For those U.K. citizens who want to spend more than 90 days in Europe, a residency permit for a European country is a necessity. Although a range of residency visas are available for all European countries, if you have money to invest, a ‘golden visa’ is one of the easiest ways to secure freedom of travel for yourself and your family. A ‘golden visa’ scheme, officially known as a ‘Citizenship through Investment’ scheme, is a scheme whereby a foreign property purchaser, who invests in property in excess of a threshold amount, is granted immediate residency rights and the opportunity to obtain a full passport in a specified number of years. There are 23 such schemes currently operating worldwide, the specifics of which vary from country to country. Such schemes attract around 3 billion euros of foreign investment to the E.U. each year.
The ’golden visa’ scheme with the lowest investment threshold is that offered by Greece. The minimum required investment is just 250,000 euros, which can be spread over any number of properties on the mainland or islands. There is no requirement to spend any time in the country and you and your family become eligible for full Greek citizenship after 7 years. Athens and the Athenian riviera are, as one would expect, expensive areas in which to buy but in Messinia a traditional stone house can be picked up for 200,000 euros and restoration projects can be acquired for as little as 20,000 euros.
Spain’s ‘golden visa’ scheme is less generous and consequently, less popular. The required threshold investment is 500,000 euros and permanent residency is granted only after five years. Full citizenship is only offered after ten years. Annual applications for Spain’s ‘golden visa’ are in the hundreds rather than the thousands.
By far the most popular ‘golden visa’ scheme, particularly with the British, is that offered by Portugal. There were 10,000 ‘golden visa’ applications last year, many of them by U.K. citizens, who now make up the second largest group of foreign nationals in the country. So successful has the scheme been that in January 2022, the Portuguese government increased the investment threshold to 500,000 euros and restricted the scheme to the country’s interior, meaning that ‘golden visa’ investment is no longer possible in the coastal areas of Porto, Lisbon, and the Algarve. The Portuguese scheme is still one of the quickest routes to European citizenship, offering, as it does, a full Portuguese passport
in just five years. The recent constraints do not seem to have blunted foreign enthusiasm for Portuguese property and the fine ancient cities of the country’s interior offer plenty of real estate bargains. The city of Braga, for example, is just a 70-minute train ride from Porto, but it is eligible for ‘golden visa’ applications. Portugal’s third largest city, it is famous as the country’s religious centre and boasts a magnificent cathedral, a university, baroque mansions, grand plazas, and ancient cobbled streets.