Portugal in Golden Visa kamikaze
Portugal is risking its golden visa programme, which has attracted €6Bn to the country since 2012, becoming completely discredited.
Real estate and legal professionals involved in the process to gain Authorisation for Residency for Investment (ARI) at a client level say the administrative chaos of Portugal’s border and immigration service SEF is to blame.
SEF is currently being dismantled and replaced with new organisations with a division of competencies.
Because of this reorganisation, SEF has, to all intents and purposes, frozen Portugal Golden Visa since the start of this year, effectively turning away new investments, and making it impossible for even existing visa holders to remain legal.
The Portugal Resident reports that Golden Visas have to be renewed, but with SEF refusing to issue any renewal appointments, every day sees more and more foreign investors finding themselves out on a limb.
Although their continued residency in Portugal is unlikely to be contested internally, holders could face serious problems when they leave and try to enter other Schengen jurisdictions because their Portuguese ARI cards have expired.
Potentially hundreds of card holders from China, the United States, Brazil, Russia, India, the Middle East and now the United Kingdom face issues at other European airports.
As one lawyer whose office has dozens of golden visa clients in frustrating limbo explained: “A note on SEF’s portal saying all expired visas can be considered valid until June 30 means nothing in a foreign airport”.
The lawyer told how her client was arrested when he flew into Germany because his visa had just expired.
“These are serious people,” she stressed. “They are not criminals; some are former members of governments. They chose Portugal’s golden visa scheme, taking it on face value, but they have discovered the reality is that once they have parted with their money, Portugal is not interested in what happens to them!”
The lawyer called it an “absolute scandal” which gives Portugal “a terrible image” that it is only interested in taking they money (usually around €500,000 not including fees) and not caring what happens beyond.
“People are already getting wind of this and taking their money elsewhere. We are losing our credibility as a country in which to invest”, she told the Portugal Resident.
One visa holder said this may seem like a minor inconvenience compared to other things in the world, but think about the big picture: Portugal invited affluent, law-abiding immigrants — entrepreneurs, executives, retirees, businesspeople, investors — to immigrate.
“More than 14,000 permits were issued. We are productive, ambitious people who travel frequently, often for business. We are in a position to be amazing ambassadors for Portugal — to tell the world that it’s open for business, that it’s the perfect place to open a new branch office or factory”.
He told the newspaper’s Natasha Donn: “We’re walking around with expired papers to avoid certain airports in case we’re arrested. I myself am thinking about selling up and moving to Spain) where friends have had zero problems with their residence-by-investment programme.
The worrying part for Portugal is some visa holders could send out the message that Portugal is not a country in which you would ever want to invest. It may be part of the EU, but the Golden Visa system is broken with no-one seeming to care.