Want to live in Portugal? EU nation offers Brits low tax and residence – but not for long

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A record number of British people have made Portugal their permanent home, according to official data published by Portugal’s Immigration and Borders Service (SEF). The figures show a total of 46,238 British nationals now live in Portugal, while 2020 saw a 34 percent spike in the number of Brits living in the country.

Brazilian citizens currently make up the largest group of foreign residents in Portugal, with Brits in second place. 

Before Brexit, when the UK was still part of the European Union, Brits made up the sixth largest group of foreign residents.

The latest figures, which show a huge rise in British homeowners in Portugal, has prompted Christina Hippisley, from the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in the UK, to attribute the spike to Brexit.

“Before 2016, the numbers either shrank or grew by a maximum of 4 percent a year, but they’ve been shooting up ever since,” she told The Telegraph.

However, low-income tax rates afforded to foreign residents appeared to have been a big driving force behind the decision for many British property buyers in Portugal.

Another incentive, it seems, has been Portugal’s golden visa programme, which enables foreign visitors who invest at least €500,000, or between €350,000 and €400,000 on a renovated property in the country, to gain an official residency permit.

The scheme requires foreign visitors to spend a minimum of two weeks in the country every two years, which ultimately enables the permit to be renewed.

After five years of owning a visa and abiding by the scheme’s requirements, citizenship will then be granted to foreign visitors. 

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Only since leaving the EU have British property buyers been able to qualify for the golden visa.

However, popular tourist destinations across Portugal, such as Lisbon and the Algarve, where many foreign travellers have decided to settle, could be exempt from the visa programme.

The move is in a bid to drive property investment to more rural regions of the country, which may have been overlooked.

The pandemic also seems to have played a big part in the housing boom.

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Many property buyers seeking a bigger return on their investment have opted for cheaper property in a rural location, however, luxury homes which have combined both traditional and modern architecture, has seen a rise in interest.

On the website of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in the UK, a family from Cornwall who moved to Lisbon in 2019, shared their experience of owning a golden visa earlier this year.

Having moved to the capital before the UK left the EU, Charlie James, 40, who moved to Lisbon with his wife, Margaux, 41, and their three children, was granted a resident permit.

However, due to the permit expiring in three years’ time, Charlie said he hoped to be granted a golden visa.  

 “It will make it easier for me work-wise,” he told the website.

Jamie Robinson from QP Savills, which runs a real estate agency in Almancil, told the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in the UK: “It’s one of the points that still needs final definition, but currently we’re looking at the whole of the Algarve.” 

Athena Advisers, a business which offers advice on property investment in Portugal, saw interest from perspective British home buyers rise by 59 percent in 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

David Moura-George, a director at Athena Advisers, told the website:We’re already seeing a big push from investors looking to secure the last remaining golden visa opportunities in these locations.”

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