Greece is a beautiful country, with a struggling economy. The Golden Visa program was created to attract foreign investment and bring more tourism. This can be a great way to get a second passport or residency in Europe without moving there full time. But if you take the proper steps, it can also be an investment that pays off big time.
If you are a foreign investor looking to buy property Greece’s Golden Visa Program may be right for you. The program allows non-EU nationals with at least €250,000 to invest in real estate, which can be used as collateral for a temporary residence permit. The investment threshold increases to €500,000 for properties purchased in Athens, Glyfada, Mykonos, Santorini or Thessaloniki. Many features make the Golden Visa an attractive option for investors looking to move abroad with their dependents and loved ones.
While foreign real estate investment in Greece can be very confusing for non-EU citizens without Greek citizenship, the Greek golden visa program makes it more accessible. This is everything you need to know about how you can obtain a permanent residence permit and a Greek passport through your golden visa application.
What is the Golden Visa Program?
The Golden Visa is an investment program that grants foreign investors the right to a Greek residency permit and, in some cases, citizenship. It's currently available in many countries worldwide and can be used to purchase real estate or start a business.
The program has been available since 2013 and has been an enormous success: Investors are eligible to obtain a Greek residence permit, which can subsequently be converted into citizenship after five years (if they meet certain conditions).
The most important thing to know about this program is that it has been designed specifically for those looking to become permanent residents of Greece. Once granted a Golden Visa, you will have all of the same rights as a Greek citizen - including voting rights and access to public healthcare services - without having had any prior connection with Greece before applying as an investor.
Although the program has been around for some time, it's only recently that investors have started taking advantage of its potential benefits - and for a good reason.
A Golden Visa grants you access to Europe's Schengen Area and makes it easier to travel across borders within European Union countries (including France and Germany).
You'll also be able to apply for citizenship after spending five years as a resident of Greece, rather than ten years as is required by other EU countries such as France or Germany.
If investing through a Greek property investment company owned by a family member or friend who is an EU citizen and tax resident residing in Greece, the number goes up to €50 million ($55 million USD).
This amount must not be invested directly into residential or commercial properties. Still, it can also be placed in an escrow account that will be used as collateral for the loan granted by one of Greece's bank accounts (up to 70% of the value of your investment).
What is the Investment Criteria for a Greek Golden Visa?
Real Estate Investment
The most common route to obtain a Golden Visa is through a real estate investment. The minimum investment amount is €250,000 for residential properties outside of Athens, Glyfada, Mykonos, Santorini or Thessaloniki. These prime areas require an investment of €500,000. For any Greek real estate investment, the property can be either a single property or a portfolio of properties as long as the total investment meets the minimum requirement.
Alternative Investment Options
Apart from real estate, there are alternative investment options for obtaining a Golden Visa in Greece. For instance:
- A €400,000 investment in Greek government bonds.
- A €400,000 investment in shares and corporate bonds of Greek companies.
- A €400,000 investment in investment funds that focus on shares, corporate bonds, or government bonds in Greece.
- A combination of real estate and alternative investments to meet the minimum threshold.
- Documented Proof of Funds: The applicant must provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover the investment amount. These funds can come from various sources, such as savings, income, or loans.
Additional non-financial requirements include the following:
- Valid Health Insurance: The applicant and their family members must have valid health insurance coverage in Greece.
- Clean Criminal Record: Applicants and their family members should not have a criminal record that would impede their ability to obtain a residence permit.
- Personal Visit: While the application process can be initiated remotely, the applicant and their family members will be required to visit Greece at least once to complete the biometric data collection process.
How to Apply for a Residence Permit in Greece
The Greece Golden Visa program offers non-EU nationals the opportunity to acquire residency status in Greece by investing in real estate. The program's benefits can be substantial and include travel throughout Europe without a visa and access to other countries where you may have business interests or family ties.
To qualify for a residence permit under this program, applicants must meet specific criteria, including having a clean criminal record and sufficient financial resources to support themselves during their stay in Greece.
Once you have all the necessary documents, you can send them to the Ministry of Citizen Protection. The process should take up to 6 months and costs $3,000 for each individual (and $4,000 for couples). Again, this is not a refundable fee.
Family members who wish to apply simultaneously as the principal applicant must submit their own applications with additional information on why they need residence permits.
They will also need confirmation from their home country that they are registered as living there - if they aren't already in Greece - and proof that they have sufficient funds to support themselves while waiting for the process to complete.
What Are the Benefits of the Golden Visa Program?
- Visa-free travel to the Schengen area
- Access to the European Union’s Single Market
- European citizenship after five year residency period
Greek government boards have introduced many incentives for going through the golden visa program's application process and processing time. While there is undoubtedly a very high minimum investment and often complications with Greek banks, it is still often a worthwhile program to go after.
Here are some of the primary benefits that come along with the golden visa program:
Visa-Free Travel to Schengen area
The visa-free travel option allows you to move freely around the EU's Schengen area countries without applying for a new visa every time you enter or leave a country. Greece is a member of the Schengen area, so a golden visa issued in Greece is valid in all Schengen countries. This can save quite some time and money in the long term. Furthermore, Greece is part of this agreement as well.
Visa-free access to the Schengen zone often requires a long process and many years of residence. However, using a golden visa residenceinvestment route can make you an EU resident much more quickly than almost any other country, including programs in places like:
Access to the European Union's Single Market (EEA)
Being a member of the EEA gives you access to the world's largest trading bloc representing over 500 million consumers from 27 member states. It has free movement of goods, services, capital, and people across its borders.
Additionally, all members are required by law against any non-EU citizen on grounds such as race/nationality/ethnic origin, or religion, which means if one person gets something, everyone should get it.
European Citizenship After Five years Residency Period
There are few countries where becoming a dual citizen is possible even sooner than five years. This special Greece residency makes your eligibility for permanent residence in Europe happen much more quickly.
Greece is also a member of the European Union, so if you hold a golden visa in Greece, your residence permit will be valid throughout Europe.
Processing Times and Costs
Processing times and costs for the Golden Visa program are not set in stone. Processing times for the program can range from three to four months. However, this timeframe is dependent on several factors:
- The amount you invest in Greece (the higher the investment, the quicker your application will be processed). For an application for a Greek Golden Visa to be approved by its immigration authority, investors must first purchase property in Greece worth at least €250,000 (€500,000 if in Athens, Glyfada, Mykonos, Santorini or Thessaloniki) or invest in an existing business worth at least €50 million (or €25 million if they are granted permission to reside permanently). Looking at various investment options and real estate property can speed up or slow the process.
- The attorney representing your application or the bank handling your application (you may use the power of attorney who can help speed up processing time). Attorneys may also increase your costs and sometimes make things take a little longer.
- Your nationality (some nationalities take longer than others).
- Any additional fees may be required for particular circumstances like obtaining a certificate from a Greek court. These naturalization processes and getting a residence card can be rushed by using different methods - don't hesitate to do your research on it.
The Golden Visa program is an excellent opportunity for investors, but it is not without complications. The process of obtaining a visa through this program can be complicated, and it's essential to understand the risks associated with investing in Greece as an investor before making any decisions.
If you want to visit Greece for more than just a couple of weeks or even move to Mykonos or Athens, the Golden Visa program might be perfect.
If you are seriously considering moving to Europe and are looking for better ways to do that, there are a few options. Apart from Greece's Golden Visa program, there are many other ways to travel to and move to many countries and nations in the EU.
Travelers interested in obtaining a Golden Visa for Greece, could consider applying for an ETIAS. An approved ETIAS enables visitors to stay within an EU country of choice for up to 90 days, per 180 day period. Although 90 days may not seem like much time, it gives travelers an opportunity to experience Greek life prior to committing to a longer-term visa application process.
EU travel authorization rules frequently change. Travelers are advised to keep themselves informed by reviewing the latest ETIAS requirements.