Golden visa reprieve: government yields on retroactivity clause – and more

Visa regime WILL NOT be scrapped until new law comes into place

Hours ago – and with very little publicity – Portugal’s government published the final wording of its controversial“Mais Habitação” (More Housing) programme, showing significant u-turns when it comes to the scrapping of the golden visa regime.

The programme will now go forwards for debate in parliament. With its absolute majority, the government is sure of ‘final approval’ – the only ‘sticking point’ being whether or not President Marcelo will give his rubber stamp, which in view of the ‘decisive’ changes could well come.

Imidaily online broke the news early today. As editor Christian Henrik Nesheim explains under this new wording, the golden visa programme “would still be terminated, but the blow would be softened in the following ways”:

  • No retroactivity clause – meaning the February 16 cut-off point introduced on the very day the government’s plans were presented bites the dust. Now, the programme will end ONLY on the day the government’s new housing legislation comes into effect (see below). This means all the applicants who believed they were ‘caught out’ by the announcement in February are still ‘good to go’, and even new applicants could be considered.
  • No 183-day requirement on conversion to D2 visas – again, the original proposal was for renewals of existing golden visa holders to be converted to D2 (entrepreneur) visas. These require holders to be present in Portugal for 183 days per year (when golden visa holders only need to be present for seven days a year). The new text sees the government accept that golden visa conversions can retain the ‘seven days a year’ requirement.
  • Investor visas still available for cultural investments – this is another significant u-turn: the government will allow investment based residence permits for individuals who invest in support of “artistic production and the recovery or maintenance of cultural heritage”. These investments will need the rubber-stamp of one or more competent authorities (the selection involving The Portuguese Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade; the Development Bank; the Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation; the National Innovation Agency; the Office of Cultural Strategy, Planning and Assessment, and “other authorities deemed appropriate”).

“Investors able to proceed should do so immediately”, say specialists

And so the scramble to make the most of the golden visa regime is ‘back on’. Very much in the way that property owners desperate to squeeze through the closing door of Alojamento Local have been reacting, advice to those attracted to the golden visa regime is “proceed as soon as possible”.

Real estate sector specialists have told Imidaily that the window of opportunity “is likely to be at least 45 days (…) in light of what’s known about the parliamentary agenda”.

All agree that the changes will have come from the enormous pressure mobilised by industry associations, property developers, regional governors, stakeholder groups and constitutionalists. At least two petitions were raised in outrage over the government’s original wording, both of which gathered thousands of signatures.

Justice4PTGVInvestors reported on the success of its petition only a couple of days ago – and is still not convinced these latest concessions are enough. In an email that went out today, the group stresses the new text “does not give a date on when all applications should be approved, which makes us even more uncertain about the future of those who invested in good faith in Portugal”.

In other words, Justice4PTGVInvestors believes pressure should be maintained. People caught up in this confusion should “reach out to their embassies” to “let them know we need their help to protect our interests as investors”.

What does seem more than likely however is that these new changes will avert the likelihood of a ‘massive recourse to the courts’ – satisfying the focus of the original petition, entitled “For the defence of the image and reputation of Portugal when it comes to international investors”.

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