Portugal has proved to be the most popular destination in Europe for investors seeking a golden visa. Full residency is granted but there is no requirement to reside. Citizenship can be applied for after six years.
The Portuguese golden visa is a central feature of the government’s drive for international investment. With the country returning to growth the real estate market offers exciting prospects for the years ahead.
Cyprus offers citizenship for investment levels of €2.5 million in real estate which is one of the big attractions of this programme. A Cypriot passport allows freedom to travel, study, work or live throughout the European Union.
Cyprus also offers residency through investment of just €300,000 allowing full family qualification. The investor visa is flexible with no requirement to live in the country.
Spain is a firm favourite for many clients considering real estate investment to obtain a golden visa. One of the larger economies in Europe offering an investor visa programme.
Invest from €500,000 in real estate to gain the Spanish golden visa. This provides a flexible residency option. Permanent residency and citizenship can be applied for at a later stage subject to certain stipulations.
Greece offers a residency visa through property investment but eventual citizenship is not available to foreigners. Greece is a member of the EU Schengen visa zone and has no minimum stay requirement.
Prospective investors need to carefully consider the status of the economy in Greece, the real estate market and related property taxes. Greece offers a higher risk investment than other European nations.
Malta offers an Individual Investor Program which is appropriate for our very high net worth clients. In addition to committing to a residence in Malta for five years the scheme requires investment in government approved funds and instruments.
The Malta visa scheme leads to citizenship within one year for suitable applicants, a passport from an EU country and hence the freedom to live anywhere within the EU. The total investment required is typically in excess of €1.2 million.
The citizenship by investment programme for Grenada is one of the newest programmes available to investors. The Grenada passport offers visa-free travel to over 70 countries including the UK.
Grenada offers a low investment threshold. Applicants need invest just $250,000 in a government approved real estate project and maintain the investment for at least 4 years.
The citizenship by investment programme for Antigua and Barbuda provides a second passport to investors offering visa-free travel to over 100 countries including the UK, EU Schengen zone and Canada.
There are several options for investment to gaining citizenship in Antigua including real estate investment of a minimum $400,000.
The St. Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program is the oldest of its kind in the world. Established in 1984 the program grants citizenship through real estate investment to qualified applicants.
The government requires investment of $400,000 plus related government and due diligence fees. St Kitts offer visa free travel to over 120 countries. An ideal choice for a second passport.
The new golden visa programmes in Europe have made it possible to get residency and citizenship through investment in real estate. Countries such as Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Malta now offer this attractive benefit to high net worth invdividuals who invest in property in these countries.
We have highlighted below a brief description of the opportunity in each country along with the basic requirements such as how much to invest. However, for a full understanding of these options please contact one of our consultants.
Cyprus offers two programmes, one for permanent residency and one for citizenship. The residency programme requires an investment of €300,000 in real estate. For citizenship and an immediate second passport investment of €2 million is required. Both programmes are flexible for family qualification allowing parents, grand parents and children to qualify.
Portugal offers a residency scheme through investment of €500,000 into real estate. This programme grants temporary residence to the investor and their family providing the investment is maintained and renewed every two years. After five years applicants can then apply for permanent residence and after six years for citizenship and a passport.
The Spanish golden visa programme requires investment of €500,000 into property. Applications are processsed quickly and residency can be gained in a matter of months. For citizenship investors and their families need to live in Spain for a minimum of 10 years.
The cheapest residency investment programme currently available in Europe is that of Greece, requiring investment of just €250,000 in real estate. Flexible rules apply for full family qualification across three generations.
Malta is unique in requiring investment in property and further investment contribution in the form of a government donation. However citizenship and a second European passport is on offer to those investing and waiting the 12 months or so it takes to obtain full citizenship.
Other countries have residency and citizenship investment programmes that are not directly linked to real estate. Contact us for further details on how to apply for and buy permanent residency and citizenship through investment in the UK, USA, Bulgaria, Hungary, Dominica, St Kitts, Grenada, St Lucia and Antigua.
This year 2016 has proven to be a further step on the ever developing market for investor visa programmes. Demand is increasing for most schemes, many programmes have changed and further amendments are expected in 2017.
We have highlighted below some of the key developments in 2016 and expectations of change in the year ahead.
The delays in SEF in processing golden visa applications in mid 2015 led to a drop in numbers. However a new fast track procedure introduced earlier this year has put applications back on track. The number of approved applications in 2016 looks set to be the highest ever running at over 2000 investors per annum. The introduction of a €350,000 limit for renovation projects is taking time to produce the necessary supply. Such projects are complicated and need to be fully managed. La Vida has sourced some interesting options for clients and we will see more of these in 2017. The property market is gaining strength in Portugal with price rises over the last three years now fuelling growth and demand. Developers are reluctant to offer discounts and the best properties are sold long before completion.
There were some key changes introduced in 2016 to the Cyprus citizenship and residency programmes.
The qualifying real estate investment level for citizenship was reduced from €2.5 million to €2.0 million. The timescale for achieving the pasport increased to six months as it is now necessary to hold residency (but not necessary to live in Cyprus) before being issued a passport. It still remains the fastest route to EU citizenship.
The residency programme was amended to include parents. Three generations can now be included for an investment of just €300,000 in real estate. A key benefit is that this is for Permanent Residency (PR).
Changes for 2017 could see Cyprus becoming part of the EU Schengen zone. Anyone obtaining the Permanent Residency before that point will no doubt retain it should Cyprus enter Schengen. The EU has not allowed any Schengen country to issue Permanent Residency immediately on investment. Should Schengen happen then we can expect some changes to the programme. Investors may be wise to act sooner to grab the benefits on offer.
The economy in Cyprus may well see a further boost in 2017 with the discovery of huge natural gas resources off the coastline and the development of its first casino under the Hard Rock brand.
Political developments in Hungary could well see the end of the residency bond visa programme in 2017. It has been possible to obtain residency in Hungary through a €300,000 investment in government residency bonds. However Hungary’s nationalist opposition party Jobbik is seeking an end to the programme in return for its support on other matters. Parliament closes this week so unless change happens in the next few days we can expect no further developments until at least February 2017. Still time for any investor to get their application in ahead of any changes.
We can expect changes in 2017 to the recently launched citizenship programme in St. Lucia. The scheme has been in operation less than 12 months but there is a new government in place and new ideas and our conversations with those close to the programme suggest a more coordinated and consolidated programme will be launched in 2017.
The number of Portuguese Golden Visas granted this year has already exceeded the total issued in the whole of 2015.
That’s according to official figures issued by the immigration authorities in Portugal, SEF.
In total 821 Golden Visas have been approved so far in the six month period up to 30th June 2016. That’s more than the total for 2015 as a whole.
The 2015 figures took a hit when the government temporarily postponed the programme in mid 2015 while they put new procedures and rules in place to avoid a repeat of the visa issuing fraud that saw the resignation of the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Miguel Macedo. New rules were introduced by September 2015 and visa application processing started again. Investments and visits made by applicants never stopped throughout this period. It was just that the processing of subsequent applications was delayed while new procedures were introduced.
By early 2016 a new fast-track procedure was introduced whereby clients submitting their full documentation could be processed for a golden visa in under 3 months. La Vida clients who have invested this year have already benefited from this accelerated golden visa application process.
This year, 2016, looks set to break the previous record of 2014 when a total of 1526 golden visas were issued by SEF. To date 94% of all golden residence permit investments have been into real estate, the remaining 6% into venture capital funded investments or job creation. The programme has so far introduced 2.2 billion Euros in inward investment for Portugal since its launch in 2012.
Portugal remains the most popular programme for residency investment in Europe. A combination of low cost investment (€500,000), certainty regarding real estate ownership with 100% retained by the investor and no government donation along with a minimum stake of just two weeks every two years and the possibility of citizenship make it Europe’s most successful golden visa programme. Read more on the benefits.
Despite popular belief there are very few European countries that offer residency through investment in real estate. These programmes guarantee the investor residency provided they meet some straightforward criteria. In some countries residency may progress to citizenship (Portugal, Spain, Greece) and in the case of Cyprus then citizenship by investment in real estate is immediate.
The countries offering this are Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece and to some extent Malta, although further conditions are attached in addition to the purchase of property.
European countries without such golden visa programme for real estate include Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
Many European governments do offer residency through investment but that investment tends to be aimed at entrepreneurs aiming to create business and jobs in the country. Often there is an application process involving interviews and a consideration of business plans. In this sense the outcome is not guaranteed.
International investors who moved early for the golden visa in Portugal are now looking at real estate gains of over 10%. Those who bought early in the programme in 2012 will have seen average price rises of 10.2% in the last 3 years according to house price data released by the government.
While this no doubt is great news for our existing investors, those still considering Portugal for the residency visa offered through real estate investment are advised to act quickly.
Prices in Portugal and the capital Lisbon are not just rising but accelerating. The average rise in property prices over the last 3 years has been 3.4%. However prices in the last 12 months have risen 5.1% and are expected to at least continue this trend in the coming year.
That means anyone considering a property purchase is likely to pay at least €25,000 more for their investment in a year’s time if they invest at the minimum requirement of €500,000.
The trend in prices is backed up by our own practical experience as real estate agents. We are seeing rising construction in prime areas such as Chiado and Avenida de Liberdade in central Lisbon. Developers however are starting to hold back on releasing projects, preferring to complete developments before marketing them, safe in the knowledge that prices are likely to be higher.
The demand at €500,000 and above is fueling faster price growth for prime residential property. Over 2,000 international investors each year are entering Portugal for residential real estate on the back of the golden visa programme.
La Vida has seen strong demand for recent projects in Lisbon. Centrally located close to Avenida de Liberdade we have a brand new renovation of 90 apartments that have just been released off plan offering arguably one of the best real estate investments in Lisbon currently. Contact for brochure. Likewise in the prestigious area of Chiado where we have a development of 37 apartments with views over the city and Targus river.
Outside the capital we have a new resort development in Cascais, 30 minutes from the city, released April 2016. This is built to the same quality and standards as the luxury development we offer on the Algarve which has proven popular with investors attracted to its 5% rental guarantee.
For advice and further information on our projects please call or email our real estate consultants or complete your details here.
Several countries in Europe offer residency through investment in real estate. Some of these country programs may lead to citizenship and a European passport.
The key to these schemes, unlike traditional immigration programs is that the investor gains the right to travel and reside in the country without the requirement to live there and become tax resident.
Check our summary below for details on the five main programs in Europe that will lead to residency through real estate investment and follow the links to more detailed guides on each program.
Invest €500,00 in real estate. This gains residency in Spain for 5 years with renewals:
Read More: Golden Visa Spain
Invest €500,00 in real estate. This gains residency in Portugal with the potential for citizenship and a second passport after six years, without the requirement to become resident.
Read More: Golden Visa Portugal
The ultimate program for those High Net Worth Individuals seeking quick citizenship and a European passport within three months.
Read More: Citizenship by Investment Cyprus
A lower cost option for citizenship in Europe for those prepared for a lengthier application process and willing to make a donation.
Read More: Citizenship by Investment Malta
The low cost option for residency in Europe. Invest just €250,000 in real estate. A Schengen country but future citizenship will only arise through 7 years of residency.
Read More: Investor Visa Greece
A revision of rules for the golden visa in Portugal has left many potential applicants confused as to the rules and a great deal of misleading literature posted on the web suggesting the Portuguese golden visa limit has been reduced.
The qualifying real estate investment level for the golden visa in Portugal is €500,000. Earlier this summer the Portuguese government introduced a new investment level of €350,000 for certain categories of real estate.
The law states the following: “Acquisition of immovable assets, the construction of which has been completed, at least, 30 years ago or located in an area of urban regeneration and execution of refurbishment works in the acquired immovable assets…equal to or above 350 thousand euros;”
The point here is that even though this new option applies, it only applies to property that is over 30 years old or located in an urban regeneration area. It involves the execution of refurbishment works. This is an important aspect.
To qualify for the golden visa under such an investment requires the necessary permissions for renovation work on the building. Such permissions and payments to contractors all need to be done legally and of course within the tax structure so the necessary paperwork, proofs and payments are fully in order. To undertake such a project would mean employing project managers and the necessary architects. The applicant would have to have all the licences in place prior to any application being submitted which will of course delay any application for the visa. To mitigate any risk it is vital to ensure that any such property would qualify within this category. Clients would need to ensure they build sufficient time into their schedule to take care of all these additional aspects.
Clients visiting to invest €500,000 in a location such as Lisbon can usually complete the necessary tasks within a few days, accompanied by ourselves and our lawyers in a methodical, established and time proven manner. The alternative investment of €350,000 will require far more time and hands on management. Golden Visa applicants should be wary of companies offering such management for a fee and in particular remain conscious of the scope for overpaying for assets requiring reconstruction without the necessary independent professional advice from architects and surveyors. For any international client not residing in Portugal and trying to manage from a distance it can be problematic, time consuming and expensive.
The €350,000 is reduced by a further 20% to €280,000 for renovation in low density, less developed areas of the country. This naturally does not apply to the cities or the more populated coastal regions creating issues for any future rental income potential.
It is now possible to gain permanent residency through investment in a European country without the need to live there and become tax resident. Countries offering permanent residency visas through investment include Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece Hungary, Bulgaria and Malta.
Permanent residency gives the right to live in a country and is distinct from citizenship whereby a second passport can be gained. In Europe there are several countries offering temporary residence that later leads to permanent residency (PR) or alternatively permanent residency outright from the point of investment. In all cases where the applicant invests either in real estate or government bonds, there is no requirement for the applicant to reside in the country but they have the right to do so if they wish. There are also four Caribbean countries offering permanent residency as part of their citizenship programmes. They include St. Kitts, Antigua, Dominica and Grenada.
Invest €500,000 in real estate plus related costs and taxes to gain residency. After five years applicants and their families can apply for permanent residency in Portugal.
Invest €500,000 in Spain to gain residency and apply for permanent residency after five years. Investors have to live in Spain during that time.
You can gain permanent residency in Greece through investing €250,000 in real estate. Taxes and fees on property are high in Greece, as much as 27% on top of the property price. Permanent residency can apply to three generations in Greece, that is parents and children
Invest €300,000 in government bonds in Hungary for permanent residency. The bonds pay zero interest and are refunded to the investor after five years.
Invest €512,000 into government bonds in Bulgaria to gain permanent residency. Investors can increase this to €1,024,000 to gain fast track citizenship in Bulgaria.
Permanent residency through investment in Malta is achieved through the citizenship programme. This requires a total investment of around €1.2 million.
Permanent residency can be obtained in Cyprus through investing €300,000 in real estate. Applicants can apply for citizenship by increasing this to €3 million.
A key objective for many of our clients is the gaining of a second passport and citizenship by investment of another country.
This is a step on from residency and the right to live in a country. It is often the next stage after a period of residency or through higher investment in a golden visa programme.
Below we list those countries in Europe and the Caribbean that offer second citizenship and a passport. Note that these are only countries offering such a facility through investment and without the requirement to live full time and become tax resident.
Portugal is one of the most popular programmes in Europe. Invest €500,000 in real estate plus related costs and taxes to gain residency. This gives freedom of travel throughout the EU Schengen visa zone. After six years applicants and their families can apply for citizenship and hence a second passport allowing you and your family to travel, work, live and study anywhere in Europe.
Spain offers similar costs and benefits to Portugal but with one major difference. It is not possible to get citizenship and a second passport unless you reside in Spain for 10 years full time. It is why Portugal is currently issuing 2,000 golden visas a year compared to less than 100 in Spain.
Greece is the most affordable scheme in Europe but clients must be careful of the additional costs and the economic situation. You can gain residency through investing €250,000 in real estate. Taxes and fees on property are high in Greece, as much as 27% on top of the property price. Also the programme in Greece is residency only and does not lead to citizenship and a second passport currently except for applicants of Greek origin.
Hungary is a very popular and affordable programme. Invest €300,000 in government bonds which is refunded after 5 years. Costs for the programme are €60,000 for a full family. This grants Permanent Residency in Hungary. Citizenship and a second passport in Hungary can be applied for after 8 years with a language test. Hungary is a member of the EU and Schengen zone which also means visa free travel to the USA and Canada. You gain visa free travel throughout the EU Schengen area and can apply for a European passport after 8 years. Hungary is a straightforward residency programme and in most cases will not require a visit to the country.
Bulgaria is the most affordable route to citizenship of the EU. You can gain a second passport in Hungary within 21 months allowing you and your family to live, work, travel and study anywhere in Europe. This can be done for a total investment of €1,024,000 in government bonds which are repaid in full after 5 years. But a big benefit is that these bonds can be financed for a total outlay of €280,000. Although there is no return of capital this significantly reduces the cash outlay and is a popular choice. Costs under either option amount to around €30,000 for a family of 4.
Malta has a citizenship programme leading to a second passport within a year. However there are a number of restrictions with Malta, in particular showing ties and commitment to the island, maintaining a property and screening interviews. For those willing to maintain such connections citizenship is available at a total cost of around €1.2 million. But note €650,000 of that figure is a “contribution” to the government. That money is not returned.
Cyprus is the ultimate choice for High Net Worth individuals seeking a second passport. Investment of €3 million in a real estate portfolio gains a Cypriot and hence European passport within 2-3 months. This investment can be reduced to €500,000 after 3 years. An interesting fact for Cyprus is that a single investor is normally €5 million under government rules. However La Vida has the access and ability to group submit a minimum five applications regularly. Under this arrangement the investment requirement reduces to €3 million.
There are currently four programmes in the Caribbean offering citizenship, a second passport and visa free travel to many countries worldwide.
St Kitts is the oldest second passport programme by investment. Applicants investing $400,000 in government approved real estate projects (plus costs) gain citizenship. This grants visa free access to over 100 countries including the UK and Schengen zone. It is also possible to make a government contribution of a reduced amount depending on family size. Processing is slow taking typically 9 months.
Antigua offers a similar second passport programme to St Kitts. An investment of $400,000 in government approved real estate projects plus costs gains citizenship. There is visa free travel to over 100 countries including the UK, Schengen zone and Canada. Processing is fast, typically 4 months.
Dominica has just amended its citizenship programme to include a real estate option. You can now invest just $200,000 in real estate to gain citizenship and a second passport. Although offering slightly less countries for visa free travel than St. Kitts or Antigua (over 70), Dominica is a much reduced investment option.
Grenada is a new second passport programme and is popular as it has no country restrictions for who it will issue passports to. There are of course strict due diligence checks on each applicant. Invest just $250,000 in real estate to gain visa free travel to over 70 countries including the UK and with the Schengen zone likely to be added soon (expected Q2 2015). Grenada is the only country offering citizenship to parents of any age as long as they are dependent. Processing is fast, within 4 months.
There are government fees and associated costs with each of the Caribbean programmes. As a guide these will range for a family of four from $130,000 up to $210,000. La Vida can give a more accurate assessment based on the make up of your family and the particular programme. Please complete your client details here if you require this.
Popular countries in Europe for second passports include the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Holland. However these countries do not offer second passports through investment alone but through other means such as creating and investing in a business. However it is important to note that citizenship and a passport from any EU country allows the holder to live and work anywhere in the European Union.
It is important for any prospective investors to take careful professional advice on the programmes available before committing to an investment. There are many programmes on the market from differing countries, but not all of these lead to citizenship through investment.
The likes of Hungary, Greece and Spain are difficult or unlikely, sometimes requiring residence in the country. Portugal is far easier and Cyprus can be gained immediately with the right investment.
So what is citizenship and what benefits does it bring? Citizenship of any particular country within the European Union means a passport and importantly citizenship of the EU. So for example, if you gain citizenship in Portugal through real estate investment then you become an EU citizen. Similarly if you gain citizenship in Bulgaria through investment in government bonds you can also gain citizenship of the EU even though Bulgaria is outside the Euro and Schengen visa zone.
Every person holding the nationality of an EU country is automatically a citizen of the EU. This allows that person to move freely within the EU. To work, study and live wherever they wish within the European Union countries.
It is important to draw the distinction between the EU countries (there are 28) and the Schengen visa countries (there are 26). There are 22 EU countries participating in the Schengen visa zone and there are an additional 4 countries not part of the EU.
Residency in the Schengen visa countries allows freedom of travel throughout the Schengen area. But citizenship of an EU country provides the right to live and work within the EU countries. For example the United Kingdom and Ireland are EU countries, but not part of the Schengen visa zone.
Whichever country an investor targets for citizenship, there are sometimes faster, cheaper and easier options to gain permanent residency allowing them to live, work and study in that country by gaining entry through an alternative EU country.
It is possible to achieve citizenship through investment in real estate in Spain but the investor will need to live in Spain for 10 years before applying.
Citizenship can be applied for in Portugal six years after investment of a minimum €500,000 in real estate.
Citizenship is available in Cyprus within 2 – 3 months on investing a minimum €2.5 million in real estate.
Malta has an investment visa programme with a comination of investment and contribution totalling around €1.2 million with citizenship taking approximately 12 months.
Citizenship in Greece through its real estate investment programme will be possible following changes to legislation (2015).
Changes to legislation in Hungary mean the investor visa bond programme could lead to citizenship after 5 years rather than the current 8 years. (2015)
The investment bond programme in Bulgaria can lead to fast track citizenship by doubling the bond investment from €512,000 to €1,024,000.
For reference the EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.