My journey to EU citizenship through Portugal’s Golden Visa program

Dec 14, 2020

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This story was originally published in Brian Kelly’s newsletter. Subscribe to the weekly newsletter written by The Points Guy himself.

If there’s one key theme of 2020 for Americans, it’s that our passport is a lot less valuable than it was pre-pandemic. It will likely recover after vaccines are widely distributed, but it opened my eyes to the reality that our right to travel freely throughout the world can be pulled at any minute.

I’ve always thought about having two passports (and not U.S. passports — I already have two of those) but passports from two countries. Residency or citizenship in another country would allow for greater extended stay/work capabilities, especially in a diverse bloc like the European Union.

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Brian Kelly at the TWA Hotel. (Photo courtesy of The Points Guy)

Ever since I studied in the quaint Madrid suburb of Alcalá de Henares in 2005, I’ve been enchanted by the European lifestyle. While that lifestyle varies greatly by country, in general, I feel that Europeans have a better work/life balance and enjoy family and community more than we do in the U.S.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the U.S. and will always have roots here, but as I look to the future and think about starting a family, the option of being able to work and live in Europe, if even for part of the year, is an enticing proposition. Especially since countries like Portugal make it a real possibility through their Golden Visa program.

(Note: If you have family members that were born abroad, you may be able to apply for a second citizenship directly — rules vary by country. But since all of my grandparents were born in the U.S., my chances of claiming Irish citizenship were very low.)

The Golden Visa

The term “Golden Visa” refers to a program, offered by numerous countries in Europe and elsewhere, that provides a path to residency and eventually citizenship through investment.

I looked into several countries in Europe but found that Portugal’s offerings best suited my needs.

I’m investing in the forthcoming Renaissance hotel in the Lapa neighborhood of Porto. According to the terms of my specific agreement, I’ll be able to establish residency within six months or so, which is ideal for me since I’ll then be able to travel hassle-free to and around Europe — with all the necessary precautions, of course.

Once residency is established, there is a process to potentially gain citizenship, including a five-year waiting period and a mandatory Portuguese language test, which shouldn’t be too much of an obstacle since I previously took three Portuguese classes and majored in Spanish in college.

Based on my 350,000-euro investment, the developer — RA Group — will provide a 3% return annually. I’ll also get a free week’s stay at the property each year. Additionally, I asked if I could get Marriott Bonvoy status as an owner — it never hurts to ask! — and they’re looking into it. I won’t have to pay taxes in Portugal on my U.S. income since I pay U.S. taxes but before making any decisions based on taxes or financial investments, you should consult a professional.

For me, I’m OK with a portion of my retirement savings being in a safe 3% return investment as a way to diversity in these wild markets.

To participate in the Golden Visa program, your investment in urban real estate must be at least 350,000 euros or you must outright purchase a property for at least 500,000 euros.

To me, this investment is low-risk and high-reward. Having residency and then citizenship in a European Union member state makes living, working and traveling there so much easier.

You can read more about dual citizenship in the stories below:

To be clear, I’m not giving investment advice, but rather giving you an understanding of my thinking behind the decision I made. In addition to the investment in property, there are additional legal fees associated with this process. I worked with the Mercan Group, which is based in Canada. I can’t recommend them enough — they were so helpful throughout the process.

If you’re considering a Golden Visa, you can get $2,000 off Mercan Group legal fees with promo code BK2020. (Legal fees are normally 6k euros so with the code you’ll pay just 4k.)

Any money I receive from this affiliate relationship will be donated to Rainbow Railroad, an organization I’m very passionate about. It works to help LGBTQ people escape persecution in their home countries and build lives of freedom elsewhere in the world.

Featured image of Porto, Portugal, by ESB Professional/Shutterstock

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