On April 14 this year, the Government of Portugal officially announced its plans to transform the ‘golden visa’ program. The program allowed foreign nationals to acquire legal residence and then citizenship of Portugal in exchange for investments. Those who hold residence permits that they have acquired through the golden visa program will face no consequences. They can legally reside in Portugal, they don’t have to spend more than 14 days every two years in the country, and they will be able to apply for Portuguese citizenship when their ‘probation period’ of 5 years is over. Filing an application for a golden visa to Portugal is not possible any longer.
The phrase ‘golden visa program’ normally refers to a national immigration program that allows foreigners to establish legal residence in the country by making an investment. In Portugal, you could invest €350,000—500,000 in real property, get a residence card, and apply for citizenship of Portugal after 5 years.
On February 16, Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced closure of the program and the Government started debates about the closure procedures. The main reason for closing the golden visa program was a sharp increase of prices in the real estate market. True, the program used to attract foreign capital to Portugal, but housing had become unaffordable for many Portuguese, which could not be tolerated.
After the golden visa program has been ‘amended’ (to be more precise, after it has been annulled), there is only one way for a foreign national to acquire Portuguese legal residence by investment. Namely, you can make a non-returnable donation of €250,000 or more to a cultural project in Portugal.
Alternative ways of acquiring legal residence in Portugal
Since it has become impossible to get Portugal’s Golden Visa, you have to use some other ways of establishing legal residence in the country if relocating there is the main goal that you pursue. There are multiple opportunities, in fact, and below we will briefly describe the 8 most popular methods of acquiring legal residence in Portugal.
- Residence permit for job contract holders;
- Residence permit for entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals;
- Residence permit for digital nomads working remotely;
- Residence permit for financially independent persons (living on pensions, rent, dividends, royalties, and so on);
- Residence permit for highly qualified specialists in educational and cultural areas;
- Residence permit for students of Portuguese universities;
- Residence permit for school students;
- Residence permit for family reunification purposes.
There can be other legal grounds for relocating to Portugal but they are somewhat more exotic and seldom used.
All the popular legal residence programs have similar basic requirements that the applicant has to meet. You have to contact the SEF (Portuguese immigration service) and submit the following documents: your passport, a police clearance from the country of your citizenship/ current residence, the tax number (NIF), a document confirming that you have residential accommodations in Portugal, a confirmation of a bank deposit of a sufficient amount (not applicable to residence permits for job contract holders and sole proprietors), a medical insurance, and a registration certificate from a public medical clinic in your municipality.
There are two ways of filing the application documents for legal residence in Portugal. First, you can apply for a D visa to the Portuguese consulate in your home country, go to Portugal, and visit the immigration service (SEF – Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras). Second, you can go straight to the SEF if you are already in Portugal.
The second method of applying for legal residence in Portugal is unavailable to digital nomads and financially independent individuals. They have to use the Portuguese consulates in their home countries.
Before you visit Portugal, you can acquire a Portuguese tax number (NIF) remotely as well as purchase medical insurance, rent residential accommodations, enter a university, and do a number of other things.
If you are filing an application for a D visa in the Portuguese consulate, you have to add a visa questionnaire, a cover letter, two photos, and ticket to Portugal reservation to the basic document package.
Depending on the particular immigration program, you may have to add more documents. For instance, if you are a university student, an admission document from the university is required. If you are a digital nomad, you have to supply confirmation of a legal source of income. The amount of your income has to be not less than €3,040 per month over the last three months. Your employer will have to issue a certificate to you.
If you are self-employed in your home country, you can bring contracts with your clients, certificates of task completion, bank statements indicating incoming payments to your account, or an income certificate. All the application documents have to be translated into Portuguese by a sworn translator and translations need to be notarized.
Residential accommodations in Portugal
Whichever immigration program you choose, you will have to meet an important requirement. In particular, you will have to rent or maybe buy residential accommodations in Portugal. You can find classified ads online and rent an apartment in the country while you are still at home. It is important to note that Portuguese consulates in different countries will have different requirements as to the rent terms. In some countries, you will have to show a 1-year rent agreement. In some other countries, a 3-month rent agreement will be enough.
Minimum required amount of income for financially independent persons and digital nomads
Since November 1, 2022, the D7 visa program (that makes eligible for legal residence in Portugal as a financially independent individual) has been available only to foreign nationals with a passive income such as rent of property, for instance.
You have to have an account in a Portuguese bank to apply for a D7 visa. You will also need your passport, your Portuguese tax number, a rent certificate for an apartment or a house or, alternatively, a property ownership certificate, proof of a stable income, your home country’s tax number, and a bank deposit of at least €9,120.
All applicants for D7 visas as well as all applicants for Digital Nomad visas applying with their families have to show the following financial cushions:
- 12 minimal salaries (€760 per month or €9,120 per year in 2023) for the main applicant;
- 50% of 12 minimal salaries for the spouse;
- 30% of 12 minimal salaries for each child.
As you can see, you can establish legal residence in Portugal even when the ‘golden visa’ program has become unavailable. It must be admitted, however, that you will have to meet certain requirements to be able to acquire a residence card in Portugal.