Golden visa ‘agony’: applications made after February 16 “will be invalid”

Even before government’s new housing programme receives approval, golden visas (appear to be) toast

With many investors holding out for a reprieve for Portugal’s golden visa programme  – or at least some kind of amnesty for applications in the system – new advice is that any paperwork put in post-February 16 will be invalid.

The situation is further confused by the fact that foreigners and borders agency SEF “can continue to accept applications until the new housing package comes into force (latest date set being March 24) but there is no guarantee that they will have a decision” (this reported by the country’s Ordem dos Advogados (OA/ Law Society, citing the Ministry of Housing).

The OA website said yesterday that the thinking behind the cut-off date “puts an end to a possible rush for golden visas after February 16, when the government announced revocation of the regime”.

None of this however was clear on the day: indeed the prime minister, announcing the decision, said that golden visas would stop for the purposes of habitation (ie, the inference being that they might continue for other forms of investment); and there was no real clarification that for the purposes of new investment through the purchase of real estate, the regime was being stopped in its tracks.

OA’s focus on golden visas comes as lawyers ‘represent’ investors in the process – and are naturally seeking clarification.

Is this legal? Can golden visas be ‘retroactively revoked’?

Margarida Almeida Santos, a lawyer at DLAS, admits the market is in suspense: potential real estate investors looking to obtain golden visas (official name ARI, standing for authorisation of residency through investment) are opting for “conditional reservation agreements, with the commitment of being reimbursed if the regime is revoked”.

Henrique Moser, from Antas da Cunha, has no doubts, describing the government’s intentions as an  “attempt at retroactivity” which “can only be illegal”. 

Says OA, Moser “who has hundreds of processes in progress, many with investment already made”, which will now fall by the wayside, does not agree with the proposal, defending that “it should be evaluated by the Constitutional Court”.

Nuno Oliveira Garcia, from Gómez-Acebo & Pombo, which also deals with golden visa requests, has identical doubts, says OA. Golden visa processing by SEF was already put on hold for over a year during the pandemic “reflecting a total disinvestment in the programme”, but there was the expectation nonetheless that, once people were in the system, their applications at least would continue. In Nuno Oliveira Garcia’s case, he says he already has clients who have decided not to invest in Portugal and are now looking at other markets, like next door Spain.

The Resident too has received email contact from potential investors who told us earlier this month (ie post the February 16 cut-off point): “We are a South African couple who intend to relocate to Portugal under the Golden Visa Scheme.

We have done everything we were supposed to do to obtain the Golden Visa and are at the stage where we have submitted our application online.

We were delayed because of the multitude of documents that is required and the translations thereof.

“Now that we have to pay the fees applicable it seems that the system is blocked.

“We have invested €451,000.00 and we were going to invest more but will not do so now.

“We will not take this lying down.

“If you can recommend a lawyer please help. I’m sure a class action would follow.

“If there is a group that we need to get in touch with and you can help please assist in this regard.

“Stopping the Golden Visa and short term Air BnB letting is not going to solve the Portuguese housing crisis; in fact the suspension of these will bring about economic hardship to the people of Portugal”.

As we reported yesterday, the ‘approval’ of the government’s extremely controversial plan for ‘intervening’ in the housing market has been pushed back another week, by dint of the fact that there have been so many complaints.

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