Apr 20, 2020

Forbes magazine: Invest in Portuguese residence after the pandemic ends

The COVID 19 problem will be solved eventually and national economies will revive. However, during the crisis times, many well-to-do people will reconsider their priorities and improve their understanding of what really matters in life. They will come to realize that they must reside in a country that treats them well, the one that provides for the best business opportunities. According to Forbes experts, Portugal is definitely among such countries. You can relocate to Portugal and acquire a legal residence permit if you invest into real estate in the country or into business there. After five years of holding the permanent residence permit, you will qualify for citizenship of an EU member state, which will give you free access to the best part of Europe.

Picture the times when the pandemic is over. Where would you like to go then? Many people are going to simply lie on the beach and relax for a while. But those who will have seen wrong decisions on the part of their home country authorities will anticipate that things may become worse in their current country of residence. These people will start considering the opportunity to relocate to another country where the living standards are higher and where life is safer.

What national state offers most attractive asset diversification conditions? What country provides for top-class social security? What country enjoys spotless international reputation?

Journalists of the American Forbes magazine recommend giving an eye to Portugal. A non-EU citizen can apply for a ‘golden visa’ there, which will eventually bring him or her European citizenship via a simple and perfectly transparent naturalization scheme.

You do not have much time to waste though. By the beginning of next year, the Portuguese authorities are planning to toughen the ‘golden visa’ acquisition conditions and make it impossible to obtain legal residency in the country via purchasing real estate in Lisbon and Porto. A foreign investor will have to buy a house or an apartment in other Portuguese cities and towns in order to qualify for residence.

Portuguese residency by investment and Forbes recommendations

Forbes is probably the most popular financial magazine in the world and its journalists believe that the Portuguese region of Algarve is going to be the best geographical location where you can invest after the COVID 19 pandemic is defeated.

Imagine living in a house on the Atlantic coast where you would wake up to the fishermen’s cries announcing sales of the morning catch and the sounds of the bicycle bells signaling that the local people are going to work.

The Atlantic Ocean has cut numerous bays, inlets, and caves in the sandstone shore that stretches over one hundred and fifty kilometers (nearly a hundred miles). Wherever you look, you will find a ‘postcard view’ without fail.

According to Forbes experts, Algarve is not only great for retirement in one of the most picturesque places in the world but is it also a wonderful spot where you can live and work due to the combination of the following advantages that the area offers:

  • Sunshine all the year round: Portugal as a whole has one of the most favorable climates on the planet. Temperature fluctuations are small and the country has 3,300 hours of sunshine per year. You will probably not be able to find a sunnier country in Europe. The region of Algarve boasts an even better climate: no month in the year brings bad weather.
  • Security: Portugal is stably among the top five most secure countries of the world with all sorts of rating agencies. Violent crime levels are low and petty offenses amount to pickpocketing during the high tourist reason. In addition to that, the country has managed to keep away from the immigration crisis that has affected some other European states.
  • Advanced infrastructure: The Portuguese authorities have made critically important strategic investments into the infrastructure development over the recent years. In particular, large sums of money have been allocated to road construction and airport improvement. The advanced infrastructure together with the geographical location of Portugal make it a perfect platform from where you can explore the rest of Europe as well as the north of Africa.
  • World-class healthcare system: The medical care is of the highest quality in Portugal. At the same time, it comes at a comparatively low price. When you become a legal resident of the country, participation in the state healthcare programs will be free for you.
  • Golf: The region of Algarve boasts 42 golf courses located rather close to each other. If you are a golf lover, this place is going to be just perfect for you.
  • Wonderful beaches: The European Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) has granted ‘blue flags’ to 88 Algarve beaches. This award is given to beaches where the water is clean and safe for swimming.
  • Affordable prices: The cost of living in Portugal is lower than in any other western European country. Goods and services are 30% less expensive in Portugal on average than in other countries in the region. A married couple can live there quite comfortably on as little as 1,300 euros per month. If your monthly income comes up to 2,000 euros, you can live a life close to luxurious in the very heart of the Old World.
  • No language barrier for English-speaking expats: The English language is widespread in the region. You can easily live in Algarve never mastering Portuguese.
  • Healthy lifestyle: The Portuguese are extremely fond of fish. The consumption of seafood in Portugal is the highest in Europe. Freshly caught fish and other sea products are readily available in the local markets. The bright sunshine all the year round and the fertile soil of the country also allow growing large quantities of various fruits and vegetables there. Besides, the level of environmental pollution in Portugal is quite acceptable. No garbage is found at the beaches nor city streets.

Issuance of residence permits is temporarily suspended in Portugal

The demand for the ‘golden visas’ had been growing steadily since the launch of the program back in 2012. The beginning of 2020 saw a historic maximum of applications.

When the pandemic struck, however, the situation worsened considerably. The Stranger and Frontier Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras of SEF) supervises the issuance of ‘golden visas’ to foreign applicants but its operations have been currently put on hold.

Only 55 visas were issued to foreign investors in March this year while 83 visas were issued in March of 2019. This is a 33% reduction in the number of ‘golden visas’ issued by the Portuguese Government. The pandemic has brought about a decline in the issuance of visas:

Month, 2020 The number of Portuguese ‘golden visas’ issued
January 81
February 70
March 55

Source: SEF

On March 30, 2020, all SEF offices were closed due to the quarantine. As things stand for now, the agency will resume operations on July 1 this year. You can file an online application for a ‘golden visa’ but all the applications will start to be reviewed only when the SEF offices are open again, that is, after July 1.

We can only hope that after the quarantine is lifted, everything will be back on track again and that the Portuguese authorities will be fast and efficient in processing applications for ‘golden visas’ that are expected to accumulate by the date specified above.

Portuguese residency by investment and medical care for expats

The rampant coronavirus pandemic has drawn a lot of public attention to the quality of medical services that are available in different national states. In this light, the Portuguese healthcare system deserves a separate note.

How does the healthcare system work in Portugal?

Portugal has an advanced system of medical care. The National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saude or SNS) that provides medical assistance to citizens and legal residents is financed by the taxpayers. The national health system in Portugal covers all areas apart from dentistry.  

The status of a full citizen of Portugal is not necessary in order to obtain medical services in the country. When you invest in Portuguese real estate, for example, you will receive a legal residence permit. This permit will be sufficient to apply for high quality medical help in the country should you need it.

Legal residents outside the working age (those older than 65 and younger than 18) also have access to medical care. Medical assistance is generally free of charge for them although in some instances minimal costs are involved.

If you are a citizen or a legal resident of Portugal, you have to make certain social security contributions. These contributions make you eligible for obtaining free medical assistance when you need it.

Does Portugal provide high quality medical services?

Healthcare in Portugal is generally at a very high level and foreigners residing in the country appreciate the accessibility of quality medical services. However, the situation has not always been so positive. The Government of Portugal has had to spend serious efforts on implementing special programs aimed at improving the healthcare system in the country ultimately putting it among the best such systems in the world.

According to Euro Health agency, Portugal’s healthcare was rated 20th in Europe in 2015. Only three years later, Portugal’s rating improved to 13. This shows that the measures that the Government had taken allowed improving the healthcare system considerably. In addition to that, Portugal is rated first in Europe by such criteria as patients’ rights, information accessibility, and the time of waiting for the provision of medical services.

According to the Annual Global Retirement Index report, the healthcare system in Portugal is currently the best one in the world. The authors of the report gave 99 points to Portugal out of a 100. One of the key factors that affects the assignment of points is the cost of medical services in the country. The prices for professional medical services in Portugal are minimal while their quality is superb.

The high quality of medical services is attributable to the high quality of education that the Portuguese students of medicine have. Medical Departments of Minho University, University of Coimbra, and New Lisbon University are considered the best in Europe.  

Another characteristic of the Portuguese healthcare system is that medical services are readily available in all parts of the country. You can easily find a professional doctor not only in a large city but in a small remote town too.

Medical insurance policy for a short-term visit to Portugal

Non-EU citizens have to buy a medical insurance with a 37,000-euro coverage to order to visit Portugal as tourists. Several international insurance companies sell such policies in different countries.

It is also important to bear in mind that foreign students planning to attend Portuguese universities must have medical insurance policies as well. If a prospective student applies for a study visa without holding an insurance policy, the Portuguese authorities will reject the application and the university where the student has been admitted to, is not going to renew the admittance.

Thus, if you visit Portugal as a tourist or if you intend to study in one of the universities in the country, you have to obtain a medical insurance policy. This rule applies only to citizens of non-EU countries, however. If you are a citizen or a legal resident of an EU member state, your medical insurance is covered by the mutual agreements that the EU counties have signed.

Portuguese residency by investment into real estate in Lisbon and Porto

As we have noted above, the Portuguese authorities have announced that they are planning to prohibit purchasing real property in Lisbon and Porto thus acquiring ‘golden visas’. The popularity of the ‘golden visa’ program has driven the real estate prices up in the two largest cities in the country as the majority of foreign investors choose these cities when they buy property in Portugal. The authorities of the country would like to make foreign investors put money in more remote and less developed regions of Portugal.

At the same time, the recent publications in the Portuguese mass media show that there is a good chance that the Government will go back on its original plans due to the coronavirus pandemic. In other words, the prospective restrictions may well be abandoned or at least their introduction may be suspended for several years.

“The changes to the immigration legislation is not a top priority at the moment”, said an anonymous source in the ministry of the Interior during the interview that he gave to Dinheiro Vivo, a local magazine.  

When the Parliament was discussing the 2020 budget, it resolved that the Government had the right to make amendments to the current immigration laws. When Government official spoke about their intention to close Lisbon and Porto to foreign investors acquiring ‘golden visas’, they left registration agents and local realtors shocked. But the current coronavirus crisis is bringing a lot of harm not only to people’s health but to the national economies as well. It may well turn out that Portugal will be unable to afford introducing new restrictions at the beginning of 2021 as it initially intended.

Portuguese residency by investment: some concluding remarks

If you want to be prepared for tomorrow, you have to widen your opportunities and lessen your dependability on a single national government, a single national economy, and a single national currency today.

Simply imagine that you are living at a place where you do not have to read the latest news first thing in the morning. You can attend to some more pleasing business! There are places in the world where you can live a comfortable life without worrying about the storms that are raging in other parts of the planet.

The period of self-imposed isolation gives you an opportunity to sit back and reflect on what is ahead. You can rethink some of your old worldviews and define some new priorities. One of such priorities can be finding a country where you can make a promising investment and acquire top-level security at the same time. We are not talking about Portugal alone: the world is huge and there is a choice of safe countries where you can relocate with your family.

We understand that it is quite difficult if not impossible to go exploring various countries personally at the current moment. What you can do easily, however, is apply for a free consultation with our specialists on the issue of finding a new country where you can live, of finding a second home for you and your loved ones. Please request the consultation by writing to info@offshore-pro.info. Being self-isolated, you probably have plenty of spare time now, so use it wisely.

Why do Forbes experts recommend investing into Portugal and acquiring legal residency in the country in exchange?

Forbes experts recommend the region of Algarve in particular as a good opportunity for foreign investors to obtain a Portuguese ‘golden visa’ by making investments into real estate there. They provide the following main reasons for doing that: sunny weather all the year round; high level of security; advanced infrastructure in the country; world-class healthcare system; numerous golf courses;  wonderful beaches; affordable prices; lack of language barrier for speakers of English; and a healthy lifestyle.  

Is medical assistance available to expats in Portugal?

When you become a legal resident of Portugal, you are to make the social security payments in the amount equal to that paid by native people of the country. These payments entitle you to obtaining full medical care available to citizens of Portugal. The country healthcare system is among the best ones in the world and a large part of medical care is free of charge. You have to pay for some medical services but their costs are rather low.  

Is it going to become impossible to acquire Portuguese residency via investment into real estate located in Lisbon and Porto beginning 2021?

The Government of Portugal has announced the plans to put this restriction into force in January 2021. According to the insider information and to some statements made by Government officials, however, there is a good chance that the Government will have to go back on these plans. No one can be 100% sure about it so far, as no one knows how the Covid-19 situation is going to evolve. At the same time, it is quite likely that the introduction of the amendments to the immigration legislation will be at least suspended for some time.