Oct 13, 2022
By Vanessa Lima & Francisca Ávila

VRL Legal sheds light on the SEF delays and the current Golden Visa application timeline

Since 2012, the Golden Visa program in Portugal has, without a doubt, been growing as well as its industry. In fact, Portugal has become an increasingly attractive country for foreigners who want to invest and obtain temporary and permanent residence by giving them the possibility to travel within the Schengen area. It is also a very attractive option for those who want to obtain the Portuguese nationality since the program is known for its shorter path to EU citizenship in just five years. Set apart the financial benefits that the program offers, Portugal and the Portuguese people are the main reason for the success of the Golden Visa Scheme as it turns out that Portugal is an amazing country to live in; with mild winters and hot summers, plenty of nature, good cuisine, high quality of education and an efficient health care system.

Considering the ratings, the Portuguese Golden Visa Program is ranked one of the best in the world. However, as with everything, there are drawbacks and those are associated with the current application process. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the high number of applications for this program, and the war in Ukraine (which resulted in the Immigration Services in Portugal having to process over 60,000 residencies for Ukranian Nationals in the first half of 2022), the Immigration Office (SEF) has experienced significant delays in the analysis of the documentation and approvals. As such, it currently takes around 12 to 18 months for the process to be concluded. More specifically:

    • 1. The online analysis application takes 9 to 10 months
    • 2. The biometrics booking takes 6 to 9 months
    • 3. And the final stage of analysis and issuance of the residence card takes 4 to 6 months

To give us a better understanding of the process and timelines, let us start from the beginning. The program starts with choosing which investment type best suits the applicant’s needs. Then, the first step in the submission process is gathering all the necessary documents for the online application through the SEF Portal. After the online submission, SEF will take around 9 to 10 months to accept the application. Once the submission has been accepted, the applicant will be notified to schedule the collection of biometrics and the delivery of physical documentation. However, it can take 6 to 9 months between the acceptance of the submission and the collection of the biometrics. Finally, SEF will notify the applicant of the final approval and will issue the residence card within 4 to 6 months.

As soon as the investor will have completed 5 years of legal residency in Portugal, the application for the Permanent Residency or Citizenship will be opened. That is, the day following the 5th year mark of residency – counted from the date displayed on the first residence card – is the day the investor may apply for Permanent Residency or Citizenship.

Currently, SEF is analysing the new Golden Visa online applications submitted in November 2021 and issuing the respective acceptance letters. Biometric appointments are also currently scheduled for applications approved in December 2021.

Despite this, we strongly believe that after the execution of the Immigration Services restructuring, services will speed up the analysis of the processes to recover the current backlog and the program will again be the success it had been until now and before all these delays.

Vanessa Lima
Founder of VRL Legal & Partner at Prime Legal - boutique law firm soon to be launched

Francisca Ávila
Lawyer at VRL Legal