With golden beaches, enticing food, and excellent weather, Spain and Portugal offer safe and stable lifestyles in the heart of Europe. Both nations have adopted the popular Golden Visa scheme in Europe to encourage foreign investment and boost the state economy, attracting hundreds of investors yearly.

The Golden Visa programs offer legal residency by investment in their respective nations. If all program requirements are met, non-EEA, non-Swiss, and non-EU nationals can typically acquire permanent residency and citizenship in the long run, with full access to the European Union (EU).

Spain and Portugal each offer Golden Visa programs, but requirements and conditions differ. In our Spain vs. Portugal Golden Visa guide, we compare the two country programs so you can decide which residency by investment program to seek.

Golden Visa Spain vs Portugal Golden Visa: An Overview

About the Golden Visa Spain

The Spain Golden Visa program was launched in 2013 as part of the country’s initiative to boost the Spanish economy by increasing foreign investment. 

Also known as the Spanish Investor Visa or the Spanish Residence Visa for Investors (Visado de Residencia para Inversores), the scheme offers residency to non-EU citizens who make significant investments in Spain. 

In addition, the Spain Golden Visa programs allow qualifying individuals to get a renewable, temporary residence permit in exchange for contributing to investment programs such as:

  • Purchasing real estate
  • Investment programs for qualified Spanish companies
  • Investing in funds or bank deposits
  • Job creation opportunities
  • Making a qualifying contribution to government bonds.

The program has proven particularly popular among applicants from China, Russia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, and India. According to the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security, and Migration (Ministerio de Inclusión, Seguridad Social y Migraciones), 13,000 Spain Golden Visas have been approved as of 2021.

Spain Golden Visa Ending: April 2024 Update

On April 8th, 2024, Spain announced that it plans to end the Golden Visa program for foreigners who invest in real estate in the country.  The decision to investigate the feasibility of the Golden Visa was made due to concerns that the program contributes to rising real estate prices and money laundering in the country.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the decision was made to make affordable housing "a right instead of a speculative business.” He added, "Today, 94 out of every 100 such visas are linked to real estate investment...in major cities facing a highly stressed market and where it's almost impossible to find decent housing for those who already live, work, and pay their taxes there.”

About the Portugal Golden Visa Program

The Portugal Golden Visa, or Portuguese residence permit for investment activity (ARI), is a five-year residency program in Portugal for non-EU nationals who invest in the country.

Introduced in 2012 to boost foreign investment, it has become one of the most popular residency-by-investment programs in the world.

Foreigners can opt for several investment routes, such as art and cultural donations and investment funds.

Over 20,000 families have received Portuguese Golden Visas, raising over €4 billion. Golden Visa programs like this allow investors and their families to live, work, study in Portugal, and travel freely in the Schengen Area.

Portugal’s beauty and lifestyle make it an appealing choice, especially for Americans. Investors can apply for permanent residency or citizenship after keeping their investment for at least five years and meeting Portuguese immigration and nationality laws.

Spain Golden Visa vs. Portugal Golden Visa: The Benefits

The Golden Visa Spain and Portugal’s Golden Visa program offers excellent advantages for minimum investment. In return, applicants gain the freedom of movement and the right to live legally in Europe.

Below is a comparison of the benefits of Spain Golden Visa vs. Portugal Golden Visa.

Visa-free travel to 27 EU nations as part of the Schengen Zone Visa-free travel to 27 EU nations as part of the Schengen Zone
The right to live, work, and study in the country The right to live, work, and study in the country
Immediate family eligible for residency Immediate family eligible for residency
Plan B to put your mind at ease in times of economic instability or political unrest Plan B to put your mind at ease in times of economic instability or political unrest
Easy application renewal process Easy application renewal process

Take a look at our Portugal Golden Visa Ultimate Guide by local experts

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Spain vs. Portugal Golden Visa: Application Processing Time

PORTUGAL

SPAIN

12 to 18 months

Three months

Spain’s Golden Visa application processing time is fast and efficient. Once the paperwork is submitted, the visa is usually approved in around 20 business days.

Portugal’s Golden Visa processing time is comparably slower, taking at least 18 months after the online submission.

Portugal vs Spain Golden Visa: Timeline to Citizenship

PORTUGAL

SPAIN

After five years

After ten years

Golden Visa Spain timeline for citizenship

The Golden Visa Spain doesn’t automatically grant you Spanish citizenship unless you’re a national from one of Spain’s former colonies, including:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • the Philippines
  • Venezuela

Foreign nationals from these countries can fast-track their citizenship applications and receive passports within two years, provided they meet the short-stay requirements.

These requirements include traveling to Spain every two and a half to three months—or eight times in total—within two years. These residency requirements for citizenship are made possible with a multiple exit Golden Visa, as long as none of the trips last longer than three consecutive months.

If you’re not a national of these former Spanish colonies, the regular Golden Visa route lets you live temporarily in Spain. After the first five years, you can become a permanent resident (PR), provided you physically reside in Spain for 183 days per year.

You can only apply for Spanish citizenship after you have lived in the country for ten years.

Portugal Golden Visa program timeline to citizenship

While the Portuguese Golden Visa scheme also doesn’t immediately grant citizenship, acquiring permanent residency and citizenship is less complex and faster than in Spain.

Applicants are granted an initial two-year residence permit, which can be renewed for the first five years. Once completed, you can apply for permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship, provided you spend at least 14 days in the country every two years and maintain your investment for five years.

In January 2024, Portugal updated its nationality law, allowing the time between applying for and receiving a temporary residency permit to count towards the five-year requirement for Portuguese citizenship.

Part of this updated law means that Portugal Golden Visa benefits include a shortened waiting period for citizenship, especially for delayed applications. Overall, it aims to improve the immigration and naturalization process in Portugal.

Spain and Portugal both allow dual citizenship, but before applying for citizenship of either country, it’s important to clarify whether your country of origin also permits dual citizenship.

Spain vs. Portugal Golden Visa: Requirements

GENERAL

REQUIREMENT

PORTUGAL

SPAIN

Applicant must be over 18

Hold a clean criminal record

Hold valid medical insurance & health certificate

Show proof of sufficient funds to sustain your residency in the country

Not on the list of undesirables

Not have been previously refused visas or entry into the Schengen Zone

Make the qualifying investment and maintain it for five years

Portugal Golden Visa programs residence rules

PORTUGAL

SPAIN

Seven days in the first year, and 14 days every two years after that

Visit Spain once every year

The Golden Visa in Spain has flexible requirements. There is no residency requirement to maintain the Golden Visa. You must only visit Spain once in the first year for your biometrics collections session and once each time the permit is renewed.

Meanwhile, Portugal requires a minimum of seven days of legal residence in the first year and no less than 14 days every two years after that.

Family eligibility

PORTUGAL

SPAIN

Spouse and dependent children under 18, or children still completing studies, dependent parents

Spouse, dependent parents, and children under the age of 18

For the Golden Visa Spain, the primary applicant’s spouse, children under 18, and parents can all be included in the same Golden Visa application.

The Portugal Golden Visa allows the spouse and dependent children — under 18 or still completing studies— to be included under the ‘family reunion’ application. Parents of either spouse, if over 66 years old (or 55 and dependent), can also be included in the application. —

Take a look at our Spain Golden Visa Ultimate Guide by local experts

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Golden Visa Portugal vs. Spain: Investment Comparison

See the table below for the Spain vs Portugal Golden Visa programs for investment.

GOLDEN VISA INVESTMENT

PORTUGAL

SPAIN

Most affordable investment program route

€250,000 arts donation

Buy real estate that’s worth at least €500,000 

Investment options

Business startup, scientific research, fund subscriptions, job creation, arts or national heritage funds

Real estate, business shares, government bonds, bank deposits

Analysis

More competitive investment options and lower investment thresholds than Spain

While Spain has fewer investment options and is more expensive, its real estate market is just as dynamic and strong as Portugal’s

Spain vs. Portugal Golden Visa: Tax Advantages

PORTUGAL

SPAIN

NHR Tax Regime – up to ten years

24% on income derived in the country

The Portugal Golden Visa program offers the ultimate tax resident advantage. Tax benefits include Non-Habitual Residency. Foreign investors who intend to live in Portugal can benefit from the Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) Portugal Tax Regime, which allows tax exemptions for its holders for up to ten years.

Exemptions include income from pensions, dependent and independent work, real estate income, capital gains, and intellectual or industrial property. In addition to income tax policies, you can review the benefits of Portugal’s property transfer tax.

Is NHR ending?

The State Budget Law for 2024 determined the end of the NHR regime from 1st January 2024. However, certain individuals can still apply up until 31st March 2025, and the scheme is being replaced by the Tax Incentive for Scientific Research and Innovation, which has now been implemented. To learn more, please refer to Is The Portugal NHR Ending?

In Spain, investors are taxed on their worldwide income if they live in Spain for over 183 days per year. For non-resident individuals, tax is charged at 24 percent on income derived in the country, such as rental income.

Spain vs. Portugal Golden Visa: Application Costs

GOLDEN VISA GOVERNMENT FEES

PORTUGAL

SPAIN

Initial government application fee

€773.74 per applicant

About €250 per applicant

Approval fee

€7,730.10 per visa holder

€8,000 per visa holder

First visa renewal fee

€3,865.79 per visa holder

€2,500 per visa holder

Second visa renewal fee

€3,865.79 per visa holder

€2,500 per visa holder

Please note that visa fees are subject to change depending on the respective government’s decision.

Which Golden Visa is better, Spain vs Portugal?

Regarding having a ‘Golden Visa Europe comparison’ between Spain and Portugal, it’s best to determine what option is better for you by speaking with experts in the field to guide you on your most suitable route to European residency. Also, consider whether you would like to move to Spain or Portugal, as each country is entirely different and will have pros and cons.

Comparing investment costs

Regarding costs, the Portuguese Golden Visa Program has a lower minimum investment requirement than Spain.

Investments start from €250,000 for art donations or national cultural heritage projects or €200,000 if the project is in a low-density area. Typically, most investors would qualify through a real estate investment, buying property at or exceeding €280,000 or €500,000, depending on the property’s location. 

Real estate investment and capital transfers are only available on the Spanish Golden Visa pathway. However, in April 2024, the Spanish Council of Ministers agreed to eliminate this option in the near future. In light of this, investment options for the Spanish Golden Visa residence permit to purchase property at or exceeding €500,000 are still possible.  

Portugal eliminated their real estate Golden Visa investment route in October 2023.

In recent years, subscribing to investment options, such as a venture capital fund or private equity, has gained traction. The investment fund option is particularly popular because it offers potential returns on income.

Gaining EU citizenship

While neither Spain nor Portugal is Europe’s cheapest Golden Visa option, they offer some of the quickest routes to citizenship.

The Portuguese Golden Visa program offers the quickest route. After maintaining residency there for five years, you can apply for your permanent residence permit and citizenship. For Spain, applying for Spanish citizenship takes ten years to be eligible. 

Both Golden Visa programs have advantages and disadvantages, so it is best to speak with an expert in the field to discuss your options.

Let’s get you moving forward in your quest to acquire a permanent residence permit in European countries and citizenship by naturalization.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Spain vs. Portugal Golden Visa Programs

What is Portugal's Golden Visa program?

The Portugal Golden Visa program provides a fast track to Portuguese residency in exchange for investing in one of the nation’s qualifying programs.

The initial Golden Visa program grants holders a temporary residence permit for two years, with options for renewal for up to five years. After five years, the main applicant is eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit and to try to obtain European citizenship.

What is Spain's Golden Visa program?

The Spain Golden Visa program is a residency-by-investment scheme that grants non-EU foreigners residency rights in exchange for a qualifying investment. Successful applicants and their family members are issued a residency visa that leads to a permanent residence permit. After five years, and Spanish citizenship after ten years.

Is Portugal's Golden Visa cheaper than the Spanish Golden Visa?

The Portugal Golden Visa program is the cheapest of the two. In 2024, the most affordable option for the Portuguese Golden Visa is a minimum investment of €200,000 donation to an art or national cultural heritage preservation project.

Previously, most investors would choose to buy Portuguese property at or exceeding €280,000 or €500,000 depending on its location. However, the Portugal real estate investment option has been discontinued.

The minimum investment option for Spanish Golden Visa programs is to purchase property at or exceeding €500,000.

Which program is quicker: Spain or Portugal Golden Visa?

The Spanish Golden Visa program grants applicants a temporary residence permit in about two months. Any investments for Portugal Golden Visa programs can take up to six months since the application approval time is slower.

Is it cheaper to live in Portugal or Spain?

It is slightly cheaper to live in Portugal than in Spain in 2024. Consumer prices – including rent – in Spain are 0.6 percent higher than in Portugal, and excluding rent, they are 4.8 percent higher, according to Numbeo.

While both nations are generally cheaper than most other European countries, prices in Portugal have been increasing in recent years, particularly for rent.

Which country is best for a Golden Visa?

One Golden Visa program may be more advantageous depending on your personal, financial, and business goals. However, if a quick route to EU citizenship is what you seek, Portugal may be the better Golden Visa program for you.

Is it easier to get residency in Portugal or Spain?

Spain’s Golden Visa program has a faster processing time of three months. However, Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme provides a lower investment threshold.

Which EU country has the cheapest Golden Visa?

Out of the two programs, you could say that Portugal offers the cheapest route to permanent residence and citizenship by naturalization, with the Portugal Golden Visa €280,000 real estate option.

How long can I stay in Spain with a Golden Visa?

You can stay in Spain for as long as possible with a Golden Visa, provided you maintain your investment and abide by the government’s requirements and criteria. You become eligible for Spanish citizenship after maintaining your residency for ten years.

Which Golden Visa is better: Spain or Portugal?

When comparing the Golden Visa programs of Spain and Portugal, both offer attractive options for residency by investment. The choice ultimately depends on individual preferences and objectives.

Portugal’s Golden Visa program has been highly regarded and popular due to its benefits and flexibility. By investing in Portuguese real estate or other eligible avenues, investors can obtain a residence permit, which allows them to live in Portugal, travel freely within the Schengen Area, and enjoy various rights and benefits.

On the other hand, Spain’s Golden Visa program also presents its own advantages, making it a compelling choice for investors seeking residency in the country. Spain offers a diverse range of investment options, including real estate, business projects, and government bonds, providing investors with more investment options to suit their preferences. The Spanish Golden Visa allows investors to live in Spain, benefit from its low crime rates, experience its rich culture, and explore the country’s diverse regions.

Furthermore, obtaining a Golden Visa in either country does not automatically grant citizenship or a second passport, but it can serve as a pathway to citizenship in the long run. It is recommended to carefully consider factors such as investment requirements, residency conditions, lifestyle preferences, and future plans before making a decision.

Is it better to live in Portugal or Spain?

Deciding between living in Portugal or Spain involves considering various factors and preferences. Portugal offers a relaxed lifestyle, affordable living costs, and tax benefits for foreign residents through programs like the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) scheme. Meanwhile, Spain boasts diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and strong healthcare and education systems. Regional cost differences and job opportunities should also be taken into account when making this decision, alongside personal preferences regarding climate, lifestyle, and culture.

Is it easier to get citizenship in Portugal or Spain?

Obtaining citizenship in Portugal or Spain has different requirements and procedures.

In general, Portugal has a more straightforward pathway to citizenship through naturalization. To be eligible, individuals must hold a legal residence permit in Portugal for at least five years. During this time, applicants should demonstrate sufficient ties to the country, such as language proficiency, local community integration, and knowledge of Portuguese culture and history.

Additionally, individuals who can prove Sephardic Jewish heritage or are married to a Portuguese citizen may have alternative pathways to citizenship.

Spain, on the other hand, typically requires ten years of legal residence before being eligible for citizenship. The residency period can be reduced to five years for individuals from Spanish-speaking countries or for those who are refugees, stateless, or have been born in Spain.

Both countries have language requirements for citizenship, with applicants needing to pass a language test or demonstrate language proficiency to varying degrees.

It is important to note that the citizenship test, requirements, and processes are subject to change and should be verified with the respective authorities. Both Portugal and Spain offer the opportunity to live as a legal resident, enjoy the benefits of residency, and have the option to eventually pursue citizenship.

Can I obtain permanent residency through the Spain vs. Portugal Golden Visa programs?

In a Spain and Portugal Golden Visa comparison, applicants wanting to obtain permanent residency are looking at similar routes. In both Spain and Portugal, after your Golden Visa investment, you can obtain permanent residency after you have been domiciled in both countries for five years. 

For Portugal, you must be in the country for seven days for the first year, and for 14 days for each subsequent two year period. You must spend more than 183 years in Spain for five years in order to gain permanent residency for five years. 

What is the processing time for Spain vs Portugal Golden Visa?

In Spain, the application typically takes 20 business days. It is a much faster and more efficient system than in Portugal, where applicants face long waiting times. For the Portuguese Golden Visa, you could be looking at a wait of up to 18 months for the online application to be processed. 

Do I need to reside in Spain or Portugal for a certain period each year to maintain my Golden Visa status?

For the Spanish Golden Visa, you must only visit Spain once in the first year, to have your biometrics collection session, and then each time upon renewing your permit.

However, for the Portugal Golden Visa, there is a minimum seven-day legal residence requirement in the first year. For every two years after that, you must be in the country for no less than 14 days. 

What are the physical stay requirements for Portugal and Spain Golden Visa Programs?

In Spain, one needs to stay for at least 183 days per year to retain their residency status and become eligible for citizenship. In contrast, Portugal requires only 14 days every two years to maintain the residency status and an average of seven days per year to become eligible for citizenship.

What are the main differences between the Spain Golden Visa and the Portugal Golden Visa?

Portugal offers more investment options than Spain. You can put your money into venture capital funds, arts initiatives, scientific research, or job creation projects. In Spain, the focus is more on real estate, government bonds, and starting a business.

Another of the Portugal Golden Visa benefits is the flexibility on residency. Unlike Spain, which mandates spending at least 183 days a year there, Portugal requires you to spend an average of 7 days a year in the country.

Portugal also has a faster path to citizenship. After five years of legal residency, you can apply. In Spain, the wait is 10 years, unless you’re from a former Spanish colony.

What's the difference between Spain Golden Visa and the Portugal Golden Visa?

The Spain Golden Visa is more focused on investments such as real estate, government bonds, and business projects. The Portuguese Golden Visa does not impose a minimum period of residence for the investors, while Spain requires them to stay in the country for at least 183 days per year.

How does the cost of living for Golden visa holders in Spain compare to Portugal?

When looking at Spain vs Portugal Golden Visa for living costs, overall Portugal has a lower cost of living than Spain. However, the major cities in both countries will have higher living costs than the smaller towns or inland areas.

What are the Spain and Portugal Golden Visa benefits for culture and economic circumstances?

Spain and Portugal, which are geographical neighbors, offer expats unique opportunities, investment options, and cultural benefits.

Spain offers a dynamic real estate market, a strong economy, a rich culture, and a vibrant lifestyle. Portugal is known for its lower cost of living, safety, excellent quality of life, and friendly local culture.