Portugal to use golden visa scheme to help build affordable homes

Portugal plans to adapt its golden visa scheme to allow wealthy foreigners seeking residency rights to invest in affordable housing for locals or accommodation for migrants
FILE PHOTO: People protest against increasing rents and house prices, in Lisbon, Portugal, September 30, 2023.
FILE PHOTO: People protest against increasing rents and house prices, in Lisbon, Portugal, September 30, 2023. REUTERS/Miguel Pereira/File Photo

By Catarina Demony and Patricia Vicente Rua

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal plans to adapt its golden visa scheme to allow wealthy foreigners seeking residency rights to invest in affordable housing for locals or accommodation for migrants, the cabinet affairs minister told Reuters on Tuesday.

Antonio Leitao Amaro said the scheme - called a "solidarity visa" - would complement an existing programme, which since 2012 has offered non-EU nationals who invest in Portugal the right to live in the country.

The golden visa scheme has attracted more 7.3 billion euros ($7.94 billion) of funds since its launch. But critics say it has also exacerbated a housing crisis and it has undergone several changes in recent years.

To secure a visa, buying real estate, which used to be foreigners' preferred route, is no longer an option but they can still invest in funds, donate to cultural or research projects and generate jobs.

"We have not changed the existing scheme, but we have created these two types of solidarity visa," Leitao Amaro said in a phone interview, a day after the Portuguese government announced its new plan that will toughen some immigration rules.

He said one of the new modalities would encourage foreigners seeking residency rights to invest in affordable homes that locals can buy or rent and the other would be used to build accommodation for migrants in need or finance projects promoting integration.

Around 800,000 migrants live in Portugal, nearly double the number from a decade ago, but even though they make significant contributions to the economy they are more likely to have precarious jobs and lower salaries, according to the Migration Observatory.

Many struggle to find homes and end up living on the streets or in overcrowded flats, an issue exacerbated by high rents and sale prices fuelled in part by a tourism boom in cities such as Lisbon and Porto.

To be eligible for the existing golden visa scheme, applicants must transfer between 250,000 to 500,000 euros depending on the type of investment they choose.

Leitao Amaro said the government was yet to set the investment amount for the new solidarity visa but that it would have to be lower than other modalities to encourage investors to opt for it.

($1 = 0.9192 euros)

(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Patricia Vicente Rua; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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