EuropePolicy Updates

Portugal to Close Golden Visa Program in Its Entirety

The worst thinkable outcome has come to fruition. In a televised press conference that ended just minutes ago, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa confirmed that his government is ending the golden visa program. Hopes to the contrary notwithstanding, the entire program – and not just particular investment categories – is being scrapped.

Many details – such as whether there will be transition period – remain unclear. Golden Visa specialist Pedro Catão Pinheiro of Next Gali Macedo & Associados, who followed the press conference live, shares his observations with us:

“Based on the information I have now, which was gleaned from the live press conference that covered a range of housing-related policy updates, the short version is that the golden visa program is closing. So, it is not just residential real estate options – the whole program that is closing outright. This closure includes the fund investment, commercial real estate, and job creation options. All are ending.”

The government, he says, had considered the effects of the last round of program amendments that took effect at the beginning of 2022 and contemplated the possibility of restricting real estate investment to the interior only.

“However, based on their data and understanding, the January 2022 measures had not served their intended purpose.”

The Prime Minister, Pinheiro explains, had indicated some 98% of all golden visa applications had a real estate component (presumably, the PM has included real estate-focused funds in that count to reach this figure), which he highlighted to make the point that non-real-estate investment in the program was negligible.

“Already-filed applications will be processed normally, but there will not be any new applications.”

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The government, additionally, is making the renewal of existing golden visas based on real estate investments subject to conditions.

“Those golden visa holders who qualified by investing in residential real estate will only be able to renew their visas if the house, apartment, or building is either the primary residence of the investor or his/her children or if the investor is renting out the residence to someone with a long-term lease, that is, no AirBnBs would apparently qualify.”

As for renewals for those investors who qualified through routes other than real estate, Pinheiro points out that the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister had indicated such individuals might convert their golden visas to other visa types. The Prime Minister mentioned residence permits for cultural activities specifically.

“No mention was made of any transition period,” remarks Pinheiro. “However, the Prime Minister mentioned that all these measures, in addition to the enormous package of measures to support housing, will be presented in Parliament for debate and discussion on March 16th before becoming law. So, it is still too soon to say much about the precise wording of the law or even when the measures will take effect.”

Pinheiro also points out that today’s announcement raises a number of questions:

“Is it constitutional to change the terms of the golden visa for people who have already invested and been approved? This will be a huge debate and it will take place in Parliament.”

We will continue to update this story as further information comes to light.