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Golden visa:

a Portuguese opportunity

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SPW Contributors

Sanlam Private Wealth

Sanlam Private Wealth has partnered with investment group Argosy to bring you a transparent investment opportunity that will enable you to benefit from Portugal’s residency for investment visa programme – so you can invest with confidence and avoid nasty surprises along the way. In a recent webinar we hosted with the team at Argosy, we unpacked what you need to know about the programme and how you can invest in the Argosy Property Ventures Fund.

You can read a condensed version of some of the main discussion points below, or watch a recording of the webinar here:

Many South Africans are looking to obtain residency or citizenship in a foreign country, while continuing to live in South Africa. A number of countries around the world offer so-called golden visa schemes – either ‘citizenship for investment’ or ‘residency for investment’ programmes. Many of them are fairly costly, however, and sometimes burden investors with cumbersome processes that they hadn’t knowingly signed up for.

In our view, Portugal’s residency for investment visa programme is certainly one of the better ones available to South Africans. It has low in-country requirements, and grants visa holders five years of residency in Portugal while providing a path to permanent residency or full citizenship.

To assist our clients in benefitting from the programme, we’ve teamed up with privately-owned investment group Argosy. Investing a minimum amount of €350 000 in the Argosy Property Ventures Fund will qualify you to apply for Portugal’s residency for investment visa and will set you on your way to applying for Portuguese citizenship after the initial five-year period.

The fund itself targets attractive returns from a portfolio of investments in commercial real estate and development in Portugal, as well as residential real estate developments in the UK. It is well diversified and managed by an experienced team with a sterling track record.

Why ‘residency for investment’ and not ‘citizenship for investment’?

Citizenship for investment schemes are considered more aggressive than residency for investment programmes. The European Union (EU) has effectively closed down schemes that offer citizenship without a prior period of residency in the issuing country – for example, the Cyprus Golden Passport Programme was recently permanently discontinued, as was the equivalent scheme in Malta.

Outside the EU, citizenship for investment options are generally offered by countries that aren’t very attractive for long-term residency, are prohibitively expensive or require you to move to the country in question full-time.

Portugal’s residency for investment visa programme offers you five years of residency followed by the right to apply for permanent residency or citizenship at the end of the initial five-year period, thereby ensuring that it meets EU requirements (you’ll be required to pass a basic Portuguese language proficiency test). During the period in which you have the temporary residency visa, you and your dependants will be able to live, work and study in Portugal.

The Portuguese programme is among the most flexible EU visa schemes in terms of the range of qualifying investments available, the minimum level of investment required and the amount of time investors must spend in Portugal to entitle them to apply for citizenship.

Why Portugal?

Portugal is more than just centuries-old buildings, fine food and wine, and beautiful beaches. The country’s cost of living is among the lowest in Western Europe – an average of 30% lower than in any other country in the region. It has also been declared one of the top 10 countries to retire to due to its affordable cost of living and excellent healthcare facilities.

Portugal is ranked the third safest country to live in the world (Global Peace Index, 2020). The economy is robust, with above-average growth in gross domestic product. Portuguese residency grants investors visa-free travel across Europe’s Schengen area, while a Portuguese passport offers visa-free and visa-on-arrival travel to 188 countries – one more than a British passport.

The education system is strong, and state education is free. Temporary residency for investment visa holders may enrol their children in their local school or utilise the large network of fee-charging private and international schools throughout the country.

Who is Argosy?

Argosy is a privately-owned investment group established in 2008 and headquartered in the Isle of Man. Its investment portfolio consists of significant interests in businesses operating across multiple industries and jurisdictions. Each of these businesses are led by proven entrepreneurs with robust business models and significant scale potential.

Argosy collaborates closely with Mergon, which is based in South Africa and operates a similar business. The group has been the founding shareholder in many of the businesses it has invested in, including MAS Real Estate and Artisan.

What do I need to know about the Argosy Property Ventures Fund?

Within Portugal, there are a number of ways to make a qualifying investment, including direct investment into property, a deposit of at least €1 million into a Portuguese bank account, and an investment into a qualifying investment fund. The latter option is a preferred choice for investors looking for a passive investment, since it saves you the hassle of having to find, acquire and manage direct property. It requires a lower level of investment than the alternatives and provides diversification of risk across a portfolio of investments.

The target size of the Argosy Property Ventures Fund is a minimum of €20 million. Capital will be allocated between two sub-strategies: 60-70% in commercial property investment and development in Portugal, and 30-40% in residential development in the UK. This provides a differentiated product from competitors that have typically focused on the crowded residential investment markets in Lisbon and Porto.

The fund term is seven years, extendable by two years. Capital will be deployed based upon the potential for appraised opportunities to grow their cash generation over time through active asset management, leveraging the experience of the Argosy team. The targeted internal rate of return (net of all fees and costs) is 8-10% (in euros).

The appointed fund manager in Portugal is FundBox. Argosy will act as adviser to FundBox with respect to all fund acquisitions. Bison Bank will act as the depository bank to add a layer of protection and regulation within the market.

With regards to fees, there is an upfront 1% commitments establishment fee, and an annual management fee of 1.75% of total commitment.

How much do I need to invest?

The minimum investment threshold is €350 000 for applications for the residency for investment visa programme submitted before 31 December 2021. It is important to note that the terms of the programme are changing from 1 January 2022 – from this date, the minimum subscription to a qualifying investment fund will increase to €500 000. However, all the existing benefits of the investment will remain the same.

The team at Argosy highlights that applications can still be lodged and processed before 31 December 2021, but a number of regulatory and administrative hurdles will need to be crossed in order to meet this timeline, many of them dependent on government agencies. Investors wishing to benefit from the lower investment amount will therefore need to start the process straight away.

Why will the fund invest 40% in residential development in the UK, instead of 100% in commercial property in Portugal?

In order to be classified as a ‘qualifying fund’ for the Portuguese residency for investment visa programme, a fund must invest at least 60% within Portugal, but up to 40% can be invested outside of Portugal. The reason for the UK portion of the investment is firstly, to diversify the returns of the fund, and secondly, to capitalise on the strong returns potential of the UK residential property sector. The fund is Portuguese-based, so investors are effectively placing all their funds within Portugal. However, the fund is permitted to invest outside the country.

How long do I need to reside in Portugal every year?

Compared to countries like Ireland and Malta, for example, Portugal has the lowest in-country requirement in order to eventually apply for citizenship. During the first year of the five-year temporary residency visa, you need to spend one week in the country, and then 14 days in each subsequent two-year period.

It should be noted that if the objective is to apply for Portuguese citizenship at the end of the five-year period, it is advisable to remain in Portugal for longer than the minimum length of time stipulated. Although it’s not required by law, it’s always a good idea to create strong ties with the country of which you wish to obtain citizenship – this will strengthen your application and speed up the approval process when the time comes.

Do I need to learn to speak Portuguese?

For the residency for investment visa, a language test is not required. However, if you apply for permanent residency or citizenship after the five-year period, you’ll need to pass a simple (A2 level) Portuguese language proficiency test. Applicants need to be aware of this and prepare adequately in order to pass. You can write the test several times.

Are there any age restrictions, especially for children who are studying?

For the main applicant and his or her spouse, there are no age restrictions. Temporary residence permits will also be extended to your children under 18, parents over 65 (or over 55 if financially dependent) and children under 26, if they are single and enrolled as full-time students or are financially dependent on you for the full duration of the five-year period.

What is the process of applying for the Portuguese residency for investment visa?

The key steps are the following:

  • Appoint a legal adviser in Portugal (Argosy can recommend an adviser)
  • Apply for a Portuguese tax number (facilitated by your legal adviser)
  • Obtain a South African Police clearance certificate
  • Obtain South African Revenue Service tax clearance
  • Open a Portuguese bank account
  • Deposit funds into your Portuguese bank account
  • Invest in the Argosy Property Ventures Fund
  • Submit your application for the residency visa with the Portuguese border service (the SEF) (facilitated by your legal adviser).

There is clearly a lot to do if you want to still make the lower investment rate cut-off date of 31 December 2021 for submission of applications (the applications of spouses and dependants may follow after the deadline). Argosy has partnered with a team of advisers in both Portugal and South Africa to assist and work closely with you throughout the process, but it’s important that you get the ball rolling without delay.

It is anticipated that the Argosy Property Ventures Fund will remain open to investment throughout the first quarter of 2022, so if you miss the tight timelines for the 31 December 2021 deadline, you’ll still be able to participate in the programme, but your application will be subject to the higher investment amount of €500 000.

Once you’ve submitted your application, the process typically takes around five months till you receive your temporary residence visa, but Covid-19 has impacted waiting times. Currently, the process is taking from 6 to 10 months.

If I obtain a tax number in Portugal, what are the tax consequences if I’m still resident in South Africa?

There will be no tax consequences from a Portuguese perspective – you won’t be considered a tax resident in Portugal unless you reside in that country for more than six months in the year.

What must I do now?

If you’d like more information about or wish to apply for Portugal’s residency for investment visa programme, or require further details on the Argosy Property Ventures Fund, please contact your portfolio manager. If you are not a Sanlam Private Wealth client, kindly contact Reginald Labuschagne on +27 84 551 3869 or

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