A senior Portuguese minister has said his country’s golden visa scheme is generating wide interest in the Middle East, with Arabs and South Asians among the most common applicants.
Eurico Brilhante Dias, Portugal’s secretary of state for internationalisation, revealed that most applicants from the region come from Pakistan, followed by India and Egypt, including some living in the UAE.
The vast majority of the 6,000-plus applicants granted visas so far are Chinese with those from the Middle East taking visas numbering in the hundreds. “We have people living in the UAE but also in Pakistan and India and other countries in this region interested,” Mr Dias said. “China and the Middle East in particular.”
Twenty EU countries have such schemes. Three – Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria – give passports to non-EU citizens. Others, including Portugal, grant residency which can lead to citizenship. In Portugal’s case, foreign nationals are granted permanent residency if they invest €500,000 in property, €1m in the economy, or create a business that employs 10 or more.
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“Our scheme is transparent,” said Mr Dias. “All money related to laundering or that could have come from a criminal source – that money is not welcome in Portugal.”
Opposition parties in Portugal have also clashed with Mr Dias’s ruling Socialist Party, claiming these investors do not create enough jobs. “This is not true,” said Mr Dias. He also rejected the idea that Lisbon could develop a host of ghost houses – owned primarily by wealthy overseas who don’t live there – that denude communities of their vibrancy. “To have an empty house is not rational. I don’t know many cases like that. The large majority [of investors] are making second and third investments.” He said there are no plans to end the scheme.
The Portuguese community in the UAE numbers in the hundreds, two-way trade stands at about €500m, and scores of Portuguese companies, such as clothing firm Saccoor, operate here. Just this week, Emirates announced the launch of direct flights between Dubai and Porto. It already flies to Lisbon.
During the visit, Mr Dias visited the Expo 2020 site in Dubai, attended the Idex defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, and met members of the Ismaili Muslim community, which is led by the Aga Khan and headquartered in Portugal. He also said Portugal could consider a visa-free travel regime for Emiratis. Currently, UAE citizens must apply for a Schengen visa in advance. “But we need to increase the trade figures,” he said. “We want more trade, more investment and a fantastic Portuguese participation in Expo 2020.”
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