“Terrible mistake”: Portugal’s golden visa changes ‘kill the Golden Goose’

Almost a year since they were first mooted, changes to Portugal’s lucrative golden visa investment programme have been approved.

From July next year, these fast track visas that have seen well over five billion euros ploughed into the economy since 2012 will only be available to investment within Portugal’s interior.

Prime areas for real estate like Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve will no longer ‘qualify’ would-be investors for a coveted ‘golden visa’ that affords them unlimited access to the Schengen space.

The reason – as we have all been told time and again – is that golden visas are not really ‘helping the country’ in the way they should, and have acted as an open-door to criminals.

Yes, they may have seen billions channeled into the country, but these billions haven’t helped everyday citizens. In fact, quite the opposite.

They have driven up housing prices “exacerbating the problems for middle and low income families” (click here), and taken properties from the rental market.

Contrary to expectations, they have not created jobs in any significant numbers – and the number of ‘dodgy individuals’ now able to circulate Europe without hindrance has seen repeated calls for the regime to be scrapped.

The problem, according to critics, is that ‘investors’ will simply go elsewhere while other countries continue to operate their own ‘golden visa’ schemes.

And this is what has led professionals in Portugal’s property sector to lambast the government’s decision as a ‘terrible mistake’.

Said Luís Lima of APEMIP (the association of real estate professionals): “The way I see it, there couldn’t be a worse time to introduce these changes. It was already a mistake when they were announced in the 2020 State Budget, but the decision has become all the more incomprehensible within the context of the pandemic we are living through…”

The Council of Ministers’ approval of the changes just before Christmas was “merely ideological”, complains Lima.

His opinion has been repeated by others, including leader writer Armando Esteves Pereira who calls the government’s objective ‘poetic’ but one that ‘risks killing the hen that lays the golden eggs’/ the proverbial Golden Goose.

“If the government wanted to incentivize investment in the country’s interior it should have created different scales of investment, “ he writes in Correio da Manhã today.

“For example, it could offer visas for an investment in the more deserted areas of the interior on one scale, and double the amount that needs to be spent in more popular regions”.

The reality is there is no shortage of suggestions on how governments could run ‘golden visa’ programmes, it’s simply that Brussels seems to have decided they are more trouble than they are worth (click here).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com