Here is why Portugal is attracting expats amid the crisis

Expat news
  • Lisbon, Portugal
Published on 2021-05-12 at 12:00 by Veedushi
Figures are alarming. Since the start of the year, Portugal is being devastated by a new wave of COVID-19. The country has a record of more than 840,000 cases and nearly 17,000 deaths, with hundreds of new cases reported every day. Still, Portugal has kept its appeal for expats.

Famous for its quality of life and its high-quality healthcare system, Portugal is collapsing under the weight of COVID-19. After being praised by several countries in 2020 for how it dealt with the crisis and lockdown measures, unlike other European countries such as Italy, Spain or France, things are getting worse. The neglect of health restrictions during the year-end period and the lack of vigilance when the borders reopened probably account for this situation, even though health restrictions and the curfew were subsequently extended.

Currently, the British variant is spreading rapidly and increasing pressure on the health system that still has cracks from the first wave. With hospitals saturated by the growing number of patients and exhausted staff, not to mention the shortage of equipment, Portugal had to seek foreign aid. Faced with a labour shortage in the health sector, the Portuguese government also had to allow the return of retired doctors, health professionals who have not yet validated their specialities, and the return of health professionals who live abroad. A delayed vaccination campaign, coupled with irregularities, also contributed to making things worse. Still, the country remains an attractive expat destination in spite of current entry restrictions.

Brexit isn't the only reason

Portugal is already home to a large expat community from all over the world. But according to a recent report by the British Chamber of Commerce in Portugal, the British have been showing a stronger interest in Portugal since several months. In this study, 59% of respondents indicated that they intend to relocate to Portugal in 2021 when travel restrictions have been lifted. Official figures from the Portuguese immigration point out that the British make up the largest expatriate community in Portugal.

However, there are many benefits to relocating to Portugal, whether for the British or anyone else. The Mediterranean climate, the sun nearly all year round, the quality of life, the low cost of living compared to other European countries, not to mention the immense cultural and natural wealth, are just some of its assets. But there's so much more to Portugal.

Why Portugal?

Indeed, Portugal offers tax benefits for expats. For example, new residents are entitled to the non-habitual residents' scheme, which gives a special tax benefit for their first ten years of residence in the country. For those who are employed in a high-value activity, there's a reduced rate of 20% on income tax. Moreover, income from foreign sources can be tax-free.

Real estate investment is another important motivation for potential expats in Portugal. Property prices have been lower compared to other countries in Europe for many years. But a slight rise was recorded at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis. The Portuguese real estate market remained resilient in 2020, although the contrary was expected. According to Idealista, a specialised property website, prices rose by nearly 5.9% throughout 2020, but in the last quarter of the year, it was only up to 2.7%. However, the European Commission is expecting prices to drop further in 2021. So this is good news for foreigners who are looking to own property in Portugal.

But that's not all! Portugal has a very dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem, especially when it comes to technology. This has attracted many entrepreneurs and foreign companies in recent years. Lisbon remains the most popular city with entrepreneurs thanks to its infrastructure and abundant opportunities, but other cities like Porto are also appealing. Portugal also offers a lot of benefits for remote workers, including a wide choice of affordable co-working spaces.

What about the Golden Visa?

The Golden Visa is another important factor that drives expats to Portugal. This program, created in 2012, is indeed one of the world's most popular citizenship by investment programs with a range of benefits. It is intended for non-European citizens, which undoubtedly explains the British's growing interest in the Golden Visa.

One of the main benefits of the Golden Visa is that it allows you to live, work or invest in Portugal under a favourable tax regime, even if you are only required to spend seven days a year there. Golden Visa holders can also travel freely within the Schengen area. After five years, they can apply for permanent residency or Portuguese citizenship. Upon obtaining a Portuguese passport, they can live, work and study in any European Union country. Note that the benefits of the Golden Visa also apply to your dependents.

So it's not surprising that Portugal has become a top expat destination over the years, and even more so for the British over the past year, especially since many have been deported from Spain in recent months following Brexit conditions.