A program in Portugal that combines the appeal of cheap really estate and easy visas seems to have found a ready market with Chinese investors, as nearly 80 percent of participants in the immigration scheme this year come from China.
While many nations in southern Europe are trying out investor visa programs to attract investment, Portugal’s terms seem to be helping it to close deals with Chinese investors this year. The Portuguese government grants investor visas for in return for investments of Euros 500,000 in the country’s depressed real estate market.
Competing with European Neighbors
While other countries such as Cyprus, Spain and Greece have programs with low investment thresholds, Portugal’s has not attracted the negative headlines for its economic struggles that have been seen for other southern European nations.
Portugal’s offering provides visas for immediate residency that can be converted to Portuguese citizenship (and thus EU privileges) in six years. And the would-be immigrants only need to spend seven days a year in Portugal over that six years to qualify.
Greece and Cyprus offer investment visas for purchases of at least 250,000 euros and 300,000 euros, respectively. Spain’s requirement is 500,000 euros.
By comparison, the US’ EB-5 investor program specifically excludes direct investment in real estate as a qualifying investment, and the potential path to citizenship has much stricter residency requirements.
Chinese Dominate Visa Sales
According to a report from Portugal’s foreign ministry, since the visa program was launched in October 2012, a total of 318 visas have been issued, of which 248 went to Chinese nationals compared with 15 for Russians, the next biggest group.
For the coming year, the foreign ministry projects that Portugal may issue as many as 400 of the investor visas, however, it has no plans to limit the number of permits. The program has provided the country with 198 million euros of investment since it started.
Chinese real estate investors have been snatching up housing and commercial property in western nations both as individuals and through large corporations as the country’s investors look for ways to diversify investment portfolios and take advantage of what they see as undervalued real estate markets in Australia, the US and Europe.