Businessmen speak on the outdoor smoking area of a building in Lisbon November 18, 2010. Reuters

Portuguese commercial real estate investment may more than double this year as investors flock back to the southern European country after it completed an emergency-aid program, according to New York-based real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.

Spending on commercial properties in Portugal could rise to more than $1 billion this year from $438 million last year, the head of the firm’s capital markets group in Lisbon, Luis Rocha Antunes, told Bloomberg.

“There are big funds looking at commercial real estate in Portugal,” Antunes said. “Investor appetite for Portugal is clearly on the rise.”

A Portuguese government program that launched in October 2012, called the Golden Visa program, rewards foreign investors with five-year work and residency permits. The government has issued about 1,100 golden visas, resulting in real-estate investments totaling about 885 million dollars as of the end of May, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Critics say the program makes units more difficult for locals to afford as it increases demand from foreign buyers, but others say the foreign investment is benefitting the country’s economy, slowly recovering from the euro zone’s financial crisis.

Spain, Cyprus, Malta and Greece have recently started their own versions of the Golden Visa program, but so far Portugal’s has been the most successful. According to AICEP (Portuguese Agency for Investment and External Commerce), about 80 percent of Golden Visa investors have been Chinese.