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18 Feb, 2023 15:09

EU state ends golden visa era

Portugal scraps right of non-Europeans to claim residency in return for investment
EU state ends golden visa era

Portugal's authorities have announced a bulky package of economic measures that includes the termination of one of the most sought-after 'golden visa' schemes in Europe, which provides non-EU nationals with Portuguese residence in exchange for buying real estate or for other investments.

Lisbon's decision to halt issuing new golden visas in return for such investments, which had given those who could pay residency status and access to the EU’s borderless travel zone, was announced on Thursday by the country’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

The step is aimed at “fighting against price speculation in real estate,” the premier said, adding that the crisis was now affecting all families, not just the most vulnerable.

The 'golden visa' program had attracted €6.8 billion ($7.3 billion) in investment since its launch in 2012, with the bulk of the money reportedly going into real estate. To get Portuguese residency one had to invest over €280,000 (over $300,000) in real estate or at least €250,000 (some $268,000) in the arts. Once a person obtained residence, they were then required to spend only seven days a year in the country to maintain their right to free movement across the whole bloc.

The just-announced package of measures also includes a ban on new licenses for Airbnbs and some other short-term holiday rentals, except in remote locations.

Rents and house prices have soared in Portugal, which is currently ranked one of the poorest countries in Western Europe. In 2022, the monthly wages of more than 50% of Portuguese workers hardly reached €1,000 ($1,100), whereas rents in Lisbon alone surged 37%. All the while the country's 8.3% inflation rate has only exacerbated its problems.

It's not clear yet when the measures, which are worth at least €900 million ($962.19 million), will come into effect. According to the PM, some would be approved next month and others will be voted-on by lawmakers.

Portugal’s decision follows one by Ireland, which a week earlier had scrapped its golden visa scheme or 'Immigrant Investor Programme,' which used to offer Irish residence in return for a €500,000 ($540,000) investment or three years of an annual one-million-euro ($1.1 million) investment in the country.

Meanwhile in Spain, a bill has been submitted to congress to scrap its iteration of the 'golden visa by purchase of property' scheme, as it's had a considerable impact on housing prices there, pushing nationals out of the market, especially in the big cities and most popular tourist destinations.

Introduced in 2013, the program enables foreigners to obtain a Spanish residence permit by buying real estate worth at least €500,000 in the country.

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