Europe, it’s the best European residency program that I know of right now.
Here’s why the Portuguese Golden Visa program is so valuable today:
First and foremost, Portugal is a great place to live, so the chance to obtain residency in the country is naturally attractive. The Portuguese claim to have the best beaches in Europe. The country also offers moderate weather year-round and an abundance of sunshine.
To top it off, the U.S. dollar continues relatively strong against the euro, making the idea of buying property here even more interesting to the U.S. dollar-holder.
Finally, when you become a resident of Portugal you have access to all 26 European countries in the Schengen area. Signed in 1985, the Schengen Agreement predated the European Union and created a “borderless” zone to allow visa-free travel among the signatory countries.
When you obtain a visa under Portugal’s Golden Visa program, you become eligible for permanent residency after five years and for Portuguese citizenship after six. As an additional benefit, the Golden Visa program allows you to include family members.
When I started researching this essay, I found plenty of misinformation online. The majority of the blog posts out there were mostly right at one time, but few of them were updated to reflect all subsequent changes to Portugal’s immigration law since the Golden Visa program was introduced in 2007.
You have about 10 options for obtaining an investor’s visa in Portugal under the Golden Visa program. These vary from million-euro bank transfers or the creation of 10 jobs to investing in artistic or cultural activities or a new business.
My beat is real estate, so I’d like to focus on ways you can obtain residency in Portugal by buying property in the country. Let’s walk through each alternative…
1: Transfer a million euros to Portugal
This is not a property purchase, per se. The reason I mention this option is that the million-euro transfer is unrestricted, with no caveats on how you spend it. This option could be good for someone who wants to buy one or more properties, perhaps make some other kind of investment, and maybe save some of the transferred funds for future living expenses.
2: Spend 500,000 euros on any property
You can buy a property of any type anywhere in the country costing 500,000 euros (right now, that’s about US$575,000) or more.
3: Spend 400,000 euros on any property in a low-density or depressed area
If you buy in a low-density population area (i.e., in the countryside) or an economically depressed area, then the minimum unrestricted investment above is 20% less, or 400,000 euros (about US$460,000).
4: Spend 350,000 euros on an older property or in a “rehabilitation” zone
This threshold applies in two cases:
- Properties over 30 years old or…
- Properties in areas that the government has targeted for rehabilitation or gentrification. More on this later…
5: Spend 280,000 euros on an older property or in a “rehabilitation” zone that’s in a low-density or depressed area
This 350k-euro threshold above is lower if you buy in a low-density population area or an economically depressed area. In these cases the minimum is 20% less, or 280,000 euros (US$320,000).
Rehabilitation costs are included towards your minimum with this visa option. So your 350k euros (or 280k euros) can be the sum of the purchase price and the cost of fixing up the property.
The qualifying property can be jointly owned provided the applicant contributed the minimum investment. Also, the property can be owned by a one-person structure, such as an LLC.
Following are the general requirements when applying for any type of residency visa in Portugal.
In addition to your passport and a visa application, you must do the following:
- Prove that you’ve made your chosen investment
- Be in Portugal legally
- Show that you are covered by health insurance
- Provide an affidavit saying that you promise to comply with the ongoing terms of the visa. These include a requirement to:
- Keep the investment five years
- Stay in Portugal 7 days for the first year, and 14 days for each subsequent 2-year period
- Prove that you have a clean criminal record in Portugal and your country of origin
- Obtain certification from the Portuguese tax authority and social security system that you don’t owe them any money
Before applying for a visa, you must create an online account and pre-register so that you can submit the remaining documents online. If you’re managing the process yourself, register here… if you’re using a lawyer or personal representative, have them register here.
When you’re ready you can download the visa application here.
The visa that really holds my interest is the 350k-/280k-euro minimum investment, because there’s opportunity there.
To qualify, you can buy a property that’s more than 30 years old, or you can buy in a designated urban rehabilitation area (called an área de reabilitação urbana, or ARU).
Either way, you’re probably adding value to a place that needs some work. (At least that’s the idea… not every 30-year-old home will need work.) And if you’re adding value through restoration, you stand to make a nice gain.
But in a rehabilitation area (ARU) you’ll do even better, because not only are you adding value to your property, but the government is also incentivizing your neighborhood’s rehabilitation.
This multiplies the power of your visa investment.
What surprised me is that even the popular Algarve coast has designated ARUs, including in places like Faro’s historic district. Follow this link to have a look at Portugal’s ARUs.
If you want to open the door to Europe, this is a great opportunity.
Granted, the investment threshold in Europe is a lot higher than you can get away with in Latin America. An investment of 280k euros is still a lot of money.
But if you’re bound for Europe—and you want a chance to profit while obtaining residency—then the Golden Visa program may be just right for you.