The Investment Residence Authorizations Program (Portuguese acronym ARI) or Golden Visa that allows citizens from third party countries that are not part of the European Union, or that are not part of the Schengen Agreement to reside in Portugal in order to undertake investment activity – is one of the most popular and competitive programs authorizing residence for foreign investment in Europe, which has a significant impact on the Portuguese economy.
According to data made available by the Immigration and Borders Control Service on its webpage, between 8 October 2012 and 31 August of this year, total investment resulting from the ARI program was EUR 1.49 billion, most of which (EUR 1.45 billion) via acquisition of Portugal real estate, resulting in 2,465 residence authorizations granted. The Chinese continue to lead in terms of the number of Golden Visas (1,969), followed by Brazilians (89), Russians (86), South Africans (63) and Lebanese (38).
Despite its success, the Golden Visa program was altered (Law no. 63/2015 of 30 June) with the aim of broadening the scope of investment activities that are eligible for obtaining authorization for residence and increase the situations covered by the right to family reunification.
Under the current Golden Visa program the following investment activities shall be eligible for granting Golden Visas:
1. Transfer of capital equal to or greater than one million euros:
2. Creation of at least 10 jobs;
3. Acquisition of real estate property with a value equal to or greater than € 500,000;
4. Acquisition of real estate property whose construction has been concluded at least 30 years ago or which is located in an urban rehabilitation area and rehabilitation works have taken place on the acquired real estate property to a total value which is equal to or greater than €350,000;
5. Transfer of capital equal to or greater than €350,000, which is used for the purpose of research activities conducted by public or private scientific research institutions that are part of the national scientific and technological system;
6. Transfer of capital equal to or greater than €250,000, which is used to invest in or support artistic production or recovery or maintenance of national cultural heritage via direct, central and peripheral administrative services, public institutes, entities that are part of the corporate public sector, public foundations, private foundations with a public utility status, inter-municipal entities, entities that are part of the local corporate sector, associative municipal entities and public cultural associations that take part in artistic production and recovery or maintenance of national cultural heritage;
7. Transfer of capital equal to or greater than €500,000, earmarked for acquiring shareholdings in investment funds or risk capital funds directed at capitalizing small and medium enterprises that submit their respective capitalization plan for the purpose, and said plan is considered feasible;
If investment activities are performed in territories with a low population density (areas with an average of less than 100 inhabitants per km2 or GDP per capita less than 75% of the national average), the minimum limits of the investment amounts shall be reduced by 20% in relation to the minimum limits of investment amounts.
As regards increasing the situation covered by the right to family reunification, in addition to this right being granted to family members of the person holding the Golden Visa who are outside of Portuguese territory and who have lived with him or her in another country, that depend on him or her or that cohabitate with him or her, along with those who have legally entered Portuguese territory and who depend on or cohabitate with him or her, children with the following characteristics shall also be considered family members of the resident:
1. are of adult age;
2. are in the custody of the couple or of one of the spouses;
3. are unmarried; and
4. are studying in an educational establishment in Portugal or abroad.
These changes were implemented to fill some of the gaps in legislation and help narrow the decision-making scope of the Immigration and Borders Control Service, and offering greater transparency, rigour and control in the Golden Visa approval process.