Greece's Golden Visa Program Faces Uncertainty Amid Proposed Investment Threshold Changes

Greece's Golden Visa Program Faces Uncertainty Amid Proposed Investment Threshold Changes

The Greek government wants to tweak the rules for its Golden Visa program, which lets foreigners invest in property to attain residency. However, this has real estate professionals, foreign investors, and homeowners concerned.

The proposed changes would raise the minimum amount of money needed to invest in real estate to €800,000 in certain areas of Greece. This has sparked concerns that the program might become less attractive compared to other options.

Golden visa investment minimums to vary by region

According to reports, the new minimums would be tiered based on location:

  • Zone A (€800,000): Central, southern, and northern Attica; Athens capital region; central Thessaloniki; Mykonos and Santorini islands, potentially including Crete, the Cyclades, and the Dodecanese islands.

  • Zone B (€400,000 to €500,000): Areas with rising prices since last year’s minimum increase.

  • Zone C (€250,000): Municipalities with less foreign real estate demand.

The three-zone structure aims to account for significant regional differences in Greece’s housing markets.

However, some people worry that setting the minimum investment amount for the top tier at €800,000 might make foreign investors think twice about participating.

This concern is especially relevant because other European golden visa programs offer better incentives for a lower threshold.

How Greece compares to other Golden Visa programs

Cyprus, Malta, and Spain offer residency-by-investment programs where anyone can invest in real estate at a lower minimum amount. Cyprus requires €300,000, Malta €350,000, and Spain €500,000.

If Greece’s top zone rises to €800,000, it may drive applicants to other programs seen as more economical.

As reported in Ekathimerini, the proposed changes could lead to a decrease in demand due to the loss of competitiveness compared to other countries.

Real estate experts are concerned that raising prices too much could make Greece less attractive to international investors.

Housing shortage prompts rethink of Golden Visa rules

The motivation behind Greece’s proposed golden visa changes is addressing the nation’s housing shortage.

The country has faced rising rents and property prices, pricing many Greek citizens out of homeownership.

In August 2023, Greece raised the minimum real estate investment for golden visas from €250,000 to €500,000 in areas like Athens and Thessaloniki.

However, the increase actually spurred a surge in sales as investors rushed to buy properties before the new threshold took effect.

Greece’s government believes that stricter golden visa requirements could help relieve pressure on housing availability and affordability.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated that the €250,000 minimum would be preserved “for areas with no residential pressure.”

Strong economy and quality of life still draw immigrants

While looming golden visa revisions have worried foreign investors, Greece remains an attractive destination for immigrants thanks to its strong economic rebound from the European debt crisis.

Greece has also benefited from digital nomad and remote worker interest during the pandemic.

For non-European Union (EU) families and students, Greece continues to offer a high quality of life and a faster path to citizenship than most European nations.

These factors could counterbalance golden visa program uncertainty, underscoring Greece’s enduring appeal to newcomers.

Future of Greece’s residency-by-investment program unclear

Greece’s Golden Visa Program has dramatically boosted foreign investment since its launch.

By the end of 2021, the scheme had attracted more than €9 billion in capital. Real estate transactions have been the most popular type of investment.

The proposed tiered minimums aim to balance Greece’s needs both to address the housing crisis and to continue attracting foreign money.

However, fears linger that substantially hiking the top investment threshold could backfire by driving away golden visa applicants.

If fewer investors opt for Greece’s residency by investment program, it could deprive the country of a major funding stream.

The coming months will determine whether Greece can remake the golden visa’s real estate rules without diminishing the program’s world-leading success.