President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa announced, on 21 August, his decision to veto the government’s new Housing Bill – ‘Pacote Mais Habitação’ – which included proposed changes to the Golden Visa regime. He said it failed to address the issues of rising inflation and increasing rents and real estate costs. The Bill must therefore return to parliament for possible revisions and a new vote.
The government’s legislative package, which was approved by the Portuguese Parliament on 19 July, contained a series of measures that were intended to ease the country’s housing crisis. These included the exclusion of real estate and capital transfer investment options under the Golden Visa scheme. However, the government said it had decided to keep the Golden Visas scheme open for investment in other sectors to see if it could ‘survive’ without the property component.
In his veto statement, President Rebelo de Sousa reiterated his concerns about over-optimistic expectations and unrealistic projections in the legislation, as well as the availability of resources and manpower to deliver them. “In simpler terms, it is not easy to see where the promised housing supply will come from effectively and quickly,” he said.
Under the Bill, the following investment options were to be retained for non-EU nationals under the Golden Visa programme:
- Establishment of a single-shareholder private limited company creating at least 10 sustainable jobs that are based in Portugal.
- Investment of at least €500,000 to an accredited public or private institution involved in qualifying scientific research that will benefit the national scientific and technological infrastructure.
- Investment of at least €250,000 to an accredited institution conducting qualifying projects to, or in support of, artistic production, or the maintenance or recovery of cultural heritage.
- Investment of at least €500,000 in an investment fund or venture capital fund for the acquisition of units with a maturity of at least five years from date of purchase. To qualify, the fund must be registered in Portugal and have at least 60% of its capital invested in Portugal.
- Investment of at least €500,000 for either the incorporation of a new company headquartered in Portugal that leads to the creation of five new job positions that are sustained for three consecutive years, or a capital injection in an existing company headquartered in Portugal that leads to the maintenance of at least 10 existing job positions.
Now the Bill has been returned to the Parliament, it is unclear whether the Golden Visa changes will be subject to any further amendments. Data from the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service (SEF) shows that a total of 861 golden visas were granted in the first half of 2023, of which 475 were in the second quarter.
“The roadmap for the Golden Visa is clear but the new rules have not yet been ratified because they form part of a broader legislative package,” said Shelley Wren, Sovereign’s Head of Business Development in Portugal. “The Golden Visa continues to be the preferred choice for many non-EU citizens seeking residence in Portugal and we are continuing to assist clients in line with proposed new rules.
“The Golden Visa continues to offer investors with a choice of asset class to fit their own narrative and circumstances. With our expertise and experience In Portugal, Sovereign is well placed to assess whether the fund, business ownership, investment or incubation routes will be the right solution for individual clients, and we can then guide them through the application process.”