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 each year.
The Golden Visa programs offer legal residency by investment in their respective nation, often through real estate property investments. Provided that all program requirements are met, non-EEA, non-Swiss, and non-EU nationals can typically obtain permanent residency and citizenship in the long run, with full access to the European Union (EU).
While both Spain and Portugal offer Golden Visas, the program 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 Spain Golden Visa Program
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.
The Spanish Investor Visa program allows qualifying individuals to get a renewable, temporary residence permit in exchange for investments such as purchasing real estate, investing in Spanish companies, investing in funds or bank deposits, creating employment opportunities, or making a qualifying contribution to government bonds.
Throughout the years, the program has proven particularly popular among applicants from China, Russia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, and India. As of 2021, 13,000 Spain Golden Visas have been approved, according to the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration (Ministerio de Inclusión, Seguridad Social y Migraciones).
About the Portugal Golden Visa Program
The Portugal Golden Visa, or 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 schemes globally.
Over 20,000 families have received Portuguese Golden Visas, raising over €4 billion. This program allows investors and their families to live, work, and study in Portugal and travel freely in the Schengen Area.
Portugal’s beauty and lifestyle make it a top 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.
The Portugal Golden Visa program has recently undergone substantial changes. The new legislation, which took effect in October 2023, eliminated the purchase of real estate and real-estate-related funds as qualifying investment options for the program. However, several attractive investment routes still maintain their eligibility for the program. To learn more, please refer to our comprehensive guide: Portugal Golden Visa
IMPORTANT UPDATE: PORTUGAL GOLDEN VISA 2023
The Portugal Golden Visa program has recently undergone substantial changes. The new legislation, which took effect in October 2023, eliminated the purchase of real estate and real-estate-related funds as qualifying investment options for the program.
However, several attractive investment routes still maintain their eligibility for the program. To learn more, please refer to our comprehensive guide: Portugal Golden Visa
Spain Golden Visa vs. Portugal Golden Visa: The Benefits
From excellent mobility to the right to legally live in Europe, Portugal and Spain both offer fantastic advantages when it comes to the Golden Visa.
Below is a comparison of the Spain Golden Visa vs. Portugal Golden Visa benefits.
Spain vs. Portugal Golden Visa: Application Processing Time
Spain’s Golden Visa application processing time is fast and efficient. Once the paperwork is submitted, it usually takes around 20 business days for the visa to be approved.
Portugal’s Golden Visa processing time is comparably slower, as it takes at least 18 months after the online submission.
Spain vs. Portugal Golden Visa: Timeline to Citizenship
The Golden Visa in Spain doesn’t automatically grant you Spanish citizenship unless you’re a national from one of Spain’s former colonies. These nations include Mexico, Peru, Argentina, the Philippines, Cuba, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Panama, and Paraguay.
A foreign national from these countries can fast-track their citizenship applications and receive passports within two short years, provided the short stay requirements are met. These requirements include traveling every two and a half months to three months – or eight times in total – to Spain within the two-year period. These residency requirements for citizenship are made possible with a multiple exits Golden Visa, as long as none of the trips last longer than three consecutive months.
If you’re not a national from these former Spanish colonies, then there is a slightly longer process. The regular Golden Visa route lets you first live as a temporary resident in Spain, with an opportunity to become a permanent resident (PR) after the first five-year period. To become a PR, you must 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.
While the Portuguese Golden Visa scheme also doesn’t grant you citizenship straight away, acquiring permanent residency and citizenship is less complex, and it’s faster compared to Spain. You are granted a two-year residence permit, which you can renew until you have completed five years. You can apply for a permanent residence permit after five years without having to live in Portugal. You do have to spend 14 days every two years in Portugal and keep your investment in the country for five years. You’re eligible for Portugal citizenship after the fifth year.
However, 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 residency requirement for Portuguese citizenship. This change benefits Golden Visa applicants by shortening their waiting period for citizenship, especially for those affected by delays. Overall, it aims to improve the immigration and naturalization process in Portugal.
Spain vs. Portugal Golden Visa: Requirements
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
Golden Visa residence rules
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 has a minimum seven-day legal residence requirement in the first year, then no less than 14 days every two years after that.
For 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.
Golden Visa Portugal vs. Spain: Investment Comparison
GOLDEN VISA INVESTMENT
Most affordable investment program route
€250,000 arts donation
Buy real estate that’s worth at least €500,000
Business startup, scientific research, fund subscriptions, job creation, arts or national heritage funds
Real estate, business shares, government bonds, bank deposits
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. Portuguese Golden Visa: Tax Advantages
Portugal’s 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 obtained from pensions, dependent and independent work, real estate income, capital gains, and intellectual or industrial property. Portugal’s property transfer tax is also highly beneficial for foreign investors looking to set up a home in Portugal since expats end up paying the same tax rates as residents.
Important Note: The Prime Minister of Portugal has recently announced his intention to eliminate the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) regime starting in 2024. While this announcement is currently informal, it should be taken seriously. Read more here: Is The Portugal NHR Program 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
Initial government application fee
€773.74 per applicant
About €250 per applicant
€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
Kindly note that visa fees are subject to change depending on the respective government’s decision.
Which Golden Visa is better, Spain or 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 from the other and will have its pros and cons.
Regarding costs, the Portuguese Golden Visa Program has a lower investment requirement than Spain. Investments start from €250,000 for art donations. However, most investors buy property at or exceeding €280,000 or €500,000, depending on the property’s location.
Real estate investment and capital transfers, however, are only available on the Spanish Golden Visa pathway, as those options were removed from the Portugal Golden Visa investment route in October 2023.
The minimum investment option for the Spanish Golden Visa permit is to purchase property at or exceeding €500,000.
Suppose you are considering gaining European Union citizenship. In that case, Portugal offers the quickest route, whereby you can apply for permanent residence and citizenship after maintaining your residency in the country for five years. For Spain, it takes ten years to be eligible to apply for citizenship.
Both Golden Visa programs will have their 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 obtain permanent residence in European countries and citizenship by naturalization. Contact us by filling out the contact form below.
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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 fast-tracks Portuguese residency in exchange for a qualifying investment in the nation. The initial Golden Visa grants holders a temporary Golden Visa residence permit for a year, 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 is eligible to try and obtain European citizenship.
What is Spain's Golden Visa program?
The Spanish Golden Visa permit 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 permanent residency after five years, and Spanish citizenship after ten years.
Is Portugal's Golden Visa cheaper than the Spanish Golden Visa?
Depending on the route of investment. Most investors choose to buy Portuguese property at or exceeding €280,000 or €500,000 depending on its location. The minimum investment option for the Spanish Golden Visa 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 as little as two months. In contrast, getting a Portugal Golden Visa can take up to six months since the application approval time is slower.
Is it cheaper to live in Portugal or Spain?
According to Numbeo, consumer prices – including rent – in Spain are 3.9% higher than in Portugal, and excluding rent, they are 8.3% higher.
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 option after you make a Golden Visa comparison.
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 the 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 legal residence in Portugal for a minimum period of five years. During this time, applicants should demonstrate sufficient ties to the country, such as language proficiency, integration into the local community, 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 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?
Looking into a comparison of Spain and Portugal Golden Visa programs, see the following on maintaining your 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.