Golden visa in Portugal 2023 WithPortugal
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Golden visa in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece
Comparative analysis

"Golden visas" programs exist in various European countries, accumulating more and more popular among foreign investors. Obtaining a European residence permit and even EU citizenship is an essential bonus of such programs, which is why in our new article, we are going to compare the conditions for obtaining "golden visas" in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece. Compared to Germany or France, these four European countries are highly similar to each other with their warm climate, beautiful scenery, developed tourism, and relatively affordable cost of living.

This article will be handy if you have been thinking about obtaining a Golden Visa in one of these countries.

Common features of Golden Visa programs in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece

First of all, I should note that the golden visa program for all four countries in our analysis is basically the same idea: you make a very significant investment in the economy of the country, and in exchange, you obtain a European residence permit that will allow you to permanently reside in the selected country (if you have such a desire), or travel freely to other countries of the Schengen zone. Moreover, if you have a “golden visa” from one of the above countries, not only you will have all these benefits, but your immediate family can also receive a European residence permit based on your “golden visa”.

The terms of the residence permit will be slightly different in different countries, as Portugal, Spain, and Italy offer the first residence permit for 2 years, and Greece - instantly for 5 years. But in fact, this information is not particularly important because you can easily extend a residence permit for 2 years if your investments are still kept within the selected country.

So if it is just essential for you to get a European residence permit for you and your family, then the program of "golden visas" of both Portugal and Spain, Italy, or Greece is suitable for you because globally, they have the exact mechanism of action and investments can be made in several objects at once in all countries.

Nevertheless, these programs also have differences. We will analyze them in detail in this article.

Opportunity to obtain European citizenship

Let's start our comparison right away with the most exciting point because many investors participate in the Golden Visa program, not for a temporary residence permit but to obtain European citizenship in the long term. Let's see what rules each country puts forward for obtaining EU citizenship.

  • Portugal

Investors with a Portuguese Golden Visa and their family members can apply for Portuguese citizenship after 5 years without obligatory residence in the country. To do that, you will need to provide proof of no criminal record and pass the official state test for knowledge of the Portuguese language (level A2).

  • Spain

Spain doesn't offer the issuance of European citizenship only on the fact that you have a "golden visa" of the investor. However, you can apply for Spanish citizenship if you have been permanently resident in the country for 10 years. However, in addition to passing the Spanish language test (level A2), you will also have to pass a test of knowledge of Spanish culture and provide documents proving the absence of a criminal record.

  • Italy

Italy, like Spain, doesn't offer the issuance of European citizenship only because you have a "golden visa" of an investor. However, you can also apply for citizenship by "naturalization" if you have lived in the country for most of the year in the past 10 years. In addition, you will have to pass an Italian proficiency test (level B1) and prove that you have no criminal record in Italy and other countries.

  • Greece

Investors with a Greek "golden visa" must reside in Greece for most of the year (namely, at least 183 days a year) for 7 years to obtain EU citizenship. It will also be necessary to pass a special test for Greek citizenship and prove the absence of a criminal record.

Leader in selected criteria: Portugal

Sure, the most attractive condition for obtaining European citizenship is the Portuguese "golden visa"Portuguese citizenship can be requested after 5 years, and it is not necessary to reside permanently in Portugal at all, as required by conditions in other countries.

Opportunity to obtain dual citizenship

Since the question of obtaining European citizenship has already come up, let's check whether these countries allow obtaining second citizenship so that the investor doesn't have to give up the first one. It is also crucial to note that in addition to the rules of the countries below, it is essential to check the laws of your own country as it often happens that, for example, Portugal is not against the issuance of a second citizenship, but the country of your first citizenship prohibits or doesn't admit the fact of having another citizenship.

  • Portugal

In Portugal, there is no ban on obtaining a second citizenship.

  • Spain

Spain has a ban on obtaining second citizenship (with very few exceptions), so if you want to get a Spanish passport, you will have to give up your first citizenship.

  • Italy

In Italy, there is no ban on obtaining a second citizenship.

  • Greece

In Greece, there are also no prohibitions on obtaining a second citizenship.

Leader in selected criteria: all countries except Spain.

You can get second citizenship in all countries except Spain, so if you don't want to give up your current citizenship, then the choice should be made in favor of Portugal, Italy, or Greece.

The required period of stay in the country

The third most crucial measure for many investors is the minimum mandatory period of stay in a particular country to comply with the conditions for participation in the Golden Visa program. Many investors don't intend to live in the country where they invest, so either the absence of such a period or its minimum duration will be a significant advantage here.

Let's see how this measure works in the four chosen countries.

  • Portugal

Portugal puts forward extremely modest requirements for the mandatory period of stay in the country - from 7 days in the first year and 14 days in subsequent two-year periods (it isn't necessary to spend all days at once, you can do it separately).

  • Spain

Spain doesn't put forward any requirements at all for a minimum period of stay in the country, the only thing is that you will have to renew a residence permit only with your presence, but it will take you a maximum of 1 day every few years.

  • Italy

The investor must permanently reside in Italy to obtain a "golden visa". This is the primary condition for participation in the program, which means you will have to live in the country for most of the year.

  • Greece

Greece doesn't put forward any requirements for investors regarding their presence in the country.

Leader in selected criteria: Greece

Since Greece doesn't put forward any requirements for the minimum period of stay in the country and offers the first residence permit immediately for 5 years, it is the undisputed leader in this aspect. Spain also doesn't put forward such requirements, but since the first residence permit is issued for 2 years, you will have to come personally to the country for at least 1 day to renew it.

Minimum investment

Another essential measure for choosing a Golden Visa program is the minimum investment required. The lower the entry point is, the more interesting the program is for investors worldwide.

Let's analyze the minimum investment amount for each of the four countries.

  • Portugal

You can become a member of the Golden Visa program in Portugal with an investment of at least 280 thousand euros in commercial real estate for restoration with the help of the Mercan group of companies, which we wrote about in great detail in our interview with representatives of the company.

An amount of at least 250,000 euros will be enough for investments or assistance to preserve cultural heritage and art. Still, in this case, investments must go through state institutions, various associations, and state or publicly beneficial private foundations, so foreign investors rarely use this option. Therefore, we will consider the minimum point for investment in real estate in Portugal as 280 thousand euros.

  • Spain

In the case of Spain, the minimum amount for investment in real estate is 500 thousand euros. Also, in the program's conditions, there is a clause on investments in the country's business sector. Therefore, there is no minimum amount, but criteria such as interest in the Spanish economy, job creation, level of innovation, and related social and economic benefits are assessed. We will consider that the minimum investment in Spain is the amount of 500,000 euros because this paragraph is not very specific.

  • Italy

In Italy, you can at least invest 250,000 euros for an innovative start-up in the country. However, it is important to note that another unique advantage of the Italian Golden Visa program is that the investment must only be made after the Golden Visa has been obtained. Therefore, this is a very profitable and risk-free scheme for an investor because in all other countries, you first need to invest and only then apply for a "golden visa", which may have certain risks. In this case, the Italian program is truly unique as the investor first receives a visa and then has 3 months to invest the funds in the chosen way.

  • Greece

You can invest in one or more real estate objects with an amount starting from 250,000 euros to obtain a Greek "golden visa".

Leader in selected criteria: Italy

Italy is the undisputed leader in this aspect, not only because of the low investment point of 250,000 euros but also because investments must be made only after obtaining a "golden visa" and not before, as in other countries. If you are interested in investing in real estate, then the Greek program will require a minimum investment from you, where you can invest in various real estate objects from 250 thousand euros.

Opportunity to work in the country

Another critical issue is the opportunity to work in the chosen country for the investor and his relatives. Therefore, let's evaluate each country's policy on this aspect.

  • Portugal

The investor and his family members can work in the country based on their residence permit.

  • Spain

The investor and his family members can work in the country based on their residence permit.

  • Italy

The investor and his family members can work in the country based on their residence permit.

  • Greece

The investor and his family members won't be able to work in Greece, even if they have a residence permit.

Leader in selected criteria: all countries except Greece.

Greece is the only country on our list where you cannot work based on a residence permit issued under the golden visa program. Therefore, if you want to live in the country and work in it, then the choice must be made in favor of Portugal, Spain, or Italy.

Income tax amount

If you are planning not only to get a golden visa but also to live in a particular country for most of the year, becoming its tax resident, then it is essential to understand the amount of income tax you must regularly pay to the treasury.

Let's compare the amount of personal income tax in each of the four countries.

  • Portugal

The income tax in Portugal ranges from 14.5% to 48%.

  • Spain

Income tax in Spain ranges from 19% to 47%.

  • Italy

Income tax in Italy ranges from 23% to 43%.

  • Greece

Income tax in Greece ranges from 9% to 44%.

Leader in selected criteria: Greece

We can find the minimum personal income tax in Greece.

Existence of preferential tax programs

If you plan to become a tax resident of one of the countries from our article, you will likely be interested in various programs to reduce the tax obligation for newly arrived immigrants.

Let's check out what tax stimulus programs exist in each of the four countries on our list.

  • Portugal

Portugal's viral residential tax program Residente Nao Habitual (RNH) provides definite tax benefits for 10 years.

  • Spain

In Spain, there is also a tax reassurance called "The Beckham law", but it only applies to foreigners working in the country. In this case, income tax is set at 24% on any amount received in the country. This benefit is valid for the first 6 years of residence in Spain.

  • Italy

Italy also has a preferential tax regime, the "Inbound Tax Regime", which provides a 70% discount on income tax for the first 4 years of residence in the country. In addition, if you intend to live in the country's south, the tax refund will be 90%. Then, in the next 5 years, tax benefits can be up to 50% of the amount subject to tax.

  • Greece

There is tax reassurance in the form of a flat tax rate on foreign income from abroad of 100,000 euros per year. This benefit is often referred to as the "super-rich" benefit. It doesn't matter how many millions or billions of euros you earn abroad because you will have to pay a tax of only 100 thousand euros annually.

In addition, a special tax regime has been introduced for foreign pensioners, for whom the preferential tax rate is 7% of the income received in other countries.

Also, for foreign employees who want to move to Greece, there is a benefit in the form of tax exemption on 50% of their income for seven years.

Leader in selected criteria: all countries

Each country has preferential tax programs so everything will depend on your specific situation and income level. For a better understanding of how this works in Portugal, you can seek the advice of a qualified accountant.

What is the best golden visa program in Europe?

There is no definite answer to this question, and it cannot be because each program has its advantages and disadvantages.

For example, you can get a golden visa in Italy even before investing, which is a huge advantage. But at the same time, you will be required to live in the country for most of the year, which is a significant disadvantage.

Greece has a very low point for investment in real estate - only 250 thousand euros, and a residence permit is immediately issued for 5 years without the need to stay in the country for a single day. These are significant advantages, but neither the investor nor his family can work in the country.

Thus, everything will depend on your specific situation and what aspects are most important to you.

If we consider the "golden visas" program in Portugal, we can say it is a kind of "golden standard" among all European programs. A relatively low point for entry (only 280 thousand euros), the need to stay in the country for only 7 days a year, and the possibility of applying for citizenship in just 5 years are the factors that make the Portuguese "golden visa" genuinely unique.

In November 2022, the Portuguese media reported that the Portuguese government was seriously considering closing the Golden Visa program, which, according to the Parliament, had already achieved all its objectives. There is still no exact date for canceling the program in Portugal, but given the slowness of the Portuguese bureaucracy, it will likely take the government at least six months, if not more, to make a final decision.

That is why, if you are interested in the Golden Visa program in Portugal, it is better not to delay investing, given that you can arrange the whole process with Mercan, which has been specializing in investments in various countries of the world for more than 30 years. Furthermore, the company's managers speak different languages and can provide you with maximum information support in case you decide to invest in Portuguese real estate to obtain a "golden visa". You can find more information about Mercan in this text.

We wish you successful investments, no matter which country you choose for these goals!

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