Permanent Residence in Europe: Terms and Conditions

Many people around the world seek opportunities to get a residence permit in one of the member states of the EU. This article provides the reader with a general overview of the conditions for acquiring a European residence permit.

We are going to describe the procedure for obtaining that status in a European country, compare several states in which it is easier to apply for the permit and discuss the advantages of being a permanent resident in the EU. We will pay more attention to Greece since this country currently provides the best and easiest terms for that purpose.

Many people around the world seek opportunities to get a residence permit in one of the member states of the EU. This article provides the reader with a general overview of the conditions for acquiring a European residence permit.

We are going to describe the procedure for obtaining that status in a European country, compare several states in which it is easier to apply for the permit and discuss the advantages of being a permanent resident in the EU. We will pay more attention to Greece since this country currently provides the best and easiest terms for that purpose.

Advantages of European Residence Permits

There are numerous benefits of getting a residence permit in the EU, the most considerable of which include the following:

  1. A European residence permit will allow you to live in a country with comparatively high living standards, such as healthcare, accommodation and education, and a relatively favourable level of income in a stable economy.
  2. You will be able to travel without visas in the member states of the EU as well as numerous countries around the world.
  3. The permit will give you virtually unlimited access to various public funds and provides you with significant social benefits that include local education and medical systems.
  4. European banks enjoy a high position on the reliability index by international standards. Having a residence permit in a European country, you will have an opportunity to:
    • Use the local banks' deposit and saving accounts;

    • Apply for a mortgage and various other loans;

    • Benefit from the relatively flexible terms of the European financial sector.

5. If you acquire the permit by purchasing a private property, you will be able to get back some or all of the money you have thus invested as soon as you have received the permit.

6. In terms of the family reunion policy, your family members and some close relatives will be able to join you in the country and apply for a residential status as well.

7. Once you have had your permit for a certain period of time, you will be able to apply for citizenship in that country. The number of years before you can do that varies across European countries, and you can get more specific information from the Immigration Department of the country where you intend to apply for it.

Limitations of European Residence Permits

Nevertheless, there will be some restrictions too. Unlike full citizenship, a residence permit does not entitle you to vote or serve in the army, nor does it give you full access to all social security and support measures. Apart from that, you will not be able to permanently reside and work in any EU member state of your choice.

Besides, you will have to renew it after a specified number of years, which varies across the countries. In most cases, it is a straightforward routine procedure. Yet, you will have to remember to do it on time and realise that in theory, at least, they might decide not to renew it for you for some reason.

You do not, in fact, receive an EU residence permit, for there is no such thing. You will be granted a right to live permanently in a particular country, and, unlike its citizens, you will not be allowed to live and work anywhere in the EU, although you will be free to travel in its member states.

Countries to Apply for the Permit

Technically, you can choose any member state in the EU to apply for a residence permit. It is very much a question of your personal preferences and the ease of obtaining such a permit in a particular country. In this article, we only discuss the requirements by the countries that seem to provide the most favourable terms for that purpose.

Since the immigration policies and procedures vary across the states, you ought to consult the target country's Consulate or the official webpage of its Department of Immigration to get more updated and specific information concerning the particular requirements, costs and the validity periods of its PR permits.

Documentation Required for the Application

Depending on the country where you decide to apply for the permit, the list of required documents may vary slightly. Nevertheless, the following is the most representative list that covers the application requirements in most states in Europe:

  • A valid identity document and a specified number of photographs;

  • Proof of income in any country, including the EU states: various documents will suit the purpose, such as a contract of employment, tax invoices, bank statements, a retirement certificate and brokerage contracts;

  • Any bill to confirmation of your residential address (in some countries);

  • Proof of relationships with your family members and relatives, such as marriage, birth and adoption certificates;

  • In case you buy a private property in the country, a copy of the purchase contract to confirm your ownership of the property in question;

  • Confirmation of having a local bank account and a tax number (in some countries);

  • Medical insurance, the amount of which will vary, depending on the country of application;

  • A medical certificate to confirm that you do not suffer from any socially dangerous diseases, most commonly TB and AIDS;

  • A certificate indicating your level of language proficiency (in some countries);

  • Police clearance from your home country and the EU;

  • An application letter in which you stipulate your motives for seeking permanent residence in the country.

Naturally, all the papers must be translated into the language of the target country and certified by a local notary.

Who May Apply for a Residence Permit in the EU

The following are the most common routes to permanent residence in the European countries.

Employment in the European Union

If you have a contract of employment in the country and have worked there for a specified number of years, you may use it to apply for a residence permit. The main drawback of this option is that a permit you acquire that way remains dependent on your contract and will expire with the latter.

Family Reunion

Another valid reason to apply for a residence permit is having family members or close relatives living in the country. In fact, whichever way you acquire the permit, your family will be automatically eligible to apply for theirs as well.

Skilled Workforce

You may also apply for a residence permit if you can prove that you possess some exceptional skills and experience in a profession considered valuable in the target country. The list of such occupations varies across states, and you can find it on the official website of the Department of Immigration of the target country.

In most cases, you will have to submit your degrees and distinctions, together with confirmation of your work experience, translated into the target language and certified by a notary. On top of that, you will probably have to have your degrees and diplomas formally recognised by the corresponding professional institutions in the target country.

Financial Independence

Another very convenient way to get a residence permit in a European state is to prove a stable source of income in your home country. If your income, be it from your professional activity, retirement certificate or dividends from investments, is high enough to live in the target country comfortably without relying on its federal budget, you will be eligible to apply for permanent residence, provided all other immigration terms have been met.

The required level of income varies across the states. The following table shows the requirements in the countries that seem optimal for choosing this option. The amounts do not include rental expenses and medical insurance.

Country

Austria

Spain

Portugal

Greece

Monthly income

€1,900

€2,150

€635

€2,000

Extra per child

€300

€550

€200

€360

A considerable advantage of acquiring a residence permit this way is that the members of your family will be allowed to hold their residence cards even if you give up yours and even leave the country for good. They will continue to have access to local medical and educational services, travel within the European Union without visas and apply for citizenship in a specified number of years.

One major drawback of this option is that it forbids you to seek employment in the target country, and all your income must come from abroad. However, you may legally establish an enterprise in the country, provided you do not occupy a paid position in it.

One more restriction imposed by this type of residence permit is that you have to be in the country for at least six months per year. If you are absent for more than 183 days a year in total, they might not extend your permit. There are exceptions to this rule, however: Greece, for instance, does not impose minimum days of residence if you make some investments in the country.

Permanent Residency by Investment

One way to obtain a residence permit in a European country that is becoming increasingly more popular these days is to invest in the country's economy. More specifically, several member states in the European Union grant the rights to permanent residency upon one's investment in the local real estate sector.

That option is called a golden visa, and it provides you with all the privileges of permanent residency if you purchase private property in the country. The terms and required amounts vary across the states, which you can specify on the official website of the country's Department of Immigration or in its Consulate in your home country.

Greek Golden Visa

Of all the member states in the European Union, Greece offers by far the most convenient terms for acquiring a golden visa, which is why we would like to give a little more detailed information about it in this article.

As an example of favourable conditions offered by Greece, the following table compares the amounts of the required investment and the processing times provided by the three European countries that seem to be the most popular targets for obtaining golden visas to date.

Country

Portugal

Malta

Greece

Minimum investment

€280,000 for buildings that are in need of renovation and located in low-density areas

€125,000 in property, €30,000 in contribution, €250,000 in government bonds, and €500,000 in assets

€250,000

Processing time

2 to 6 months

6 months

2 to 3 months

In other words, all you have to do to obtain a golden visa in Greece is purchase private property for the amount specified in the table above, and you will enjoy the status of a permanent resident in the European Union in a maximum of three months. And there will be no additional requirements to meet for that purpose.

You will still have to renew your permit once in several years, though, but you can do it indefinitely upon the sole condition of your continued ownership of the property. Besides, your family members will be entitled to the status of residents in the country as well, and all of you will be eligible to apply for Greek citizenship in seven years.

You will need the following documents to apply for a golden visa in Greece:

  • Your ID or passport;

  • An account in a local bank;

  • A bank statement to confirm a specified amount of money in your account;

  • Medical insurance;

  • A tax number in Greece;

  • A Greek telephone number;

  • Any utility bill that shows your residential address in the country;

  • Any proof of income, whether foreign or local, if applicable;

  • A confirmation of relationships with your family members in case they intend to join you in Greece.

All the copies must be translated into Greek and either apostilled or certified by a local notary.

Application Procedures in the EU

In most cases, applying for a residence permit will involve the following steps:

1. Apply for a visitor visa to the target country if you need one. You will have to go there in order to open an account in a local bank and either purchase or rent a property. As a rule, one visit is enough to complete all of that.

2. Fill out an application form, which you can download from the Department of Immigration's website or get from the Consulate, and collect the translated and apostilled copies of all the documents required for the application.

3. Pay the application fees, and submit the documents with the application form at the target country's nearest Consulate. Prepare to pay a consular fee of €100–€150 as well. If everything goes well, these three steps should take about one month to complete.

4. The application processing will take up to half a year, depending on the country and your particular circumstances. If your application is rejected, you will have four weeks to apply for a review. To do that, you must attach to your application:

  • A letter in which you explain the grounds for your disagreement with the decision;

  • All the documents that support your disagreement.

5. If your application is approved, you will get a temporary visa to enter the country, receive your residence permit and complete all the necessary registrations in the local government offices. Typically, the temporary visa is valid for three to six months, and you must perform all the required operations within that period.

Otherwise, you lose your permit and all the costs incurred, and you will have to go back to square one, but not sooner than in a month after the permit's cancellation. In particular, you will have to receive your permanent residence card within four weeks upon your entry to the country with the temporary visa.

Final Word

Once you select a target country to apply for a residence permit, you can consult its Consulate for specific details of the application procedure, terms and costs. We hope this article has given you enough information to know how to get started on your way to permanent residency in the European Union.

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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