Portuguese Residency Law Changes 2019 (2022 Update)

Although Portugal’s Golden Visa program is not officially a “citizenship by investment” scheme, but a residency-by-investment program, clarifications made to Portuguese residency law mean that Golden Visa resident holders can obtain Portuguese permanent residency and, subsequently Portuguese passports, after just 5 years.

This has put previous doubts to rest, as applicants have a clear pathway to citizenship when fulfilling the minimum 35-day stay requirement over 5 years and passing a basic Portuguese language test. In this article, we’ll delve into the Portuguese residency law changes and provide you with vital information about the Portugal Golden Visa.

Our Portuguese residency law changes and Golden Visa article will delve into the following:

  • Changes to the Portuguese residency law
  • Portugal citizenship by investment precedence
  • Benefits of Portugal residency by investment
  • How to apply for Portugal residency by investment
  • How to get a Portuguese passport by investment
  • Investment options for the Portugal Golden Visa
  • Plus much more!

Portuguese residency law: Your guide to Portuguese citizenship by investment

To provide you with some context, the Portuguese government introduced the Portugal Golden Visa program in 2012 and, since then, the scheme has become one of the most popular programs of its kind in the world. For a minimum qualifying investment and spending an average of only seven days per year in Portugal, you can be eligible for the scheme.

Changes to Portuguese residency law

When the Portuguese Golden Visa program was first launched, the citizenship law stated that residents could only apply for citizenship in six years. However, in 2018, the Portuguese citizenship law was amended, with the number of years dropping to a five year-requirement. Portugal Golden Visa applicants can obtain Portuguese citizenship, and a Portuguese passport, after fulfilling the 35-day stay requirement over the five years. 

2019 was a landmark year for Portugal’s Golden Visa program, as it marked the first year since the program’s introduction that Golden Visa investors were obtaining Portuguese citizenship. According to Patricia Casaburi, CEO of Global Citizen Solutions, “this is a great development for the Golden Visa program, as it clarifies the path towards Portuguese citizenship for investors”.

Before this change in legislation, Golden Visa permit holders had to be residents in Portugal for a sixth year before applying for a Portuguese passport.

In order to obtain Portugal citizenship by investment applicants must also complete a basic A2 certificate in the Portuguese language.

Portugal citizen-by-investment timeline

 

Portuguese residency law: Portugal citizenship by investment precedence

An important question to ask when it comes to the Portugal Golden Visa program is, has anyone become a Portuguese citizen through the Golden Visa Program?

As the Portugal Golden Visa program was only first introduced in 2012, and it takes five years to apply for Portuguese citizenship, this was always tricky to answer in the first few years. However, as of 2019, there have been many cases that have received their Portuguese citizenship through the program, putting many investors’ worries to rest. In short, many families have become Portuguese citizens through the Golden Visa program, with the Portuguese residency law changes making it easier for applicants to secure citizenship.

 

Benefits of Portugal residency by investment

The Portuguese Golden Visa program is one of the most successful in Europe, attracting investors from all over the world. Here, we’ll provide you with some of the key benefits of Portuguese residency by investment. 

Low “stay requirement”

Portugal’s low “stay requirement” (the number of days you have to spend in the country in order to maintain legal residency) is one of the main reasons why the program has remained consistently popular in comparison to similar schemes in Europe.

Investors don’t have to relocate

Whereas most European citizenship-by-investment programs require applicants to maintain their investment as well as spend the majority of the year in the country, the Portuguese Golden Visa program has a stay requirement of just 7 days in the first year, and 35 days in total.

Inexpensive investment options

One of the other factors that have made the Portuguese residency-by-investment program one of the most popular in Europe is the inexpensive investment options. Despite the high quality of life and stable economy, Portugal’s real estate market is diverse and far cheaper than other countries in Western Europe.

Starting investments for the Portuguese Golden Visa can be made starting at just €280,000, and there are a number of different options to choose from, whether you choose to invest in Portuguese real estate, or other increasingly popular routes such as Portuguese investment funds. 

High returns for investment

The strength of the Portuguese economy also means that investors can expect higher returns for their investments than in other similar programs. The growth in the tourism sector has resulted in a rise in the profitability of short- and long-term rentals in the country, particularly in cities such as Lisbon and Porto.

Generous tax incentives

Portuguese Golden Visa investors also qualify for Portugal’s non-habitual tax regime (NHR), which allows investors to enjoy generous tax reductions or in some cases total exemptions over a 10-year period.

Take a look at our guide to the Portugal NHR for more information.

Variety of investment options

A huge plus to the Portuguese Golden Visa is the number of investment options that are available. These include investments into real estate, capital transfer, fund investment, job creation, amongst others. 

Access to European healthcare and social security

As a Portuguese citizen, you can reap the benefits of the country’s excellent healthcare system, plus tap into their social security perks. 

Social Security

The social security system in Portugal covers employees and self-employed individuals. It offers them benefits, including: 

  • Unemployment benefits
  • Pension benefits
  • Occupational disease benefits
  • Invalidity benefits
  • Maternity benefits
  • Death benefits

Healthcare

As a Portuguese citizen, you will get access to the country’s free healthcare. Public health care is very good and there are only a few exceptions that are not covered. These include visiting the doctor or emergency room, where a fee of €5-20 is required.

You can learn more about Portuguese healthcare in our article here

How to apply for Portugal residency-by-investment

Our team at Global Citizen Solutions has a 100% success rate with Golden Visa applications.

With our extensive knowledge of the Portuguese market and legal system, we can provide you with personalized advice throughout the process, ensuring that you always make the best possible decisions with your investment.

Our pricing is competitive and transparent, which means you will always know what to expect.

Get in touch with a member of our team for a free initial consultation.

How to get a Portuguese passport by investment

Portuguese citizenship investment is not possible and you cannot buy a Portuguese passport. However, with the Portuguese Golden Visa, you can secure residency. Following this, after five years, you can apply for citizenship and a Portuguese passport. Here, you’ll find the necessary procedures and requirements to get a Portuguese passport by investment. 

Portugal investment residency requirements

In order to apply for Portugal citizenship by investment, applicants must:

  • Not already hold EU citizenship
  • Have a clean criminal record
  • Be over 18
  • Make and maintain an investment of at least €280,000 in Portugal over a 5-year period
  • Spend at least 35 days in Portugal over 5 years
  • Pass a basic A2 Portuguese language test

Documents required:

  • Completed application form
  • Passport, ID, or Birth certificate from your country of origin
  • Clean criminal record
  • Portuguese residence permit
  • Proof of passing your Portuguese language test (CIPLE)
  • A document from SEF to prove that you have been a residency in Portugal for a time period of at least five years

Language requirements

You will need to pass the CIPLE A2 level basic Portuguese language test in order to be granted Portuguese citizenship. 

The test can be adapted for children under the age of ten years old or for individuals with a disability. Additionally, children who are between the ages of 10-18 can be exempt from taking the test, as long as they attend a Portuguese school or you can provide a declaration of proficiency. 

You can see more about the Portuguese language test in our article here

 

Who can apply for residency by investment in Portugal?

As previously mentioned, any adult with a clean criminal record that is from a non-EU country can apply for the Portugal Golden Visa Program. 

Buying property in Portugal to obtain citizenship

You can apply to the Portugal Golden Visa Program by making a qualifying investment in the property market. You will need to maintain your investment for the five-year period. Note that this route is the most popular way to secure residency through the program.

You can choose from investing in residential real estate in the interior of the country, or in commercial real estate anywhere in the country. Full details of this investment option can be found later in this article.

How long does it take to get citizenship by investment in Portugal?

Once you have made your qualifying investment and received your Portugal Golden Visa, it will take five years to be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship and passport. The language test can be taken at any time before the application. According to Portuguese residency law changes, you can now apply for citizenship in five years. After you apply for citizenship, it will take approximately six months to be naturalized in Portugal.

Dual citizenship in Portugal

If you are concerned about dual citizenship, you should have no problem retaining your current passport (provided your country of origin allows for dual citizenship). Portugal allows you to obtain Portuguese nationality, without compromising your citizenship status from another country. 

Investment options to get citizenship in Portugal

As previously mentioned, there are many different investment options to choose from with the Portugal Golden Visa. The minimum investment amounts and the expected returns on your investment will vary depending on the option you choose. Here we’ll provide you with information on the investment options:

Capital transfer

For this option, you will need to make a capital transfer of at least €1.5 million.

Real estate investment

With a real estate investment, the following options are open to you:

  • Invest in residential real estate: Buy residential real estate in designated interior areas of Portugal worth at least €500,000 (or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project). If the residential property is located in a designated ‘low-density’ area, then a 20% discount applies.
  • Commercial real estate: Buy commercial real estate anywhere in the country worth at least €500,000 (or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project). If the commercial property is located in a designated ‘low-density’ area, then a 20% discount applies.
  • Buy real estate on Madeira or Azores: Buy residential and commercial real estate anywhere in Portugal’s autonomous islands of Madeira and Azores, worth at least €500,000 (or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project).

Creation of jobs

Company incorporation and creation of ten jobs amounting to a minimum value of €500,000.

Portuguese fund investment

The Portuguese fund investment option has increased in popularity in recent years. You will need to make a contribution to an investment qualified fund that is worth at least €500,000.

Scientific research investment

A Science or Technology research contribution of at least €500,000

Cultural contribution

A cultural contribution in supporting the arts or reconstruction of national heritage with a donation of at least €250,000.

Frequently asked questions about how the Portuguese residency law changes in 2019 affect Golden Visa investors:

Do I need to live in Portugal to maintain my residency?

Following the Portuguese residency law changes, for the Portuguese Golden Visa program there is a stay requirement of just 7 days in the first year and 35 days in total.

How can I get Portugal citizenship through investment?

You cannot buy Portuguese citizenship. However, you can obtain residency by investing in Portugal, and then apply for citizenship after five years. Investors can opt to make a property investment, a subscription to an investment fund, or a capital transfer to a Portuguese bank account, among other options.

Is any property in Portugal eligible for the Portugal Golden Visa?

No, under the changes that came into force on January 1, 2022, residential property must be located in designated interior areas of the country, ruling out Lisbon, Porto, and much of the Algarve. Commercial property, however, can still be located anywhere in Portugal.

What are common nationalities that are interested in the Golden Visa program and Citizenship by Investment in Portugal?

The Portugal Golden Visa is most popular amongst investors from China, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, and Russia, although there has been an increase in American applicants in recent years.

What are the most popular investment types for residency and citizenship in Portugal?

The real estate option is the most popular route for the Portuguese Golden Visa, althoguh there has been an increase in popularity for the investemnt fund route recently.