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Portugal ends its Golden Visa scheme

In the age of remote working, the idea of moving somewhere sunnier than the UK holds strong appeal.

What’s more, with many European countries in a timezone just one or two hours ahead of the UK, working from abroad – operating as a so-called ‘digital nomad’ – might not impact your ability to service existing, UK-based clients.

While plenty of places offer independent workers the opportunity to visit and work on short-term visas, one country has just withdrawn its offering.

This article covers the key information on the end of Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme. We’ll also highlight some of the other opportunities that exist today for travel-keen freelancers to spread their wings.

What is a "Golden Visa"?

The ‘golden visa’ was Portugal’s attempt to improve its economy by attracting businesses and individuals to invest in the country in exchange for a residency permit. Alongside Portuguese residency rights, this also entitles the holder to visa-free travel to some European countries.

In other words, owners of the golden visa became legal citizens of Portugal while also contributing an estimated €6bn euros to the country’s economy during the scheme. This investment by foreign nationals was mostly targeted at start-up businesses.

Introduced in 2012, the scheme came well before the Coronavirus pandemic and the widespread adoption of remote working practices.

However, critics of the golden visa program suggest that it didn’t successfully attract workers to boost Portugal’s economy and has caused issues across the country since its introduction.

Why has Portugal ended its scheme?

For years, Portugal has been under pressure to end the golden visa scheme due to claims that it has enabled money laundering and put pressure on housing supplies across the country, pushing up prices and pricing out residents.

And access to these visas was limited, too. A golden visa cost, effectively, around half a million euros – attracting high-net-worth individuals rather than everyday people.

However, while Portugal’s golden visa scheme is no longer active, Madeira – an autonomous Portuguese region – remains a golden visa area, though it’s not in Portugal.

Which other countries offer "Golden Visas"?

While the Portgual golden visa is no longer available, other countries offer so-called ‘golden visas’.

If you’re interested in working remotely from abroad, for whatever reason, these are the sorts of destinations that you could explore:

Again, choosing somewhere within a couple of hours of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) will reduce friction when it comes to maintaining communication and service levels with your UK clients.

What are the benefits of a Golden Visa?

As Portugal’s golden visa was offered to non-EU citizens, one of the main benefits it provided was visa-free travel across the Schengen Zone – a collection of European countries.

Aside from this, however, many remote workers are embracing the opportunity to work from another country. The digital nomad lifestyle attracts people for lots of different reasons; from enjoying better weather to lower living costs, and just spending time learning more about other countries and cultures.

What are the downsides?

As many critics of Portugal’s golden visa scheme suggest, this particular scheme was open to abuse by criminal elements and has caused unaffordable increases in housing costs.

Apart from the particular issues of Portugal’s golden visa program, though, the lifestyle of a digital nomad can present some challenges, too.

You’ll incur travel, accommodation and food costs, and these may not be considered legitimate business expenses. Each country also has its own tax regime; as a result, your tax exposure will vary depending on where you operate – so be prepared to conduct some research if you’re considering the lifestyle.

So, while Portugal’s golden visa scheme has ended, plenty of other countries offer independent workers the chance to work remotely, post-Brexit.

To find out how Caroola can help with your UK tax and accounting needs, please request a callback and one of our friendly experts will be in touch.

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