Can I change my bank during the Golden Visa process?

We are at the initial Preapproval stage of the process. The Portuguese bank we have our account in, is now threatening to close our account/move us to a lower tier if we don’t deposit EUR 50,000, as well making some additional investments, monthly deposits etc.

It feels like pressure tactics to me, since they sent us a printed letter that took ages to reach rather than an email, so we have less than 2 weeks to decide.

Despite us repeatedly asking them via email, they have been extremely vague on what exactly will be required from us to maintain the current account. The woman who answered the email said that even depositing the money won’t guarantee that we get to keep the account - she mentioned that there are “many requirements from the place to analyze and accept your account” but refused to state what they were.

We have heard that we MUST maintain the same account throughout the process. Does anyone know if this is true? Did anyone else have to deposit additional funds/make additional investments to keep their account open? Or has anyone changed banks during the process without it adversely impacting their process? Also, any other bank related stories - good or bad?

This does sound like a bit of a pressure tactique. From my experience, the banks have a minimum limit above which you will receive better banking relationships (you will get a personalised banker assigned) and reduced monthly maintenance fees. I was never aware of the need to maintain such a high minimum balance, which for many Portuguese would be quite a challenge.

I do have a rather precarious situation with my bank (Novobanco), but it has to do with EU sanctions imposed on Russian nationals. Even though I am a U.S. citizen and have left former U.S.S.R. over 45 years ago, the bank still blindly applies the EU directives and blocks my account for incoming deposits. I too would like to consider switching to a different bank, but I might be stuck with Novobanco for the foreseeable future (or unforeseeable one, depending how you interpret the current timelines of GV process).

Did anyone else try to switch a bank midstream?

What’s your GV path, RE or smth else?
On the RE path you only need a one-time bank declaration on the initial transfer of monies to purchase RE. Then you can ditch your bank straight after that :slight_smile:
On the funds route, I suppose you need to maintain your bank within which you have the fund, but then again - with your current regular account you can do whatever you like at any time.
You obviously need to maintain at least one PT-based bank account to be able to pay SEF/AIMA fees from there.

Are you pretty sure about this? I remember that I had to submit declaration from the bank at the time of my application and at the time of my bio appointment. Can I be sure they won’t ask for the same document again at the time of final approval, renewals, or citizenship application?

My dear friend. It is not just about sanction against Russia. As you already know where I come from, the portuguese banks still want to block my account.

  • MBCP: my fund is coupled through Millennium. They sent email to me informing that they wanted to close my account and I needed to withdraw all cash out asap. I spoke with lawyers. After months of negociation, we had a meeting at the bank with my lawyer, myself and two BCP managers. All of sudden, they said I needed to keep quiet and should not send or receive big amount. According to them, it is illegal to close my account because my fund Is thru the bank. Hence I stay active like a zombie. Not death but in dangerous situation. Recently, BCP asked me to top up 50k (very similar situation as already posted above) to maintain my prestige account. Yeah, “prestige” of BCP seems like deepest sh$t I’ve ever been. I said no, i will be happy to be lowered from prestige to non-prestige. After that I have not received anything from them for 3 months. I still receive bank statement monthly and still being prestige. How proud I am!!!

  • Novo Banco: I also have an account with Novo Banco. I have not received any threat from them. However, when I ask them about my account receving big incoming amount. Their reply is very vague. I asked again to evaluate all papers works (source of money, amount to send, …). If it is OK, then I will send. They refused. They only analise once the incoming amount arrives. Therefore it is their tactics to trap people. What’s wrong avoiding doing due diligente in advance??? Easy answer. To trap and block people’s accounts. I’ve read FB (but cannot find the post now) that one German guy was 100% blocked by NovoBanco and one Irish guy was refused to open bank account by NB.

We are living in the period of “de-banking”. Banks love de-bank people. Govt, through their banks, wants to show the power.

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Yes, but it was the same declaration, wasn’t it?
You don’t need multiple declarations on the same single event that happened only once. It’s not like declaration about ongoing maintenance of the funds, that of course is required at every renewal etc.
For RE renewal the evidence of maintaining your GV investment is your up-to-date Certidao de Registo Predial which is luckily very easy to obtain online for 15 eur or so.

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I agree, it is a general situation not only related to the RU exposed individuals.

Quick sum up from my recent research:

  • MBCP has become a pain since around Q4 2023. They randomly block incoming transactions, sending people to compliance, or to complete KYC or both, but whatever you do the outcome is again random, i.e. release, return or indefinite ‘analysis’.
  • Novobanco is on top of the ‘bad guys’ list. They block accounts altogether or restrict heavily. RU or non-RU people does not matter to them, they can block anyone, because ‘power’ :slight_smile:
  • Caixa Geral de Depositos, government bank… do I need to say more? I am in the process of opening an account with them. On my 3rd month waiting since the application…
  • Activobank, sounds free and ‘modern’, but in practice impossible to open via the app or via ‘telechamada’. I had one good report from someone applying at the branch, but they don’t have branches where I live so I’ll give it a pass. And by the way, they are owned by MBCP which does not bode well.
  • BPI, Spanish bank, some positive reviews in another thread here, also I personally had a very pleasant experience with them so far, they have like a 3-tier system of regular, Premier and Private bank accounts, which makes a bit of difference I guess.
  • Santander, another Spanish entity, but have very poor reviews online similarly to MBCP or CGD. I have not tried them myself but heard mixed feedback. So let’s put them in the middle of our ranking together with Activo.

Seconded re BPI - no minimum balance, and I seem to pay fees of a few euros a year if that. Very friendly, no hassle. Of course, they’re making fees on the investment in BPI Portugal I have with their fund arm, so fair enough.

Thanks, mate! This is a very comprehensive analysis. I will certainly rely on your experiences!

WOW!!!, I hand no idea you too are so affected. This is not a good sign. I will DM you later.

Fwiw generally bison has been good, and they offer a debit card now. Careful if you buy a house through them given my problem with them not providing a certified check, but for day to day stuff it seems fine

Can’t speak to fees though, might be high

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So you can’t pay AIMA fees through SEPA from Revolut or another EU bank?

I am not aware of a method to pay DUC from a non-PT bank (i.e. outside of the Multibanco system).

Quoting what is printed on the DUC itself:
“O pagamento pode ser efetuado através do Multibanco, da Internet e das Instituições de Crédito, utilizando a referência indicada.”

Is there a menu option on your Revolut account which allows a payment to the state of Portugal using a single ref. no.?

I just wire the amounts to my lawyer and they pay it.

WRT Activo, I find them very easy and helpful to deal with. I use them for basic banking and have done multiple large transactions through them and they have been unfailingly polite and helpful over the phone. The only thing being that you have to already have residency and apply in a branch and have a PT number so that SMS etc works and so they can efficiently phone you, or so goes my experience; others might differ. They achieve low operational costs through being mostly online and that dictates a lot of how they operate.

They can’t hold your fund units so they are probably not relevant to this discussion anyway.

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Of course, using an intermediary under PoA is always an option :slight_smile: but the discussion here is about ‘self-service’ banking.

I second this Bison recommendation. I have accounts with BCP and Bison, both set up four years ago when Portuguese banks were a little easier on foreign customers (eg. no EUR 50,000 deposit required)
BCP was recommended for daily banking but we needed Bison for custodianship of fund shares as BCP refused.
Bison was recommended by our VC fund and has been very responsive and helpful.
BCP has been a total pain on compliance requests, provides inconsistent customer service, and often gives contradictory advice, especially if you are trying to do anything from outside the country (but I think we escaped some of the horror experiences above). We paid for Prestige but they didn’t even assign us a personal banking contact for months. We’ve only kept it open because closing it would create another round of paperwork chaos.
Just note Bison is a small investment bank, not a full service retail bank, although do now at least have a virtual debit card you can use on Apple/Google Pay.
I don’t know if you need to maintain the same account throughout the approval process. Don’t trust answers on here, you need legal advice for that. You could always open a Bison account as backup right now, so at least if BCP shuts you down unexpectedly you are not left without a local account at any point, and your lawyer can point to that if AIMA makes a fuss. We were able to do that remotely with Bison. If you want an email contact, DM me.

Thanks for sharing everyone, and really appreciate all the inputs! So sorry to hear about the bad experiences, but at least we know that we’re not the only ones frustrated with our bank :confounded:

We are on the RE path, but I guess we will stick with MBCP for now - hopefully the time will come when we can ditch them and move to one of the “relatively better” ones mentioned here, like BPI or Bison.