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For non-European citizens who wish to live, work or study in Portugal, gaining free access to the Schengen area is a top priority, allowing seamless movement around most of the EU. Undoubtedly, the Portuguese Golden Visa is one of the best ways to do this, providing you with an unlimited European visa, free movement, and a wealth of other benefits.

However, to access the Portuguese Golden Visa Program you must first apply for a Schengen Visa that provides more limited access. Here we look at both of these types of visa and the benefits they bring, providing you with the information you need to gain free access to Europe for work, retirement, investment, or simply to enjoy the unique cultural and historical landscapes!

Schengen Visa vs. Golden Visa

The bottom line is, the Schengen Visa serves a very different purpose to that of the Golden Visa. However, in order to apply for a Portuguese Golden Visa you will first need to apply for a Schengen Visa. Both provide free access to Europe, however, both do so in different ways. Here’s how they compare:

Schengen Visa Golden Visa
90-day stay Unlimited stay
Designed for tourists, short-term business visits, students. Designed for permanent residency and unrestricted access to the Schengen area.
Allows free access to Europe – Schengen and non-Schengen countries signed up to the agreement Allows free access to Europe – Schengen and non-Schengen countries signed up to the agreement
Small application fees Minimum investment of €350,000 for eligibility
Required for Golden Visa application

What are the Schengen countries?

The Schengen countries are those that signed up the Schengen agreement in 1995 and that have joined the since that time. The current list includes most of the European Union, however, it is subject to change as more countries sign up to the agreement or, conversely, decide to leave. The current list includes:

Austria Hungary Norway
Belgium Iceland Poland
Czech Republic Italy Portugal
Denmark Latvia Slovakia
Estonia Liechtenstein Slovenia
Finland Lithuania Spai
France Luxembourg Sweden
Germany Malta Switzerland
Greece Netherlands

However, there are more countries that, while not part of the Schengen agreement, will still allow foreign citizens to enter and stay in their territories if you present a valid Schengen Visa. Additionally, certain restrictions are placed on citizens of specific countries, so it is important that you check your status before travelling.

How Does the Schengen Visa work?

Any country that is singed up to the Schengen agreement may issue a Schengen Visa to non-European individuals. This allows free movement within the Schengen area, for both leisure and business purposes, for up to 90 days. If you are planning on working, studying, or living in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days, then you will need to apply for a visa of the specific European country you are residing in or take advantage of the benefits of the Golden Visa program.

The application for a Schengen Visa requires you to first identify the consulate of the country you wish to visit or, if you intend to visit multiple countries, in the country you intend to spend the longest period or that you will enter first. The application must be submitted here at least 15 days before the intended journey.

Among the various documents you will need to provide, you must ensure that your passport is valid for at least three months after your exit from the Schengen area and is not older than 10 years. Additionally, you will need:

  • Visa application form
  • Two recently taken photos
  • Round trip reservation or itinerary
  • Travel insurance policy
  • Proof of accommodation
  • Proof of financial means
  • Proof of paid visa fee

Why is the Schengen Visa Important?

Anyone who wishes to apply for the Portuguese Golden Visa will first need to apply for a Schengen Visa. This means that the Schengen Visa application is highly important for a successful Golden Visa application, forming the foundation of your permanent entry to Portugal and providing free access to Europe.

The Golden Visa itself is designed for foreign citizens who wish to invest a minimum of €350,000. In exchange, and upon successful application, individuals and families receive:

  • Portuguese Passport
  • Portuguese Citizenship after five years of legal residency
  • Visa-free access to the Schengen Zone
  • Access to high-quality education and healthcare systems
  • 10-year tax relief program


Ideally suited to investors and individuals/families who wish to relocate to Europe or set up a permanent base, the Golden Visa is a unique opportunity for foreign citizens to gain free access to Europe and the Schengen area.  For more information on how to apply for both the Schengen Visa and the Golden Visa in Portugal, contact Planeur today.With more than 30 years of experience, we are perfectly placed to deliver the support and guidance you need to make the application process simple.


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