After a pandemic-driven slump during the first third of 2020, Portugal’s Golden Visa is back with a vengeance: May approvals alone exceeded those of the preceding four months combined as the program raised a whopping EUR 147 million.
From the start of the year until the end of April, a total of 259 main applicants had invested EUR 147.7 million through the Golden Visa program, unseasonably low figures doubtlessly attributable to COVID-19. But the unprecedented numbers now released by the SEF for May 2020 show the month’s results have all but compensated for the excruciating winter months. In a single month, 270 main applicants invested EUR 146.2 million, bringing Portugal back on track for a statistically normal year, all in spite of the pandemic.
The Golden Visa comeback is nothing short of extraordinary. May’s 270 approvals represent a 409% month-on-month increase from April’s 53, while the EUR 146.2 million raised in May is 420% greater than the EUR 28 raised the month before.
Leading the charge were Chinese applicants, who in April numbered only 15; in May, 68 of them received approvals. Portugal’s SEF does not distinguish between mainlanders and Hongkongers, but the latter likely made up a large share of this group and, if recent accounts are to be believed, will show up in even greater numbers in next month’s figures.
Brazilians made up the second-largest contingent, amounting to 30 main applicants (up from 9). Americans accounted for 19 applicants (the highest-ever number for that nationality, as far as we have been able to discern), a number equalled by Indians (another record), while Turks made up 17 of the main applicants.
No annus horribilis after all
May’s unparalleled approval volume of Golden Visas means the year-to-date aggregate has more than doubled in a single month, from 259 to 529, which – if extrapolated – would imply annual approvals for 2020 of 1,270, a number slightly above the 1,245 recorded in 2019.
Extrapolating investment amounts, however, shows the program bringing in slightly less than 2019, even in spite of a great number of approvals. The explanation for that is the growing trend among applicants to opt for “alternative” investments, i.e., any investment but the conventional EUR 500,000 real estate acquisition.
Fully 31% of applicants have chosen alternative investments so far in 2020 (and that share has increased each month this year), compared to 24% last year and 17% in 2018. The proportion of applicants who invest in renovation property (EUR 350,000) and venture capital/investment funds is rising at a rapid clip.
The investment fund option, in particular, is gaining favour with investors; so far this year, their share of the aggregate has tripled and, with seven months left in the year, the absolute number of applicants who chose this option is already more than double the number from 2019.
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