Portugal could end its popular Golden Visa program — here’s how to get it before it’s gone

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Editors note: This post has been updated with new information.

There’s a win this week for anyone hoping to become a European Union citizen through Portugal’s popular Golden Visa program. Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa vetoed the proposed change to legislation and sent it back to the Parliament for additional changes. This means potential applicants still have time to qualify under the current program rules.

The legislation is expected to be reintroduced in September or October, according to Jason Morgan, director of sales and marketing of the Mercan Group — an investment immigration consulting company. 

Morgan told TPG: “The President´s veto can go a long way on ensuring the Portuguese Golden Visa program some very relevant last weeks. Having the President voice out the concerns that the vast majority of the political and economic stakeholders made public validates the cooperative position that our group has adopted throughout this process.

In regard to timelines, a realistic scenario is that the government calls upon the first session of Parliament after the summer break — September 15th, as the date to reapprove the bill, after which it is resent to the President for approval and publishing. Even if this date — September 15th — is indeed the chosen date, under current processual proceedings, it is doubtful that the bill will come into force before the end of September or, most likely, the beginning of October.”

He also added: “Currently, with our partners, the average timing to process a file is around one week, which allows for more than enough time to still invest and participate in the Portuguese investment program before the increase in the entry price point kicks in.”

What is a Golden Visa

You can currently become an EU citizen through real estate investment in a handful of countries with programs commonly referred to as Golden Visas.

For example, you can establish residency in Portugal with an investment starting at 280,000 euros (about $296,317). Requirements include spending up to 14 days in the country annually. However, over the five-year investment period, that requirement varies.

Back in February, Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced that the government intended to review the Golden Visa program — specifically the real estate investment option — and issued a preliminary proposal for changes. Factors prompting the review include foreign investment driving up the price of real estate and potential security risks of money laundering within transactions, according to Costa.

The program was launched in 2012 as a way to attract tourism and investment in Portugal. Over the last 10 years, the program has brought 6.5 billion euros (about $6.8 billion) in investments and issued more than 11,000 residence permits.

As TPG founder Brian Kelly outlined in his journey to EU citizenship, a Golden Visa from Portugal can be very lucrative if you are looking for ways to live, work or study in the EU.

The benefits also extend to your immediate family, and you could eventually hold dual citizenship with a Portuguese passport. This would allow you to visit 187 countries without an additional visa. A Portuguese passport was ranked sixth (the U.S. is seventh) in the list of the world’s most powerful passports according to the 2023 Henley Passport Index.

What happens next

The proposal was forwarded to the president, whose veto this week means it could be changed and evaluated again before it gets reintroduced in the fall.

Changes were made to the program in 2022, but this new announcement could mean that the program (or parts of it) could still go away forever.

Several steps must be taken before the law changes, some of which have already happened. The monthlong comment period expired on March 16, 2023, and it was followed by a meeting to draft the final proposal. This was then presented to Parliament for a vote.

Any changes to the current program could affect new applicants but not current applicants. So, if you’ve been thinking about pursuing dual citizenship, now is the time to get started.

Brian shared details of his own experience with the program and the Mercan Group, which connects investors to real estate development projects in Portugal.

You can find out more information on its website and register your interest to receive more information. It is currently offering a discounted fee of 4,000 euros ($4,343) rather than 5,000 euros ($5,428). Only 500 euros (about $529) are due upon signing.

TPG will continue to follow this story and report on developments.

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