Throughout its history Portugal was always a country of travellers. Having only Spain as a land border, Portugal looked at the ocean and saw a path for development reaching its proudest moments in the “discoveries” era. After “giving new worlds to the world”, Lisbon became one of the most, if not the most, important seaport in Europe and for a time it seemed like the entire world converged into it.
Portugal has kept himself true to its nomadic spirit. Proving it is the fact that Paris is only second to Lisbon when it comes to number of Portuguese inhabitants. But it’s not only the astounding number of emigrants that give Portugal this wandering aura.
Being a country that implemented its language in a much vaster area than its territory it’s easy to deduce that the culture exchange wasn’t a one-way street. Especially after the period of dictatorship, a great number of people originating from the ex-colonies came into Portugal, looking to set foot in Europe.
A new kind of immigrants
Until the beginning of the 90’s the overwhelming majority of immigrants in Portugal came from other Portuguese speaking countries. However, in the later part of the decade a new flux of immigrants from Eastern Europe came into Portugal. Attracted by the working conditions of this recent (at the time) European Union country, these poor but highly qualified immigrants settled primordially in Lisbon.
The integration of this new eastern European immigrants wasn’t easy. Despite their qualifications, in many cases even superior to the Portugal natives, the language and culture barrier offered a lot of difficulties to them. A lot of effort from the government, immigrants associations and companies with inclusive policies was needed in order to assure these new citizens the dignity they deserved.
An even newer kind of immigrants
Portugal has been coming out a heavy period of economic recession in the recent years. The unemployment rates passed 16% in 2013 and the real estate market reached new lows in 2014.
To fight this crisis Portugal looked, once again, overseas. The creation of the Fiscal Regime for the Non-Habitual Resident, which stimulated the entrance of highly qualified foreign workers, investment in tourism and renewal of old buildings plus the creation of the Golden Visa attracted a very different kind of immigrant. Wealthy, qualified professionals looking to take advantage from the low-cost of living in the country, fiscal regime or even to obtain Portuguese citizenship by investing in the country.
The Portuguese Immigration reports corroborate this new tendency. In them we can see that citizens originating from EU countries where the main responsible for the 2, 3% growth of foreign inhabitants in Portugal, in 2016. Countries like France, the UK and Spain rose their Portuguese communities in impressive numbers (33, 8%; 12, 5% and 11, 1% respectively). The 5, 5% growth of the Portuguese Chinese community is also worth mentioning, especially taking into account that Chinese investors were the main beneficiaries of the Golden Visa program in 2016 with 848 investors taking advantage of this opportunity. The second country with the highest number of Portuguese Golden Visa investors were Brazil, with 142 investors.
Portugal, an attractive country
Apart from the aforementioned Fiscal Regime for the Non-Habitual Resident and Golden Visa Program, there is a considerable amount of good reasons for this recent change in the Portuguese immigration landscape:
• With the exception of Malta, Portugal is the cheapest western country in the UE.
• Portugal was considered the 4º safest country in the world according to the Global Peace Index
• Portugal has a average of 300 days of sun per year
• Portugal was considered the 9th best place to retire according to CNBC
• Portugal was considered the 16th best country to visit by Condé Nast Traveller
• In contrast with some other EU countries, Portugal has great relationships with all its foreign communities and doesn’t show signs of political tension
• The housing prices in Portugal are still relatively low, while the tourism and immigration rates keep growing; generating great opportunities for real estate investment.
• Its particular geographical position gives Portugal a lot of different natural landscapes, from sandy beaches to mountains and forests. Usually within a short driving distance.
• Portugal was considered the 24th best country and the 18th best country to raise kids according to US News.
For all this and more we can see that Portugal is a country in the uprising. A feeling of optimism has been present in the last few years which have certainly been a key factor in all the foreign interest it has been receiving. Once again opening itself to the world has proved profitable for Portugal.