Dateline: Scottsdale, Arizona
My former life running a company in the broadcasting industry gave me the opportunity to meet a number of well-known local and national radio personalities. While my business focused on the most profitable but also the least sexy part of the radio business, I was able to maintain relationships with the “cool kids” in the business.
And one of the most colorful of personalities I met was Adam Carolla.
Around the time I started this site, Carolla was being hailed as a “hero” by many conservatives and libertarians for attacking the Occupy Wall Street crowd for being a bunch of freeloaders. Here’s a comedian who, by his own admission barely made it out of high school, becoming a poster boy for free market economics.
Honestly, part of the benefit of not setting foot in the United States for three years was never having to think much about the Occupy Wall Street types. For years now, I’ve lived my life overseas and enjoyed the benefits that come with it, which includes “going where I’m treated best” and not having the hear how entrepreneurs and business are ruining the world.
But during one of his rants in support of free markets, Carolla suggested that the United States was becoming what he called – and I paraphrase – a “backwards casino”.
Carolla explained that the natural order of things was for high rollers to go to Las Vegas, gamble $50,000 a hand, and be rewarded with everything from palatial suites to limo rides to the airport.
For anyone with common sense, this approach is simple: treat your best customers well so they’ll keep coming back.
Carolla suggested, however, that the United States in general and his native California in particular had come to apply that principle in reverse, giving limo rides to penny slot players while scowling at high rollers to take the bus.
The truth is, his “backwards casino” principle doesn’t just apply to the United States. Sadly, the inefficiency of government helping business is present throughout the west. That’s why so many people who come to me end up moving to countries in Asia, eastern Europe, and South America where their wealth and business acumen is still welcomed, not reviled.
One country where I’ve been seeing the “backwards casino” effect: Portugal.
Portugal operates one of the most straightforward residency programs in Europe. In the offshore business, the most-discussed way to get residency in Portugal is through the country’s “Golden Visa” program, whereby investors can either invest in real estate or hire Portuguese workers.
For obvious reasons, the more expensive half-million euro investment option is most widely touted, particularly toward Chinese investors who make up a plurality of applicants and want a hands-off approach to getting European Union residency and citizenship.
However, it is possible to invest as little as 280,000 euros in Portugal real estate and qualify. While the more expensive option is easier to source properties for, the Golden Visa program is incredibly flexible.
Alternatively, you can hire ten employees for five years in lieu of purchasing real estate.
You can also inject one million euros into share capital of someone’s Portuguese company.
Each of these three paths entitles you to a Portugal residence permit, renewable twice over the course of five years before permanent residency may be obtained.
After one year of permanent residency – six years in total – you can become a Portuguese citizen, with all of the benefits (and potential future drawbacks) that come with European Union citizenship.
Even better, you only need to spend a week or two in Portugal every year. It’s perfect for affluent digital nomads. You don’t need to move there full time, and you can get special tax breaks on foreign-sourced income for up to ten years. All you need to do is learn some Portuguese.
You might be thinking, “This sounds like a pretty flexible residency program. How is this operated like the ‘backwards casino'”?
Well, it’s Portugal… and the guys working at the immigration office have decided to flex their muscle by taking their sweet time processing Golden Visa applications.
When the program started almost ten years ago, Portugal was reeling from the global recession. Real estate prices fell, and there were some tremendous opportunities. However, no one in Portugal had the money to invest, or was willing to risk the money to buy them.
In respond, the country created the Golden Visa program and mandated that, by law, any applicant would receive a decision within three months. For awhile, they followed that law.
However, as I recently explained in a video on second citizenships, just because a country has a law does not mean they follow it. Governments, particularly in bureaucratic countries like Portugal, often flout the very laws they create.
Two years ago, I heard about several Golden Visa cases taking six or seven months to process. That was double the legal timeline, but not the end of the world, and not very surprising.
Now, I recently heard of one case that took 14 months to process. It’s not because the guys working at the immigration office are backlogged and can’t get to all of the applications.
Instead, it’s because the border officials are protesting something about work conditions and are trying to send a message to the government: ‘We’ll let applications from wealthy investors sit if you don’t give us what we want.’
Sadly, this is the mentality that permeates much of the western world. The government is happy to tax, tax, and tax you some more, but when it comes to delivering a service, they take their sweet time and use you as leverage.
What most people don’t know is that there are ways to obtain residency in Portugal without making the substantial investment required under the Golden Visa program.
For example, if you are married to an EU citizen, he or she can declare themselves resident in Portugal tomorrow and bring you there. Then, you can spend a nominal amount of time in the country each year and still claim a second citizenship after six years.
In fact, you don’t even need to be legally married, since Portugal recognizes common law marriages for immigration purposes.
Those immigration cases are currently being processed in a matter of a few months, whereas Golden Visa cases involving substantial sums of money are being held up by political grandstanders.
The fees involved in processing a traditional residency application are a pittance compared to the five-figure fee schedule involved with a Golden Visa, yet applications for the cheaper program are being approved much faster.
While Portugal’s Golden Visa Fees are in line with those in countries like Latvia and Malta, it doesn’t take a genius to realize they are clearly taking advantage of wealthy investors seeing that the fee for a spouse visa offering similar terms is about 200 euros.
This is not only a reminder that western governments have become so bureaucratic so as to chase away the very money they need to survive…
…but also that it’s important to get a thorough diagnosis of your residency and citizenship needs before pulling the trigger on any particular option. I’ve worked with extremely successful people who found the process at most high-ticket immigration firms to be “rigid” and “inflexible”.
It’s true; call most any firm selling Golden Visas and I’ll bet very few if any will mention that there could be cheaper, faster options available. They’re too busy earning fat commissions selling real estate to advise you otherwise.
While I have successfully obtained an “expensive” economic citizenship, I have also seen firsthand how the more affordable option can often be just as good if not better than the widely promoted, commoditized residency and citizenship options out there.
I’m not a real estate salesperson, so it does me no good to encourage you to get a Golden Visa. As always, what works for someone else may not work for you, but it’s important to review all of your options first.
As someone who geeks out on this stuff and keeps my ear to the ground, I’d be happy to help if you’re ready to get a second residency and passport but aren’t sure which option is best. Details are here.
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