The Portugal golden visa program offers a real estate investment route to gaining residency and potential citizenship in the country and hence European citizenship. It was launched by the Portuguese government in 2012 to encourage investment into Portugal and has since encouraged several billion Euros in real estate investment and over 2,000 family applications each year.
Real estate investment to make for European Visa
An investment of €500,000 is required in real estate in Portugal. The property, either residential or commercial, can be rented for income. Any number of properties can combine to make up the €500,000 minimum investment. Joint buyers can combine investments into one property. The property can be mortgaged for any investment exceeding the minimum. A lower investment amount of €350,000 is possible for properties to be renovated, however, clients should be aware of the practicalities of such investment
How does it work: buying real estate and becoming an EU citizen?
The applicant needs to have made the investment prior to applying for the visa. Completing the property purchase takes 1 – 3 months. Completing the visa application then takes another few months. Once a property has been selected through ourselves at La Vida, the lawyers who we recommend can take care of the application process, conveyancing and legal work for the property. A typical application involves initial discussion with ourselves followed by a 3 or 4-day visit to view properties, meet with lawyers, open a bank account and visit immigration for biometrics. The application after this point can be processed within Portugal by the clients’ lawyers. Provided everything is done correctly at this stage the client will not need to visit again to collect the residence permits.
Get European Visa with real estate investment in Portugal
In addition to the real estate investment applicants will need a clear criminal record and medical insurance to cover any stay in Portugal. Applicants will need to maintain their investment spending one week in the first year and two weeks every two years in Portugal in order to renew the residency visa. Of course, there are fees for this route. Government fees per family member for application of the Portugal golden visa are €5,147.80. Renewal fees every two years apply at 50% of those rates. In addition, there is a processing fee on application and renewal of € 514.80 for the main applicant plus € 80.20 per family member. In addition, applicants need to plan for lawyers’ fees, typically €4,000 – €5,000 per family.
Buying real estate in Portugal attracts certain taxes, stamp duty, and fees. We recommend investors budget for around 9%-10% in total, the main element being Property Transfer Tax (IMT).
Family members include European Visa with real estate investment in Portugal
Qualifying family members include spouse and all children under 18. Children 18 and over can qualify if in full or part-time education and dependent. Parents aged 66 and over also qualify without the need to prove dependency. In some family circumstances, it is preferable to reverse the investment to ensure everyone qualifies for the Portuguese golden visa.
Investors will only be taxed on their worldwide income if they are resident in Portugal for over 183 days in any year. However, Portugal has a very favourable tax regime for anyone considering living in the country. No taxes are charged on income for the first 10 years. For those non-resident individuals, tax is charged at 28% on income derived in the country. This can be reduced with expenses for rental income. Capital gains tax is 28% and there are allowances for costs and depreciation. There is no inheritance tax in Portugal. Annual property taxes (IMI) can vary between 0.3% and 0.8% of the property valuation, but there is a range of exemptions.
How to live and work in Portugal when you have become an EU citizen
Applicants deciding to live full time in Portugal will require medical insurance. However, families will have access to all public services including state medical care and schooling. State schooling follows the Portuguese curriculum but there are many English international schools also. Applicants also have the right to work in Portugal and set up a business there.
Travelling in the EU Schengen zone
Gaining visitor visas to travel to Europe and the Schengen zone has become problematic from many countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Once granted the Portuguese residence permit allows freedom of travel throughout the EU Schengen zone. Applicants need to simply renew the golden visa to maintain this.
Citizenship and Passport
Applicants can apply for permanent residency after five years and Portuguese citizenship after six years. For citizenship in Portugal, there is a basic language test to pass and applicants by that stage will need to demonstrate links with the country. We can advise on this. Once applicants have either permanent residency or citizenship then they are free to dispose of their investment as further golden visa renewals are not necessary.
The right to live in Portugal
Applicants gain the right to live in Portugal although there is no requirement to do this. There is a very favourable tax regime for those who do. With the residency card, all family members will have the freedom to travel to and throughout the EU Schengen visa zone with ease and without further visa applications. Eventual passport holders gain European residency, meaning the ability to live, work, study and travel freely anywhere within the European Union. This is the most popular program in Europe. The Portuguese Golden Visa offers attractive real estate investment conditions in a core European country which is part of the Schengen zone and with a route open to citizenship after six years with no residency requirement.
Update on Portugal Golden Visa
October 30th, 2015 •
A revision of rules for the golden visa in Portugal has left many potential applicants confused as to the rules and a great deal of misleading literature posted on the web suggesting the Portuguese golden visa limit has been reduced.
The qualifying real estate investment level for the golden visa in Portugal is €500,000. Earlier this summer the Portuguese government introduced a new investment level of €350,000 for certain categories of real estate.
The law states the following: “Acquisition of immovable assets, the construction of which has been completed, at least, 30 years ago or located in an area of urban regeneration and execution of refurbishment works in the acquired immovable assets…equal to or above 350 thousand euros;”
The point here is that even though this new option applies, it only applies to property that is over 30 years old or located in an urban regeneration area. It involves the execution of refurbishment works. This is an important aspect.
To qualify for the golden visa under such an investment requires the necessary permissions for renovation work on the building. Such permissions and payments to contractors all need to be done legally and of course within the tax structure so the necessary paperwork, proofs and payments are fully in order. To undertake such a project would mean employing project managers and the necessary architects. The applicant would have to have all the licences in place prior to any application being submitted which will of course delay any application for the visa. To mitigate any risk it is vital to ensure that any such property would qualify within this category. Clients would need to ensure they build sufficient time into their schedule to take care of all these additional aspects.
Clients visiting to invest €500,000 in a location such as Lisbon can usually complete the necessary tasks within a few days, accompanied by ourselves and our lawyers in a methodical, established and time proven manner. The alternative investment of €350,000 will require far more time and hands on management. Golden Visa applicants should be wary of companies offering such management for a fee and in particular, remain conscious of the scope for overpaying for assets requiring reconstruction without the necessary independent professional advice from architects and surveyors. For any international client not residing in Portugal and trying to manage from a distance, it can be problematic, time consuming and expensive.
The €350,000 is reduced by a further 20% to €280,000 for renovation in low density, less developed areas of the country. This naturally does not apply to the cities or the more populated coastal regions creating issues for any future rental income potential.
PAULO BERNARDO – INTERNATIONAL