Portugal tightens migration policy and adapts golden visa scheme to address housing crisis for citizens and legal migrants

Wikimedia Commons/ Author: Andrzej Otrębski
Thousands of migrants live on Benformoso Street in Lisbon.

The surge in migration to Portugal has not only led to the far-right’s recent electoral success but also exacerbated a long-standing societal issue. Portugal’s history of Golden Visa programmes, designed to grant wealthy individuals from third countries, including former Portuguese colonies, access to the EU, has inadvertently contributed to a significant housing crisis. The availability of affordable housing for citizens has been drastically reduced, with migrants bearing the brunt of this issue. Many are unable to secure housing and are forced to live on the streets or in overcrowded rooms, with high rents and property prices associated with tourism further exacerbating the situation.

The minority government led by Luís Montenegro plans to address both issues by creating stricter immigration policies and improving the Golden Visa scheme to ensure better living conditions for regularised migrants.

“We want to build a better country with a new vision for migration. Therefore, the Government presents a migration plan with immediate and structural solutions this Monday. Through 4 fundamental axes, we intend to give a better life to those who come to Portugal,” Antonio Leitao Amaro, Minister of the Presidency, announced on June 3.

Tighten rules for those in search for work

The number of migrants in Portugal increased by 33% in 2023. According to government data, between 800,000 and one million people live in the country, making up about 10% of the total population. The Migration Observatory underscores the significant role migrants play in the economy, contributing to its growth and development. Their contributions, despite often being employed in precarious jobs and at lower salaries, are invaluable.

The existing system allows foreign citizens who entered Portugal with a tourist visa to find a job and apply for a residence permit. Now, the Government is planning to introduce new rules requiring foreigners seeking employment in the country to apply for a work visa at a Portuguese consulate before arriving.

Additionally, the minister explained that the Government aims to enhance border controls, establish a task force to rapidly elaborate over 400,000 visa applications, and invest in centres addressing the immediate needs of vulnerable migrants.

“Portugal needs regulated immigration,” Leitao Amaro said at a press conference.

Golden Visa

In 2012, Portugal implemented the Golden Visa scheme, which allowed non-EU nationals to obtain a European residence visa by investing in the country. This initiative generated over 7.3 billion euros but also contributed to a housing crisis affecting both citizens and migrants.

The Government is taking decisive steps to address the Golden Visa scheme-induced housing crisis. They are modifying the scheme and introducing the innovative ‘solidarity visa.’ The aim is to increase the availability of residential buildings for both citizens and migrants, thereby alleviating the housing crisis.

Under the adapted scheme, wealthy foreigners seeking residency rights will have the option to invest in funds, contribute to cultural or research projects, or create jobs by investing in affordable housing for locals or migrants.

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