EuropePolicy Updates

New Portuguese Gov’t. to Add “Solidarity Investment” Option to Golden Visa Program

Just minutes ago, the new Portuguese government announced its new Action Plan for Migration, which represents a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s migration and integration policies.

The plan consists of 41 specific measures, ranging from improved access to healthcare for new arrivals to urgent structural improvements of the immigration authority AIMA. Of particular interest to the investment migration market, however, is Measure 32, which promises to “create an instrument to channel private capital into social investment in immigrant integration projects.”

The plan aims to change the scope of the immigration category called Residence Permits for Investments (ARI) – more commonly known as the Golden Visa – to Residence Permits for Social Investment “to include investments made in reception facilities and infrastructures, integration projects, and support for immigrants in vulnerable situations.”

The plan also foresees a “possible intermediation and accreditation system for social investment” through the Fund for Asylum, Migration, and Integration and to “share the development of responses with investors and the philanthropy sector.”

While details on the measures remain scant, the government insists on not referring to the new social investment option as a “golden visa.”

Responding to questions from journalists regarding the “new” golden visa option, the Minister responded, “I didn’t speak of golden visas. I spoke of authorizations of residency for solidarity investments. It’s a new concept […] to take advantage of investment and channel it toward purposes of solidarity, to apply mechanisms that were conceived in the past and reorient them with a logic of solidarity; a redistributive logic.”

Government could reduce backlog by 90% with a single measure

Commenting on the plan, Portuguese immigration lawyer Madalena Monteiro of Liberty Legal expressed optimism regarding the measures’ potential for dealing with the country’s huge backlog of more than 400,000 immigration cases (only a small percentage of which pertain to the golden visa).

“The government acknowledges that the transition from SEF to AIMA failed and has promised to create a special task force with significant resources to manage the backlog,” she explains. One of the most salient measures in the plan, she points out, is the removal of the so-called expression of interest system, under which immigrants can enter the country on a tourist visa, find a job, and pay social security. After paying social security for 12 months, the government considers the immigrant’s status as legal.

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“This system,” remarks Monteiro, “is responsible for around 90% of the immigration backlog. It’s a completely open door to Europe. Under the new rules, immigrants would need to have a work contract and obtain a residence permit at a consulate before coming to Portugal.”

The government intends to bolster staff numbers at strategic consulates to enable them to process such applications, rather than letting migrants come to Portugal, generally remain undocumented and often live in poor conditions for 12 months before gaining legal status.

She says this would certainly reduce processing times for all kinds of visas currently processed by AIMA, including D7s and golden visas, the latter of which is now subject to average processing times of more than 31 months.

Porto-based immigration Pedro Catão Pinheiro of Next Lawyers Gali Macedo said he was “surprised and happy about how accurate this ambitious plan seems to be in identifying several of the procedural problems but also in presenting suitable solutions to tackle those problems.”

He cautions, however, that to plan a migration policy overhaul is not the same as executing one.

“To implement changes in a structure like AIMA, which officially only became operational some six months ago, will be challenging,” he comments. “But in the medium term, it may be easier to make changes within a fresh structure than trying to reform an old and sclerotic one.”

While he acknowledged that we still don’t know any details of the new solidarity investment of the golden visa, he said it “seems a great idea, which would tackle several of the country’s social problems.”

Immigration attorney Adriano Vieira of AIM Global highlighted that the government’s new plan also promised to devote additional resources to immigrants engaged in so-called Highly Qualified Activities as part of its aim to tap into the global talent pool.

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Christian Henrik Nesheim AdministratorKeymaster

Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.

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