Portugal is part of a group of around 19 countries where there are residency programs for investment, such as the “golden visas”. Such programs, guarantee permanent residency permits to foreign citizens who invest in the country.
The Portuguese Golden Visa program is one of the most sought worldwide. With thousands of applications being processed each month, it is no wonder why. This visa allows foreigners to live and work in Portugal for a period of 5 years.
During those five years, applicants must invest a certain amount of money into the economy of Portugal. After the investment period is up, the applicant becomes eligible for permanent residence, and eventually applying for Portuguese citizenship.
The “golden visas” have had a serious impact on the Portuguese real estate market, aiming to attract foreign investors. In ten years, more than 10,000 golden visas were granted in Portugal, mostly to Chinese and Brazilian citizens, but also to Russians, Americans, and South Africans, who met certain requirements. Apart from no criminal record and being a non-EU citizen, the two major requirements are:
- an investment of at least 250 thousand Euros, whether by buying a property, investing in a fund, or doing a capital transfer (amounts vary depending on the type of investment made)
- a stay requirement of at least 7 days during the first year and then 14 days each 2 years
Despite the recent 2022 changes, new types of investors applying (the American phenomena)
Despite the recent changes that happen to the Portugal Golden Visa program at the beginning of 2022,
it is still being increasingly searched by foreign investors and remains one of the most popular programs for residency (and citizenship) by investment worldwide.
American investors now leading the pack
And among the foreign investors, there is a particular nationality that has been on the rise. Americans, more specifically from California.
They now represent the most active nationality looking and applying for Portugal Golden visas.
Statistics from the entity responsible for the application procedure, show an American investment volume of around 25 million euros in the first quarter of this year, a figure that more than tripled compared to the same period in 2021.
North American investment in Portuguese real estate began to manifest itself even before the pandemic. That was noticeable by an article in Los Angels Magazine that reported a 33% increase in US outflows to the cities of Lisbon and Porto in 2019. But, that interest not only was kept but started to increase substantially during the pandemic.
Why is Portugal so interesting for American citizens looking to move abroad?
For a Californian, living in Portugal means being able to maintain his lifestyle but with a better quality/cost ratio. And similarities between California and the Portuguese territory, especially when it comes to weather, make it easier to adapt to life in Europe. But also its coastline, in terms of landscape, geography, or surf destinations, are some other possible reasons why they are so interested in moving to Portugal.
But, what makes Portugal stand out above other European destinations?
In addition to its climate, Portugal offers a wide range of activities, from surfing to hiking. The cost of living is low, making it possible to save money while enjoying all these activities. It’s not that other countries like Spain, France, or Italy have the same geographical characteristics, but they are already more expensive places to live.
The Portuguese government has made several efforts to improve the attractiveness of their country as a destination for foreigners. They have created a number of incentives such as tax breaks, free education, and healthcare. And the Portugal Golden Visa program plays an important role in attracting these new types of investors to the country.
Where in Portugal Are Americans Moving To?
Americans moving to Portugal have an alternative lifestyle and are already used to living outside the big urban centers, so they are often young couples, very connected with technology, but some others enjoy their retirement years.
They are mostly moving to Greater Lisbon, to the cities of Cascais and Oeiras, or alternatively, to other regions like the Costa Vicentina or the Islands of Madeira or Azores. Those last ones are the most sought after because they are close to beaches and the ocean.
Wrapping up the American interest in Portugal
Even though Portugal is a small country, it has different regions with lots of natural beauty. The weather is warm and sunny almost all year round.
There are plenty of beaches to visit and relax on. Plus, there are mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, and quiet little towns to explore.
Many Americans are moving to Portugal because they want to live in a place where they can have a similar lifestyle or retire comfortably. They’re attracted to the lifestyle here. Many of them are young couples who want to spend their golden years together. Others are retired and want to travel around Europe.
They want to experience something different and live in a country where they can speak English fluently, but with a very attractive quality/cost of living ratio.
Some Americans are buying property in Portugal and renting it out while they’re gone. This allows them to earn passive income without having to worry about managing rental properties.
How to get a Golden Visa in Portugal?
Investing in real estate is one of the easiest ways to obtain a Golden Visa. In fact, it’s the most popular method among investors. This type of investment allows you to become a resident of another EU member state while still keeping your original citizenship. You don’t even need to live there permanently; just some weeks per year.
The government offers several types of visas, depending on what you want to do. If you plan to invest, work, study, or start a business, you might qualify for these types of visas.
There are many benefits to qualifying for the Golden Visa. The most attractive one, especially for Americans, is that you can use your foreign passport to travel freely within Europe (in the Schengen area).
Recent changes to the program
The government announced new rules regarding the program which come into effect on January 1st, 2022. Those new rules were specially aimed at attracting investment to the interior regions of Portugal while eliminating the option of investing in the larger cities like Lisbon or Porto (except for some certain situations like investing in commercial properties or doing refurbishing works.)
Portugal has long been known as one of the most attractive countries in Europe for foreign investors. However, it has also become increasingly difficult to obtain a residence permit for highly skilled workers. This makes it hard for entrepreneurs to find qualified labor. The new rules aim to address this issue.
Can you buy Portugal citizenship?
The answer is yes – but there are some requirements. This type of program is different from other citizenship by investment programs, most popular in the Caribbean island countries, where through investment, you can literally buy a passport.
For golden visa programs, what is being offered is the option to get a residency status, which in the case of Portugal, after 5 years will get you the possibility to apply for citizenship.
So, there isn’t such thing as a Portugal citizenship by investment program, but there is the option to start the process of being a Portuguese citizen after 5 years of living in the country (not permanently).