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Portugal's Golden Residence Permit Program Updates

3 September 2015

Following a temporary program suspension and adjustment in immigration laws, Portugal announces changes to its immigration laws and reduces the minimum qualifying capital requirements for its Golden Residence Permit Program.

Lisbon - The Portuguese Ministry of Interior Affairs has announced that key updates to its Golden Residence Permit Program have now been officially written into law. These changes resulted in an expansion to the scope and terms of investment, and include a reduction in the minimum qualifying capital investment. With these revisions, the Portuguese residence-by-investment program has become the most affordable and compelling program in the European Union (EU). These updates were detailed in Diário da República, the country’s official government gazette, and are effective as of 3 September 2015.

“Often referred to as the Golden Visa, Portugal’s permit program continues to be one of the most popular residence-by-investment options offered by Henley & Partners. This is mainly attributed to the low investment requirements and high quality of life. With the minimum qualifying investment being lowered further, we expect the demand for the Portuguese residence program to accelerate,” says Marco Gantenbein, Managing Partner, Henley & Partners, the global leaders in residence and citizenship planning.

Gantenbein moves on to explain that residence-by-investment would suit both investors who wish to live in Portugal and travellers wishing to alleviate the need of holding Schengen Visas.

Investors may apply for a Golden Residence Permit through three core investment options, including capital investment, job creation and the purchase of real estate. New qualifying investment amounts have been introduced, including research activities (at least EUR 350,000 investment); artistic production or natural heritage (at least EUR 250,000 investment); or funds invested in the capitalization of SMEs (at least EUR 500,000 investment).

The revised minimum cost may be lowered further by up to 20% if the property is located in a less densely populated area, i.e. territories with less than 100 inhabitants per square kilometer, or one with a Gross Domestic Product 75% lower than the national average. In addition, the costs for the refurbishment works of such a property will be included in the minimum qualifying investment.The only exception is with regards to a new capital investment option requiring the transfer of least EUR 1 million including the acquisition of shares or quotas of companies.

In addition, children over 18 years old, but financially dependent on the main applicant, are no longer obligated to be studying in Portugal in order to qualify for family reunion.

However, new restrictions have been introduced for the program in connection to these reduced capital requirements. For example, regarding real estate, only properties older than 30 years or located in areas of urban regeneration as outlined above, will qualify for this new minimum purchase level. If this condition is not met, then the original qualifying level of EUR 500,000 is still in effect.

Furthermore, it may take a little longer for applicants to receive their residence permits. The granting of the permit has been extended from 60 to 90 days and the application for the renewal of the residence permit extended from 30 to 60 days.

“The Golden Residence Permit Program recently emerged as the best residence-by-investment program in the world in 2015 in the Global Residence Program Index (GRPI). The index uses unprecedented, objective and scientific methodology to systematically analyze 19 of the most relevant residence-by-investment programs. The tax burden on Portugal’s residents is one of the lowest in the GRPI, both on corporate and personal levels,” adds Gantenbein.

Portugal is a full member of the European Union and a residence permit offers visa-free access to all EU and Schengen area states. It boasts an excellent reputation, with a very high Human Development Index ranking, and is considered one of the world’s most globalized and peaceful nations with a great quality of life. It is among the oldest countries in Europe with a rich history, a lively culture, stunning beaches and beautiful countryside.

“It’s worth noting that residence-by-investment programs do not automatically result in citizenship. It is ideal for clients who have the time to hold the residence permit for six years to potentially acquire European Citizenship, given they are willing to learn Portuguese and are comfortable with the risk that citizenship laws could change during the six year period,” he concludes.