For wealthy Chinese fleeing pandemic lockdowns and political stress from the CCP, Portugal is a great destination using the investor visa, which allows entry throughout the EU – for about $357,000 (350,000 euros).
This advantage has attracted thousands of Chinese over the past decade. At its peak in 2014, the Portuguese government received $1 billion in investments according to Bloomberg.
According to Portugal’s golden visa statistics page, from 2012 to date, more than 10,900 main applicants have been granted a Portuguese Golden Visa, with more than 17,900 dependent family members having gone with them.
The largest number of applicants continue to be from China every year since the launch of the Golden Visa Program.
However, according to Bloomberg, this wave is disappearing.
The immigration path of the wealthy Chinese has narrowed
It is not that the Chinese demand for the golden visas is declining, on the contrary, as the CCP’s zero COVID policy weakens the economy, many rich Chinese are looking to leave or at least come up with a backup plan.
According to Bloomberg, investment immigration consulting firm Henley & Partners estimates that 10,000 high-net-worth residents are looking to pull about $48 billion out of China this year. In the past, some have used the Golden Visa Program as a way out.
Now, however, obstacles are mounting from both governments. The EU is increasingly tightening residency and investment citizenship programs.
In 2020 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that European values are “not for sale.”
Ten member states are currently offering the plans in some form, with Cyprus and Malta having withdrawn their golden passport plans after being subject to EU scrutiny. Portugal’s application process requires an in-person interview, and China’s COVID travel restrictions make this nearly impossible.
This leaves the richest Chinese with fewer and fewer options.
According to China-Lusophone Brief, Portugal’s Golden Visa Program grants residency rights in exchange for applicants with a minimum real estate investment of $357,000 (€350,000) or a locally approved $509,000 (€500,000) venture fund. As the lowest investment requirement in Europe after Greece, this is often used as a springboard to EU citizenship.
However, only 16% of successful applicants this year are Chinese, down from 81% in 2014, according to data from Borders Service and Investment Migration Insider, a website that tracks residency and nationality.
Portugal was forced to change the rules after rich Chinese flooded in
Starting on January 1, 2022, Portugal restricted its Golden Visa Program to Lisbon, Porto, and high-density coastal areas, driving investment into less developed rural areas. In order for real estate properties to be eligible for the Golden Visa, they must be located in the autonomous region of the Azores and Madeira or in other eligible territories.
The minimum required investment fund option for a Golden Visa has been increased from $357,000 to $509,000.
According to Bloomberg, the head of the Portuguese real estate consultancy firm Savills, Paulo Silva, said that Golden Visas currently account for only 3% of property transactions in Portugal.
Luis Santos, a managing partner at Alpac Capital, which has researched Chinese investments in Portugal, said that at first few people questioned China’s investment impulse. But it has attracted more attention as the United States increasingly sees China as a competitor.
Although Portugal’s enthusiasm for Chinese investors has waned considerably, China’s super-rich are still in love with Portugal. According to Anabela Campos, co-author of the book “Negocios da China,” Alibaba founder Jack Ma recently traveled to Lisbon looking for possible investment opportunities, Bloomberg reported.