Does the thought of Brexit – and potentially losing your rights with regards to Europe and EU citizenship – concern you? Did you know that you can maintain your EU citizenship by registering for Portuguese Residency? Brit NICK WOODWARD has worked in wealth management in Hong Kong for over 20 years. Now he’s looking to the future – and, for reasons UK nationals and other readers may be keen to hear, it involves Portugal.
How long have you been in Hong Kong?
I’m originally from the UK and I came to Hong Kong in 1994. I had the opportunity to move here and experience life in this part of the world, and I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve absolutely loved my time here; it’s tough to contemplate leaving.
What do you do here currently, and what made you start thinking about your next step?
I’ve been working in wealth management since 1997. I’m currently a Senior Advisor at Oreana Financial Services. My main focus is managing bespoke investment and wealth protection solutions for international clients in Hong Kong and beyond.
The topic of Brexit anxiety and Plan B visas had come up more frequently in my social and professional discussions. And it resonated with my own future. While I’m not willing or able to hang up my boots just yet, Hong Kong doesn’t tick all my boxes for the long term; so, the chance to plan for a change in the near future was exciting.
And that’s when Portgual came on your radar?
Yes, in my research, Portugal’s Golden Visa programme kept coming up as an attractive option – for financial opportunities and general lifestyle. I’d seen Golden Visa presentations in Hong Kong, but they often seemed designed purely around selling property with little regard put into any other aspect of the process.
Then I discovered that, as a UK national, I could get Portuguese Residency (essentially like an HKID Card), without needing to buy property or immediately physically relocate. I jumped at the chance.
I now have a document that maintains my EU citizenship for at least the next five years, and means I’m free to travel around Europe without a visa.
Is it easy?
There are two ways to obtain Portuguese Residency. As previously mentioned, Golden Visas available to non-EU nationals require more time and work. However, until Brexit transition on 31 December 2020, UK passport holders can obtain a Residency Certificate valid for five years. It’s much cheaper, with minimal paperwork, and there’s no mandatory property purchase. In both cases though, dealing with a trusted partner is vital. Within 24 hours of touching down at Lisbon airport, I had my certificate. But while that makes it sound easy, there is lot that happens “behind the scenes” to make it smooth, quick and painless.
Many reasons: you can obtain Permanent Residency and a passport after five years, effectively allowing you full EU citizenship for life; it’s available to the whole family, whatever passport they’re holding; and this includes same-sex couples as Portugal treats all marriage with equal status; and the ongoing tax treatment if you relocate (the Non-Habitual Resident scheme) can be extremely generous.
As for country itself, where to start? The standard of air quality, environment, education and healthcare is very high. Portugal was ranked the world’s third safest country by the Global Peace Index in 2019. English is widely spoken, so it’s easy to assimilate with the welcoming locals and vibrant expat community. And the investment opportunities, especially in property, also offer rich potential.
I’m lucky that a lot of my work can be done remotely without the need to be physically in the office every day and so have the luxury of being able to continue my day-to-day business from anywhere in the world with a stable internet connection. Of course, I’ll need to be back in Hong Kong several times a year to see friends, clients and colleagues in person, although quite a few have already said they’d prefer to make the opposite journey and visit me in Portugal!
How is COVID affecting the process at the moment?
Luckily, with my trusted partners, it’s possible to do most paperwork outside Portugal. However, there’s now a strict appointment system with the local registry offices, so it’s imperative you deal with people who can arrange one for you. Travel restrictions and Hong Kong quarantine rules make planning a trip difficult; but, given what it could mean for your future, it’s surely worth it. As for the Golden Visa, while there’s no specific deadline for applications, rules on buying apartments may change next year to exclude the most popular regions.
Who is a good candidate for applying for Portuguese Residency this way?
The process I followed is cheaper and easier than a full Golden Visa. However, the benefits are the same in both cases. In particular, it’s very popular for people considering retirement in Europe, or families who wish to ensure their children have the same opportunities to travel, work or study in the EU that we were lucky enough to enjoy. At worst, it’s a back-up plan for anyone who’s unsure of their future movements.
Many people are also rightfully attracted to property investment in Portugal, so if you can obtain a visa while making a prudent investment, even better. It’s not a requirement of the process I followed, so there’s no restriction on the value or location of purchase.
What should I think about doing next?
Firstly, time is running out! The Brexit withdrawal deadline is approaching, so if you don’t have a plan in place, now is the time to do something. It could make all the difference to your future.
To find out more, email email@example.com or visit portugalresidency.life. With the deadline for full UK withdrawal from the EU looming, UK nationals should act fast given the limited appointment opportunities in Portugal.