Residency by investment, or perhaps eventually, citizenship by investment, is certainly growing in popularity for those who want to establish a new life in a different country. As a result, there are many Golden Visa programs out there for you to choose from. One that particularly stands out to us is the Greek Golden Visa. If you are an EU third-country national and you are looking for a path to residency (or even citizenship) in the EU economic area, or you are a non-EU retiree, self-employed, or digital nomad wanting to establish a home, and have enough money to invest in Greek real estate - then the Greek Golden Visa option should definitely be high on your list.

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It’s one of the most family friendly Golden Visa options in Europe, allowing even your grandparents to join you after making the investment (usually it is restricted to your spouse and unmarried children). While this sounds great, one thing you should note is that while it is a great option for those looking for a path to EU citizenship, you won’t get as far unless you really aim to establish yourself and your family in Greece, becoming a full part of Greek society as well. But to be honest, if you like good weather, laidback lifestyle and delicious food, it won’t be very hard to find yourself feeling at home in Greece.

Here are some reasons why you should consider it:

  • There are no stay requirements to keep the residency.
  • Low minimum investment amount to qualify.
  • You have access to the entire EU and Schengen area during your residency.
  • Great path to Greek citizenship, with the 8th strongest passport in the world.
  • Greece is a safe EU country with a low cost of living, cheaper real estate, and a good climate and quality of life for expats.
  • The program is NOT blacklisted by the OECD, unlike many other Golden Visa programs.
  • Tax incentive program where foreigners pay a flat 7% rate for the first ten years of their residence.
  • Unlike other visa programs, there is an extra family benefit. Not only can you bring your spouse and children under the age of 21, but parents and in-law parents can also benefit from the Golden Visa.

Possible cons:

  • It doesn’t give you access to work in Greece or the rest of the EU while not having citizenship-status
  • You can’t sell your investment after a set number of years, so you will need to maintain the investment if you want to keep the residency for all your family. Once you have citizenship, you are free to sell it (assuming your family members are no longer dependent on the Golden Visa for their residency status)
  • There is a 183 day per year residency requirement for 7 consecutive years to qualify for citizenship
  • It is generally not easy to apply for citizenship through naturalization in Greece (you have to prove strong affinity ties to the country in an interview with a special naturalization committee, as well as possess strong language skills, and pass a citizenship test)

History of the Greek Golden Visa

The Greek Golden Visa program was first introduced in 2013. Since then it has had over 8,000 applicants receive a Golden Visa along with over 15,000 dependents. The visa program really took off in later years. With 958 Golden Visas issued in 2017, 1,891 in 2018, and 3,504 in 2019. In 2020 however, that number went down dramatically to 403. This was due to Covid, as at the time, it was required to visit Greece to start the visa process. Since the end of 2020, the laws have been changed and now it is possible to go through the majority of the Golden Visa process (and in some cases, the whole process) remotely. In this case, you can receive your temporary residence card in the mail.

According to the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, the Golden Visa has created approximately 2.6 billion euros of investment in Greek funds and real estate. Most applicants have come from China, Turkey, Russia, and the Middle East.

Requirements for obtaining the Golden Visa

Who is eligible for the Golden Visa?

Anyone who is a third-country national can apply for the Greek Golden Visa. That means anyone who isn’t already an EU or EEA country citizen can apply after making a suitable investment. To be eligible you must also have medical insurance for yourself and your family, as well as basic requirements such as being at least 18 years old, have a clean criminal record, and be of ‘good character’.

What requirements do you need for residency and citizenship?

In order to qualify for the Golden Visa and to keep Greek residency as a result, you must make one of the following investment options:

  • Invest 250,000 euros in real estate. This is by far the most popular route and the investment can be made anywhere in the country. There are no requirements for it to be a low-density vs. high-density area.
  • Make a capital contribution of 400,000 euros in either Greek government bonds, or bonds or shares in either real estate investment companies in Greece or in venture funds and private equity that are headquartered in Greece.
  • Sign a ten-year lease agreement for hotel accommodation or a furnished tourist residence, provided that the minimum cost of the lease is 250,000 euros.

Compared to other European Golden Visa programs, many of which look for a 500,000 euros investment in real estate, Greece is a much more affordable option for many people. What’s also great about the Greek Golden Visa program, is that there are no stay requirements for the residency. As long as you maintain your investment, you have Greek residency.

Update for 2023: It was announced that some time in early 2023, the minimum investment amount for real estate will be doubled to 500,000 euros in some big cities and suburbs. It will primarily affect investments in Athens and Thessaloniki as well as some surburbs near to Athens. We will update this article with the exact details once they are made available.

Although there are no stay requirements for residency if you are looking for a path to citizenship you need to have spent considerable time in Greece. To qualify for Greek citizenship, you must have been a tax-paying resident in Greece for seven years, with at least 183 days per year spent in Greece. In addition to that, there is a language proficiency test and a Greek citizenship test.

Application Process

The process is quite straightforward, although it will require a lot of documentation from both your country of origin and Greece. While you can do this all by yourself if you want, it’s a much better idea to do some of these steps with the help of a lawyer or at least someone who speaks Greek.

Select a property and investment option

Select one of the investment options that were mentioned earlier. For the capital contribution option, the only requirement is that the investment must have a positive impact on national development and the economy. There are no specific sectors you must consider or rules about the location of the project. That said, the most popular industries to choose from in Greece are tourism, food, and beverage, ICT, manufacturing, logistics, pharmaceuticals, and energy.

Get a Greek bank account

In order to open a Greek bank account, and therefore make the investment, you will need a Greek non-resident tax number (AFM). To do this, you either need to do it in person at a Greek tax office or remotely through granting power of attorney to a local accountant or lawyer. Please note that a regular notary is not enough, and you are required to sign the power of attorney in front of a Greek consulate. You will need a photocopy of your passport, birth certificate, and marriage certificate if married. Once you have an AFM tax number, you must submit your tax return every year in Greece, regardless of your income or residency.

To send the investment purchase amount, you don’t need to have a Greek bank account and can do it from a foreign bank account, however when you pay property tax and utility bill payments, it has to come from a Greek bank account. Currently, the only option for opening a bank account remotely in Greece is Pireus Bank. This will also need to be done by providing power of attorney to your legal representative. Most banks are still firmly brick-and-mortar, however things seem to be on the path towards change due to Covid, so it is likely more remote banking options will open up in the future.

Acquire the investment

In order to get the ball rolling with the visa process, you will need to get a lawyer to help exercise due diligence on your behalf. If all is clear and you are ready to move forward, you will need to sign a promissory sale and purchase agreement.

Submit your documentation for the Golden Visa

The amount of documentation needed is quite overwhelming, so we strongly advise getting a lawyer to do this with you, especially if you are not able to visit Greece. You will need to submit general documentation that is required for any Greek residency visa:

  • Copy of all passports for you and your family members
  • Signed insurance contract covering all costs of hospitalization and medical care.
  • Criminal record certificate
  • Medical certificate
  • Four recent color passport photos
  • Proof of funds
  • A 500 euro fee paid through e-paravolo (Greek online platform for paying administrative fees)
  • A 16 euro processing fee, also paid through e-paravolo.
  • Depending on the type of investment, you may be asked to provide occupation information such as your CV

Typically you would also have to provide biometrics for all family members, but it was made simpler due to Covid restrictions. Now, you will apply for the blue papers (temporary residency permit). Once the application has been made, you have up to 12 months to visit Greece with your family to do the biometrics, making it much more flexible. After this, you will finally be able to apply for permanent residence.

You can also submit your family’s documentation at the same time if you would like them to move together with you. However, it isn’t required and you can pursue their visas at a later stage if you wish.

If your investment is non-real estate, then you will need to give additional documentation related to the investment. These are:

  • Details of the legal entity (if applicable, i.e company, share-holder structure) that intends to make the investment
  • Details of the investment project (location and description)
  • The investment budget, financial structure, and a timeline for acquiring the investment.
  • A five-year forecast of the investment, including how many jobs are likely to be created as a result, as well as a feasibility study.

A local lawyer that has expertise in visa applications should be able to help acquire this information. Also, please be aware that all documentation has to be submitted in Greek, or with a certified Greek translation.

Wait for approval and move to Greece (finally!)

Once it is approved, you will receive your temporary residence permit in the mail. At this stage, you are free to go to Greece, fulfill the biometrics, and finally apply for Greek permanent residency.

Renewal

One of the major conveniences of the Greek Golden Visa compared with the one Portugal offers is that you only have to renew your residence permit every 5 years for a 500 euro fee. You also don’t have to renew the residence permits for any of your family members as they automatically expire when the sponsor’s permit expires.

As long as the investment still exists, you are ok to renew the visa. You will need to submit:

  • A filled-in application
  • Copy of all passports for you and your family members
  • Signed insurance contract covering all costs of hospitalization and medical care.
  • A copy of the current permanent residency card
  • Proof of health insurance

Identifying and making your investment

You are probably wondering right now, how do you go about finding the right investment for your application. Well, considering that if you take the real estate option, you only have to invest 250,000 euros, as opposed to a capital contribution of 400,000 euros, most people will probably be looking at investment by real estate.

Having said that, investment by capital contribution is a smoother process, as you can do it directly with a specialty lawyer, without involving third parties, as opposed to the real estate option which could be prone to delays, and requires a larger time frame. It can have its advantages, it just depends on what you are trying to achieve with your investment and golden visa (and how much you are willing to invest, of course). If you are not planning on moving to Greece with the goal of citizenship, and instead of having the hassle of maintaining a property there, you would rather go for intangible assets, then perhaps the capital contribution option is better suited towards you.

It’s worth noting however that the average annual ROI is much higher for real estate - typically somewhere between 3-5%. The property values slumped quite a bit following the pandemic, making post 2020 an opportune time to invest. Since Greece is quite a popular tourist destination, it’s quite popular for people to use their investment as a tourist rental apartment to earn some income (especially considering the Golden Visa doesn’t give you the usual right to employment in Greece.)

Besides the investment amount, the same terms apply in that you have to renew your permit every 5 years, maintaining your investment throughout the duration of your permanent residence. So, in all, it just depends on your personal goals with the project. The capital contribution option is relatively newer and still one to consider, however it’s clear the investment by real estate is the top choice of most applicants.

To get started with finding a suitable property, we recommend taking a look at some of the most popular Greek real estate aggregator websites to get an idea of what the local prices are like. You can expect that some real estate websites that are geared specifically at expats may have much more expensive prices compared to the local ones. Luckily, most of these sites have an English version. The most popular by far among locals is Spitogatos, with others such as Xrisi Efkeria, Spiti 24, Idealista (also popular in Spain and Portugal), and Tospitimou offering a wide range of properties for sale.

If you are looking for advice and consultations on how to begin with the process of acquiring an investment/property, we highly recommend checking out Get Golden Visa. Their expert team consists of real estate professionals, investment advisors and legal professionals, and they have a lot of up-to-date knowledge about the Greek Golden Visa, and can be sure to put you on the right track.

FAQ

How does the Greece GV compare to the Portuguese GV?

We have a detailed comparison between the Greek, Portuguese and Spanish Golden visas. The main differences are in the way you can obtain citizenship, the contribution amount, the stay requirements, and family reunification benefits. If you are mainly looking for EU citizenship without having to spend most of the year in one place, then Portugal is probably a better option. If you don’t mind settling down for 7 years in Greece, then the lower cost of this program may be more favorable for you.

How much does it cost to obtain the Greece Golden Visa?

If you add the amount you need to invest, legal fees, translation fees, and other administrative fees regarding acquiring the necessary documentation, it’s hard to give an exact figure but you can expect to pay around 11-12% of the property value considering all costs. Some expenses will include:

  • Property transfer tax: 3.09% of the property value (or the objective value, whichever is the highest)
  • Notary public fees: 1-1.24% of the property value (or the objective value, whichever is the highest)
  • Land registry fee: 0.6%-0.8% of the property value(or the objective value, whichever is the highest)
  • Lawyer fee: around 10,000 euros for a property of 250,000 euros and a GV application for 3 people
  • GV payment to the Greek government - 2000 euros for the main investor, and 150 euros per other family member.
  • The family needs health insurance to qualify, which is around 100 euros for adults and 80 euros for dependent children (varying by age)
  • Fee to the Greek Consulate for the visa application, which costs around 300 euros
  • Visa renewal: this will cost you an extra 500 euros when the time comes

Can I split the €250,000 investment between a combination of properties?

You are entitled to residency rights regardless of the number of properties you own, provided that their combined value is equal to or greater than €250,000. The law also does not distinguish between commercial and residential properties - it can be a mix of both if you want.

If it is 100% privately owned, you can. However, you will have to provide details of the legal entity and its structure during the visa application stage.

Are there any restrictions applied to qualifying real estate?

No restrictions arise from the Greek Golden Visa Law, opposite to other countries’ relevant legislation, regarding the location of the property (i.e. it makes no difference whether the property is located downtown or in the province). However, there are some general restrictions on the purchase of properties located in a limited number of border regions. Individual or legal entities that are affected by the restrictions above may request the lifting of the ban for the border regions when submitting their application, which should clearly state the intended use of the property.

How long is the wait/processing time for the Greece Golden Visa?

Once the Golden Visa application has been made, your legal representatives can get temporary residence through a power of attorney (without you needing to be present) in 1-2 months. Once again, you must sign the power of attorney in front of the Greek Consulate. A regular notary is not enough. The permanent residency can come in 2 months following the biometrics, which need to be done in person. The time schedule for this process does not have any significant delays, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the timetable for the acquisition of property has gotten a bit longer.

You can expect that it will take around 3 months to complete the property acquisition process (presuming you issue a power of attorney for the legal representatives), then another 2 months to get a temporary residence permit. After travelling to Greece to do the biometrics, it can take up to 2 months before you will get your permanent residence cards for you and your family.

When do I have to travel to Greece?

Since the law was updated at the end of 2020, the only time you have to travel to Greece is once the application has been approved (to do you and your family’s biometrics). You may need to go there to open up a non-resident bank account, although as already mentioned, there are alternatives to this.

Do all the supporting documents have to be in Greek?

The documents required for the application for a residence permit should be submitted in Greek, except for the documents issued by foreign authorities which need to be certified before being translated. Two types of certification are accepted: a) The Apostille stamp for countries that participate in the Hague Convention. b) Certification by the Consular. It is possible to have the foreign public documents translated in Greece via the Translation Service of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs or a Certified Lawyer.

Which family members can come with me when issued a Golden Visa?

According to the law, family members of third country citizens entering the country include: a. Spouses, b. The direct descendants of the spouses, who are under the age of 21 (children), c. The direct descendants of the investor or his/her spouse (parents and parents-in-law). Unmarried partners are not considered to be family members.

Do dependent children need to stay dependent during the whole Golden Visa process?

Dependent children are granted residence permits up to the age of 21. During this time, their residency depends on the sponsor’s residency permit. So, if it expires, their dependent children’s permit also expires. Once they reach the age of 21, they become entitled to an autonomous residence permit, independent from the resident permit based on investment. They are allowed to reside in Greece on the basis of this permit until age 24.

After this, another renewal is possible only according to regular immigration law. In other words, they would have to apply for citizenship (presuming they have been resident in Greece for the past 7 years) or else there is also the option to transfer the investment to the 24-year old, making them the main investor. This way, you will keep the residency as well as your son/daughter.

Can the residence permit be considered a work permit?

No. Unfortunately, the Golden Visa doesn’t grant any access to employment (including freelancing), except when it comes to acting as a shareholder, CEO or other board member. So, you would have to set up your own business in the country to rely on income.

Can I stay more than 90 days in other Schengen countries with Greek Golden Visa?

Greece is a member of the EU Schengen Zone so the holders of the Greek Golden Visa enjoy the privilege of free movement within the Schengen Zone, without any requirement for further visa applications. The stay in those countries cannot exceed 90 days in each 180-day period.

How will the taxes work for me in Greece?

As previously mentioned, the Golden Visa doesn’t grant access to employment within Greece, unless you are receiving a board member or CEO salary. However, there is a flat 7% tax rate for the first 10 years on all foreign income. All foreign income from real estate investments, pensions, and other foreign sourced income will be taxed at this 7% rate. In the case that you are not tax resident in Greece (so, if you are only in Greece for less than 183 days per 12 month period), you will not be liable for tax on your worldwide income.

Are there gift or inheritance taxes in Greece?

Yes, there are gift and inheritance taxes based on degree of kinship. The rates are 10% for spouses, parents and children, 20% for other relatives, and 40% for everyone else.


Q&A

If you still have some questions about the article or the Golden Visa, feel free to post them below.

We will try to answer as much as we can, and may even add your question (along with our answer) if we think it will benefit others.

The usual disclaimer: Nothing in this article is to be considered legal advice. It is merely a best effort representation of the information gathered through countless hours of online and offline research into the subject. If you want definitive answers to specific questions, please consult a lawyer.

Cover image credit: Leonid Muhli / Depositphotos