The “GOLDEN VISA” Program

25 November 2019

The GOLDEN VISA program was introduced and implemented in Greece, for the first time, under Law 4146/2013. It was reworded with Law 4251/2014 and in particular with Articles 16 and 20 thereof, which, after successive amendments that have followed in the interim, are still in force today.

The Legislature’s aim was, among other things, to stimulate the domestic real estate market and, in fact, the numbers speak for themselves: based on recent official data (September 2019) of the Ministry of Citizen Protection, approximately 5,300 permanent residence permits have been issued up to date (without counting the family members accompanying them). The vast majority of permits issued so far come from investments in real estate in Greece. Ιf one, wishes to classify the residence permits of investors issued so far on the basis of nationality, he concludes that at the top of this list are the Chinese with a great difference from the second Turks, with the Russians coming third and with several countries to follow (in the order: Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq etc) completing this “informal” race among third-country nationals who have invested in our country.

But what exactly is the GOLDEN VISA program?

In essence, it is a residence permit issued to third-country nationals who make various types of investments in our country as listed in the law. The residence permit granted, is subject to different acquisition conditions and is essentially subdivided into two major categories, depending on the type of investment (Section 2 is the category in which we will focus in this article since it is of increasing interest).

Specifically, depending on the type of investment, it is granted:

1. «Residence permit for investment activity» to third-country nationals who, have entered the country legally and either themselves or through legal entities and under the conditions laid down in Article 16 of Law 4251/2014 as in force today, have made:

a) Investments that have a positive impact on national development and the economy

b) «Strategic investments»

c) Intangible Investments (Indicative: time deposits, capital injection to a company based or installed in Greece, purchase of Greek government bonds, purchase of equity shares etc.) worth at least 400,000 € or 

2. « Investor Permanent Residence Permit», to a third-country national who, having entered the country legally and under the conditions laid down in Article 20 par. B of Law 4251/2014 as in force today:

a) Has freehold ownership and possession of a real estate in Greece.

b) Has freehold ownership and possession of  a real estate in Greece, through a legal entity based in Greece or another EU Member State, whose shares or company parts are wholly owned by him.

c) Has entered into a long-term lease of a complex tourist accommodation, or a timeshare lease of a tourist accommodation

d) Has acquired freehold ownership and possession, as an inheritor from intestacy or  will, or as a consequence of a parental benefit, of real estate with the objective value of two hundred and fifty thousand (250.000) euro, and he is an adult.

A recent, Ministerial Decision also provided for the conditions for obtaining the above residence permit through the purchase of a parcel or plot in which the investor subsequently wishes to build or restore a house through a contractor agreement.

For all the above cases of permanent investor residence permit (2nd category), the minimum value of the real estate, as well as the total contractual price of the leases of the above mentioned accommodation or leasing contracts is set at € 250,000 and the amount is paid in all, following a very recent change to the Law (“Investing in Greece”), either (a) by a crossed bank check on the payment account of the seller, being held at a credit institution operating in Greece, or (b) by transfer credit, or c) through P.O.S established by a payment service provider that operates in Greece with bank charge credit or debit card of the buyer at a payment account of the seller, kept in payment services provider that operates in Greece.

The above methods of payment may be made either by the spouse and / or by  blood relatives  or by affinity relatives till 2nd degree from the buyer. All the above mentioned payment methods apply retrospectively, from 01.01.2017 until today.

Upon completion of the purchase and transcription of the deed to the competent land registry, the person concerned, in person or through his or her power of attorney, collects the necessary supporting documents and submits a complete file to any department of Immigration Services of the Decentralized Administrations of the country, based on the recent Ministerial Decision that aimed at the decongestion of the large urban centers and the decrease of the waiting times.

He may also, if he so wishes, be accompanied by members of his family (other spouse, unmarried  children below 21 years of the spouses, direct ancestors of the spouses), who file a relevant file accompanied by a relevant fee and obtain a permit, which ends at the same time as that of the investor.

The residence permit is initially granted to the applicant for a period of 5 years, with the possibility of renewal each time, for a further 5 years and for as long as the investor retains ownership of the property.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the Law, as it is in force today, enables a third-country citizen residing in our country who has obtained the above-mentioned residence permit, to establish the right to acquire Greek Citizenship, thus giving one more – even long-term – strong motivation.

The future of the program can only be auspicious, because both the imminent implementation of the long-awaited three-year suspension of V.A.T announced by the Prime Minister in his recent speech and recent amendments to the Law will certainly lead to an ever-increasing attraction of foreign investors to our country.