The American interested in establishing residency or citizenship in Europe has more options today than ever in history, depending on how much time and money you’re looking to spend to achieve the objective.
If you have the budget, for example, you could make a 250,000-euro donation to the arts in Portugal and receive residency and, eventually, citizenship in that country in return.
On the other hand, you could also qualify for residency in Portugal simply by showing you meet the country’s minimum income requirement of about 1,200 euros per month per person.
If you actually want to live in Portugal, this is the option to pursue. Qualifying this way, you are expected to be physically present in the country at least 183 days each year. Qualifying with an investment in the arts (via a government donation), your physical presence requirement is but seven days per year.
Programs like that—that have minimal or sometimes even no requirements for spending time in a country—are thought of as back-up residency options, giving you the right to live somewhere else if you ever decide you’d like to.
Best known among back-up residency options (that eventually lead to citizenship) are the so-called Golden Visa programs, which you qualify for by making an investment in the country, typically in real estate but sometimes in other things, too.
You can qualify for Portugal’s Golden Visa program by making a donation to scientific research or Portuguese art and culture, by investing in or starting a business and creating jobs, or by making a real estate purchase. This last option is the most straightforward.
Invest 350,000 euros in a property that is older than 30 years or 500,000 euros in a newer property, and you qualify for residency. These amounts can be reduced by 20% if you buy in a low population area (effectively anywhere other than along the coast).
To maintain Golden Visa residency status, you must spend 7 days in the country the first year and 14 days every two years thereafter, making the in-country time requirement manageable and qualifying Portugal’s program as a good backup residency option and EU passport path. The country recently lowered the residency requirement before you’re eligible to apply for naturalization from six years to five, making the program even more attractive.
To become a Portuguese citizen, you’ll have to pass a test in Portuguese on the country’s history.
Portugal offers one benefit most countries with Golden Visa programs don’t. Its poorly named Non-Habitual Resident tax program can mean reduced or even no tax on your earned income if you qualify.