Portugal’s much-vaunted Golden Visa programme is failing to serve those whom it wishes to attract, with delays at the Foreign and Borders Service due to staff shortages and redeployment of key staff to Lisbon airport.
Investors pay €500,000 upwards for qualifying properties but are having to wait at least three months for the first meeting with SEF staff in Lisbon and are not allowed to arrange appointments in areas outside the one in which they are buying their property.
Lawyers representing these wealthy, non-EU foreigners say their clients are being unduly mucked around, with Spain, Malta and Cyprus all eager to attract those with the money to buy into a tax-efficient lifestyle.
These foreigners currently have to wait at least three months to have a meeting with Lisbon’s Foreigners and Borders Service and before the meeting, must have made a purchase to qualify for the coveted 'residence permit for investment activity' (ARI).
The SEF does not allow interested parties to deliver documents to start the process before this first meeting.
The current delay is three months minimum for a first meeting and then a three month wait before the permit is authorised.
This waiting time is disputed by SEF’s lawyers but all agree that the situation is related to the lack of personnel, agreeing also that there are about 4,000 pending cases as many of the specialist staff were sent to Lisbon airport in April.
According to the SEF, waiting times in Lisbon are 2.5 months but in other areas of the country there is no waiting time at all.
Lawyers conclude that the service is worse than a year ago, either because of lack of personnel, or as a consequence of the increased complexity introduced after the former SEF general director, Manuel Palos was accused of corruption along with the former Minister of Internal Affairs, Miguel Macedo, the president of the Institute of Records and Notary, António Figueiredo, and the former secretary general of the Ministry of Justice, Maria Antónia Anes.
These delays are pushing people away from investing in Portugal but the SEF already has guaranteed that, by the end of the year, it plans to "increase the creation of specialised services for several areas," which include Golden Visa processing. In the meantime, the Golden Visa programme is illogically slow, coould easily be speeded up and is handing other Golden Visa countries the opportunity of swiping those who thought to settle here.