Ireland’s ‘Golden Visa’ is scrapped and Portugal’s is on death row… Why waiting to make a decision on your Backup Plan is putting your family wellbeing and wealth at risk

Ireland’s ‘Golden Visa’ is no more…

Sad but predictable!  Just last week two popular European “Golden Visa” programs in Ireland and Portugal announced major changes. In the case of Ireland’s Golden Visa, it was closure within a day. For Portugal, the government announced its intention to try and close their program within a few months.

Over three decades of practicing in the area of residence and citizenship, about the only thing that I can predict in the future is… things will change. Programs open, expand, contract and close based on a number of different factors. The lesson to take from this inevitable reality is simple;

‘When you are developing a Backup Plan… do not assume that the options available to you today will be there tomorrow.’

Don’t trust the headlines – there are always options…

Moreover, don’t rely on the popular media or sales-driven websites in order to understand which options are available to you. Although headlines boldly announce that Ireland and Portugal are “closed”, that is not reality. In fact there have always been alternatives to obtaining residence in Ireland besides their ‘Golden Visa’ program. Unfortunately, these alternatives are rarely discussed. Why? Because they do not offer large financial commissions to salespeople who dominate the media and Google advertising.

Ireland's 'Golden Visa' is scrapped but there may be other ways. Golden Visas are rarely the only route to citizenship or residency. Don't be fooled by salesmen wanting you to pick the option that will bring them the highest commission.
Golden Visas are rarely the only route to citizenship or residency. Don’t be fooled by salesmen wanting you to pick the option that will bring them the highest commission.

The reality is, while it looks likely that residential real estate will be struck from Portugal’s Golden Visa options, there will likely remain other Golden Visa options. And like Ireland, alternative paths to Portuguese residence have previously existed. These will undoubtedly continue to exist. However, like the Irish options, these alternatives do not pay commissions. Therefore they fail to garner the marketing efforts of promoters. However, they are still worth considering.

For the wealthy – the world is currently a very uncertain and dangerous place

In a prior blog I pointed out that for many wealthy people around the world, they are currently in the “eye of the hurricane”. For some there is a definite date when they will come out of the eye and the wall of the hurricane will hit. This includes wealthy Americans. They have only 20 months until the November 2024 election. The reasons for wealthy Americans to be worried about this event vary considerably, as do the solutions which are appropriate to their specific concerns, goals, financial situation and family needs.

Beyond the US…

Another group that is in the hurricane’s eye is UK Non-Doms. The timing of their hurricane wall is less certain. However, it will be no later than 23 months when the next UK general election must take place. Under the UK’s parliamentary system, that election could occur earlier. Alternatively the current Tory government could make harmful tax changes unilaterally. This is not unprecedented. A prior recent Tory government made substantial changes to the UK Remittance Tax Basis.

Other HNW families know that the hurricane wall can come at any moment or indeed may already have arrived. This includes:

Riding out the storm requires a good navigator and decisive action.

Over three decades I have seen numerous and continuous changes in all of the following:

  • residence and citizenship by investment programs;
  • other types of residence programs;
  • lineage citizenship qualifications;
  • naturalisation, family law and tax issues.

It has been 33 years of continuous study and experience… and adapting.

At the time that I was called to the Bar in 1990, one of the first “residence by investment” programs was being offered by Canada. As a young lawyer I was asked to meet with wealthy clients by various private banks to determine if some of their clients qualified for the program and explain the various tax, naturalisation etc. rules in Canada.

Before my first trip abroad, my mentor drilled into me to clearly understand that I was being retained not by the introducing party but by the individuals I was meeting. This meant that I was to give advice that was in the best interest of the individual. This should be the case even if it meant a “lost sale” for the introducer. Occasionally this meant discouraging the person. Canada was not always a jurisdiction that was the right solution for them. It also meant advising them on alternative means of gaining status in Canada which were more suitable or cost effective than the “Golden Visa”. This client-centred focus meant that I needed to be knowledgeable of all the pathways to Canada. Crucially it also meant I had to know the various pathways to any other jurisdiction that might be available to this particular client group. 

The importance of avoiding a ‘quick fix’

Those who are trying to find a way for themselves and their families to ‘ride out the coming storm’ should carefully consider who they are selecting as their ‘navigator’. The cost of failure is huge. Is this really the time to trust their navigation to ‘a few hours on the internet’ or ‘a commission-driven salesperson’? Or does their family’s future demand that they select someone to guide them who has a depth of experience, encyclopaedic knowledge of the safe passages available and who is laser-focused on setting the best course for the family rather than one that pays them the highest commission?

Finally… Don’t delay!

As a final thought, there have been a significant number of people to whom I provided a suggested strategy who said they ‘needed time to think’ before acting. When they came back to me at a later date to say they were ready to proceed, I sadly had to inform them that their dust-covered strategy was no longer available. Inevitably some key element had changed. Much to their chagrin they were faced with the truth that ‘not making a decision…was in fact making a decision’.

Wealthy families are well aware that they are living in uncertain times. The recent events in Ireland and Portugal are a none too subtle reminder that they should not further delay mapping out a course to avoid the coming storm with the help of an independent and experienced navigator.

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