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Reduced Waiting Times for Portugal’s Golden Visa
Portuguese media sources report that waiting times for appointments with the SEF in Lisbon have been reduced from more than three months on average, to one day. As reported by the SEF, Portugal’s Borders and Immigration Service, its application waiting list has been reduced by nearly 80% over the last six months following procedural changes, from more than 6,000 by the end of 2017, to just 1,300 today.
According to a spokesperson from the SEF, the majority of those applicants still pending lack essential documents or clarification, or have failed to provide biometric data. Otherwise, there has been an extraordinary degree of acceleration in Golden Visa processing. Applications that are completed can expect to be processed swiftly.
Last year, it was reported by Investment Migration Insider that a backlog of unprocessed applications amounting to more than 4,000 had been accumulated by Portuguese Golden Visa program, a figure that would later rise to more than 6,000, and that prospective applicants had to wait up to 12 weeks to get their initial appointment with the SEF needed to place an application.
According to the SEF, the build up of pending applications was caused by a lack of manpower and high volume of demand in certain local SEF offices, particularly Lisbon and Porto. The law at the time required that investors submit their applications in the same municipality the investment was made. Under this system, some offices had waiting times of several months, while others were able to process virtually immediately.
In response to the backlog, the SEF changed its regulations to allow investors to file applications with any office, regardless of where in the country their investment was made.
Following the reform, the SEF further reported that only nine applications were still pending on their portal, and that as of now the availability for services is decentralized, meaning that an investor and their family can visit any office of the SEF in any part of the country, by prior appointment. They also stated that in Lisbon, where investor interest is the greatest, ARI service for the following day is immediately available.
It is now reported that SEF has also increased its capacity by boosting its staff numbers, and that golden visa applications and renewals are now generally processed and completed within time frames determined by law – 90 days for the initial visa application, and 60 days for renewals.
While the program did suffer a slight reduction in traffic, particularly from Chinese applicants, presumably due to long delays, with the administrative and regulatory changes that have taken place over the last year, the Portuguese Golden Visa program is looking to retain its success as Europe’s most popular Golden Visa program.