In 2019, I became obsessed with the idea of obtaining a second passport.
I’ve been a long believer in “Flag Theory” - and a second passport is a key elusive pillar.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to get a second passport. However, after looking at a number of options, I opted to do the Golden Visa Investment in Portugal.
I spent a number of years outside the US, and gravitated towards “finding a more permanent home” outside the US borders.
Naturally, I ended up in Portugal, I loved it. The “original west coast.”
So I promptly unsuccessfully invested in Portuguese Real Estate for a summer during 2019. Finding proper real estate investments in other countries takes a lot of time and effort.
But in my mind, flights are easy, I knew I’d be back. 2020 was going to be the ‘year I get serious about Portuguese Real Estate and the Portuguese Golden Visa” and… well 2020 was more of a COVID thing.
Earlier in 2021, I finally went through with it and invested >$500K into a Portuguese Private Equity Fund to qualify for the Portuguese Golden Visa.
In the end, I’m still going forward with the Golden Visa for Portugal, but not via a Real Estate purchase like I had thought.
Yes, I’ll more than likely end up owning Real Estate in Portugal, but not this year, and not to qualify for the Golden Visa.
This post will explain a bit more my rationale.
Backing up a bit, the ultimate goal here is to attain citizenship in another (quality) country. Why on earth would I spend so much time / effort / capital pursuing this?
Short answer: Just in case. To have another option.
Fortunately, Both the U.S. and Portugal allow dual citizenship, which means you do not have to renounce your U.S. citizenship to become a Portuguese citizen. So I can have both citizenships and both Passports.
Not all passports are created equally, and it’s getting harder and harder to get a second passport. A second passport is important to me, and you never really know when the window of opportunity to obtain one will transition to impossibly hard.
Your passport defines your identity as much as it defines the places where you’re able to go and the countries you’re able to live in, invest in and bring your family to if you wish.
Having a second option opens up other possibilities, and access to two social services systems (as the US’ is complete garbage) - a massive win in terms of potential to have education and health care covered for my (one day) children.
The biggest disadvantage I see - aside from time/legal costs / investment opportunity cost - is the potential for more admin / double taxation in the future. Dealing with government processes is always a disaster and a time suck. Dealing with two? Even worse.
Important to note that the “Tax Savings” of a second citizenship in many countries can be VERY SIGNIFICANT for non-americans. My reasons are written from an American’s POV. Fortunately, as an American citizen, I’m virtually guaranteed to pay a shit ton of taxes forever, so the benefits in terms of “Second CItizenship Tax Benefits” (as long as I have my American Citizenship) are less incentivizing.
For me, personally, I love the idea of having the benefits available to two countries’ citizens available to me - worth the drawbacks.
Fair Question. Have you been to Portugal? It’s great!
I think it actually goes back (for me) to my LOVE of Brazilian Culture, which was my first expat job all the way back in 2010. Portugal is very different, but I do speak (Brazilian) Portuguese fluently which is a massive bonus. The culture / food / feel of Portugal is very much different than Brazil, but it’s very darn nice as well.
To actually become a Portuguese Citizen you have to pass a language test that “demonstrates sufficient knowledge of Portuguese.” So it’s important to realize if you do want to go through the process of becoming a Portuguese Citizen, you do need to know the language, and have “strong ties” to the country.
Portugal is a safe and stable country with an excellent and affordable quality of life, good healthcare and education options, well-connected airports, and pretty much the best climate in continental Europe. Surf, Kiting… and cheap (domestic) flights to the Azores.
Plus, I love Europe and Portugal is part of the Schengen Zone. Want to live/work in Portugal / Any Schengen Zone Country for a few years? I can.
Another benefit is the ability to have your parents (if “financially dependent”) and spouse / children included.
$500K and you get citizenship for your whole family? That’s a plus.
Portugal is a “Tier 1” Passport. A good one. It’s unlikely I would ever renounce my citizenship, but with a second citizenship with a quality one like Portugal, I have that option.
The easiest way / easiest country to get a second citizenship….. really depends on your bank account, your desire to live abroad, and your family tree.
Unfortunately, I’m not marrying anyone with a second passport anytime soon (citizenship by marriage) and my family tree (citizenship by descent) doesn’t give me one. So my options are Investment, or Naturalization.
With Portugal, it’s actually quite easy to get a residency (D7) and you do 183 days a year for 5 years and thus eventually can qualify for permanent residency and then citizenship.
The issue is that I’m not necessarily ready to live 6+ months in Portugal this year and want to get my “clock started” toward citizenship sooner rather than later.
So there we are, Residency by Investment and Golden Visa it is.
A “Golden Visa” is a Residency By Investment Program. There are many countries that offer Residency By Investment, and actually some that essentially offer a passport as a result of investing.
It’s important to note that most Golden Visas are RESIDENCY by investment, NOT CITIZENSHIP by investment. After a number of years holding a residency and adhering to some qualifications, typically you are able to apply for citizenship. Very important to note and often mixed up.
In Portugal, the Golden Visa requirements are:
The Portugal Golden Visa is initially valid for one year. You can then continue to renew it for two-year periods, provided that you have maintained your investment. After five years (1+2+2) you become eligible for permanent residence and citizenship.
To maintain your Portugal Golden Visa, you have to stay in the country for at least 7 days in the first year and then 14 days in the following two-year periods. Not a lot.
Unlike other types of investment visas, you do not have to live in Portugal permanently in order to renew your Golden Visa or to receive permanent residence or citizenship.
So I’m able to live / work in other countries and still move toward my longer term goal of Portuguese citizenship.
Even though I do eventually want a property in Lisbon or on the coast somewhere in Portugal (TBD), the desire to get a second citizenship (and to start the “residency clock”) is stronger.
After looking around forever in 2019, being blocked by COVID in 2020 and unsuccessfully finding anything in 2021, I opted for the Capital transfer in a Qualifying Investment Fund.
In 2021, the min investment amount was €350,000 and in Jan’22 the amount went up to €500,000. Additionally, the Golden Visa no longer includes real estate investments in Lisbon, Porto, and other coastal areas from January 1, 2022 - So if I did opt to invest in Real Estate for the Golden Visa, it’d have to be in another location.
The option for Fund investment was included in the Golden Visa Regime in 2017. It’s relatively new when compared to the property investment route, which was launched in 2012, which was the main investment option taken by most Golden Visa applicants. There are loads of funds that are eligible for the Golden Visa Investment fund option. Private Equity, Venture Capital, and Real Estate are your categories.
When looking at funds, it’s important to be mindful of track record, AUM, fees… all the normal things you’d look at for a fund as well as having a Lawyer double check that the fund is, in fact, eligible for the golden visa.
Some other factors in my decision (other than not finding a proper property):
Ultimately, every investment decision is an opportunity cost for investing in something else. So by pursuing the golden visa investment in general, I'm opting out of other (potentially more lucrative) investment opportunities. I get that.
The disadvantages I see of investing in a fund, versus Real Estate:
Opportunity cost, time and Investment capital aren’t the only costs incurred for this, there are legal fees. The actual government fees are pretty minimal:
As of 2019, you pay a €532.70 processing fee when submitting your application (plus €83.10 for each additional family member), followed by €5,324.60 per person for the initial issuance of the Golden Visa. The two renewals (at the end of year 2 and 4) are charged at €2,666.30 each, per person. You also pay the €532.70 processing fee when submitting each renewal (plus €83.10 per dependant).
But legal fees can vary wildly, typically landing somewhere between €10,000 - €40,000.
After the fifth year, you can apply for permanent residency or citizenship (you can choose which one). If you don’t want to apply for either, you can continue renewing your Golden Visa every two years (at the end of year 6, year 8, and so on).
Helpful for fund comparison
There are loads of resources available for deep dives on the Portuguese Golden Visa including:
Happy to chat, make intros to the law firms / due diligence professionals I worked with in making this decision.
Hopefully this post outlined a bit of my decision making process in pursuing the Golden Visa in Portugal. Good luck!