UK nationals looking to apply for golden visas have two main options:
- Apply directly to the appropriate immigration department.
- Contract an immigration consultant or approved agent.
There are pros and cons to both. If you go it alone, you’ll forgo any agency fees but will need to be diligent in ensuring you’ve completed every form correctly and provided supporting evidence.
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Investors applying directly for a golden visa will also need to organise their fund transfers. In addition, they may be exposed to greater risk as not all governments provide an escrow holding account.
However, the costs of hiring a consultant vary considerably. So while they might make your chances of approval higher, it’s crucial to understand what they’re charging and what’s included in that cost.
This guide will explain the various ways to apply for a European golden visa and some pitfalls to watch for.
Finding An Approved Golden Visa Consultant
There are thousands of immigration agents, some UK based and others in your country of choice.
Let’s take the Portuguese golden visa as an example since it’s currently the most popular scheme with UK expats. A quick Google search yields over 20 million results.
Here are a few criteria to think about when deciding whether or not to contact an agent:
- Do you speak fluent Portuguese, or do you need an agent with a local representative to assist with translations?
- Are you comfortable setting up bank accounts yourself, or would you feel happier with a consultant to manage those admin tasks for you?
- Can you provide all the supporting documentation required, or do you need professional assistance to ensure you meet all the golden visa criteria?
- Do you have a contingency budget to cover fees on top of your investment requirement and relocation costs (where applicable)?
- Are you planning to travel and view properties, or do you need an agent in the country to provide virtual viewings?
While there isn’t a right or wrong answer, you must make an informed decision since it’ll make a big difference in handling the application process.
How To Choose A Golden Visa Immigration Agent
Many expats commission a consultant to deal with their application but note that it isn’t mandatory. The vast majority of EU countries invite direct applications through their online immigration portals.
The best way to choose your agent is to join forums for expats in your overseas destination, seek out referrals, and visit review sites such as TrustPilot.
British expats already living overseas have a wealth of knowledge about the process and will often be happy to make recommendations for agents that have provided outstanding service and those, perhaps, that haven’t.
You’ll also need an estate agent or adviser to provide online or in-person viewings if you’re buying a property.
They may recommend an immigration agent or offer support services to golden visa applicants, rolling up the assistance in your real estate investment costs.
Alternatively, a golden visa consultant will typically provide property services. They’ll recommend real estate that falls within the qualification criteria and help with the legal requirements, such as appointing a local solicitor and filing land registry paperwork.
Applying Directly For An EU Golden Visa
Onto our second option, and you can apply yourself. The golden visa requirements vary between countries, but generally, you’ll need to:
- Provide evidence of funds, usually through bank statements or investment account reports.
- Confirm your annual income, often with payslips, business accounts or bank statements.
- Include ID details for yourself and all dependent family members.
- Visit a consulate to verify copies of paperwork (some immigration departments will accept online uploads approved in-person by a recognised bank or solicitor).
- Provide criminal records checks for all individuals on the application.
- In some cases, organise a health check for each person, and prove you hold sufficient private medical insurance.
- Include supporting evidence of your tax identification number on official HMRC correspondence.
Sticking with Portugal as our example, the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF, or Foreigners and Borders Service) provides a pre-registration portal.
You can register online, and if you meet the basic requirements and are pre-approved, you can move forward with a complete application.
The documents required also depend on the nature of your application, so whether you’re making a capital transfer, investing in a business or buying a property.
For a property purchase, the requirements extend to include a Land Register Certificate, acquisition deeds for the real estate and a legal description of the residence.
All routes include a Sworn Statement requirement, which means you testify that you agree to comply with the minimum investment thresholds.
There are also numerous PDF downloads, itemising the specific paperwork needed, fee structures, and advice about contacting the SEF before submitting your application.
Do You Need A Golden Visa Immigration Agent?
The best solution for you depends on your familiarity with the eligibility criteria and confidence in appointing a solicitor and notary.
Property investments are by far the most common way to qualify for a golden visa, but the usual requirements apply, such as:
- Negotiating a purchase price.
- Paying a deposit.
- Organising surveys or valuations.
- Completing legal ownership transfers.
- Registering your ownership.
- Paying property taxes.
- Declaring rental income.
Remember that tax rates also vary considerably, so it is advisable to seek personalised advice in most cases. Your tax position will depend on whether you’re living overseas or renting out a property and what that means for your tax residency status.
It’s essential to recognise that being granted residency or citizenship status doesn’t necessarily mean you need to live in the EU (or visit at all, apart from registering passport biometric data).
Therefore, residency and tax residency are two very different concepts.
Most golden visa applicants have a high net worth. However, it’s a good idea to seek professional tax planning advice as part of your golden visa application to ensure you’re selecting the best route to EU residency.
Applying for a European Golden Visa FAQ
Yes, in most cases. Provided the minimum investment is met, you can usually use a mortgage to pay for the cost of buying a qualifying property.
However, this doesn’t always apply.
Suppose you want to make a capital transfer, state fund contribution or charitable donation. In that case, you usually need to have available assets to cover the investment and prove the source of those funds in your initial application.
Most countries have a pre-approval stage, where they’ll check mandatory requirements such as criminal records, your age and existing citizenship status.
Once approved, you need to transfer your investment funds directly or into an escrow account. For property purchases, you’ll proceed with the transaction and provide evidence of your ownership.
Escrow accounts are highly preferable since it means your funds will be returned if your final application is rejected for any reason.
Immigration experts have varying specialities, so you must select one with experience completing successful golden visa applications.
For example, some might focus on asylum claims, so they won’t have much expertise in providing cross-border investment advice.
Agents will guide you through the process, ensure your application fits the criteria and file documents for you. In addition, many have in-house legal teams, tax advisers and immigration specialists that carry out due diligence checks before submission to improve your chances of success.
Guarantee is a strong word, and it’s usually best to avoid agents who promise to secure approval since they act as a middle party and don’t have control over the immigration authority’s decision.
However, using an approved agent commonly means that you’ll have a much better chance of success.
Most rejected golden visa applications are turned down because of simple errors. That could be missing a medical check on your submission or not producing enough bank statements to verify your average annual income.
Each country is different, and some have lists available of registered immigration agents who are authorised to liaise with the government on behalf of applicants.
All immigration advisers should be registered with their relevant industry regulator. In the UK, that’s the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) Adviser.
British nationals can also use the overseas lawyer’s directory compiled by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to find an appropriate representative.
This list isn’t comprehensive but includes a summary of legal practise areas, address details, websites and phone numbers so you can filter by specialists in immigration and real estate.
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