On the last 1st of July, it has come into force Law No. 63/2015, which made the third change to Law No. 23/2007 of 4 July, approving the rules on foreign citizens entering, staying in and leaving Portugal and on their removal from the country. Subsequently, it was published the Regulatory Decree No. 15-A / 2015 of 2 September 2015, that entered into force on the 3 rd of September, 2015 and made the third amendment to Regulatory Decree No. 84/2007, of November 5th, which regulates Law No. 23/2007 of 4 July.

The most prominent changes regard to: (i) residence permits for investment activity (hereinafter designated as “golden visa”), (ii) the right to family reunion, (iii) research or highly qualified activity residence visas, (iv) the deadlines for the issuance of decisions regarding the applications for residence permits and itsr renewals, and (v) the obtaining of residence permits with no need for a previous residence visa.

We will limit our analysis to the residence permits for investment activity. In this regard, the scope of Law No. 23/2006, of 4 July was kept intact, however, the list of investment activities was extended with the purpose of promoting foreign investment and developing areas, services and industries that, taking into consideration the current socio-economic panorama, would be considered as less attractive.

The new law conceived particular emphasis to the functions performed by the public entities, which have now a crucial role in attracting investments, in contrast with the previous legal regime, where relations and investments between private parties were dominant.

So far, the residence permits for investment activity in Portugal could only be applied by Third States’ citizens - that is, non-members of the European Union and non-participants of the Schengen Agreement - who exercised in national territory and for a minimum period of five years, personally or through a company, at least, one of the following activities: (i) Transfer of capitals in the amount equal or higher than 1 million of euros; (ii) creation of, at least, 10 jobs, or (iii) acquisition of real estate properties in the amount equal or higher than 500 thousand euros.

In addition to these three types of investment, there are now four new types of investment activities, some of which are combined with equitable compensations, directly associated with the territory where the investment is made, having as main purpose, the decentralization of the investments throughout the entire country, in order to counter its concentration in the main urban centers.

The new legislation aims the promotion of the rehabilitation and maintenance of the national heritage, the attraction of investment to the areas of science, arts and culture, and the participation in investment funds or in venture capital funds, which shall be pursued through the following activities:

A) Urban Rehabilitation

Acquisition of real estate properties, whose construction has been concluded, for at least 30 years or that are located in an urban rehabilitation area and the execution of rehabilitation works in the acquired real estate properties, in the total global amount equal or higher than 350 thousand euros;

B) Promoting of Research Activities

Transfer of capital in the amount equal or higher than 350 thousand euros, to be applied in research activities developed by public or private scientific research institutions, that are part of the national scientific and technological system;

C) Promoting Artistic or Cultural Activities and Rehabilitation of Heritage

Transfer of capital in the amount equal or higher than 250 thousand euros, to be applied in investment or support to the artistic output, recovery or maintenance of the national cultural heritage.

D) Investment in Financial Entities

Transfer of capital in the amount equal or higher than 500 thousand euros, aiming the acquisition of participation units in investment funds or in venture capital funds geared to the capitalization of small and medium sized companies that, for such purpose, present the respective capitalization plan and the same shows to be viable.

We highlight the fact that, the amount or minimum quantitative requirements for the investment activities mentioned in the first three points, above, (as well as the activities of creation of, at least, 10 jobs, or the acquisition of real estate properties in the amount equal or higher than 500 thousand euros, that were already provided by the law) may be lower in 20 % when the activities are carried out in low-density territories, that is, with less than 100 inhabitants per km2 or with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita lower than 75% of the national average.

In addition, note the amendment regarding the right to family reunion. The golden visa holder is now, legally allowed to regroup his/her children, that are of legal age and single, whether the latter are studying in Portugal or abroad, and whether they are at his/her responsibility or at the responsibility of the spouses. This situation was already verified in the common practice and is now legally recognized.

Time deadlines for the decisions were extended. The applications for the residence permit and its renewal should now be decided within 90 and 60 days, respectively.

On one hand, the Regulatory Decree No. 15-A / 2015 of 2 September 2015 systematizes in a single document, the minimum requirements for the investment activity performed in Portugal and the respective evidence to be presented to the competent authorities.

As main technical changes, we highlight the fact that now, any type of eligible investment for the purpose of golden visa, if not implemented individually by the applicant, shall be made through a sole limited liability company in which the applicant is the sole quota holder. The requirement that the company has its head office in Portugal or in an EU State provided that has a permanent establishment in Portugal, is kept unchanged.

On the other hand, the recent Regulatory Decree, legally recognizes the practice that has been adopted by the Administration, under which the renewal of the residence permit was enabled with the simple presentation of the promissory sale and purchase agreement of the property, if there was proof that objective circumstances concurred and prevented the execution of the purchase and sale deed of the property promised to buy, before the end of the period for renewal of the residence permit.