Portugal Holds Top Spot for ‘Golden Passport’; Economic Uncertainty Fuels New Demand for Investment Migration

Portugal is now the fastest-growing wealth hub for the world’s most affluent families thanks to its Golden Residence Permit Program, according to a new report by Henley Global Citizens. In the first six months of 2022, the U.S. has overtaken China in the number of applicants vying to live in the EU member state. The “Golden Visa” – first introduced in 2012 – is a residence permit that provides qualifying non-EU citizens and their families with full rights to live, work and study in Portugal. 

Unprecedented Number of Applicants

Portugal’s ‘Autorização de Residência para Actividade de Investimento’ also set a record for the highest number of applications ever received in the second quarter of 2022 – up 45% compared to Q1 and nearly a third higher than the same period last year, according to Henley & Partners. With its mild climate, European access, non-habitual-resident tax scheme, and affordable cost of living, Portugal is fast becoming the top destination for high-net-worth expats around the globe.

However, as demand has increased, with it came new restrictions in 2022.  There are now limits on the places where you can buy property—investors aren’t able to invest in seaside residential property in popular urban areas such as Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve, or coastal towns like Setubal and the Silver Coast. Options to buy residential real estate are within designated interior areas of Portugal worth at least €500,000 or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project. If the residential property is located in a designated “low-density” area, then a 20% discount applies. But an investment in Portuguese real estate will still gain expats residency permits for a family including dependent children, plus visa-free access throughout the Schengen Area of 26 European countries.

High-Net-Worth Individuals (HNWIs) Also Eyeing Other Options

EU candidate state Montenegro came in second overall for the number of applications to its Citizenship by Investment Program in the second quarter of 2022. Perhaps in part because Montenegro’s program – which requires a minimum investment of €250,000 in approved real estate projects and a donation of €200,000 to the country – closes in December this year, it has received significantly higher interest from HNWI expats recently. Montenegro is even more attractive to global investors eyeing Europe as it’s also an official EU candidate country that is expected to join the Bloc as early as 2025.

While the uncertain economy, inflation, and global recession fears are influencing migration decisions of when and where wealthy expats choose to relocate, the large influx of recent applications also comes as political pressure is increasing within the EU to tighten residence and citizenship-by-investment programs across the Bloc. The European Parliament is imposing additional requirements on member states regarding minimum physical residence and active involvement of expats in the economy through their investments.

Across the pond, the Caribbean Island nations of Grenada, St. Kitts, and Nevis, and St. Lucia round out the top five for citizenship by applications in the first six months of 2022. A contribution ranging from $100,000-$150,000 USD to one of these states grants wealthy migrants citizenship and the right to free movement to Europe’s Schengen Area, the U.K., Singapore, and Hong Kong, among others.

The Henley Global Citizens Report features regional insights by investment migration and private wealth industry leaders representing seven key markets: the Americas, Europe, the U.K., Africa, the Middle East, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.


The views expressed in this article are not to be construed as personal advice. You should contact a qualified and ideally regulated adviser in order to obtain up to date personal advice with regard to your own personal circumstances. If you do not then you are acting under your own authority and deemed “execution only”. The author does not accept any liability for people acting without personalised advice, who base a decision on views expressed in this generic article. Where this article is dated then it is based on legislation as of the date. Legislation changes but articles are rarely updated, although sometimes a new article is written; so, please check for later articles or changes in legislation on official government websites, as this article should not be relied on in isolation.


Chris Lean

Chris is a Chartered Financial Planner who writes blogs and articles to simplify and explain some of the financial issues that affect UK expats. Subjects include; hot topics, regulation and the ever-changing world of finance.

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