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Investors eye Portuguese golden visas as officials ponder programme's end

Investments through Portugal's "golden visa," which grants affluent foreigners residency rights, increased nearly 50% last month, according to figures released on Sunday, as the government considers scrapping the contentious programme.

The golden visa has been strongly criticised in the United States for driving up house prices and rents, and the European Commission has asked for such national programmes to be phased down.

Over the last decade, Portugal has attracted 6.6 billion euros ($6.95 billion) in investment, primarily from China, Brazil, and Turkey, with the majority of the funds flowing into real estate.

Non-EU nationals must make a large investment in Portugal, such as purchasing real estate, in order to apply. They are then granted residency rights and visa-free travel within Europe's Schengen zone.

However, Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced on November 2 that his government will reassess the 10-year-old policy, wondering whether it could still be justified.

Get Golden Visa CEO Murat Coskun claimed Costa's remarks had a "huge impact on the appetite" for the measure, with his company witnessing a five-fold rise in inquiries.

According to data released by the border agency SEF on Sunday, investment through golden visas jumped 48% from October to 65 million euros in November, and was up 41% year on year.

Vasco Silva, CEO of Kleya, which assists foreigners in relocating to Portugal, said his organisation had had several inquiries about what was going on, adding that some investors had hastened their decision in case the programme was changed or scrapped.

If there is no programme for residence by investment, (investors) will just disregard the country," Silva said, claiming that the more than 10,000 visas given since 2012 had put Portugal "on the map."

The Portuguese branch of the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International (TI) has stated that the initiative could be used for money laundering, and the European Commission has stated that such programmes pose a possible security concern.

Silva stated that this was not the case because all parties engaged in the process, from banks to lawyers, were required to follow "extremely stringent procedures."

"We are not admitting criminals or money whose origin we do not know," Silva stated. "Exceptions can occur, but they will be one in 10,000 or two in 10,000, and of course, those will be made public."

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Britain cancelled golden visas in February, citing concerns about the flood of illicit Russian money. According to SEF, Portugal banned golden visas for Russians, although 431 people had already profited from the initiative since its inception.

($1 = 0.9497 euros)



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