Chinese top applications for golden visa scheme in Portugal

Chinese citizens top the list of nationalities investing in Portugal’s burgeoning real estate market in exchange for a golden visa.

According to a report from Knight Frank, Portugal received 3,890 golden visa applications – fast-track residence permits for major investors – from Chinese nationals, followed by Brazilian (561) and South Africans (254) since the scheme launched in 2012.

Source: Knight Frank Portugal Insight 2018

Cumulative investment in Portugal by citizens of China who have applied for golden visas totalled €2.06bn at the end of last year, official figures from the Instituto Nacional de Estatística show.

This represents 60% of the total for the programme as a whole, according to the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF).

The golden visa offers residency to investors outside the EU – enabling free movement across the
Schengen area, comprised of 26 EU states – in return for a minimum property investment of €500,000.

Last year Chinese investment under the scheme totalled €306m – down 37% on 2016 – with 538 residence permits being issued, down from 848.

Citizens of Brazil, meanwhile, have invested a cumulative total of €400 million, with 473 permits being issued between 2013 and 2017. Brazil is the second country, after China, in terms of permits issued.
Last year, investors from Brazil put in almost €179 million, making it the best year ever on that measure.

South Africa, the third most important country in the scheme, is the origin of a cumulative €140 million euros, accounting for 218 permits.

Since 2000, Portugal’s foreign-born resident population has doubled from 207,000 to 416,000 according to figures from the Portuguese Government.

In the past, 60% of buyers on the Algarve originated from the UK and Ireland but this has changed. “The most notable trend has been a surge in French enquiries in the last two years, a trend we have seen in Spain as well,” said Alex Koch de Gooreynd, head of Knight Frank’s Portugal desk.

EU confronts member states issuing citizenship for money

The European Commission is calling on EU countries to be more cautious when granting citizenships, according to an interview with Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova published in the German daily Die Welt.

The Commission was “extremely concerned” about the escalation of “golden passports,” being offered, the Czech politician said.

EU countries offering golden visa programs included: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Between 2013 and 2017, Hungary also ran a golden visa program.

“The granting of citizenship poses a serious security risk because it gives beneficiaries all the rights of EU citizens and allows them to move freely throughout the Union.” Jourova told Die Welt.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pedro Gonçalves
Pedro Gonçalves is Financial Correspondent at International Investment.

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