Hong Kong resident finds Portugal visa scheme for property investors is anything but golden

·3-min read

Portugal has been widely touted as an ideal property investment destination for Hongkongers looking to escape the city's recent political unrest. But a long-time Hong Kong resident who moved to Lisbon recently said it was anything but ideal.

Jason Gillott, a UK businessman, who called settling in Portugal a “trauma”, paid 30,000 (US$33,204) to 40,000 more because he was unfamiliar with the rules when he moved there with his family in 2018.

First, his wife, who is Russian, found it difficult to secure a long-term visa. Then, he encountered trouble with the tax assessment and was asked to pay more for a reassessment. Gillott wanted to retain European Union citizenship for himself and his children, and secure it for his wife.

On joining various expat clubs in Portugal, he found out that Chinese investors often encounter similar issues. In some cases, they only got one year of residency as the properties they had invested in were not qualified for a golden visa. These investors had to make fresh investments or give up their chance of becoming permanent residents of Portugal.

“Among themselves and the expat clubs, they would talk about this, but it never spilled out into the public [sphere] because the Chinese do not want to get involved in the local politics, and they usually do not complain,” Gillott said.

Portugal’s property market gains from Hongkongers looking for golden visas

Six months ago, he set up GoldenVisaPortugal with some partners to help Hongkongers find properties in Portugal that would allow them to secure permanent residency, among other services, for €7,000. The company aims to help Hongkongers get in touch with reputable lawyers, agents and property developers.

“My friends asked me about how my move was and I told them that Portugal is a beautiful country … But it comes with a lot of red lights that people don't educate you about. So you’re kind of sold a story that it’s very easy to go through the process, but it's actually complicated and there are a lot of big issues,” he said.

Another agent said bureaucracy in Portugal was not easy to navigate, and that reputable agents conducted their own due diligence to ensure their clients were getting their money’s worth. “I know of law firms, they’re charging more and taking advantage of this process and this is ridiculous,” said Luiz Felipe Maia, director at Lisbon-based Maia International.

Portugal golden visa programme ‘swamped’ by Hongkongers seeking safe haven

“The process is bureaucratic and slow, but it’s every property agent’s job to do due diligence and I do that.”

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