EuropePolicy Updates

Confusion About Ban on Russians from Portugal’s Golden Visa amid Contradictory Reports

CNN Portugal and Diario de Noticias yesterday reported that Portugal’s Borders and Immigration Service, the SEF, which governs the country’s popular golden visa, had suspended its examination of applications from Russian citizens for the program.

Initial reports on Thursday had indicated that the ban would only apply to those Russian nationals whose names appeared on the international sanctions list; not Russian nationals in general:

“Portugal does not have an international sanctions regime,” said Santos Silva on Thursday, according to Jornal de Negocios on February 24th. “It follows international sanctions” and therefore “whatever type of authorization they have”, they will be covered, but only as long as their names appear on the list, “which includes about 500 individual or collective persons”, the minister explained, stressing that “it is not enough to say that they are oligarchs, their name must be on the list”.

Yesterday, however, a statements from the Foreign Minister appeared to explicitly bar Russians from the golden visa program, regardless of whether they are named on sanctions lists.

“The SEF has already suspended the assessment of any application file for residence permits for investment – commonly known as golden visas – of Russian citizens”, Foreign Affairs Minister Augusto Santos Silva is quoted as saying in CNN Portugal yesterday.

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He also promised to freeze the assets of any sanctioned individuals from both Russia and Belarus, regardless of their status in Portugal, including if they also have Portuguese citizenship.

Reports indicated the move would affect prospective Russian applicants and those currently in the process of applying. Russian citizens already approved for golden visas would not be affected.

The developments come on the heels of yesterday’s joint statement from the US, UK, EU, and Canada to “limit the sale of citizenship – so-called golden passports – that let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems.”

Accounting for 4.2% of all investment under the program, 431 Russian main applicants have obtained Portuguese golden visas over the last decade, having invested in excess of a quarter-billion euros.