Chinese Get 80% of Portugal Property-Investor Visas

Chinese accounted for almost 80 percent of the investors who have obtained visas to live in Portugal through a program that encourages foreign investment in the country’s battered real estate market.

A total of 318 visas have been issued under a plan that offers residence permits to property buyers, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Francisca Seabra. Of those, 248 went to Chinese nationals compared with 15 for Russians, the next biggest group. Angolans and Brazilians collected 9 visas each since the program began in October last year, she said.

Southern European nations including Cyprus, Greece and Spain introduced plans to trade residence visas for investment after their economies and real estate markets were hit hardest by the financial crisis. Wealthy Chinese have been buying homes from Vancouver to London in the last several years as their domestic market faces government measures to cool prices.

Portugal’s program has a minimum price of 500,000 euros ($668,000), the same as in Spain. Greece and Cyprus offer fast-track permits for purchases of at least 250,000 euros and 300,000 euros, respectively.

Non-European nationals who transfer 1 million euros or more in capital or create at least 10 jobs in Portugal can also qualify for the visas, according to the program’s website.

‘Decisive Stimulus’

Portugal may issue as many as 400 visas this year, the Foreign Ministry estimated. The resident permit program has resulted in 198 million euros of investment since it started. There are no plans to limit the number of permits investors can get next year, Seabra said.

The Portuguese visa program has provided a “decisive stimulus to the real estate market’s recovery,” she said.

Portugal’s real estate market is showing signs of a turnaround after having the worst year in decades last year, Cushman & Wakefield Inc. said on Sept. 19.

Spending on commercial real estate rose to 161 million euros in the six months through June from about 47 million euros a year earlier, according to the New York-based property broker. Investment in residential property rose 60 percent to 230 million euros.

(Corrects currency conversion in fourth paragraph.)
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