The Portuguese government has finally made a decisive move to end the Golden Visa program in Portugal. The official call will be March 30th but if I look at the other 15 measures that the government announced I do not have much hope that they will change their ideological mind. I could write the next 2 pages about why ending the program does not make sense and why all the myths about the program are false and unjustified.
I truthfully believe there are very good investment routes that would create housing, jobs and tax income in Portugal and still leave Portugal open for private investment. But as an entrepreneur I learned an important lesson - it does not make sense to ride dead horses. You have to look ahead and in this case just beside you as there are plenty of alternatives to move to Portugal and even become a Portuguese citizen.
The Golden Visa in Portugal is (was) an excellent option for investors that would like to secure an alternative residence option in the future. And I think this is the prime advantage of the program. Make the investment now and move in the future. For everybody that considers moving to Portugal in 2023 or in 2024 there are even better visa alternatives like the D7, D3, D2, or Digital Nomad Visa.
Portugal has made moving to Europe easy for highly qualified employees, entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, digital nomads, and investors with passive income. Through a number of advanced visa programs, non-EU citizens can live and work in the country, and even apply for citizenship after a few years.
Initially created to attract retirees, the D7 visa allows non-EU nationals of any age to live in Portugal on their own passive income.
To be eligible, you need to have a minimum of €9,120 of passive (non-salaried) income per year, which may come from real estate rentals, investments or pensions. A D7 visa holder receives a residency permit in Portugal for one year, which they can subsequently renew for 2 more years and then convert to permanent residency after 5 years.
The D7 is not limited to one person but you can also come as a couple or family. For partners you have to prove an additional 50% of the yearly minimum income of €4,560 and children require each 30%. I’m talking about partners as Portugal also recognizes informal marriages (União de facto) in the visa programs.
Applying for the D7 is quite a bit cheaper than the Golden Visa and is a good alternative if you want to move to Portugal and have the required passive income. You should always check the passive income with a lawyer / the SEF upfront. There are stories on the internet about people applying successfully with just a mere bank statement of $5,000. We receive at least one request per week of unsuccessful applicants who went for the same strategy.
You have to prove residency in Portugal. Many applicants chose to purchase a property in Portugal but you can also rent. The rental market in Portugal is quite tight and will be more difficult due to the Digital Nomad Visa. So be prepared for a 2-week “hit and run” strategy. Most offers are gone within 24 hours so you can not rent properties months ahead. Airbnb is, so far, not a valid proof of residency.
Note that you must apply for the visa in your home country and not from Portugal. So far it is the only visa that works that way and this logic has to be considered when coordinating the application.
From my point of view the D7 is the best visa to move to Portugal as a non-EU citizen. You don’t have to work in Portugal or open a business.
If you’re a highly qualified professional, e.g., an executive, legislator, senior public administration officer, director, manager, engineer, teacher or legal expert, this visa is for you.
As a D3 visa holder, you benefit from fast-track processing to permanent residency and are eligible for Portuguese citizenship after 5 years. What’s more, you can live in the country with the same basic rights as a Portuguese citizen, including using the banking system, the public health system, and the possibility to move freely through the Schengen area. In addition, you may apply for the EU Blue Card, which is essentially the equivalent of the US Green Card for Europe and allows non-EU/EEA nationals to live and work anywhere in the EU.
The D3 visa is probably the fastest to get and embraces many applicants that have a more advanced education - which you must provide proof of, via diploma or certificate. You also need an official job offer / contract from a local company. Work experience is great but not particularly helpful in this application process.
Portugal is not a paradise for employees and entrepreneurs because of the high tax rate. However, in combination with the NHR status—which grants you a tax flat rate of 20% on your income for ten years—the D3 is a good alternative. Check the education level and its eligibility with a lawyer and the SEF upfront.
Freelancers, entrepreneurs, and independent service providers may opt for the D2 visa. To be eligible, you need to prove either your intention to open a company in the Portuguese territory (and that you have the financial resources to do so) or that you plan on opening a branch of your already existing company in the country.
Aside from the business capital, you’ll also need to present a business plan that covers your company’s future business growth potential in the country.
If you have an existing business or if you are about to start your own activity this visa can be a good combination. Otherwise I think it is not advisable to go for the D2 visa if you start from scratch. Opening a business or being self-employed is stressful by itself. You do not want to add more stress if your visa in Portugal depends on a successful development especially if you bring family with you to Portugal.
D8 Digital Nomad Visa
Last year, the Portuguese government introduced a new visa for applicants that just want to stay in Portugal for a short period of time (up to a year) and have an employment outside of Portugal with a minimum income of at least €3,040 per month. You can be self-employed or employed by a company based outside Portugal.
The visa is interesting if you don’t want to live permanently in Portugal and aren’t interested in permanent citizenship. If you’re not sure about moving permanently, it is a good trial period to live in Portugal for a while and then make a final decision advancing with the other visas.
Something that’s critical for the digital nomad visa is the legitimacy of your employer and your health insurance. Both have to give you green light for a longer stay abroad. The infrastructure for remote workers is excellent in Portugal. There are many coworking places in the cities with reasonable prices and fast internet is rather standard in urban areas. In the interior regions there are also small communities of digital nomads that live in separate houses but share common facilities like pools.
A bottleneck for the visa is the rental market. Experts are already foreseeing controversial discussions in the local society because rents have gone up quite significantly for Portuguese standards and there is a scarcity of rentals.
What are the overall pros and cons of the other visa alternatives?
- All of the visa alternatives have the option to apply for the NHR program that grants significant tax benefits
- Applicants can become a Portuguese citizen after five years which is a standard right in Portugal (except D8)
- Family reunions is also possible for most of them
- You can rent or buy anywhere in Portugal without any regional restrictions
and minimum amounts
- The application and renewal costs are much cheaper than the golden visa
- You have to live in Portugal officially which means you have to be theoretically in the country for at least 8-10 months per year
- Some visas have to be renewed every year
- Depending on the visa type you can lose the visa in case you get fired or your business does not work out as planned
Regardless of the Golden Visa program, people are still moving to Portugal from all over the world. Not only does the country offer a safe and welcoming environment, but also a low cost of living, warm weather and fantastic quality of life. Many families are also moving to Portugal because of the free education system. So be part of our growing community in Portugal!
You can contact Frederik here.
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