All you need to know about the Golden Residence Permit

Portugal's warm climate, friendly people and enviable quality of life makes it one of Europe's gems. With a coastline that looks out on the Atlantic Ocean, its beaches are among the best in the world and the year-round sunshine means that the country boasts the freshest local produce. What's more, Portugal's economy is the fastest-growing in the EU right now. It's little wonder so many non-residents dream about making it their home.

Fortunately, the progressive Portuguese government has recognised this is the case and has taken steps to ensure it becomes one of Europe's biggest 'global residencies', by issuing a liberal new legislation. This legalisation, aimed at non-EU citizens, revolves around the concept of a 'Golden Residence Permit'.

What is the Golden Residence Permit (GRP)?

Effective October 2012, the rules pertaining to a foreign national's entry and stay in Portugal were changed, enabling a non-EU citizen to acquire a five-year GRP (also known as the Golden Visa) if they met one of three criteria. The first requires a minimum investment of €500,000 in Portuguese property, the second is the transfer of at least €1 million into a local business and the third is to create ten or more new permanent jobs in Portugal. This makes it far easier for people to move to the country and enjoy all that it has to offer.

What are the benefits?

While the scheme offers many advantages, least of all its simplicity, arguably the biggest is that new residents can travel throughout Europe without the need for an additional Schengen Visa. This saves money, hassle and allows people to explore this varied continent.

In addition, those with a GRP will have access to great medical, educational and professional services, plus they will have the same rights as a Portuguese citizen, i.e. to the justice system. Permit holders can also apply to bring their families over to Portugal, in which case they will be presented with a GRP authorisation card.

In addition, new residents can apply for full Portuguese citizenship after six years.

What are the options for purchasing property?

There are several ways in which individuals can buy property, the first being the afore-mentioned investment of €500,000 or more. Alternatively, they may co-own a property provided all investors put in €500,000 each ( this can be on multiple properties).

Otherwise, real estate can be bought via a promissory purchase agreement, based on a deposit of €500,000 (a mortgage can be applied for to cover the balance) or through an application for financing where the €500,000 serves as a down payment. Lastly, investors can purchase a property for commercial, agricultural, touristic or leasing purposes and can generate an income from said investment.

How can you obtain a GRP?

With the help of a professional service, consulate or lawyer, the GRP can be obtained after the property has been bought, with the provision of certain documentation that has been translated into Portuguese.

Not surprisingly, the passport, Schengen Visa and other travel papers are required, as are proof of address and medical insurance. Next, the authorities need the property ownership documents or signed promissory contract plus a declaration from a Portuguese-based bank to confirm the transfer of the funds.

The applicant would also need to provide a Criminal Certificate and notification from the Portuguese Immigration and/or Schengen Authorities to prove the absence of any criminal convictions.

Lastly, the applicant themselves needs to sign a declaration which says they have complied with the requirements of the investment. The deeds must be completed within the first year of residence.

What is the process?

The application should be made for a GRP within 90 days of having purchased the property or signing the promissory agreement and transferring the minimum €500,000 funds. A decision is typically made within about three months.

At that point, the applicant will be required to visit Portugal (having obtained a travel permit) to submit photos and biometric data. There is no requirement for a visit to the country beforehand unless the applicant expressly wishes to do so. The GRP should then be issued within ten days.

Do you have to live permanently in Portugal?

No. To be eligible for the GRP, you must spend a minimum of seven days in Portugal in the first year and 14 across both of the following two-year periods. However, once you arrive and see Portugal for yourself, it's likely that seven days won't be anywhere near long enough.

What's the catch?

The scheme sounds great, doesn't it? That might leave some understandably-cautious people wondering about the small print: why is the Portuguese Government doing this? What's the catch? Quite simply, it's a great investment that should inject millions of Euros into the economy, while bringing news skills into the jobs market. They actively want to encourage 'participation in the economy' while foreign nationals get a wonderful new life: it's a win-win situation.

Posted on Monday, August 19, 2013

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