The Golden Visa program was initiated in 2013 and it is part of a series of immigrant investment programs initiated in Greece in order to combine specific residency benefits with high-net-worth investments. The Golden Visa program is linked to real estate acquisitions and compared to relative programs of other EU states is one of the cheapest, since the threshold to fall under the relevant provision is set at 250.000€ in property value.
The provisions apply to third-country citizens who fully own property in Greece whose value is estimated at least at 250.000€ or have signed a lease agreement – for a minimum of 10 years – for hotel accommodations or furnished tourist residences in integrated tourist resorts, provided the minimum cost of the lease is €250.000. Τhe individual will be granted a residence permit of 5 years, subject to renewal provided that the property remains in the ownership and possession of the third-country national. In no case does the residence permit provide access to the labour market.
The interested party should be able to support his intention to buy property by documentation proving financial capacity that can cover the investment complemented by proof of actions to conclude the acquisition (e.g. contract with a law firm or with a real state office).
The provision allows for the benefit to be extended to the immediate members of the individuals’ family, namely the spouse or partner through a civil partnership, children up to the age of 21 years old, parents and parents-in-law. For the members of the family, an individual residence permit can be issued upon request, which does not include access to employment. The children of the applicant, who have been originally admitted to the country under the terms and requirements of residence permit for property owners, are issued with a residence permit for family reunification until the age of 21. After that, it is possible to acquire a renewal as an independent residence permit until they reach the age of 24 and then it is possible to renew it further according to pertinent immigration legislation.
The administration fees amount to 2.000€.
Practical issues: identified and analyzed
As mentioned above, the residence permit does not allow for any sort of employment, safe for the exercise of duties as a holding shareholder, member of the board of directors or managing director in a legal entity.
It is important to note that through the Golden Visa procedure, the individual is granted with a residence privilege rather than an obligation of residence as opposed to other EU states. That means that the third country citizen is not legally required to reside in Greece for a minimum period of time per year; a few days stay in Greece will suffice. Absences from the country do not impede the renewal of the residence permit. The resale of the real estate property, during the period when the residence permit is valid, to another third country citizen provides to the new owner the right to a residence permit along with a simultaneous revocation of the seller’s residence permit.
Furthermore, through the issue of a residence permit the individual will be able to travel freely within the Schengen area, for up to 3 months within a six month period, while also maintaining a right for multiple entries.
Issues regarding the property
The provision leaves abundant ground to several buying combinations of property. To begin with, the property can be bought by a legal entity, but for the individual to be granted a residence permit, he must own 100% of the company shares. Furthermore, a joint property among third country nationals can be pursued but for the Golden Visa to be issued, each of the joint owners must invest at least 250.000€. For instance, if foreign citizens join forces to buy a hotel and each of them contributes 250.000€, all of them will fall under the scope of the provision. In case where the co-owners are spouses, the right of residence is granted to both the husband and the wife that hold an undivided ownership percentage. The amount of 250.000€ is not necessary to derive from a sole property, but it can be the sum of the value of the properties owned in Greece.
Moreover, the law does not pose any restrictions on the type of the property bought; therefore, it can be commercial, residential or a combination of the two. However, limitations on national security’s grounds apply to border regions where acquiring property is restricted by law but a solid application, clearly stating the intended use of the property, can result in the lifting of the relevant ban.
The owner can commercialize his property, for instance through short-/long- term leasing, without restrictions and without implications on his residence permit. As long as the individual remains the owner of the property, he can use the property as he sees fit.
Connection with citizenship
The residence permits of Real Estate Owners and permanent residence permit for Investors have been added to the categories of residence permits that are eligible for the submission of an application for the acquisition of Greek citizenship. In this case, the applicants must fulfil all the preconditions of the Greek Citizenship Code applied for the acquisition of Greek citizenship by naturalization. The provisions apply only to the real estate owners and investors themselves, and not their family members, who must first obtain the long-term residence status, which is a prerequisite for naturalization.