The Greek Golden Visa program has brought approximately €5.54 billion into the country’s real estate market over the past decade through foreign investment, according to recent data from Greece’s Migration Ministry.
The program grants residency permits to non-European Union (EU) investors in exchange for certain real estate purchases or other investments.
As of 2023, a total of 22,298 golden visa permits have been issued under the initiative.
However, the total foreign capital inflow is likely higher, as many investors have purchased multiple properties exceeding the €250,000 minimum set by the program.
Visa Applications Doubled in 2023, Boosting Home Sales
Golden visa applications hit record highs in 2023, jumping 100% year-over-year with 8,351 submissions lodged last year.
The scheme channeled €1.32 billion into Greek real estate in 2023 alone.
The buying frenzy comes as Greece made adjustments to Golden Visa requirements in mid-2023, hiking the minimum property purchase threshold to €500,000 in certain areas including Athens and Greek islands.
These regulatory tweaks appear to have spurred demand in 2023 as investors rushed to get in under the former €250,000 threshold.
So far, this strategy has been successful, with January-November data showing a 77.8% annual increase in Golden Visa permits granted to British nationals and a 77.6% rise for Israeli investors.
99% of Homes Bought are Rented Out
Industry experts estimate that 99% of Golden Visa purchasers rent out the Greek properties that they obtain, viewing them primarily as income-generating assets.
The president of real estate firm V2 Development noted that this means the program has a limited impact on issues like vacant housing in Greece’s urban centers.
However, opposition political parties have blamed the Golden Visa scheme for inflating property prices and restricting housing access for Greek citizens.
Some have called for abolishing or significantly reforming the initiative, arguing that it operates as an “estate agency” at the expense of locals.
Minimum Investment Could Rise Further
In light of these criticisms, the Greek government is reportedly weighing further increases to the Golden Visa investment thresholds, while potentially keeping requirements lower for certain market segments like listed properties.
The country’s finance minister acknowledged that additional “measures to limit” the Golden Visa program would likely be imposed soon, though he did not provide specifics.
The aim seems to be slowing demand to stabilize rents and sale prices.
Even if minimums are raised across the board, Greece would still offer one of Europe’s most affordable Golden Visa options with investment requirements as low as €250,000.
The program may continue expanding in lower-cost areas and islands not impacted by threshold changes.
Visa Program Limits Options for Long-Term EU Stays
Possible Golden Visa investment increases may restrict choices for EU people who want to live long-term in Greece.
Retirees, online workers, and others have used the program to get residency.
However, even the current €250,000 home purchase minimum is still too high for many middle-class EU families and workers.
Further hikes to €500,000 or more could put Golden Visas out of reach for more potential expats.
The upcoming ETIAS system will let EU visitors stay 90 visa-free days in Greece and other Schengen countries after May 2025.
However, those seeking full residency still face roadblocks without options like Golden Visas.
Debates Spotlight Immigration Policy Issues
Controversies around Greece’s property investment visa program highlight bigger immigration policy problems.
Giving out residence permits for buying homes has risen in the last 10 years, letting over 20,000 foreigners relocate.
However, the impact on housing costs and availability for Greeks has become a sore point.
The upcoming ETIAS scheme shows related trade-offs as EU states balance tourist money against social worries.
Greece's endless debates over Golden Visas prove immigration rules have to strike a delicate balance.
Golden Visa at Crossroads as Criticism Mounts
Over 22,000 foreign nationals have gained Greek residency under the golden visa initiative, with billions invested into the country’s real estate market.
While the scheme has sparked controversy domestically, stricter regulations could be on the horizon even as rising demand drives 2023 application numbers to new heights.