Greece Golden Visa: The Definitive Guide
The Greece Golden Visa program is one of the most popular residence by investment programs in Europe, as well as the world. There are some good reasons behind this fact:
- The program offers a number of relatively affordable investment options that will qualify you for a residence permit in Greece
- As a resident, you are not required to spend any time in Greece, at all
- With your Greek residence card, you can travel within the European Schengen states without the need for an additional visa
- You can easily include a wide range of family members within your application and spread the joy
- The program is a trustable residence by investment scheme that is not on any blacklists
- If and once you become a Greek citizen, you can live and work anywhere in the European Union
- Greece is a safe and stable country with a great quality of life, low cost of living, good education and healthcare services, and a wonderful climate
Sadly, there is a lot of unreliable, biased, outdated information online, regarding the Golden Visa program in Greece.
I wanted to make sure that this comprehensive guide does not suffer from any of that misinformation. That’s why I made a huge list of questions and approached four different law firms in Greece that have experience with the Golden Visa program. I also got in contact with a number of professionals, real estate professionals, and immigration consultants, in order to identify the nitty-gritty of the program. Having said that, I should warn you that I am neither a lawyer nor a financial advisor.
With that, let’s get started on the definitive guide to the Greece Golden Visa program!
Brief History of the Greek Golden Visa
Greece got hit hard by the 2008 economic downturn. The recession turned into a full-fledged economic crisis and it lasted, too long.
In 2013, the Greek government set up a residency by investment program to attract foreign capital into Greece. And thus, the Greek Golden Visa was born.
Greece Golden Visa Program
The Greece Golden Visa program allows non-EU/EEA citizens to obtain temporary Greek residence in exchange for an investment in the country.
A real estate investment of €250,000 or more in Greece gets you and your family a Golden Visa. With this residence permit, you can reap all the benefits of being an EU resident, including visa-free travel all across the Schengen area. Best part is, you are not required to spend any time in Greece; there is no stay requirement.
As of 2022, the program benefited more than 28,000 investors and their families. Below, I will provide you with further statistics on the number of applicants and their countries of origin. The program also benefited the Greece economy, as it generated a foreign direct investment that surpassed €6 billion in only a couple of years.
With such benefits to both the investors and the Greek economy, the program is well-favored by the Greek government.
Eligibility and Requirements
Who is Eligible for the Greek Golden Visa?
In order to apply for the Golden Visa in Greece, you need to meet all of the following criteria:
- Be a non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss citizen
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Have a clean criminal record
- Have medical insurance for yourself and your family
- Be of good character
What are the requirements for the Greek Golden Visa?
- Be a non-EU citizen
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Have a clean criminal record
- Great customer support: accessible in different languages via phone and email
- Have medical insurance for yourself and your family
- Be of good character
- Make a qualifying investment
- Maintain the investment for as long as you have a Golden Visa
If a real estate investment isn’t for you, luckily, the Golden Visa program offers other investment options and opportunities.
Any one of the below investment options will qualify you for the program:
- A minimum investment of €250,000 in a Greek real estate property
- A minimum capital contribution of €400,000 in Greek government bonds
- A minimum capital contribution of €400,000 in bonds or shares of real estate investment companies in Greece
- A minimum capital contribution of €400,000 in bonds or shares of a Venture Capital fund, a Private Equity fund, or a Mutual Fund that is headquartered in Greece
- A minimum capital contribution of €400,000 in specific forms of securities or a bank deposit in Greece
- A minimum capital contribution of €800,000 in shares, corporate bonds, or Greek Treasury bonds, listed in trading facilities operating in Greece
Until recently, the only available option was to acquire a real estate property in Greece. However, even with the arrival of the additional options, the most popular investment route remains to be the purchase of a real estate asset with a minimum value of €250,000.
There are some administrative costs that you will need to pay in order to apply for the Greek Golden Visa.
At the initial application and each renewal, the principal applicant must pay €2000. In addition, each family member older than 21 must pay €500, and for under 21, it is €150.
Step by Step Process & Timeline To Obtain the Greece Golden Visa
To make your life easier, we have broken down the application process into eight easy steps.
Selection of investment route and property
To complete this step, you’ll need to determine the investment criteria and select the property you’d like to invest in. One fantastic property of this program is that you can choose various features to invest in. So long as the added value thereof is equal to or above 250,00 euros. You may also want to visit the property and the shortlisted neighborhoods.
And finally, you need to reserve the property by transferring a reservation fee and signing the reservation agreement.
This step can be completed by obtaining a Greek Non-Resident Tax number and opening a Greek bank account. And as an optional step, you can have the execution of power of attorney.
Acquisition of the property
This step consists of executing the ‘Legal Due Diligence’ of the property by a lawyer on your behalf. Afterwhich, you’ll need to acquire the promissory sale and purchase agreement and the execution of a public deed.
To get through this step, you’ll need to prepare all the required documents regarding the Golden Visa application. Usually, hiring a lawyer is a smart idea because this might be overwhelming
Here you’ll need to submit all the biometric data to the relevant authorities in Greece.
Golden Visa Approval
The authorities do this step, your Golden visa application will be approved, and then you’ll be issued a Golden Visa Residence Card.
Every five years, you can apply to renew your Golden Visa residence card, making it easy to access the permanent residence.
Applying for citizenship
Living there for seven years and paying taxes would make you eligible to apply for citizenship and the Greek passport. However, there hasn’t been enough data from investors yet. Which is why we can’t offer a comprehensive understanding of the citizenship process. Since the program only started seven years ago and takes seven years to get citizenship, this is a relatively new opportunity.
What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of the Greek Golden Visas Program?
Each investment you venture into will usually have benefits and drawbacks. Below are a few of the pros and cons of the permanent residency in this country:
Live in Greece and experience the freedom of travel within the Schengen Zone
Greece boasts some of the highest tourism records in the world and for a good reason! Greece’s culture and heritage are a sight to behold. Add to that fantastic beaches, forests, and islands. The geographical and architectural phenomena are endless! The Golden Visa gives you the freedom to live in this majestically enchanting country and to travel around the whole of the Schengen area. Add to that healthcare and education, and this offer becomes irresistible.
What’s more important than family? Nothing. Having your whole family enjoy the unique mix of European and Mediterranean is precisely what this program can offer you. This program allows you to include your spouse and children under 21. And it provides the Extended Family benefits. This means that the principal applicant’s parents and parents-in-law can be covered without any further requirements. The application process is a small price to pay for permanent residency for all your family.
Low investment threshold in a highly promising real estate market
The Greece Golden Visa program is proud to have the lowest investment threshold in Europe. With €250,000, you can invest in one of the world’s highest growing markets, real estate! And not any real estate property, but one in Greece.
Invest in a property on a mountain where nature grows unencumbered, or down by the beach where the beauty is everlasting. However you look at it, the opportunity is simply too good to miss.
The residence in Greece doesn’t allow you to work in the EU
The type of residence you can receive from this program allows you to enjoy many benefits. Unfortunately, working in the EU is not one of them. However, you can set up business as a Greek resident.
Naturalization is more complicated than other Golden Visa Programs
As we mentioned before, becoming a Greek citizen is slightly more complicated than in some other golden visa programs. Requiring investors to live and pay taxes in Greece for seven years. But the golden visa Greece program is still the most popular for its low price and very quick obtaining of the residence.
What About Taxes?
Many attractive taxing laws have been introduced to attract foreign investors. One of those laws is the double taxation treaty. Other than being in the ever-growing Greek real estate market and enjoying all the benefits that come with it. The Greek Double Taxation Treaty states that income from outside Greece while residing therein is not subject to taxation. Meaning that you can be maintaining any business you have outside of Greece while enjoying a tax-free external income. It sounds too good to be true, but it is.
Technically, if you don’t live in Greece, you don’t have to pay taxes. But tax planning is still required, especially if you wish to become a citizen. In which case you must pay taxes for seven years. This process can become confusing, but with the right professional help, it becomes easier to navigate.
Recently, the Ministry of Finance has tabled a law that will implement a flat income tax rate of 7% for foreign retirees. This law will benefit foreigners who transfer their tax residence to Greece.
The Real Estate Market
The Greek economy is still in the recovery stage after the major crash in 2009. It has been steadily and quickly regaining power, with an approximate 2.7% increase in 2017 and 3.1% in 2018.
The real estate market, however, hasn’t bounced back quite as quickly. Property prices are at nearly half their value since the market’s peak in 2008. The number of transactions in that sector reported about a 72% decrease since 2008. But with the country’s winning methods to bolster the economy, the industry has seen an improvement of about 0.5% to 0.6% annually. This all means that there has never been a better time to own Greek property while it’s low and then sit back and watch the value go steadily upwards. Slow and steady does eventually win the race.
In the table below you’ll find an approximation of the costs of buying real estate in Greece.
For ease of calculation, we assumed a used residential property at €100,000 selling price;
|Property Type||Used Residential Apartment|
|Legal Fees||1,5% – 2% + VAT||€1,860 – €2,480|
|Notary Fees||1,5% + VAT||€1,860|
|Title Transition Fee||3,09%||€3,090|
|Real Estate Broker Fee||2% + VAT||€2,480|
|Mortgage Registry Fee**||0,5%||€500|
|* VAT is 24% in Greece|
|** Assuming a mortgage is used in the property acquisition|
Is it necessary to hire a lawyer to collect the documentation?
It is not legally required, but it is a good idea to always consult a professional.
Who is considered a family member?
According to the law, family members of third-country citizens entering the country are:
- The direct descendants of the spouses, who are under the age of 21
- The direct relatives of the spouses in the ascending line
Are unmarried partners entitled to a Greek residency?
Family members do not include unmarried partners.
Can the investor travel to other countries within the EU with the residence permit in Greece for owners of real estate?
Yes. The permit and long-term visas are valid as far as the person’s free movement in the Schengen area is concerned.
Can the Greek residence permit be considered as a work permit?
In no case does the permit provide access to any type of employment.
Does the residence permit in Greece give the holder the right to apply for citizenship?
It does not grant direct access to Greek citizenship. However, it allows its holder to become a long-term resident, which is a qualification required for citizenship.
Does the amount of €250,000 include the Value Added Tax? What should the value of the investment be if the ownership/sale document includes the name of both spouses?
The amount of €250.000 refers to the price indicated on the contract. In cases of joint ownership of the real estate property by spouses, the residence right is granted to both spouses.
Is it possible to obtain more than one piece of property, the individual value of which is less than €250.000, if the combined value is equal or greater than € 250.000?
The investors of the residency program are allowed to invest in more than one property. As long as the combined value is equal to or greater than €250.000, the application is valid.
Can the investor buy commercial property or a combination of commercial and residential properties or land?
The law states that €250.000 must be the stated price on the contract. It does not distinguish between commercial and residential properties.
Can the applicant take a mortgage out on the property to receive a loan?
Is it required of the buyer to prove economic capacity?
The income of the applicant must be proven by documentation, which shows their capacity. The existence of bank accounts or other transferable securities. Especially shares or bonds must be certified.
If third-country citizens jointly make a property purchase for €2.000.000, are all the joint owners entitled to a residence permit?
Yes, provided that the amount invested by each one is of a minimum value of €250.000.
What happens in the cases where someone tarnishes their criminal record, either in their country of origin or in Greece, during the period when their residence permit is valid?
This leads to the revocation of the residence permit.
Is it possible to rent the real estate property to third parties?
Third-country citizens who own real estate have the right to rent their property.
Do I have to know Greek to obtain residence?
No, this residency scheme only requires a minimum investment of €250.000 to be eligible for residency. No knowledge of the language is required. You might have to learn Greek if you wish to obtain citizenship.
How long is the permit valid for?
The permit is valid for five years and can be renewed indefinitely, provided the property investment is kept.
How long do I have to live in Greece?
This program doesn’t require the investor to live in Greece. However, if you wish to apply for citizenship, then you have to live there for seven years.
If I obtain the Greece golden visa and become a resident, do I have to pay taxes there?
You have to pay taxes only on the income you receive in Greece, thanks to the double taxation treaty. Of course, if you spend most of the year there, you become a tax resident in Greece and must pay taxes.