Greece’s Golden Visa — an easy way to obtain a European residence permit

The global economic crisis that started in 2008 provoked a decline across European property markets: the investment volume reduced sharply, and the average price per square metre fell by 20–40%.

The evolution of property prices in Europe

Some countries launched Golden Visa programmes in Europe to attract the interest of foreign capital holders. They started issuing residence permits in exchange for investments in their economies: real estate, public bonds, funds, local companies and other types of assets.

How to get a European residence permit?

There are different grounds to obtain residency, such as marriage, employment, studies, and family circumstances to name a few. The Europe Investment Visa is the easiest and quickest option. A Golden Visa in Europe can be obtained by any interested foreign national above 18 years of age. The applicant does not have to take a national language or history test, and the documents typically only take a couple of months to be reviewed.

The benefits of having a Golden Visa

Under the Golden Visa programmes in Europe, participants can benefit from a number of important bonuses. For example:

  • travel across the EU without a visa;

  • live in their home countries or the country that awarded them residency: typically, in Europe, Golden Visa programmes do not impose residency requirements, or they are nominal (for example, in Portugal, one week must be spent in the country during the first year and two weeks in each of the two following years);

  • retain or change tax residency depending on where they spend most of the time;

  • receive income: under most Golden Visa programmes, the purchased property can be leased out.

Overview of the Golden Visa programmes

All European programmes include property investment as an option, with only the threshold amount varying across them.

Spain

The property must cost at least €500,000.

Portugal

The property may cost €350,000 if it was built over 30 years ago or is located in areas of urban renovation, €400,000 if the investment is made in a low-density population area or €500,000 for quality real estate.

Malta

The island nation requires an investment in both bonds and real estate, €300,000 in total if you decide to rent and not purchase property.

Cyprus

A European residence permit can be obtained through the purchase of property worth at least €300,000 in value.

Latvia

The threshold is €250,000, but investors have to pay a 5% fee, which increases the total sum to €262,500.

Greece’s Golden Visa is one of the cheapest in Europe: it is enough to purchase one or more properties totalling at least €250,000 to obtain Greece’s investor visa.

Although Portugal’s Golden Visa is Europe’s most popular (from the programme launch to late May 2018, over 6,000 residence permits were issued, and €3.8bn was invested), the programme’s growth dynamics came behind Greece’s and Spain’s, the latter of which grew 1.5 times to climb into first place. Latvia lost its former popularity after the Saeima raised the investment threshold in 2014. The Maltese Golden Visa programme is only beginning to grow in popularity: it was introduced in 2015, and the number of residence permits issued cannot yet be compared with that in the other countries.

When choosing a Golden Visa programme, investors should bear in mind that

  • the registration of a property purchase typically costs 10–15% above the property price. Therefore, in Greece, the registration is 1.5 times or twice cheaper than in Spain or Portugal;

  • the Greek and Portuguese programmes provide an opportunity for collective investment, but each applicant must invest the minimum amount;

  • in most cases, residence permits are issued for a certain period, but are indefinitely renewable while the investor owns the property.

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Why is Greece’s Golden Visa the most beneficial?

An important detail that must be considered when choosing a programme is the price per square metre in the local market.

The case is not only that the price determines the size and quality of the property the applicant can afford within the minimum budget. Many investors rent out the purchased real estate to compensate for the investment, while the ratio between the purchase cost and the rental rate directly affects the yield the landlords eventually receive.

€1,400

The average price per square metre in Greece

Greece is especially attractive in this sense. According to Numbeo.com, property there is the cheapest among the European countries that offer residency. The price per square metre runs at €1,400 in Greece, €1,500 in Latvia, €1,700 in Cyprus, €2,800 in Malta, while in Spain the price per square is the highest at €2,900.

Greece is one of the last markets that has not yet recovered after the 2008 financial crisis: today, for instance, residential property in Athens is 40% cheaper in comparison to the pre-crisis level. The price growth potential is huge. And the situation is starting to change. The decline rate started slowing down as early as 2013, and in early 2018, residential property grew in price for the first time.

According to the Bank of Greece, in Q2 2018, apartment prices grew 0.8% versus the same period of 2017.

What changed exactly?

Firstly, Greece is beginning to recover after the crisis. The austerity measures taken have paid off: Greece’s GDP has been growing for five straight quarters, and the European Stability Mechanism has announced the successful completion of the third macro-financial assistance programme. The country is ready to return tovself-reliance and market financing. In early 2018, Moody’s credit rating agency upgraded its investment rating outlook for Greece’s issuer from Caa2 to B3.

30mn

international tourists visited Greece in 2018

Secondly, Greece is now experiencing a tourist boom. According to official statistics, in 2018, over 30mn international tourists visited the country, which was almost twice as much as in 2010. Although Greece is traditionally a beach holiday destination (the country welcomes the highest number of tourists April to November), today, the Greek authorities are aiming at making it popular throughout the year. International tourists, in their turn, create short-term rental property demand. For instance, in Athens, the tourist flow is equally constant both in summer and winter, for which reason local properties bring in money without a break for the low season, while investors receive more appealing yields than anywhere else in Greece or Europe: about 5–7 % per annum.

+205%

the total volume of property transactions closed by foreigners in Greece in January 2018

In 2017, the volume of international property investment in Greece reached a historic high of €503mn. According to the Bank of Greece, in 2017, the total volume of transactions closed by foreign nationals in the Greek real estate market exceeded the 2016 figure by 87%, while the figure for January 2018 alone exceeded that of January 2017 by 205%.

Greece’s Golden Visa recipients

According to state investment agency Enterprise Greece, the country granted investors almost 3,000 Golden Visas (7,500 visas when family members are included) between 2013 and July 2018. Chinese, Russian, Turkish, Iraqi and Lebanese nationals received the highest number of residence permits — about 80% of all the visas issued.

China

Chinese nationals receive most of the residence permits issued. As of July 2018, over 3,600 Chinese citizens have become Greek residents since the launch of the Golden Visa programme. According to the Institute of International Economics Relations, Chinese investors buy real estate for about €550,000 – 600,000, which exceeds the minimum residency investment requirement twofold. According to the news portal Greek Guru, in Greece, Chinese nationals prefer buying newly built residential real estate located near beaches, supermarkets, public transport stops and international schools.

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Russia

Almost 1,000 Russian nationals received Greece’s Golden Visas between the launch of the programme and July 2018. Notably, unlike the nationals of other countries, Russian applicants obtain residence permits only for themselves and not for their entire families.

The Russian hunters for Golden Visa in Greece are mostly interested in detached houses and apartments in Athens and Thessaloniki. Especially popular are the capital city suburbs located on a 30–40-minute drive from central Athens (Faliro, Glyfada, Varkiza, Voula, Vouliagmeni). On average, Russian investors spend the minimum amount of €250,000 on Greek residence permits.

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Turkey

Over 800 Turkish nationals became Greek residents under its Golden Visa programme. However, according to the Hürriyet Daily News, few Turks holding Greece’s Golden Visas actually relocate to Greece. Turkish nationals are believed to obtain Greek residency "for future use" in the case of instability in their home country.

According to Greek media outlets, Turkish nationals are among the most dynamic groups of buyers in the Greek property market today, along with the citizens of the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy. Most of them are university-educated, middle-class or affluent natives of Western Turkey, the Aegean coast and Istanbul.

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Iraq

Iraq falls significantly behind Turkey in the number of Greek residence permits obtained: slightly more than 300 Iraqi nationals received Greece’s investor visas between the launch of the programme and July 2018. They obtain residence permits for their whole families more often than other applicants. According to statistics, each Iraqi investor applies for residence with three family members.

The Iraqi passport allows visa-free entrance to only 27 countries, for which reason Greece’s Golden Visa is especially popular there. The Greek residence permit gives access to the countries of the Schengen Area, while Greek citizenship that can be obtained after 8 years of residence in the country allows for travel to 174 countries visa-free.

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Lebanon

A slightly lower number of Greek residence permits in comparison to the Iraqi is obtained by the Lebanese. They also obtain Golden Visas in Greece for their entire families: an average of four individuals per application.

The population of Lebanon is approximately 6 million, of which 1.1 million are Syrian migrants, about 500,000 are Palestinian migrants, and about 1 million Lebanese nationals live abroad (according to some estimates, this figure is between 4 million and 13 million). The main reason why Lebanese nationals want European residency is the political and economic instability in their home country.

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Residence-Greece introduces investors to a large real estate database, helps with the registration of purchase, consulting services and legal support at all stages when obtaining Greek residency.

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