Here’s how many South Africans are moving to Portugal – and the changes for Golden Visas

South Africans planning a move to Portugal through a Golden Visa scheme will face increased pressure as the country has made it increasingly difficult to gain access.

Originally created in 2012, the Golden Visa is issued to non-EU nationals who have made a specific investment in the country. Investors can gain Portuguese citizenship through residency-by-absence and gain EU citizenship after holding temporary residency status for five years.

Data from Sable International shows that South Africa is the fourth most popular country that Golden Visa applicants hail from, with over 416 Golden Visas issued to South African investors by the end of 2021 – excluding accompanying families.

The scheme was most recently updated on 1 January 2022 with the Portuguese government upping the visa costs and restricting where people can move:

  • The Investment Fund option increased from €350,000 to €500,000 (R8.4 million);
  • The Capital Transfer option increased from €1 million to €1.5 million (R25 million);
  • Real estate investment for residential purposes will be limited to interior areas of the country as well as Madeira and Azores islands;
  • Urban areas, such as Lisbon and Oporto, will be available to buy commercial and touristic properties.

Clampdown on Golden visas 

The European Union has also raised concerns around ‘citizenship by investment’ (CBI) schemes, under which third-country nationals obtain citizenship rights in exchange for a sum of money, undermining the essence of EU citizenship.

In a meeting held in March 2022, the EU parliament said that there are potential security risks in handing out citizenship – citing Russia’s war in Ukraine and the fact that many Russian oligarchs hold dual-EU citizenship.

It added that this practice, which is common in places like Portugal, Malta, Bulgaria and Cyprus – is a form of ‘free-riding’, as member states sell what was never intended to become a commodity.

Noting the less severe risks posed by ‘residence by investment’ (RBI) schemes, called rules to help tackle money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion, including:

  • Stringent background checks (also on applicants’ family members and on sources of funds), mandatory checks against EU databases, and vetting procedures in third countries;
  • Reporting obligations for member states, including a “notification and consultation” scheme to allow other member states to object; and
  • Requirements for minimum physical residence (for applicants) and active involvement, quality, added value, and contribution to the economy (for their investments).

Read: The ‘true’ cost of being middle class in South Africa

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Here’s how many South Africans are moving to Portugal – and the changes for Golden Visas