Investment Fund Option for Portugal Golden Visa: The Definitive Guide

Investment Fund Option for Portugal Golden Visa: The Definitive Guide

Portugal is a charming destination with a mild climate, rich cuisine, and hospitable people.  With its Golden Visa program, it also became a gateway to Europe for close to 9,000 families from all around the world — as of June 2020.

Although most of these families chose to invest in Portuguese real estate to obtain their residence permits, another investment method is gaining more and more popularity recently: investment funds in Portugal.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the Portugal Golden Visa program’s 350,000 Euro investment route in venture capital funds

Overview of the Portugal Golden Visa Program

A Golden Visa is a residency visa issued in exchange for a qualifying investment made in Portugal.  The applicant needs to be a non-EU-EEA or Swiss citizen with a clean criminal record.

For a list of the qualifying investments, benefits, or requirements, you can visit our page on the Portugal Golden Visa.

The Portuguese government initiated the program in October 2012.  As of mid-2020, the program helped attract 5.4 Billion Euro of foreign direct investment into the country.

What is the Investment Fund Option of the Portugal Golden Visa?

The investment fund route for the Portugal Golden Visa was introduced through an amendment in Portuguese Law no. 102/2017, of August 28th, 2017.  The corresponding part of the law reads:

“Capital transfer of the amount of 350 thousand Euros, or higher, for the acquisition of units of investment funds or venture capital fund of funds dedicated to the capitalization of companies, capital injected under the Portuguese legislation, whose maturity, at the moment of the investment, is, at least, of five years and, at least, 60% of the investments are realized in commercial companies with head office in national territory(1)

Who Can Invest in the Fund Option?

In order to apply to the Portugal Golden Visa program through the investment fund option, the applicant primarily needs to qualify for a Golden Visa.  Thus he or she needs to;

  • Be a non-EU-EEA citizen and a non-Swiss citizen,
  • Have a clean criminal record,

Depending on the fund and the fund management company, the investment funds may bring additional requirements to the applicants.  These typically include the investor to:

  • Be a savvy investor, meaning the investor needs to have experience with some kind of financial instrument such as company stock, government bond, company bond, fund, etc.
  • Provide proof of sufficient funds,
  • Provide the source of funds

Americans: Can a US Citizen Invest in a Portuguese Investment Fund for Golden Visa?

Yes, a US citizen can invest in an investment fund in order to obtain a Golden Visa in Portugal.  

However, the IRS requires foreign financial institutions and certain non-financial foreign entities to report on the foreign assets held by their U.S. account holders.  This means any bank, fund, and fund manager in Portugal, who has an American client or investor, is required to abide by heavy compliance implemented by the U.S. government. 

This leads some banks and funds to shy away from working with investors, who are US citizens.  Regardless, there are banks and funds in Portugal, who accept Americans.  Please feel free to contact us to learn more about these funds.

Advantages

The investment fund route of the Portuguese Golden Visa program has certain advantages that other investment routes lack.  Below, you may find a comprehensive table of these benefits;

Benefits of Getting a Portugal Golden Visa through Investing in an Investment Fund 
Low Investment Compared to other investment routes for the Portuguese Golden Visa program, such as the capital transfer (1M Euro) and real estate options (500,000 Euro), the investment fund option requires a lower investment amount of 350,000 Euro
Low Fees and TaxesInvesting in investment funds does not lead to hefty fees, and taxes like the real estate acquisition does.  Acquiring a property in Portugal comes with an IMI transfer tax (avg 6%), stamp duty (0,8%), and annual municipal taxes (between 0,3-0,5% annually); an investment in a fund has none of these taxes. 
Secure InvestmentA registered fund in Portugal is regulated by (1) the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (CMVM), (2) the Bank of Portugal, and (3) the external Fund Management company.  Additionally, (4) the Portuguese Tax Authorities also audit the fund.  Such high levels of regulation ensure that the fund complies with the Portuguese legislation, tax laws, and the proposed investment plan approved by the fund investors.
Tax-EfficiencyDepending on the tax structure of the fund and the investor, an investment in a fund may yield significant tax efficiencies.  Certain cases allow for exemption of withholding tax on the income generated by the fund, particularly if the investors are not tax residents in Portugal.
Conversely, all real estate rental income is subject to a fixed 28% taxation in Portugal.
DiversificationThe Portuguese legislation governs the funds to obtain a certain level of diversification.  There are quotas as to what percentage a particular asset or investment in the fund may constitute of the total fund portfolio.  This allows for diversification of investments within the fund, and an alleviation of risk for the participating investors.
Potential EarningsDepending on the focus of the fund, the annual yields and the eventual capital appreciation may be significantly higher than other investment options related to the Golden Visa program.
Management DelegationUnlike being a real estate landlord, owning a participation unit in an investment fund is a hassle-free investment.  The burden of management is delegated to the fund managers.  This exact point may also be a turn off to the control-loving investor types.  So, we included it in the next section on Disadvantages.

Disadvantages

Every rose has its thorn.  The investment fund option also comes with its own downsides, which you can find listed below;

Downsides of Getting a Portugal Golden Visa through Investing in an Investment Fund 
Lack of Control Unlike a real estate property or a capital hed within a bank, the investment fund requires the investor to trust his or her funds with an external fund manager, who will oversee the investment decisions and steer the strategy.  Such lack of control may not be suitable for some investors.
ExitMost funds contractually ensure the participants that the fund will not be dissolved before a minimum number of years.  This is to make sure that the participant can achieve the point where he or she is able to apply for permanent residency or citizenship in Portugal.  However, there are three underlying issues;

  • In most cases, resale of the participation unit is very difficult before the fund dissolves,
  • Funds typically have extension periods, which can only be triggered by the fund management, with the participant having no say in these extensions,
  • If the ultimate objective of the fund is to sell the portfolio at a target appreciation, there is no guarantee of what stage the corresponding market will be when the fund decides to sell the portfolio. 
Sharing the EarningsBoth the potential yield and the ultimate capital appreciation is shared with the fund managers.  The management fee and the performance fee varies between funds.
KYC BurdenParticipating in an investment fund requires the participant to share a number of documents and critical information with the fund managers.  These include the proof of income and the source of income.  Such Know-Your-Client burden is not existent in real estate acquisitions. 

Fees

Real Estate PropertyCapital TransferInvestment Fund
Minimum Investment350,000€500,000€1,000,000€350,000€
Taxes
    IMI Transfer Tax6,5%6,5%0%0%
    Stamp Duty0,8%0,8%0%0%
    Notary Cost1,000€1,000€0%0%
Exit Fees5%+VAT5%+VAT0%0%
    Commission5%+VAT5%+VAT0%0%
    Performance Fee0%0%0%35% of the profit*
Management Fees0%0%0,5%1,5% annually**
Legal Fees***variesvariesvariesvaries
Total
(approximate without Exit Fees,
Management Fee, orLegal Fee takeninto account)
385,550€537,500€1,000,000€350,000€

* Varies on the fund, it is typical for the performance fee to be between 20%-50% above a hurdle on the profit

** Varies on the fund, it is typical for the annual management fee to be between 1%-2% of the invested amount

*** Legal fees vary widely between law firms, the number of family members, and other variables; it would not greatly differ between different investment routes

The government fees for the Portugal Golden Visa are not portrayed in the above table. You may find a detailed list of the application fees here.

The Exit

As stated in the above advantages & disadvantages list, the exit of an investment fund is an issue worth delving deeper into.

Minimum Lock-up Period

Most Golden Visa qualifying investment funds will contractually make sure that they do not dissolve within a minimum of six years.  This practically ensures the participating Golden Visa investor that his or her investment will be valid for the necessary time period to apply for his or her Portuguese citizenship.

This is a collaborative approach, and it is something to look for in the investment fund for the Golden Visa path.  Though, it does not end there.  It is also important to assess and question the following aspects.

Resale or Transfer of Participation Units

Most funds allow for the participation units to be transferred or sold between participants.  However, it is typically difficult to find a demand for a participation unit in a fund, which is timed particularly for Golden Visa timelines, unless it is at the very formation of the fund.  

This makes these fund investments rather illiquid until the fund manager dissolves the fund.  Some funds get around this issue by offering a buy-back of their participation units at a certain discount. 

Extension Periods

It is common for funds to have a particular exit target in terms of timing.  Many of the Golden Visa oriented funds set it at six years.

Having said that, the majority of the funds have optional extension periods, which may be triggered at the six-year mark.  The optionality is decided by the fund managers, not the investors.  This means that the investor may be locked in further than the time required to apply for citizenship in Portugal.  It is best to check with the fund.

Exit Market

The ultimate objective of most of these funds is to exit the portfolio by selling it at a profit eventually.  Most fund managers are highly incentivized with a performance fee based on a percentage of the appreciation in value.  This is a good thing as it means their incentive is aligned with that of the investors.

However, mind you, they are splitting your profit, but not your potential loss.  So, the downside risk is all on you.

Documents and Requirements

The documentation required to apply for the Portugal Golden Visa through an investment in a fund is pretty much the same as the documentation needed for any Golden Visa application in Portugal.

Documents and general requirements: 

  • Passport or other government-issued identification,
  • Evidence of the healthcare coverage for the Applicant: 
    • Document proving coverage by the Portuguese National Health Service, or 
    • Document proving coverage by an internationally recognized health insurance,
  • Criminal Record of the applicant by the country of origin or residence;
    • Issued up to three months before the application submission, and
    • Translated into Portuguese,
  • Tax identification number of the applicant by the country of origin or tax residence, 
  • Filled out Application Form stating authorization for consultation of the Criminal Record in Portugal,
  • Letter of Statement by which the Applicant declares to comply with the minimum time requirements for the corresponding investment activity in Portugal, 
  • Payment receipt for the ARI application fee. 

Investment Related Documents: 

The applicant needs to present supporting documents to present that an investment of the minimum amount is made individually through him or her.  The supporting documents include:

  • Declaration from a registered Portuguese institution, stating that a transfer of an amount fulfilling the minimum investment requirement is made effectively,
  •  Supporting document stating the ownership of the participation units by the applicant, free from any obligations or charges,
  • A declaration issued by the managing company of the investment fund, stating the business plan, maturity dates – of at least five years, and deployment of at least 60% of the fund portfolio being invested in Portugal,

Timeline

How long the Golden Visa process takes really depends on a multitude of factors.  These factors include how fast your decision-making process is, how quickly you get the required documents together, as well as the experience of your law firm, the application load in the SEF office when you submit your application.

Below is a step-by-step process of the Portuguese Golden Visa program through an investment fund option:

Step 1: Applicant chooses an appropriate investment fund option,

Step 2: Applicant appoints a law firm,

Step 3: Applicant gets tax identity number (NIF) and opens a bank account in Portugal,

Step 4: Applicant signs and completes all necessary Fund subscription documents,

Step 5: Fund manager evaluates and approves the Applicant as an Investor,

Step 6: Applicant transfer the necessary funds from his bank account to the fund account,

Step 7: Fund manager issues Fund subscription declaration,

Step 8: Applicant provides all GV documentation to the law firm & pays SEF application fee,

Step 9: SEF Biometrics Appointment is set & the applicant shows up at SEF in person,

Step 10: SEF issues the residence permit valid initially for two years

Step 11: Golden Visa residence permits are renewed every two years, and the applicant continues on the path to Portuguese citizenship.

Conclusion: How Can the Get Golden Visa Help Me?

Golden Visa in Portugal is one of the most successful residence-by-investment programs in Europe.  Since 2017, applicants are able to make a minimum investment of 350,000 Euro in a qualifying investment fund in Portugal in order to obtain their residence permit in Portugal.

There are many factors to take into effect in assessing, which is the right fund for a particular investor.  As all the funds will be incentivized to push their own product, we highly recommend working with an independent advisor that will represent you in the process.

At the Get Golden Visa, we provide exactly this service.  We strive to provide our clients with an objective assessment of all the qualifying funds in the market.  We work closely with our investors in order to understand their specific criteria and come up with the optimal investment fund.  Please feel free to get in contact with us with any and all questions you may have on the investment fund route of Portugal’s Golden Visa program. 

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