Can You Apply for the D7 With Just Savings?

By James Cave / Published: July 2021.
Posted in: Visas & Residency

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A common question that gets asked with regards to the D7 visa is: can I apply with just savings? The answer — and a very unhelpful one at that — seems to be…maybe. 

In writing this article, I spoke to several people who had successfully applied for the D7 with just savings and no other form of income, such as income from a pension, rental income from a property, or a remote job. But I also spoke to plenty of people who had been rejected or whose lawyers had told them not to apply — despite them sometimes having hundreds of thousands of Euros worth of savings, which would be more than enough to cover their living costs for the duration of the visa and many years beyond. 

“We only showed savings… no income. We are a family of two adults and one eight-year old. After setting up our Portuguese account we transferred 30,000 USD to that account for the three of us which converted to a little over 25,000 Euro. For US savings, we showed a savings account with an additional 39,000 USD along with a CD account where we have 100k USD. I am not sure it was necessary but we did not want to take the chance of getting rejected and having to appeal.” – Charli

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“I was advised by immigration lawyers in Portugal that the passive income/remote work option is really the only way to get the D7 Visa.  I have 400k in just cash savings and was told that would not be sufficient to obtain the D7 Visa alone. I’m 54…I am applying through the San Francisco, CA Consulate and apparently they are more picky than others.” – Natalie

“We had savings of around $3 million and transferred €50k to a Portuguese bank account. I was 70 and applied for my spouse and myself.” – Julio

“We applied as a family of four – my husband and me plus two kids, ages 47, 49, 13 and 10 at the time. We didn’t need to transfer to a Portuguese bank.  The accounts we submitted with our application were all liquid (a combo of checking, savings and money market accounts – we didn’t include any stocks, partnerships or retirement accounts whose value could decline or that we couldn’t access easily). There’s so little information on how much they want to see (if you’re not showing regular income), I wasn’t sure what to include. I figured if we showed enough liquid assets to support ourselves until retirement age they would hopefully be comfortable approving us. In total we were in the mid six figures.” – [Anonymous source] 

“My husband and I decided to take the chance and send in our applications to VFS in DC. We are in our early thirties with two little ones. They received our applications on Thursday, Jan 21st and we received an email from them the following day requesting information regarding passive income. We told them we did not have any and wished to apply based on our savings alone. On Monday, Jan 25th we received an email stating: ‘In order to apply for a residency visa you need to prove you have a passive income or that you work remotely. Unless you prove you work remotely and receive a steady (regular) income, the request cannot be accepted. Please provide the missing documents not later than 24 hours. Otherwise we will need to return you applications.’” – Yanira

“Curt and I are 65 and 66, we did not show SS income as we were not collecting any. We only showed our individual IRA accounts with enough money to fill their requirements to live here for 2 years. We only transferred the required amount to live here for one year, which was about $13,000 US. We did not share our bank accounts or any other proof of income or savings or home ownership. We figured if we were questioned we could appeal and show them more, but it never came up.” – Cathy

“We showed 600k in our retirement accounts. We had already purchased a home in Portugal. We transferred €18k to a local bank. I’m 50, my wife is 48, my daughter is 10, and the three of us moved.” – Bruce

“I showed enough to live by Portuguese standards for the remainder of my life.” – Danna

The problem with savings

From the Portuguese government’s point of view, savings are seen as less reliable than other forms of income like a pension, dividends, royalties, or even income from a remote job, all of which are typically paid out in regular installments, unlike cash savings, which you have immediate access to (and can spend in one big go).

If you were to spend all your savings and you didn’t have any income, you would then become a burden on the Portuguese state and the goal of the D7 is to bring people who have sufficient means to live here and not become a burden.

There are a few different reasons that one person could be accepted with savings and another rejected such as: 

  • The consulate or VFS office that you apply through likes the idea of savings less than others (each office may have its own interpretation of the rules)
  • The amount of savings you have versus versus your age (and whether those savings would be enough to live off for the rest of your life)
  • Whether you show the minimum amount to cover you for the length of the visa (roughly €8000 per year) or significantly more, which shows a dedication to live in Portugal and is likely seen as more stable
  • Whether or not you have children (a government office is going to want to make sure that you can support your children until they become adults)

There are exceptions to all of these, of course. While many applicants seem to be rejected based on age, others were accepted. 

“We had about 1.2 million USD in savings, almost all of it in the stock market, and about 25k in cash. We transferred 15k euro to our Portuguese bank account. I was 35 when I applied with my spouse and two kids.” – Freddy

What to do if you just have savings

If you just have savings and want to move to Portugal as a non-EU citizen, there are a few things that you could do. 

Option 1: Just apply

The first is that you could just apply or speak to an immigration lawyer to see if they recommend you apply. 

Option 2: Apply for the Golden Visa 

Another option, particularly if you have significant savings, would be to apply for the golden visa, which offers residency in return for investing in Portugal. The most common form of investment is to buy a property in Portugal (starting from around €280k but typically €500k). But some people want to rent first or want to be able to buy in somewhere like Lisbon or Porto, both now excluded from the golden visa (for residential properties, at least).

One way around this is to invest in a hotel or resort. Prices start from around €280k and there’s normally a buyback option at the end. This would allow you to qualify for the golden visa and get your money back at the end through the buyback option, sometimes acruing rental income or interest during the investment period.

The golden visa, while more expensive than other visas, also has other benefits like only needing to be physically present in Portugal for an average of seven days per year rather than the majority of the year that the d7 requires.

Option 3: Turn your savings into a passive income

Another option again would be to take your savings and invest in something that provides you with a passive income. A rental property is one example, but there are other options that are less hands-on. 

“One option we would look at,” says Jason Swan of Holborn Assets, “would be a dividend-paying company as dividends are commonly accepted as passive income for the D7 and can be beneficial for the NHR tax regime. Essentially we would create a company that would regularly pay out in the way the D7 requires but at the same time grow those savings through managed investing.” 

Option 4: Take a remote job

If you’re younger, you could consider taking a remote job for the five years until you can apply for permanent residency and citizenship as salaries from a remote job are regularly accepted as income for the D7. It’s probably not a good idea to give the job up as soon as you get here as you will be asked about your income when you renew the visa and later apply for permanent residency. 

“We did have some income, but it was just a $500 USD/month for a freelance graphic design job – not enough to support a family of four (we’re in our 40s and our children are teenagers). We showed approximately $120K USD in liquid money – savings, investments, brokerage accounts and $200K USD in retirement accounts. We only showed a transfer of €250 to our Novo Banco bank account.” – Tara from Vegan Family Adventures

Option 5: Apply for another visa

And finally, you could apply for another visa such as the D2, which requires you to start or transfer a business to Portugal, or a study visa. The challenge with the latter is finding a course that allows you to stay for five years, the amount of time you need to live in Portugal before you can apply for permanent residency and submit your citizenship application. 

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