During this week, the Portuguese Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas announced the new criteria for granting the Golden Visa, which will be soon presented to the Parliament. From now on, the granting of residence permits for foreign investors (ARI) will be controlled with "regular audits" from the Inspectorate-general of the Internal Administration (IGAI). In the property market, it will be mandatory to present the legal description in order to foreign investors acquire a property. The Investor Golden Visa can also be granted for those who invest at least 500,000 euros in urban renewal construction works.

The reform of the Golden Visa program was decided by the Portuguese Deputy Prime-Minister Paulo Portas, mainly due to a legal process that took place in November 2014 concerning some suspicions of corruption related to this program.

According to the Deputy Prime-Minister, the goal is to reinforce the control throughout the whole process. Thus, while it will be mandatory for the program to be submitted to regular audits, it will also be decentralized and up to the different regional directors of the Foreigners and Border Services (SEF) to issue their opinion before the decision of the National Director of this international police body. The goal is to reinforce the internal and external inspection of the appraisal processes and the decision of the granting of Visas.

In terms of the property market conditions, the minimum amount for the foreign investor to buy a property, which consequently allows him or her to get an ARI remains the same (500,000 euros). As for the capital contributions to the Portuguese economy, the amount is still one million euros. The third option for getting a Golden Visa is by creating at least 10 jobs.

Mandatory Legal description

One of the most significant changes the Government will present to the Parliament is the compulsory presentation of the Legal description of the property that the foreign investor is willing to buy in the Portuguese territory, so that it will be possible to compare the reals estate's acquisition value with its rateable value.

Renewal grants Visas

Another milestone of the reform is the expanding of the program scope, which from now on will also include investments of 350,000 euros or more in areas such as culture and scientific investigation and more than 500,000 euros in urban renewal.

Investing in less favoured regions

It was also announced that benefits will be granted to those who invest in territories with low population density (less than 100,000 habitants per km2 or with a GDP inferior to 75% of the national average). Foreign investors who are interested in getting the temporary residence permit for less 20% of the announced amounts can do it, as long as they invest in less favoured regions. According to Portas, the goal is to "look for conditions, so that Golden Visas don't concentrate exclusively in metropolitan areas, but instead are spread and used in territories with low population density."

The Deputy Prime-Minister praised once more the advantages of the program to the Portuguese economy and revealed that by the end of the last month, the country has received more than 1.2 billion euros in capital foreign contributions thanks to this program.

Let's see then the set of measures announced by the Government that compose this reform:
  • It will be possible to be granted with Golden Visas by "transferring an amount of 350,000 euros or more in scientific investigation activities"
  • Investing with a minimum amount of 350,000 euros in artistic production and renewal or maintenance of the national treasures;
  • Purchase of property by investing 500,000 euros or more in urban renewal construction works;
  • A 20% reduction of the minimum quantitative criteria for those who invest in territories with low population density (regions with less than 100,000 habitants per Km2 or with a GDP inferior to 75% of the national average);
  • A "regular audit" performed by the Inspectorate-general of the Internal Administration will be promoted for the granting of the ARI. All conclusions and recommendations will be given to the Assembly of the Republic and posted on the Government website;
  • An internal Manual of Procedures produced by the SEF will be adopted;
  • Government intends to clarify "the Monitoring Group competences" of the granting procedures of the Golden Visa;
  • A "decentralization of the appraisal of the process will be done, and it will be from now on executed at regional offices with territorial competence". The "SEF's National Director's decision concerning the granting of the Residence Permit for Investors" will be "preceded by the competent regional director proposal";
  • The compulsory presentation of the Legal Description for the Investor be able to buy a property in the country.
Results obtained

This program has contributed for the entry of foreign investment in Portugal. Between October 8th 2012 and January 31st 2015 the Government granted 2100 Residence Permits for Investors (ARI), from which 2 in the first year, 494 in 2013, 1526 last year and 78 in the first month of 2015.

According to the Government's data, the total investment was 1273 million euros, with the biggest part coming from the purchase of properties, while the capital transfer represented 119.8 million euros. From the total Golden Visa grants, the vast majority (1992) were from purchases of properties, 105 from capital transfers and three from the creation of at least 10 jobs.

According to the information available at SEF's website, 3154 residence permits for family members were granted, 576 in 2013, 2395 last year and 183 last January.

Among the main nationalities, China leads with 1693 Golden Visa granted, followed by Brazil (69), Russia (66), South Africa (52) and Lebanon (33).

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