Launched in 2012, the Golden Visa or ARI is one of Portugal’s most well-known and popular visas. It offers residency, or the right to live in Portugal, to non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens (and, potentially, citizenship later on) in return for making an investment in Portugal.
Since its launch, more than 11,500 people have obtained residency in Portugal through the golden visa program. Over the past few years, the golden visa has gone through a number of changes. As of 2023, it’s now no longer possible to invest in property, residential or commercial, for the golden visa, but there are still a number of other routes that will appeal.
What is the golden visa?
The golden visa is a program that allows non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens to obtain residency in Portugal by investment. After 5 years of being resident in Portugal under the golden visa, you can apply for citizenship, but that is a separate application. This means that the golden visa isn’t a citizenship by investment program but rather a residency by investment program. In practice, however, most people applying for the golden visa apply for citizenship and that is their main reason for being a part of the program.
The big selling point of the golden visa is that it only requires you to spend an average of 7 days in Portugal. Most other residency visas require you to spend the majority of the year (6-8 months) in Portugal.
The main downside of the golden visa is the cost. Applicants can expect to pay around €10,000 in fees, excluding any additional fees for family members. Other visas like the D7 and Digital Nomad Visa have much smaller fees in comparison, but do not have the flexible physical stay requirements that the golden visa offers, hence the higher price.
Another downside is that recently, golden visa applications have been process very slowly — and it may be quicker to obtain residency via another residency visa, if speed is your main priority.
What are the benefits of the golden visa?
There are a number of selling points to the golden visa compared to other visas like the D7 and Digital Nomad Visa, but the two biggest selling points are:
- It has minimal physical stay requirements.
- It suits those who have cash to invest, but may not have a passive income, which is what the D7 typically requires.
Even though you’re technically resident in Portugal, you don’t need to spend a lot of time there: just 7 days per year on average. You can spend more time if you wish, but this flexibility makes the golden visa perfect for at least two groups of people:
- Those that want a pathway to citizenship but don’t want to move to Portugal (or perhaps, not right now).
- Those that want to move to Portugal but want more flexibility to travel and leave whenever they want rather than having to spend around 6-8 months of the year here.
The golden visa also allows you to invest cash, which suits those who have savings but don’t have an income. The D7, for example, requires you to have a regular, passive income, such as income from a pension or a rental property. The Digital Nomad Visa requires you to have a regular active income, such as a salary from a remote job.
Of course, Portugal isn’t the only European country to offer a golden visa. However, the reason Portugal’s program has become so popular is that the physical stay requirements are minimal and it’s possible to apply for Portuguese citizenship after just 5 years of residency.
And there are other benefits, which are common across most Portuguese residency visas, such as:
- You can apply for Portuguese citizenship after just 5 years of residency (or just permanent residency if you prefer).
- Once you have Portuguese citizenship, you can easily live, work, and study anywhere else in the EU.
- There are no language requirements at the application stage. However, if you want to apply for permanent residency or citizenship after five years, there is a language requirement, but this is only the A2-level of Portuguese.
- You can access Portugal’s healthcare and education facilities.
- You can travel visa-free within the Schengen Area.
- Family members can be added to your application.
Who is eligible to apply?
The golden visa is generally open to most people who are non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, but there are a few other requirements to consider.
- Investment Requirement: The applicant must make a qualifying investment in Portugal. For example, the applicant could invest €500,000 or more into a qualifying fund. The investment or donation cannot come from a loan.
- Nationality Requirement: The application must be a non-EU/EEA/Swiss national (e.g. someone from the US or Argentina). Following Brexit, UK citizens are now eligible to apply for the golden visa.
- Age requirements: The main applicant must be at least 18 years old.
- Clean Criminal Record: The applicant must have a clean criminal record, and AIMA (previously known as SEF) must not have issued an alert for the applicant in the Schengen Information System (SIS).
- Source of Funds: The applicant must demonstrate the legal source of investment funds.
What are the Investment Options?
As of 2023, Portuguese parliament has voted to remove the option to invest in property or transfer funds to a Portuguese bank account. This means that the following options now remain:
- Invest €500,000 or more in qualifying funds, such as venture capital funds (these can’t be real-estate focused funds).
- Invest €500,000 or more into a company, which creates 5 jobs or maintains 10 jobs.
There are also more donation-focused options:
- Transfer €500,000 into public or private scientific research institutions.
- Transfer €250,000 into projects which support artistic production, recovery or maintenance of the national cultural heritage.
Investment Options Overview
One way to qualify for the golden visa is to invest in a fund, such as a private equity or venture capital fund. The minimum investment amount is €500,000. There are a number of different qualifying funds, such as in agriculture, startups, and healthcare.
Investing in funds comes with a certain amount of risk, however, it is also one of the most hands-off ways to obtain the golden visa. Simply invest the money and cash out, hopefully with a profit, once the fund allows and once you’ve qualified for permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship. This is normally at the 5 year mark, although some funds may require you to hold your investment for longer.
Create 10 Jobs
No minimum amount
Arguably one of the best ways to contribute to the Portuguese economy is through job creation. Portugal has a talented and well-educated workforce, many of whom not only speak Portuguese but also speak English to a high level. Spanish is also spoken well too.
Aside from the societal benefit that this route offers, another selling point might be that there is no minimum investment amount. However, even with Portugal’s low minimum wage of around €700 per month, and even excluding other costs like social security, paying 10 salaries isn’t going to work out particularly cheap – and that’s without considering the time needed.
Incorporate a Company + Create 5 Jobs
If creating 10 jobs sounds like too difficult a challenge, there is a simpler option which is to create 5 jobs and also transfer capital of at least €500,000 to a newly incorporated company or increase the share capital of an existing company. The company must have a registered office in Portugal.
Donation Options Overview
Donate to an Arts & Culture Institution
The cultural investment option isn’t particularly popular as it’s a donation rather than an investment. However, it’s worth mentioning that this is the cheapest way of obtaining the Portuguese golden visa.
If you’re a philanthropist who’s looking to do some good while also earning his European citizenship, this option (along with others like the investment in scientific research) is worth considering.
Donate to a research institution
If you’re feeling generous but would rather your money went to a research facility, such as a scientific research institution, rather than Portugal’s arts and culture sector, this golden visa route might be a better option for you. At €500,000, it’s double the cost, but you may feel that it’s an area you would rather invest in.
Which Family Members Can You Include On Your Application?
If you see the value of having Portuguese residency (and later, potentially Portuguese citizenship) then you will probably want your family members to get the same benefits as well. Certain family members can be added to a golden visa application, allowing them to obtain residency in Portugal and take advantage of benefits like access to Portugal’s healthcare system and universities.
The following family members can be included:
- Spouse (or common law partner)
- Dependent minor children
- Dependent minor adopted children
- Dependent children aged 18+ if studying or financially dependent on parents
- Parents over the age of 65 (or younger if dependent)
- Dependent siblings under the golden visa holder’s guardianship
- Other relatives (if certain dependency requirements can be proven)