Portugal aims to unblock visa program for wealthy foreigners

LISBON: Portugal's government has approved new procedures it hopes will remove legal obstacles that have halted granting residence permits to wealthy investors from outside the European Union.

The so-called Golden Visa program, started three years ago to help the country out of a debt crisis, has brought investments totaling more than 1 billion euros ($1 billion), with most of the permits awarded to Chinese.

A police investigation into suspected corruption and money-laundering involving officials overseeing the program prompted the government to tighten controls, and a new law covering the program came into force July 1. But the government failed to set required administrative procedures, leaving the Foreigners' Service unable to issue permits.

With those rules now established, officials said Friday they await final approval by Portugal's president.