The Portugal Golden Visa Sees Growth with New Regulations
Changes in the regulations governing the Portugal Golden Visa (PGV) program—particularly increases in the required amount for some investment modalities and new restrictions on acquiring personal homes in some urban centers—have not driven investors away from the program.
In fact, it looks like 2022 is going to be a great year for the PGV program. In April 2022, the program raised around €59 million, representing a 72% increase over March 2022, when the program raised around €34 million in investments. Of the different ways investors qualify for the visa, real estate investment is still the most popular (78% of total investments since January 1, 2022), followed by capital transfers (22%).
Of the 121 Golden Visas granted in April 2022, 92 were made through real estate investments and 29 were made through capital transfers.
Portugal Golden Visa Program Growth
Since the inception of the PGV program in October 2012, the top nationalities of PGV applicants have been Chinese, Brazilian, Turkish, South African, and Russian. As of April 2022, there were 5,092 visas granted to investors from China, 1,084 to Brazil, 501 to Turkey, 449 to South Africa, and 431 to Russia.
That said, in 2022 a new scenario has emerged. China is being replaced by the United States as the top source of applicants to the PGV program. Starting in February, applicants from the United States have received the most residence permits (ARI) from the program, with a sharp increase of 85% in US applicants between March 1 and April 1, 2022. India has also worked its way to the top and is now among the top five nationalities to apply for the PGV in January, February, and April 2022.
The main reason US nationals seek a permanent residence in Portugal is that the country is consistently seen as one of the best countries for retirees, offering a great standard of living at a relatively low cost. Portugal has once again been named one of the best countries to retire in, according to International Living’s 2022 Global Retirement Index. Studies cite Portugal’s friendly people, low cost of living, world-class healthcare system, and low crime rates.
As Europe’s fastest growing residency-by-investment program, the Portugal Golden Visa Program has benefited more than 10,000 applicants, with 17,600 family members. Since the program began in 2012, the number of applicants per year has increased by more than 400-fold.
The program has so far infused approximately €6.2 billion in the Portuguese economy, of which around €5.6 billion has been through the acquisition of real estate and around €631 million through capital transfer. Even in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program raised €646 million, a decrease of only 12% from the previous year. During that same period, it approved 3,225 applications from investors and family members, a decrease of only 6% from the previous year.
Due to increases in application numbers in 2022, the continued development of the program, and the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portugal Golden Visa Program has been experiencing process delays. Based on our relationships with various law firms involved in the visa application process, we’ve learned the main factors contributing to the process delays:
- The COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic collapsed global mobility in general and brought delays to the PGV application process, preventing applicants from attending required biometrics appointments in Portugal and creating a backlog that results in process delays now the appointments are being scheduled again.
- Reorganization of SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, or the Immigration and Borders Service). Some immigration attorneys argue that recent internal reorganization of the agency is subjecting applications to double validations, causing delays in the approval process; the online portal related to PGV is slowly being updated and submissions on Portal ARI may not be fully available yet.
- SEF application submission. While online applications have some issues, our partners on the ground informed us they have been submitting documents physically to the SEF so that there is proof of submission of the application.
- Biometric data collection appointment. SEF needs to catch up on the backlog caused by the pandemic in which applicants were approved but could not fly into Portugal to have their biometric appointments done. At the moment, immigration attorneys are finding it hard to schedule biometric appointments for their clients on Portal ARI, due to the lack of availability. When new dates are released, they get filled out quickly.
- The current Russia-Ukraine war. Since Portugal was one of the countries that has welcomed displaced Ukrainians, SEF resources have been allocated to provide assistance to these refugees.
On a positive note, despite these delays, the Portugal Golden Visa program still has one of the fastest approval timeframes among European residency-by-investment programs. Demand continues to be strong and mmigration attorneys and industry leaders are putting pressure on the Portuguese government to resume its previous processing and approval times, maintaining the PGV program’s place at the top of the world’s residency-by-investment programs.