Wealth Influx, Wealth Exodus: Investment Migration from China to Portugal – IMC-RP 2018/1


China is one of the largest origin countries for investor migrants. For the Portuguese investment programme, the abundant majority of investors is of Chinese origin. As the one country’s wealth influx can be the other country’s wealth exodus, this paper aims to study investment migration from China to Portugal from the perspectives of both emigration and immigration. After describing the structure of the Portuguese investment programme and how it has worked out in practice, it is concluded that the programme has delivered significant economic contributions, but in a different way than the Portuguese government had originally intended. The paper continues by outlining the key drivers of Chinese investor emigration, concluding that the low residence requirements, gaining access to the Schengen Area and the option to invest in real estate are likely to attract Chinese investors to the Portuguese programme. Rather than emigrating instantly, the Chinese investors seem to participate in the Portuguese investment programme as a household-level strategy to ensure a ‘backup plan’ and be ready to emigrate at any time, creating an intriguing form of ‘quasi-migration’. The Chinese government mainly perceives investment programmes as a risk and has implemented measures which aim to curb the outflow of capital. Meanwhile, the real ‘winners’ remain the investor migrants themselves, as investment programmes enable them to become part of a global and mobile elite.
KEYWORDS: Migration; investment migration; Portugal; China; golden visa

Luuk van der Baaren is a doctoral researcher at the University of Liege and Maastricht University.

Hanwei Li is a doctoral researcher at the University of Tampere and Bielefeld University.

The authors would like to thank Prof. Dr. Jack Barbalet (Hong Kong University), Prof. Dr. Patrícia Jeronimo Vink (University of Minho), Prof. Dr. Xiang Biao (University of Oxford), two anonymous interviewees and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable assistance.

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