Lack of staff, increased bureaucracy and organisational chaos are the three reasons given by national newspaper Diário de Notícias for the “near collapse” of Portugal’s much-lauded Golden Visa programme.
In the hands of borders’ agency SEF, the programme has been responsible for revitalising the nation’s property market and seeing millions of euros worth of business flooding into the country – but since the disgrace of a high-level corruption probe, its pace has slackened to the point that now over €3 billion in potential business has been “gummed up in the works”.
“It corresponds to over 7,000 visa requests,” explains DN, as most of them refer to property deals – none of which come in at less than half a million euros.
The collapse has also “spread contagion” to other situations, like visa and residency renewals, adds the paper.
Anyone wanting to renew a normal residency could now have to wait up to six months, something “that has never happened before”.
“Every day the call centre listens to the indignation of people who want to renew or request visas and hear how long they will have to wait,” a source told DN.
SEF has confirmed the backlog, saying it is hoping for “a reinforcement of staff, which has not yet been resolved” and explaining that much of it stemmed from tightened regulations following the police investigation dubbed “Operation Labyrinth” which is still gathering evidence.
To date, none of Labyrinth’s arguidos (suspects) have been charged, though the former head of Portugal’s notaries institute remains in preventive custody in jail.