Golden visa: One billion euros in Greece’s coffers in five months

Tue, 18 Jul 2023 8:15 GMT
Golden visa demand soars – Thousands of pending applications.
Golden visa: One billion euros in Greece’s coffers in five months

There has been an investment explosion in recent years in Greece, as after the abolition of the “golden visa” program in Portugal, it is garnering the lion’s share from this program.

The increased buying and selling of real estate brings hot money to state coffers, while strong mobility is also observed in the country’s notary offices.

According to statistics from the Department of Immigration and Asylum, in the first five months of the year the Golden Visa boosted Greek economy by almost €1 billion.

In particular, a total of 3,900 requests to purchase property were submitted under the program for the period from January to May, compared to 1,444 recorded in the corresponding period last year. At the same time, properties worth 975 euros were sold, a total increase of 170% or three times higher compared to last year’s figures of 361 million euros.

Non-EU third country investors have until the end of July to reach an agreement to acquire properties at the reduced price of €250,000, thus securing the coveted residence permit, but also the property of their choice in terms of location, before the minimum threshold increase to 500,000 euros.

Thousands of pending applications

As points out, increased interest in Greece’s Golden Visa program is putting intense pressure on the country’s authorities, with more than 5,444 investor visa applications awaiting approval.

For the period from May last year to May 2023, 8,351 investor visa applications were submitted to the authorities in Greece, of which 35% were approved.

In addition, in the first five months of this year a total of 1,938 requests were approved compared to 777 recorded last period, recording an increase of 149%.

In May alone, 412 licenses were issued, up from 220 in the corresponding month of 2022.

The end of Portugal’s Golden Visa program turned the eyes of Americans to Greece: according to the London-based investment company Astons, our country is now the third most popular for offering such opportunities to wealthy foreign nationals.

Changes to the “golden visa

From August 1 onwards, and as long as no further extension is granted, those who wish to obtain a residence permit and at the same time want to acquire a property in the center of Athens, in the southern and northern suburbs, in Thessaloniki, Mykonos and Santorini will have to invest at least 500,000 euros. Those who have signed pre-agreements by July 31 will have until the end of 2023 to proceed with the signing of the final purchase and sale contracts and to apply for the issuance of the residence permit for themselves and their family members.

Market executives estimate that investment interest through the “golden visa” program after the changes from August will shift to other regions, where the €250,000 limit will continue to apply.

It is worth noting that golden visas became “fashionable” after the financial crisis of 2008, with countries such as Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain offering them as a way to attract investment. Since then, they have brought in billions as millionaires sought easier travel and comfortable retirements – sometimes even citizenship.

Pressure from Brussels

The EU has long pressured governments to put the brakes on golden visa schemes, arguing they are undemocratic and can serve as a conduit for dirty money to enter the bloc. Ireland ended its own program on 15 February, as did Portugal a few months later. Market players recently told Bloomberg that these decisions add to the wave of interest in such programs in Greece and Spain.

What evidence is available – and it is not very much – shows that the vast majority of people benefiting from the programs are from China. In Ireland, which granted residency in exchange for property investments of at least €500,000 to buyers with personal assets of at least €2m, Chinese nationals accounted for more than 90% of the 1,727 applications approved from 2012 until the end of the scheme. In Greece, they represent almost 60% of the 12,818 golden visas issued in the last decade. In Portugal, the figure is 50% of the 11,758 licenses granted since 2012, according to Bloomberg.

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