Non-EU nationals can obtain a Residency Permit in the EU in just a period of 2-3 months through the Greek ‘Golden Visa’ program; one of the most popular “Residency by investment” programs in the European Union. Whilst the high popularity of the scheme is well-expressed in the number of issued visas, the global travel restrictions and lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic have drastically lowered its turnout.
The Hellenic Republic “Greece” launched a residency-by-investment (RBI) program back in 2013, offering non-EU nationals the opportunity to obtain a permanent residency status or ‘Golden visas’ in exchange for an investment in real estate. One of the most alluring features of this scheme is its timeline – foreigners can secure a residence permit in the EU state within a period of 2 months. Moreover, the Golden Visa can lead the way to apply for the Greek citizenship and passports.
The government reformed that program in 2019, allowing other forms of investments to qualify for it. In particular, along with a realty acquisition, the purchase of securities and bonds, bank deposits, or direct capital transfers might also be considered as a qualified investment. The same year, the tax system was also restructured, making property investments even more attractive.
Eligibility Criteria for Greek Golden Visas
The qualifications to be a main applicant include being at least 18 years of age, having a clear criminal record, and having obtained a health insurance policy from a company established in Greece
Hence, the requirements for obtaining a ‘Golden Visa’ in Greece are following:
- Making mandatory investment;
- Health insurance is valid in Greece for all persons included in the application;
- A valid entry visa to Greece;
- Documentation attached to the application should be duly certified and translated into Greek.
- For each person included in the application, an application fee of EUR 500 each is also payable.
The main applicant who invests in real estate is not required to live or reside in the property; they can rent out the property and generate income. Additionally, whilst Golden Visa holders are not allowed to work in Greece, they can be shareholders of a company registered in Greek and get dividends. They are also required to visit Greece once each year to renew their EU. National Identity Card.
Eligible Dependents: Investors can include up to ten of their family members as dependents in the residency by investment application. These can be a spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21 years (can be extended to the age of 24), and parents of investor and spouse with no age limits.
Advantages of Greek ‘Golden Visa’
It is possible to apply for a Greek ‘golden visa’ without traveling to Greece, using services provided by the proxy company. In this case, the Power of Attorney for the appointment of a proxy must be signed before a Greek Consular authority. The applicant should enter Greece within a period of 12 months from the date of the confirmation on the receipt of the application, in order to submit biometric data
Other benefits of obtaining a Greek ‘golden visa’ include:
- Opportunity to study, live and conduct business in a EU member state;
- Visa-free travel to the European Schengen Area;
- No minimum residency is required;
- Freedom of travel throughout Schengen zone.
- The quick application process of approximately 40 days;
- Eligibility for Greek citizenship after 7 years;
- Possibility to generate ROI (return on investment) by renting out the acquired real estate.
Golden Visa Duration and the Path to Citizenship
Successful ‘golden visa’ applicants are granted the residency permit valid for 5 years, with a renewal possibility indefinitely for another 5-year period, but the investment must be retained by the applicant.
After 7 years of actual residence in Greece and paying taxes there, ‘golden visa’ holders can apply for Greek citizenship.
Investors should keep in mind that. The Greek Golden Visa program does not lead to Greek citizenship automatically. Holders of the permanent residency permit can apply for citizenship by naturalization if they meet the following requirements:
- Knowledge of Greek language, culture, and history
- Reside in Greece for at least 180 days per year during the 7 years’ period;
- Evidence that Greece has become applicants’ home country.
After acquiring citizenship, the investment can be sold. As Greece allows dual citizenship, new citizens are not obliged to renounce their original nationality.
The Golden Visa program offered by Greece is one of the least expensive RBI programs in the European Union (EU).
Investors are eligible to apply for a permanent residency status, if they purchase one or several real estates in Greece, with a minimum value threshold of EUR250,000. For other forms of investments, the minimum investment requirement starts from EUR400,000.
At the same time, the Greek legislation allows qualifying for the ‘golden visa’ program in case of signing a lease agreement on a real estate or investing in a timeshare for hotel accommodation or a furnished tourist residency, registered with the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO). The agreement must have a validity of at least ten years, with the total investment equaling the same threshold as it is in the case of a real estate purchase.
It is possible to obtain real estate through a legal entity and apply to the Greek ‘golden visa’ program. But, in this case, the applicant must possess 100 percent of the shares of this entity.
Statistics of Greek ‘Golden Visa’ Program
By July 2021, a total of 8,692 ‘golden visas’ have been issued to non-EU nationals who invest at least €250,000 in the country since the inception of the program, spurring at least EUR2.17 billion into the Greek economy. The number refers to main applicants, and including family members, a total of 26,123 visas have been issued.
The year 2020 witnessed a serious decline in the number of issued visas. The main reason for that was the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions and lockdowns imposed globally. Only 938 applications were approved in 2020 and just 117 applications in the first half of 2021, while the year of 2019 was a record high in the regard of issued golden visas – in total, 3535 applications.
Experts on the investment migration industry are optimistic, and with the course of due vaccinations and lifting up travel restrictions, the Greek ‘golden visa’ program will regain its popularity