Portugal’s rapid rise to investment hub touted

Lisbon: The Portuguese golden visa programme offers a variety of privileges that benefit foreign investors and their families who plan to invest and/or stay in European countries.

This programme is being conducted under a collaboration among agencies:

  • Portuguese Embassy: The embassy’s deputy head of mission Vasco Carvalhosa Costa and Afonso Duarte, economic and commercial counselor and director of AICEP Portugal Global.
  • Canadian startup company Mercan Group and its subsidiaries Mercan Asia and Mercan Siam: The group CEO and founder Jerry Morgan and director of global business development Jasmine Dang.
  • Mercan Group’s credited distribution partner Ekthana Services: The company’s managing director Ekthana Faisaikram and deputy managing director Soraya Bunnag.

The programme allows investors and their families to receive Portuguese and European Union (EU) citizenship after five years of investment.

Visa holders will be allowed to travel and purchase properties in Portugal and 26 other EU countries. They will be able to access free education, safe foods, clean air and good medical treatment there.

Other privileges are also available once becoming European citizens, such as pensions, holiday leave, social security and health insurance, and free visas for 191 countries worldwide.

Apart from the aforementioned privileges, investors can receive a 2% return on investment (tax free), a 100% buyback after investing for six years, and a 2% bonus in the eighth, 10th and 12th years of investment. They can also enjoy free seven-night stay at hotels in Portugal, and a 25% discount for additional rooms.

As of September last year, Portugal had issued 12,718 and 20,424 visas for investors and their family members, respectively.

“In 2015, Mercan Group decided to invest in the hospitality sector of Portugal to be the top line in Europe,” Jasmine Dang said.

She said the group is also promoting others to invest in commerce, trade and beauty of Portugal, hoping that the collaboration with the embassy will be strengthened for the country’s future.

Portugal has been ranked the sixth-strongest foreign direct investment destination in Europe and the world’s second most open country for such investment, according to the Portuguese Embassy in Bangkok.

A total of 781,915 foreigners lived in the country in 2022, up 11.9% year on year. Some 7.5% of its total population were born in other countries, while more than 5,000 people were foreign tech talent players.

Portugal has also been named third among European countries that produce engineering professionals, as 17,274 people had graduated in such fields in 2022. The country had 88,550 engineering students as of 2023.

Six Portuguese tech unicorns have been established so far – Feedzai, Outsystems, Remote, Sword Health and Talkdesk.

Portugal witnessed a significant export growth of 126.28 billion euros (4.97 trillion baht) last year, up 4.7% year on year.

Of total exports, 64.4% of products were exported to European countries and 35.6% were exported to other countries outside Europe. The country’s top five export partners were Spain, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the US.

Last year’s trade between Portugal and Thailand dropped to 267.68 billion euros (10.53 trillion baht) compared with 284.01 billion euros (11.18 trillion baht) in 2022. Of total trade in 2023, 36.17 billion euros (1.42 trillion baht) were Portugal’s imports and 231.51 billion euros (9.11 trillion baht) were exports.

Portugal’s top five export products were vehicles and their equipment, machines and appliances, common metals, cellulose pulp and paper, and plastics and rubbers. Meanwhile, the country’s top five import products were machines and appliances, vehicles and their equipment, plastics and rubbers, common metals, and foods.

Portugal and Thailand have reached two bilateral agreements so far, namely tourism cooperation since March 1989, and scientific and technological cooperation since July 2002.

These are all thanks to the country’s strategic location as a gateway to and from Europe, as well as its plentiful resources in terms of innovation, infrastructure and well-being, Afonso Duarte explained.

“Fortunately, we have resources that can be sold and adapted to reach our position [as an FDI destination in Europe],” he said. He also hopes players will continue their investment in Portugal for a better future of the country.

Apart from remarkable potential in innovation and engineering, Portugal is also paying attention to tourism, which account for 19% of the country’s exports, according to the embassy.

This is why Mercan Group launched its fund for developing hospitality and tourism in Portugal. This fund allows players to invest in hospitality-focused firms, mostly four- and five-star hotel operators such as Marriott, Hilton, and IHG Hotels and Resorts.

“We have over 4,000 investors investing in 31 hotels, with 1.2 billion euros [47.25 billion baht] in investments,” Jerry Morgan said.

To maintain visas’ validation, investors must invest 500,000 euros in Mercan Capital Fund for developing hospitality and tourism in Portugal and stay in Portugal for seven days a year.

However, a city entry fee of 7,730 euros per person for the first ID card and 3,866 euros per person for ID card renewal every two years are not included.

To obtain Portuguese citizenship, applicants must be 18 years of age or above, stay in Portugal for 35 days within five years, be fluent in the Portuguese language, and have not been imprisoned for criminal charges for more than three years or be considered a threat to the country’s security.